"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.I Pg.6
August 1942

What Is Impossible About It?

Cled E. Wallace

A Baptist scribe stumbles around at some length in an effort to show that "a church composed of all believers on earth" is utterly "impossible." The Baptist and Reflector is so well pleased with his efforts along that line that it gives some of his remarks first page prominence in larger type than is used for the editorials in that paper.

Dr. E. E. Folk, a former scholarly editor of the Baptist and Reflector, did not think such a thing impossible. In fact he found about eighteen references in the New Testament where the word church had no direct reference to a local congregation but included all Christians. Dr. Pendleton, author of a manual for use in Baptist churches, generally recognized among Baptists as pretty hot stuff, also discovered these references and recognized that they included all believers. A long list of Baptist scholars can be quoted to the same effect.

It has always seemed strange to me that these gentlemen can see a denomination of Methodists, or a Presbyterian denomination including all the members of that faith, or even a Baptist denomination, but if the body of Christ, including all true believers, is mentioned, they go blind, and it becomes "invisible." They insist that the church "is always the particular congregation assembled." Do Baptists cease to be Baptists or members of "the" or "a" Baptist church when "the particular congregation" is not "assembled?" Or do they go into a disappearing act and become "invisible" unless they are all "assembled" so we can look at them?

The Baptist scribe borders on the dramatic as he declaims: "In vain do we look for the word universal' in the Bible as descriptive of the church of Christ." Why does he say "church of Christ?" Why not the Baptist church? He must be aware that the Baptist church is not described in the Bible in terms that or either "universal" or local. That church is simply not mentioned in the New Testament. It is a human, unscriptural denomination, a plant that the Father did not plant. The Baptist brother practically serves notice on us that all efforts to show him "the church of Christ" "composed of all believers on earth" will be "in vain' unless we find the word "universal." It is a strange condition for a writer to impose, who can find the Baptist church when it is not named at all. We will try a text or so on him anyway. If it glances off him maybe it will penetrate somebody else whose party armor is not so thick. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13.) "So also is Christ." "All baptized into one body." "All made to drink of one Spirit." Possibly "all" will not do. He may insist on "universal." The idea that the body of Christ, the church of which he is head and Saviour, including all the people of God, cannot be "visible" unless it is physically assembled in one place, is next door to silly, or closer. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another." (Rom. 12:4,5) This can be "invisible" to even an editor blinded by party doctrine. All he can see in it is a local Baptist church, although such a church is not mentioned even one time in all the New Testament.

The idea of "a church composed of all believers on earth" "has brought many evils into the world" according to this Baptist scribe. He thinks it interferes with the government, mission and "the sacred ordinances of the church" including baptism and the Lord's Supper. He starts with his premises rooted in Baptist doctrine and the Baptist church and with such an unscriptural start it isn't at all surprising that he should wind up with such twisted conclusions. It is impossible to run straight lines of reasoning from his beginning corner. The "impossible" thing with him is to either begin or end right as long as he assumes that the Baptist church is the church of Christ and that the apostles' doctrine is Baptist usage. The fact that the New Testament church is "composed of all believers on earth" leads to none of the "evils" gruesomely paraded before us. As long as the members of the body recognize Jesus as head of it and observe the things he has commanded that takes care of organization, terms of membership, "sacred ordinances" and all. It is only when members become more interested in such humanisms as "Baptist usage" than they are the law of the Lord that "evils" result. It provides for "local assemblies or congregations" and the necessary organization to carry out the Lord's will. It does not provide for a denomination larger than a local church and smaller than "a church composed of all believers on earth" such as the Baptist denomination is.

It was Paul who wrote that; "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling." (Eph. 4:4) "Ye were called in one body." (Col. 3:15.) This Baptist brother is wrestling with Paul. He in effect charges that what Paul taught "has been responsible for propagating the branch' theory of the church, regarding Christianity as a tree and each denomination as a branch of that tree. He might as well argue that the gospel is responsible for perversions of it, for if there had been no gospel, it could not have been perverted. It looks like a common sense of humor would cause some of these Baptist partisans to become amused at themselves when they reason themselves into such absurd contortions. Christ is the vine and his disciples are "the branches." The church is his body, and all true believers are members of it. Neither Christ nor true believers are responsible if men presumptuously organize themselves into denominations and pretend that they are branches of the true vine. They are nothing of the kind. They are plants that the Father did not plant and will be rooted up. The Baptist church is one of them. Since the Baptist church admittedly does not include "all believers on earth" under what "branch theory" is it to be classified? It has itself branched out into this, that and the other, I suppose we may consider twigs. This denominational branching and dividing is all contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. "There is one body." "Many members but one body."

By the way, it has not been very long since the editor of the Baptist and Reflector rose up in defense of denominationalism. I suggested that he might advance some specific reasons for the existence of the Methodist denomination and up to date I have not heard from him on that point. The late scribe who breaks out on the front page under the head of impossibles implies that the Baptist denomination is it, not just a branch of it. At worst local Baptist churches seem to be the legitimate branches. Of what?

The trouble started when somebody assumed that a believer can be a Christian outside the church. That leaves him without church membership unless he joins something. Something in the way of a religious organization you can join after you become a Christian is not in the New Testament. When people became Christians in the days when the apostles preached. God added them to the church pronto. All were baptized into one body." This was the church and included all believers. A general recognition of this divine procedure would eliminate all religious abuses. Baptist scribes dream and write about, and one at least none of them seem to have thought of-the Baptist church. Changing from an unscriptural denomination to the body of Christ "composed of all believers" would be a good swap, but do not attempt it invisibly.