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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


A Proper Administrator

From the book, Alien Baptism and the Baptists, 1938


Since the subject of Alien Immersion has to do with the administration of baptism, it is proper that we devote this article to the history of that question. It is a question of authority. Who has the right to baptize? Just anybody? When God established the ordinance, and defined the subject, the act, the design, did He also define the administrator, or leave that open to anyone who wished to perform the rite? It would have been a strange procedure, if he had made no provision for the one who was to perform the baptism.


We see how it was emphasized by Christ when He walked sixty miles to get to John who was sent of God to baptize. Again, Christ emphasized it when He asked the chief priests and elders the question, "The baptism of John, whence was it, from heaven, or from men?" Again, in the great commission, which was given, not to aliens, but to disciples who were members of the church that He had already built, is the command to baptize. Nowhere in the scriptures do we find a single place where anyone was baptized by anyone who did not have his authority from Christ himself, or the church which He built. It was so on the day of Pentecost; it was so of Philip when he baptized the eunuch; it was so of Peter when he baptized Cornelius and his household; it was so of Paul when he was baptized of Ananias. If alien baptism is right and proper, where do we find in the Bible any authority therefore? It is not to be found. God is just as careful in setting the bounds to baptism as he was in defining the specifications of the tabernacle, when He charged Moses, "Be sure to make it according to the pattern."


Scriptural baptism must not only be administered by one who has divine authority, but unless that authority has been specially given, as in the case of John the Baptist, that authority must reside in a scriptural church. God could select men today as he did John, and give them specific authority to baptize. God can do anything, unless that thing is contrary to His righteous nature. God cannot do wrong. But God could select a man, and give him a special revelation. God could select a man, and tell him to go out and baptize. But we do not believe that God does that today, and we think it would be presumption on the part of any man to claim such a thing. Joe Smith, founder of the Mormon church claimed it, but no one but a Mormon believes it.


Christ built His church, committed to it the ordinances, and since that day the authority to baptize and to administer the Lord's supper resides in the church that Jesus built, not in any priest or preacher on the face of the earth, but in the church. Unless one's baptism has that authority, it is not scriptural baptism.


Three great questions, therefore, here arise. Did Jesus build a church? What is the church that Jesus built? When did He build it? A whole volume could be written on these three questions.


First, then, Did Jesus build a church? In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says: "Upon this rock I will build my church." He not only built His church, but He built a triumphant church, one stronger than all powers of hell, one that should endure forever, for He says, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." There are those who will tell you that during the dark ages the church failed: that on account of the terrible persecution by the Roman Catholics, the church of Christ became extinct, but such is not the case. In almost every country of Europe there were thousands who did not "bow the knee to Baal," and when the persecution was over, came out of the dens and caves of the earth, and the rocks and clefts of the mountains, to proclaim afresh the faith of the true church. We shall furnish the truth of this when later we come to speak of the Anabaptists.


The second question is, "When did Jesus build His church?" There are those who say, contrary to scriptural authority, that He built it on the day of Pentecost. He built it a long time before that. Those who were converted at Pentecost were added to the church, and they could not be added to something that did not already exist. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, "I will build my church." In Matthew 18:17, Jesus says, "If thy brother offend thee .... tell it to the church." So when we come to the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, the church He said He would build is already in existence, for they could not tell something to the church, if the church did not exist.


The third question is, "What is the church that Jesus built?" This is the big question. There are those who contend that when Christ said, "I will build my church," he was not speaking of the local, visible church, but the universal, invisible church. Such an interpretation is impossible. If there is such a thing taught in the scriptures as the universal, invisible church, it had been built long before this, else what of the Old Testament characters, were they not in, and how could they be in it if it were not built? Again, how could one tell their grievances to a universal, invisible something? No, clearly, Christ is speaking of the local, visible congregation. If there is such a body as the universal, invisible church, it has never yet assembled, and will not till all the redeemed get to heaven.


To understand the question of alien baptism, it is important that we think clearly on the church question. Most of our confusion on the question of authority comes from hazy thinking about the church. We shall, therefore, at this point, lay down some propositions that will, we think, make clear the church question:


FIRST PROPOSITION


When Christ was upon earth, He set up a visible church, organized, officered, with authority to receive and exclude members.


"Upon this rock I will build my church." Matt. 16:18.


"If thy brother shall neglect to hear thee, tell it to the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." Matt. 18:17.


Many make the mistake of confusing the church and the kingdom. The Saints, as they call themselves, or Church of God, have no church roll and no organization. The followers of Alexander Campbell insist that when a person is saved, he is in the church without a vote of the church. The views of the Saints and the followers of Campbell both show confusion of mind upon this subject. A person can be saved and not in the visible church, and a person can be in the visible church and not be saved. We must distinguish between the kingdom and the visible church. Again we repeat the proposition, that when Christ was upon earth He set up a visible church with officers, organization and the power to receive and exclude members.


