Saturday, December 31, 2005

The True Church is Not Limited to Primitive Baptists

note: The following is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion about the ‘one true church’ principle. It is simply a brief explanation for those who may be wondering why I am moving to a non-Primitive Baptist church. My heart felt desire is let you know that I love Primitive Baptists. Karma and my decision is not based in anger or resentment. We hope to continue to fellowship with Primitive Baptists as much as possible. I believe the church we are moving to is being blessed with the Lord’s candlestick. And it is my prayer that all of our Lord’s churches, whether Primitive Baptists or not, will be blessed to be salt and light for a dark and dieing world.

The Lord has His candlestick in many Primitive Baptist Churches, but His true Church is not limited to the Primitive Baptists. My simple belief is; the Son of God decides where He places His candlestick. There is not a single church in the world that is perfect. Why God deals with any group certainly is based more in mercy and longsuffering than flawless doctrine or an impeccable format of worship. I am by no means saying that anything goes, and many difficult decisions must be made that aren’t spelled out precisely in Scripture. The correct way to deal with things like closed communion or re-baptism is to let each church stand on its own. Each pastor is responsible to God for the decisions he makes, and each local body answers ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Networks and fellowships are a natural development of churches in any region or time period. The New Testament mentions various dealings between churches; members traveling from one place to another and money being sent from one church to another. The early churches had to deal with various inter-church issues like evangelism to the Gentiles, circumcision, keeping the traditions from the Law of Moses, etc. But, when it comes to interchurch dealings I see more latitude in Scripture than currently being practiced among most Primitive Baptists. I don’t say this to criticize, I just think we all ought to re-examine this. Based on my understanding of Scriptures I have seen the Lord’s presence in churches that are not Primitive Baptists.

We ought to be very careful we don’t slip into the attitude of John in Luke 9:49 “And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” Just because a group doesn’t follow a certain way does not necessarily mean they are in disobedience. We should always be diligently seeking to worship in spirit and in truth but, no one has a corner on all truth. I am thankful that I was raised Primitive Baptist, but I have learned much from other churches. The Lord has revealed himself to me powerfully in prayer meetings, worship services and outreach ministries affiliated with other churches. Some of these blessings are greater and more Biblical than anything I have seen among Primitive Baptists.

Being part of a Godly church heritage can be a marvelous blessing. Many of the non-Primitive Baptist Christians I have worked with have been blessed by my heritage. But may we remember the dangerous trap the Pharisees plunged into by saying only someone within a certain lineage can be accepted of God. Luke 3:8 says, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Acts 10:35 tells us the joyous truth of our day “…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” May we not get the cart before the horse. Fearing God and working righteousness creates a Godly heritage. But a historical lineage doesn’t guarantee that we fear God or work righteousness.

When we hold to a strict ‘one true church’ principle some inconsistencies arise. We are forced to draw up detailed lists of what is acceptable doctrine and practice and what is not. Obviously some things are clearly un-Biblical and should not be tolerated in the Lord’s house. But many things are not so clear. For example: how do we determine that feet washing is optional and acapella singing is not. How do we decide when to declare non-fellowship with a group of churches and then some time later drop the bars and receive each other again. If we are true to the ‘one true church’ principle many ordinations, constitutions, and baptisms would have to be re-examined within the ranks of Primitive Baptists.

Sometimes we say, “That person is not a Primitive Baptist but he is a good Christian.” It seems inconsistent to call non-Primitive Baptist believers ‘truly Christian,’ but when they assemble they are not recognized as ‘true Christian churches.’ Either they are true Christians assembling into true churches or they are not Christian at all.

As Christians and churches we should follow the Scripture’s clear teachings in all faith and practice. In Luke 10:30-37 God’s word clearly commands us to have compassion on those with severe physical needs. In a culture that legally kills its unborn children it seems inconsistent for any group to claim to be a true church if it doesn’t attempt to obey the second great commandment; love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-40). Unborn children are America’s version of the man in the ditch. Legalized child killing is not primarily a political or social concern. Abortion is sin. That makes it a Biblical concern. The church of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel are the only weapons against such evil, and we are clearly told to ‘go and do thou likewise.’ (Luke 10:37)

Many more issues could be discussed, but it is not my purpose to be exhaustive. The answer is not to drop all standards but, rather to honestly take care of our own congregations while allowing others to take care of theirs. We still must learn from each other, exhort one another, have fellowship with each other and assist each other in official work. But may each individual in every generation seek to re-examine our assumptions, follow Scriptural guidelines and continue to humbly walk in faith.

Donnie Halbgewachs Jr.


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