Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1961
NUMBER 10, PAGE 3,10b

The New Testament Pattern And The Baptist Church

L. R. Hester, Orange, Texas

In a lesson dealing with the present-day need of deacons in a local church, Mr. Francis S. Holt, preacher for the McArthur Heights Baptist Church of Orange, Texas, wrote as follows:

"The chief reason for the conviction that deacons are needed now is that it was a 'New Testament Pattern.' Baptists believe that a church should discover its doctrines, determine its organization, define its procedures, and catch its commission from the pages of the New Testament."

It is indeed proper for man to confine his religious belief and practice to the "New Testament pattern." No church should teach or practice a doctrine, maintain an organization, nor execute a commission that is not authorized in the New Testament. It is also true that there is a present-day need for scripturally qualified deacons in the local church. But does it not follow that the church itself must first be divinely authorized? Does Mr. Holt, or anyone else have New Testament authority for holding membership in the Baptist church, or for acting religiously in the name "Baptist?" If so, where in the Book is that authority found? There is ample authority for church deacons, but where does Mr. Holt find authority for "Baptist-Church deacons?"

I find New Testament mention of John the Baptist (immerser), but I find no mention nor intimation of a "Baptist Church" there. The New Testament church is not the church of John the Baptist, but the church of Christ. (Rom. 16:16) It is the bride of Christ, (Eph. 5:25-30) and John said that he was not the bridegroom but only his friend. (Jn. 3:29) If Mr. Holt and the other members of the McArthur Baptist Church believe that a "New Testament pattern" is to be followed in doctrine, organization, procedure, and commission, they are obligated to either (1) find New Testament authorization for a "Baptist Church" and for the doctrines, organization(s), procedure, and works of the Baptist Church; or (2) cease to be Baptists. They cannot do the first. Will they do the second?

As to a Baptist Church "discovering its doctrines, determining its organization(s), defining its procedures, and catching its commission from the New Testament," just where in that volume do Baptists discover authority for a vote of the membership to determine the worthiness of a candidate for baptism and church membership? Where do they discover their theory of salvation by faith "only" or by grace "wholly," once in grace always in grace, etc.? From which passages or passages do they determine their organization(s)? Where does the Book grant authority for determining the activities of a church by "majority rule?" Where does it authorize the "one-man pastor system?" Where does it grant authority to disregard the qualifications stated in Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Tim. 3:2-7 as Baptists do in instituting pastors? (Do Baptist pastors not know that a New Testament pastor, elder, and bishop is the same, and that every Biblical precept and example calls for a plurality of pastors in the local church? See Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Acts 20:28 and 1 Pet 5:1-3). Where does the New Testament authorize the organization of a Baptist Church, a "Baptist Home Mission Board," a "Superintendent of City Missions," a "Baptist General Convention of Texas," etc.? Where in the New Testament do Baptist Churches (and some churches of Christ?) "catch their commission" to assign to the church programs of physical recreation, entertainment, etc.? Where do they "catch" the authority to use church funds to build kitchens, play rooms, recreation buildings, "fellowship halls" (meaning a room for public feasting and frolicking), etc.? My New Testament teaches that a local church of Christ (Rom. 16:16) (a Baptist Church, not being authorized in the New Testament, has no New Testament commission!) is commissioned to (1) preach the gospel to the lost (Mt. 28:18-20; Phil. 4:15-16; 2 Cor. 11:8); (2) edify the membership (Eph. 4:11-12); and, (3) minister to the material needs of the saints. (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Acts 11:27-30). But I fail to "catch" any New Testament authority for assigning other works to the church. The truth is, pure and unadulterated "gospel truth" was not designed to fit into a "Baptist catcher's mitt." Baptists can certainly hear, understand, believe and obey the truth; but in so doing they must renounce the Baptist Creed.

This writer was born to Baptist parents and has many good friends of the Baptist persuasion. He respects the sincerity and moral uprightness of many Baptists, and considers their friendship of great value. He has no axe to grind with anyone, and has no desire to win a personal victory over Baptists or others. But, with love of the human soul accompanied by a sincere desire to help all victims of denominational error, including Baptists, he affirms, and stands ready to show from the scriptures, that the New Testament authorizes absolutely nothing that is peculiarly and exclusively the doctrine of the Baptist church. And nothing can be correctly designated "Baptist doctrine" that does not belong to Baptists peculiarly and exclusively. Baptist doctrine is held by none but Baptists. Whatever New Testament truth is taught and practiced by Baptists is "New Testament doctrine," and is not the doctrine of the Baptist Church. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans and all other denominationalists believe, teach and practice no gospel truth that was not believed, taught and practiced in apostolic days, long before the Baptist or any other denominational church was established. So the essential support of the Baptist Church is not New Testament truth. It is "Baptist doctrine" — that which is peculiarly and exclusively the doctrine of Baptists. Banish from the earth "Baptist doctrine" and all "gospel truth" will continue, even that part which is believed, taught and practiced by Baptists. Banish form the earth "Baptist doctrine" and the "Baptist Church" will go with its doctrine. I am in possession of a written affirmation of a Baptist friend that "Baptist doctrine is the gospel." If it is, a man must believe Baptist doctrine or be condemned. (Mk. 16:16) Where is the Baptist preacher who will affirm that a man cannot be a Christian without being a Baptist? It is unlikely that one could be found; yet, they are many who talk about "Baptist doctrine" being "discovered upon the pages of the New Testament." Where is the Baptist preacher who will affirm that a man can be a Christian without believing the gospel? Now, if you can be a Christian without believing Baptist doctrine but cannot be a Christian without believing the gospel, it must follow that Baptist doctrine is one thing and the gospel of Christ another. Be assured, dear reader, that you cannot become a member of the church of Christ (Christ's church) without believing and obeying the gospel; (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9) and that you cannot believe the gospel without becoming a member of the church of Christ (Christ's church) (Acts 2:37-38, 41, 47; Col. 1:13).

A fundamental error of today is the idea that one must support a party in order to support the truth believed end practiced by the party. To be a partisan (and one must be a partisan to support any denominational church) is to support error and oppose truth. You can forsake the party without forsaking any truth believed and practiced by the party, but you cannot support the party without supporting the error held by the party. The truth is never dependent upon the party, but the party is always dependent upon the error it holds. Take the Pharisees for an example. They believed and taught the truth relative to the resurrection, but this truth was not dependent upon Phariseeism. Jesus supported all the truth held by the various sects of his day on earth, but he gave no support to a religious party. He was not a party to a party, because partisanship is opposed to the truth always.

Are you a party to a party? Do you subscribe to a doctrine or belong to a church other than the gospel or the church of Christ? If so, will you not come out of denominationalism and be nothing more or less than a New Testament Christian?