Brethren, there are many things which have been on my mind for some time now, for which I do not profess to have the answers. These are humbly submitted for the consideration of all brethren who profess the doctrines and practices of the Old School or Primitive Baptists. Perhaps these questions (or some like them) have been on your minds, as well, and the Lord has given you light on them.
Where do we stand in relation to the practice of the Apostolic Church? We read in the Acts of the Apostles of those who “turned the world upside down”. What has changed? If we are preaching the same Gospel, why are we not considered to be doing the same thing? One may answer, these were Apostles who were empowered to do this in a special manner by God. True, they were Apostles with a unique ministry, but, if we look at their practice, we find the most upsetting thing to people was not the miracles and special signs which were wrought in their hands, but the simple preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
This must lead us to consider, Are we preaching the same gospel in the same manner as the Apostolic Church? I hope it is obvious to all that God has not changed. The same Jehovah who declared by the prophet Malachi that He changed not, is ruling in His Almighty power today. So what has changed? The Apostles preached the Gospel of God’s free-grace in Jesus Christ They preached the utter sinfulness of man, and his inability to recover himself from this state of nature. Do we today truly believe this, or have we become so progressive or enlightened as to think that man can do something to in any way help bring himself up to reach out and gain God’s favor? It is so simple to say “free-grace, free-grace”, but do we really believe it? How many times in our own experience have we considered how the Apostles sowed seed, (as it were) throwing it out without offer and if any responded, they gave the glory to the Grace of God manifested to one of His. How many times do our ministers preach to any but those who have already made a profession of faith in Christ and belief of the Gospel? To put it succinctly, Have we become content to minister among only our own little circle and care nothing for anyone else? If this was the case of the early Church, would they ever have gone out from Jerusalem? God forced them out from there by persecution; must He do the same to us? Brethren, please do not think I am advocating an Arminian, worldly type of evangelism. But the New Testament does tell us that we are the light of the world. Many times do we not seem to be trying to hide the light God has given us? We are not placed under a bushel, but set on a candlestick. I am as guilty of this as any. I am not trying to judge anyone, but rather ask you to consider these things in light of the Scriptures only.
The early Church preached a Gospel that demanded a response, and they cared not whether it was positive or negative. They preached a Gospel which affected the daily lives of those who believed. Does our Gospel have such an effect on us? I do not mean just an observing and acknowledging of God’s providence in our activities, but does the Gospel affect the way we think and behave in our day to day activities? In other words, do we experience the power of the Gospel, or just have the letter of it in our minds?
If, indeed, we are preaching the same Gospel, then are we doing it in the same manner? What was the practice of Paul? Did he sit waiting in the meeting place of the Churches until people came to him? By the Grace of God, was he not empowered to go out, preaching many times in places we would scorn? How many of us would go to Mars Hill to the philosophers and reasoners of the world to preach the Gospel of the Son of God to them? This is what he did! Phillip went to Samaria, to a people despised by his race, and proclaimed Jesus to them. How forward are we in proclamation of the truth in the face of all error? Has the Spirit so far departed from us that we can be complacent in the way things are and not, rather, mourn the barrenness, emptiness and vanity we see in our own lives as well as in the Churches of which we fellowship?
But some may say, “We are Old Baptists!”, as if that were enough to show we are right no matter what our doctrine and practice is. I would remind you, brethren, of the words of the Lord to the Church at Laodacia in Revelation chapter 3, “Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” He did not tell them, “Well done”. Instead, He reproved them (as He did six of the seven churches in Asia) and threatened them with the removal of their candlestick. The same Lord (hopefully) speaks to us today, and His message is the same. Look at this Nation and see how many places where, in times past, the truth was contended for with earnestness that today you cannot find even one who believes the whole Gospel. Should we rejoice in this?
Rather, let us, by the Grace of God, hang our heads in shame and disgrace and pray the Lord that this will not happen to us. He is the Sovereign whose will is supreme and if He decides to remove our candlestick, we must bow in humble submission. But it could be that He would stir us up to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints and if He stir us up then He will bless us in it.
Humbly submitted in love of the brethren and the truth.
Volume 3, No. 2
March - April, 1989