In Search of the Lord’s Church – Part 2
Last week we began a study titled, “In Search of the Lord’s Church.” We noticed from Scripture the great importance placed on the Lord’s church by the Old Testament prophets, by Jesus, by the Spirit through the apostle Peter on Pentecost, and the apostle Paul in a host of Scriptures. We contrasted this biblical perspective with the modern indifference toward the uniqueness of the church.
Then, for those who recognized that Jesus is the “Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23) and saw the urgency in locating the church that mirrored the teaching of the New Testament, we noticed one of four characteristics of the church articulated by the Holy Spirit, that, taken together, exclude all (or nearly all) of the competitors of the Lord’s church and set one well on his way to discovering the church of Jesus Christ.
We noticed from prophecy (Isaiah 62:2 and 65:15 ) that the Lord would give a new name to the people of God. This name, clearly, was the name of Christian (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), yet the members of most religious groups today call themselves by another name or some hyphenated Christian name. Members of the Lord’s church today will call themselves Christians. Stay with us as we notice three other areas in which Bible and history confirm the practice of the first century church. First, we have a song…
While some religious groups have devised clever ways of explaining their changes to the practices of the New Testament church, Jesus reminds us in Luke 8:11 that the “seed is the word of God.” If you plant the same gospel seed, you will always get the same church we read about in the Bible; if you plant hybrid seed -- mixing the word of God with human ideas – you come up with something that resembles the Lord’s church in some ways, but the different seeds yield a different product.
How were you baptized? Is there any form of baptism on which all believers can unite? The Bible word translated baptism never meant sprinkling, but because baptism has been widely used to include sprinkling, modern dictionaries use sprinkling and immersion when they define baptism.
First of all, baptism requires a certain amount of water. John 3:23: “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” Sprinkling and pouring do not require “much water.”
When the eunuch was baptized in Acts 8, Philip brought the eunuch to the water because more water was required than he could carry. “…Philip and the eunuch went DOWN INTO the water, and… CAME UP OUT OF the water…” The immersed “go down into the water” and “come up out of the water” like the eunuch. Immersion fits the Bible pattern; sprinkling and pouring do not.
Paul writes in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life...” (See also Colossians 2:12). Can you say, “I was buried with Christ in baptism?”
In his Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer points out that the Greek word for baptism means “to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge.” W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words reads “baptism, consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence.” The Holy Spirit could have used the Greek words for pouring and sprinkling, but He did not.
Leading scholars even among groups that practice sprinkling and pouring concede that immersion was the original practice of Jesus, the apostles and the early church.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Gibbons wrote in Faith of Our Fathers, "For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity, baptism was usually conferred by immersion, but since the 12th century the practice of baptizing by effusion (or pouring) has prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than baptism by immersion." Gibbons cites convenience, not Scripture, for pouring.
Lutheran Theology Professor, Mosheim, writes in his Ecclesiastical History, “The sacrament of baptism was administered in (the 1st century)…and performed by immersion of the whole body.” Lutheran Professor of Church History, Neander, writes in his General History of the Christian Religion and Church (310), “In respect to the form of baptism, it was in conformity with…the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion…” Martin Luther himself wrote in On the Sacrament of Baptism, “The term baptism is a Greek word; it may be rendered into Latin by mersio: when we immerse anything in water that it may be entirely covered with water….”
Presbyterian Professor of Church History, Phillip Schaff, writes, “The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the illustrations of Baptism used in the New Testament (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Peter 3:20-21) are all in favor of immersion rather than sprinkling, as is freely admitted by the best exegetes, Catholic and Protestant, English and German…” John Calvin writes (Institutes, Vol. II, 524), “…it is evident that the term ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church.”
John Wesley says, "We are buried with Him--alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion". The Lord’s church immerses those seeking to be buried with Christ.
Next, consider the contrast between religious groups that teach baptism is essential to salvation and those who reject it. Jesus issued the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Jesus separates baptism from all the commands Christians are given to obey which shows baptism as a distinct step in becoming a disciple. In Scripture, baptism is the only activity we do “in [into] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jack Cottrell, Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Christian University explains that “into the name of” “was a technical term used in the world of Greek business and commerce…to indicate the entry of a sum of money or an item of property into the account bearing the name of its owner.” Cottrell adds, “Its use in Matthew 28:19 indicates that the purpose of baptism is to unite us with the Triune God in an ownership relation; we become his property in a special, intimate way.” We are on the outside until we obey this command.
Jesus teaches that belief and baptism are integral parts of the gospel in Mark 16:15-16, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved...” Our Savior’s words cannot be harmonized with “he who believes and is NOT baptized will be saved.”
In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (KJV). Born of water as a reference to baptism coincides with the “newness of life” in Romans 6:4 and the “washing of regeneration” (“washing of rebirth” – NIV) that saves in Titus 3:5
Some deny baptism is taught here, but the evidence is against them. William Wall wrote of John 3:5 in History of Infant Baptism, “There is not any one Christian writer of any antiquity in any language but what understands (born of water) of baptism...” Later, Wall continues, “I believe Calvin was the first that ever denied this place to mean baptism. He gives another interpretation, which he confesses to be new.”
