A Gospel Church
Eph. 2:19-22; 3:21; Acts:2:1 (Lesson for Sep. 14, 2008)
We believe that a true New Testament church on earth is a scripturally organized body of baptized believers.
Dr. I. D. Riddick said: “A true New Testament Church is a called-out assembly of baptized believers covenanted together to carry out the Great Commission.”
A true New Testament church is local rather than universal. The saved members are voluntarily associated together in the faith and fellowship of the word of God. They observe the ordinances instituted by Christ; governed by His laws as its only head; and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges vested in it by Christ. This church began during the personal ministry of Christ. I believe it started on the seashore of Galilee when Jesus called out His first four disciples; Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Matt. 4:18,22). I would like to point out something in this passage that I think most people overlook, and that is, “He called them. And they immediately… followed Him.” Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” There is a problem with folks that claim to be saved, but have no desire to follow Jesus. This church, which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), is always a local church, and distinguished by doctrine, it is today a “Baptist” church.
When you are saved, you are in Christ. 2Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” but even though you are “in Christ,” you are not in his body, which is the church, until you are added to it in membership. Someone may ask, “How can you be saved and be ‘in Christ,’ and not be in His body?” Well, how can you be “in Christ,” and Him be “in you?” Col. 1:27, “this mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is a great mystery.
What you believe, helps you to understand who you believe. And it does make a difference what you believe. Therefore we will try to explain what we believe about a gospel church, step by step. Christ gave to His church the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20), so we see that our first step would be to preach the gospel – of God’s redeeming Grace - to the lost, that they would turn in repentance and trust Christ for salvation, thereby becoming a child of God (Jn. 1:12-13; Rom. 8:14-17). This family and kingdom relationship (see lesson #1) is not all, more is needed. Salvation is wonderful, and the one saved will escape hell, but this person should now be scripturally baptized and added to the Lord’s church. Being baptized is putting on the uniform and identifying yourself with the visible, local church (Rom. 6:3-5).
The church is a preaching institution carrying on the commands of Christ (Mk. 6:l5; Acts 5:42). The church then, is not just a society in which a list of members is enrolled, but it is a militant group with a definite work to do in this age. We are associated in the faith and fellowship. Faith is the Baptist doctrines which we are studying week by week; fellowship is work, the work of the church. The church is “the pillar and ground of truth” (1Tim. 3:15). The preservation of the truth of God among men is a grave responsibility. A slightly mixed gospel is Satan’s best counterfeit (he has any number of religious bodies that uninformed people call churches). The varied array of “Christian?” creeds and beliefs today is enough to amaze and startle us. Therefore we must keep our doctrine and fellowship pure and true (2Jn. 7:11). A true church must be “holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). The Great commission is loaded down with preaching, baptizing, teaching and developing God’s children with a view of their spiritual growth and their active witness for Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10). What better work can we do than to go out and tell someone else about our Saviour, the one who has done so much for us.
“Let us go on” (Heb. 6:1) in zeal to evangelize the world. Perhaps many of our members need to grow (2Pet. 3:18). Jesus said for us to deny ourselves and follow Him (Matt. 16:24-27; Luke 9:23). We need to: Get out of the religious nursery, grow up and get into the battle for the Lord. Men are lost and going to hell, can we as redeemed, sit idly by while others struggle to win the prize (2Tim. 4:5-8)? There is much moral goodness in this world, such as almsgiving, welfare work, human uplift, social reform, neighborly kindness, generosity and benevolence, good citizenship, patriotism and such, but any of this can be done by people who do not know the Lord. We alone, as members of a true independent, missionary, sovereign grace, New Testament Baptist church have the message that a confused, deceived lost world needs. The New Testament knows nothing about an evangelism that does not bring the believer into the church and a life of continued growth and witness. When men have left the churches for independent preaching, they have found it necessary to limit their message to the initial calling of men to repentance and faith. After that they leave it to the newly-born believer to “join the church of his choice.” The evangelism of the New Testament built churches and placed the converts in them where they could grow and witness.
True New Testament Baptists are a peculiar people (Tit. 2:14), We insist on doing things God’s way. We believe that the AV1611 Bible has the only true Gospel Message (Gal. 1:6-9), and the man who doesn’t preach the Baptist gospel does not preach any gospel at all. The first church was a Baptist church, by doctrine, because it was built by Jesus, who was Himself baptized by a Baptist preacher (Matt. 1:13-17, 16:18). The only church on this earth that was founded:
· at the right time - during the personal ministry of Jesus Christ
· at the right place - Palestine
· by the right person - the Lord Jesus
· of the right material - the born again, who brought forth good fruit before their baptism;
and to which the Lord Jesus promised unending perpetuity, was the first Baptist church. The only church on this earth that Jesus could join if He were here, on His baptism, is a Baptist church.
Now we come to the two ordinances of a scriptural church, which as generally believed, are baptism and the Lord’s supper. As to baptism - there is only one (Eph. 4:5). Scriptural baptism is by immersion (Matt. 3:11; Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:38; Col. 2:12). There are at least four things necessary for the scriptural administration of the ordinance of baptism. There must be:
1. The proper Subject, a saved person.
2. The proper Purpose or design, to show salvation, not procure it.
3. The proper Administrator or authority, a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The proper Mode, immersion.
Every Christian should be baptized, not in order to save him but because he is saved (Acts 10:48; Matt. 29:19; Acts 8:36-39).
Baptism guards the door to the church; the Lord’s supper keeps the body in spiritual discipline. A proper observance of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper will maintain the separation of the church from the world. As baptism has four necessary tenets, so the Lord’s Supper has the same.
1. The proper Subject, member of that particular church.
2. The proper Purpose, a memorial showing the Lord’s death, in remembrance of Him.
3. The proper Administrator or authority, a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The proper Mode, unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.
The Lord’s Supper centers around the death of our Lord and keeps the believer reminded that he has declared before the church and the world, his own death with Christ. It is also his own public declaration that he is in fellowship with the people of God in the continued experience of dying to the world and living unto Christ. The supper is the Lord’s (1Cor. 11:20), and is a memorial of Christ’s death (1Cor. 11:24-26). It was given to the local church and can only be administered by a local Baptist church, therefore we cannot invite others to partake of the supper. Paul said open communion was not possible (1Cor. 11:18-34).
Christ is the head of every gospel church (Eph. l:22,23), and He has given His church other spiritual leaders (Eph. 4:11-12). As we have stated in another lesson, officers are not necessary for the being of a church, but are for the well being of the church. Especially a pastor, who proclaims the message of God’s truth (the whole council of God) has certain specified qualifications (1Tim. 3:1-7). Deacons - 1Tim. 3:8-13. Their duties are laid out by Paul (Acts 20:17-28; 1Pet. 5:1-4). The Pastor is the chief officer of a gospel church. He is a man called of God to preach the gospel, ordained by a church to the work of the ministry, and then called by the church to serve as its leader. Deacons are elected by the church, to assist the Pastor, and ordained for the work. They are servants of the church and should have the highest qualifications. Other officers of the church may include the church clerk, the treasurer, the trustees, the choir director and others as necessary.