SECOND PROPOSITION


Christ gave to his visible church the ordinances to administer and to keep till He comes again. Notice, there are two things the church is to do, to administer and to keep these ordinances. These two ordinances are baptism and the Lord's Supper. The church is to keep them, not change them: "Keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you." 1 Cor. 11:2. The church is to administer them, not some one else. The church has the authority. No one else has. For some one else to administer them is to act without authority. To change them is to destroy them. This visible church that Christ set up is to administer them and preserve them.


THIRD PROPOSITION


This visible church that Christ established has come on down through the ages, is in the world today, and will continue till Jesus comes.


Look again at Matt. 16:18. "On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Christ says He will build it, that it is His church, and that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, that is, it shall exist through all the ages. It is not necessary to trace the continuity of the church. The words of Christ are sufficient to prove this point. He says the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, and Heaven and earth shall pass away but His word shall not pass away.

Now, then, we have the three propositions before us:


   I. Christ set up a visible church.

  II. He gave to this church the ordinances to administer and keep.

 III. This church is in the world today.


The question is, therefore:


Which of the many so-called churches in the world today is the church that Christ set up when He was upon the earth?


There are many churches so-called. There are more today than yesterday, and there will be more tomorrow than today. All are not the church that Christ set up. Which one is? By two methods of proof we are able to arrive at the correct answer to this question.


First Method of Proof


The first method of proof is the method of historical elimination. Any church whose origin was in mediaeval or modern times is not the church that Christ set up, for the simple reason that it was not in existence when Christ set up His church, and did not come into existence for a long time after. Here are the names: of some of them, showing their human origin and the date of their birth:

Name

Founder

Date

Christian Science

Mrs. Eddy

1879

Mormons

Joseph Smith

1830

Disciples of Christ

Alexander Campbel

1827

Methodits

The Wesleys

1730

Episcopalians (Anglicans)

Henry VIII

1533

Presbyterians

John Calvin

1532

Lutherans

Martin Luther

1521

These are the principal ones, and thus we could do with the others if we took time and space.


Now, by this method of historical elimination, we have removed all claimants of being the church that Christ set up save two, and these two are the Baptists and Roman Catholics. These two go far back in history and are obscured during the dark ages.


In 200 A. D., one hundred and thirty years after the death of Paul, when many who were almost contemporaneous with Paul were still alive, we find, according to the historians, that the Baptists and Catholics were quarreling over baptism. It was not the mode of baptism that was the point of controversy. The Roman Catholic church up to the middle of the fourth century immersed as did the Baptists. The controversy arose because the Baptists would not accept as valid Roman Catholic baptism, saying they had no authority to baptize, and insisting in baptizing all that came to them from the Catholics. Whereupon the Catholics were made angry, dubbed them Anabaptists (rebaptizers) and held some church councils about the matter.


Permit me to cite some historical statements in elaboration of this. I cite first a statement from Ignatius, one of the apostolic fathers, and probably a contemporary with John and Paul:


"It is not lawful without the bishop (pastor) either to baptize or celebrate a love feast, but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be pleasing and valid." Ante Nicaean Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 90.


Now hear Tertullian, 200 A. D.:


"There is to us one and but one baptism. One God, one baptism, one church in the heavens. But it must be admitted that the question, what rules are to be observed in regard to heretics, is worthy of being treated. Heretics have no fellowship in our discipline. Their baptism is not one with ours, either, because it is not the same; a baptism which, since they have it not duly, doubtless they have not at all. Nor is that capable of being counted which is not had. Ante Nicaean Fathers, Vol. 3, p. 676.


Neander, another historian, in speaking about how the churches planted by Paul stood as a unit against alien immersion, says:


"It was a Roman Bishop, Stephanus, who, instigated by the spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance, issued a sentence of excommunication against the pastors of Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Galatia, and Cilicia, stigmatizing them as Anabaptists, a name, however, which they could justly affirm they did not deserve by their principles: for it was not their wish to administer a second baptism, but they contended that the previous baptism given by heretics (other sects) could not be recognized as a true one." Neander, Vol. 1, pp. 318 and 319.


The above is given to show that as early as 200 A. D. there was a controversy between the Baptists and Catholics as to who has a right to administer baptism. As to which was right, the Baptists or the Catholics, we do not undertake at this point to say. That would be begging the question. But we have at least proved our point that both of these Christian bodies go back, and are lost in the dark period of early history.


Here, then, is our dilemma at this point. Historically we have eliminated all but two that claim to be the church that Christ set up: but we have two contenders left, the Baptists and Catholics. Both claim to be the church that Christ set up, both go back into the dark ages of history. How shall we decide between these two?


There is only one way to decide, and that is by the process of identity.


Second Method of Proof


The second method of proof, therefore, is the process of identity. We must compare these two religious bodies, the Baptists and the Catholics, with the church that Christ set up. The one that is identical with that church in organization and doctrine, that is the church that He set up, and that is the church that has a right to administer the ordinances.


Let us take the church at Jerusalem, therefore, as an example of the church that Christ set up, note its characteristics, and compare them with the characteristics of the Baptists and Catholics:


Characteristics of the Jerusalem Church:


I. A Holy Spirit Church.


"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized. And the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls." Acts 2.