Some say Jesus was referring to amniotic fluid in physical birth. That is a reach. The phrase “born of WATER” is never used in the New Testament to refer to physical birth. Actually, the phrase “born of FLESH” found in the next verse is the phrase used to describe physical birth in other Scriptures. Jesus didn’t say, “Except a man be born of flesh…” Instead, He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” All admit that twenty times the word “water” is used to refer to baptism.
Although their denominations deny baptism is essential to salvation, the following leaders recognize being “born of water” was a reference to baptism; Methodist: Clarke and John Wesley; Presbyterians: Dods, Lightfoot, Macknight and Schaff; Lutherans: Lange and Meyer; and Baptists: Beasley-Murray, Graves, Hovey, McLean, Dale Moody and Willmarth.
In Acts 2:38, Peter preached to the heart-pricked Jews seeking forgiveness, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Some reject the obvious truth by inserting “because of” in place of “for.” This error is exposed when we find the same Greek wording in Matthew 26:28 where Jesus shed His blood “for the remission of sins.” Jesus did not shed His blood “because of” the remission of sins, but in order to obtain for us the remission of sins.
Presbyterian Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Joseph Alexander, says in his commentary of Acts 2:38, "The beneficial end to which all this led was the remission of sins."
Baptist Professor of Greek, Seth Axtell, writes, "The preposition EIS in Acts 2:38 may be rendered by several prepositions...The noun which it governs denotes the object or end toward which the action expressed... the result of which he would attain who should repent and be baptized.”
After Saul of Tarsus believed in Christ, demonstrated repentance, and prayed as a sinner, he went to Damascus where Ananias told him in Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Baptism cannot be separated from the remission of sins. In fact, the wording here is almost identical to the relationship between baptism and the remission of sins present in Acts 2:38 - "repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins." This is no coincidence.
As Cottrell points out, the phrase "wash away your sins" is an imperative, a command. We know the blood of Christ washes away sins, so why is Saul commanded to wash away his sins? The only way to make sense of this is that God required Saul to do something himself (to be baptized) before God would apply the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.
How do you know whether you were baptized for the remission of sins? When you sought salvation, if your baptism was delayed, you were not baptized to be saved. Baptism forgives us of our sins and is not to be postponed. Three thousand were baptized in one day (Acts 2); an Ethiopian on a long journey was baptized in the middle of nowhere (Acts 8); a Philippian jailer was baptized after midnight (Acts 16). Any church that does not teach that baptism saves has departed from the teaching of the church in the New Testament (see also Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:26-27, Ephesians 5:25-27, Colossians 2:11-12, 1 Peter 3:20-21).
Instrumental music is so common that many do not realize the Spirit never teaches the church to practice. Instead, Christians are taught to sing.
· Ephesians 5:19 - "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."
· Colossians 3:16 - "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
Some forms of Jewish worship included instrumental music. Therefore, many assume Christians have always sung with instrumental accompaniment. Instrumental music in corporate worship, however, is a human addition; churches that go this route add a practice not found in the Lord’s church. History supports this contention.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge documents the fact that "...the organ...was rejected in early Christian circles….The custom of organ accompaniment did not become general among Protestants until the eighteenth century."
Yale Professor, George Fisher, writes in the History of the Christian Church that "... primitive church music was choral and congregational."
Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, in Conviction Without Compromise: Standing Strong in the Core Beliefs of the Christian Faith, acknowledge the exclusiveness of vocal music: “Many churches throughout history have included hymns and songs in their worship services with no musical accompaniment. This was apparent especially so during the patristic period [the first six centuries of church history]. Hymns featured the human voice alone.”
Not only was church music “entirely vocal,” but all other music was banned by early Christians as something pagan. How could Jewish worship include instrumental music and early Christian worship exclude it? Someone altered Christian worship. Playing instruments is not any more evil than eating steak, but in the worship assembly we no more substitute the playing of instruments for singing than we can substitute steak for unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper.
Religious scholars from groups that uphold instrumental accompaniment in worship today admit that the music of the New Testament was unaccompanied vocal music.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice..."
Martin Luther said "The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal… The Roman Catholic borrowed it from the Jews."
Calvin wrote, "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed this… from the Jews...”
John L. Girardeau, Presbyterian professor of Columbia Theological Seminary, writes in Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church: "[T]he Christian church did not employ instrumental music in its public worship for 1200 years after Christ…It deserves serious consideration, moreover, that…the Roman Catholic Church did not adopt this corrupt practice until about the middle of the thirteenth century.”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, writes in the notes of a Methodist Episcopal Church hymnal in 1884: “I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard.”
David Music and Paul Richardson write in "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story": A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America (2008, 104), “…Baptists had long opposed the organ because of its association with ‘cathedral pomp and prelatical power,’ and that ‘staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries.’”
Charles Spurgeon, the most popular 19th century Baptist preacher, preached to 10,000 people every Sunday. Instrumental music never entered his services. In a sermon titled, “Singing in the Ways of the Lord,” Spurgeon said, “We would like to see all the pipes and organs of Non-comformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly filled with concrete…” Spurgeon wrote on Psalm 42, "We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it."
Encyclopedias, history and prominent scholars within denominations that use instruments confirm that early Christians worship services employed only vocal music. This truth is confirmed by scripture.
We have noticed from Scripture, history, and the testimony of leading scholars that members of the Lord’s church called themselves Christians, were immersed in water for the remission of sins, and sang without instrumental music when they assembled for worship. Does this describe the church you attend?
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