We see, therefore, that the Jerusalem Church was a church that depended on the Holy Spirit to fit people for membership in it. It is even so in a Baptist Church. In a Baptist Church there must be an experience of religion in the heart through the work of the Holy Spirit within. In the Catholic Church, members are taken in in infancy, and confirmed when they have reached the age of accountability.


II. A Church Where Believers Only are Baptized.


The second mark of the Jerusalem Church is that believers only were baptized. "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized."-Acts 2:41.


There is no record here, nor anywhere else in the Bible for that matter, where baptism was ever administered to any one but a believer. Philip said to the eunuch, "If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest" (be baptized). It is even so with a Baptist Church. The Catholic Church, however, is made up almost altogether of those who were baptized in infancy, for which practice there is not a scriptural foundation.


III. Baptism Was Administered by Immersion Only.


A third mark of the Jerusalem Church is that baptism was administered by immersion only. This needs no argument. All scholars admit it.


The Catholics admit that they changed the ordinance of baptism in the fourth century because sprinkling is more convenient. I quote from "The Faith of Our Fathers," pp. 316 and 317, which is Catholic authority:


"For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity baptism was usually conferred by immersion. But since the twelfth century baptism by infusion has prevailed in the Catholic Church. Baptism is the essential means established for washing away the stain of original sin, and the door by which we find admittance into the church. Hence baptism is as essential for the infant as for the full grown man. Unbaptized infants are excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Baptism makes us heirs of Heaven and co-heirs with Jesus Christ."


John Wesley in his commentary on Rom. 6:4, where Paul say, "We are buried with Him by baptism," says: "This refers to the ancient mode of baptism. which was by immersion." So say all the scholars. This mark, therefore, is like a Baptist Church and unlike the Catholic Church.

IV. Only Baptized Believers Came to the Lord's Table.


The fourth mark or the Jerusalem Church is that only baptized believers came to the Lord's table.


"Then they that gladly received the word were baptized, and they (those that had believed and been baptized) continued in the breaking of bread from house to house." This mark of the Jerusalem Church is identical with the teaching of a Baptist Church. A chief tenet of the Baptist faith has ever been that only the scripturally baptized could come to the Lord's table. For Christ's sake they have stood by this scriptural truth, although to do so meant to be misunderstood, and be called selfish and narrow by other denominations.


V. The Jerusalem Church was a Pure Democracy.


The fifth mark of the Jerusalem Church is that it was a pure democracy. There was no ecclesiastical authority over them, no pope, no bishop. The word bishop in the Bible is used interchangeably with the words elder and pastor. 1 Peter 2:25. Titus 1:7. 1 Tim. 3:1-2. Phil. 1:1. The Jerusalem Church elected their own officers, called their own pastors, elders or bishops, as they are variously called, and one member had as much authority in the church as another. So it has ever been in a Baptist Church, and so it is not in the Catholic Church.


Therefore, as between these two claimants, we conclude:


I. That the visible church that Christ set up was a Baptist Church.


II. That it has come down through the ages, and is in the world today.


III. That to it was given the ordinances to keep, and to it alone.


IV. That others that presume to start churches and administer the ordinances do so without divine authority.


It is our firm conviction, irrespective of how much truth and error inhere in the organizations, that Joe Smith has as much right to start a church as Alexander Campbell, John Wesley, Henry VIII, Mrs. Eddy or Martin Luther. Our contention is that none of them had the right. Campbell's statement that up till he started the reformation the line of succession was with the Baptists was true, and is still true.


With them has ever rested, as the historians quoted assert, and still rests, the authority to baptize and set the Lord's table. We affirm that this question of authority must be settled before we can have a clear definition of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The immersion of a believer in water, therefore, will not do as a definition of baptism, any more than to take bread and wine in the home constitutes the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It must be administered, both baptism and the Lord's Supper, by the proper authority before it is baptism, and before it is the Lord's Supper.


The Anabaptists were right, and the modern milk and water Baptist who is continually publishing definitions that leave out the question of authority is wrong.


All the facts of Scripture show, and these facts are attested by the facts of history, that Christ set up a visible church, committed to it the ordinances; that this church has come down through the ages; that it was a Baptist Church; that imperfect as it was in the beginning, and imperfect as it is today, yet as the earthen vessel that we carry to the spring serves to carry the life-giving water, imperfect though it is, so this imperfect organization has kept and preserved the ordinances and the doctrines, and handed them down to posterity, in spite of the apostasy of Rome, in spite of persecutions, in spite of all the forces of the evil one, and will continue to do this till Jesus comes.


Now, if you, my reader, from a careful study of this question, with these facts before you, laying aside all prejudice, believe likewise, you ought to join a Baptist Church, and receive Baptist baptism, provided you have believed to the saving of your soul. If you do not believe it, then it is your duty to find the church that Christ did establish, and unite with that church. Be satisfied with nothing less than that.


"My Lord, I find that nothing else will do, but follow where Thou leadest, sit at thy feet, And when I find Thee not, still run to meet. Roses are scentless, hopeless are the moms, Rest is but labor, laughter crackling thorns, If Thou -the truth do not make them the true. Thou art my life, O Christ, and nothing else will do."