The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Francis Wayland, 1857
Some of my readers have inquired, “What are the Baptist principles in respect to qualifications for the ministry?”
It has been said, and said truly, that I have not treated this subject with sufficient distinctness. This defect I will endeavour to supply.
The essential principle of Baptist belief is, that in all matters relating to religion, we know no authority but the Bible. In matters respecting the Christian church, we know no authority but the New Testament. We renounce the authority of tradition.
We eschew all worldly policy, and resist the encroachment of precedents which would turn us away from the simplicity of the truth as it is in Jesus. Hence it matters not to us how many centuries have witnessed the baptism of infants. There is no warrant for it in the New Testament, and we may not practice it. It matters not to us that baptism by immersion is unpopular, and that so public and marked a renunciation of the world is distasteful to many who would otherwise profess Christ. We cannot help it, we must follow in the footsteps of Him on whom the Spirit of God descended like a dove and lighted upon Him as He went up out of the water.
It matters not to us that, at an early period in the history of the church, various orders were introduced into the ministry, from which have arisen popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, deans, prebendaries, vicars, etc.. Jesus Christ has said, “It shall not be so with you, for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren,” and, though it may deprive us of the attractiveness which belongs to names, and ranks, and dresses, and ceremonials, we feel obliged TO FOLLOW THE MASTER.
So it is in respect to the ministry. We have no right to establish any rules regulating the ministry, which Christ has not established. No single church, nor all the churches combined, has any authority to bind what he has loosed, nor to loose what he has bound. To His Word, then, we must go for our directions on this, as on every other similar subject. What then do we find in the New Testament to guide us in this matter?
What can we learn from the example of Christ in the selection of the apostles and first preachers of Christianity? They were evidently chosen not on account of their intellectual endowment, or scientific acquisition, but on account of their religious character. There was, however, among them considerable intellectual diversity and difference of social position.
Of the original twelve, John was probably the most cultivated, and mingled in better society than the others. Of the evangelists, Luke seems to have enjoyed the best, and Mark the least advantages of education. Paul had profited beyond many that were his equals in the learning of the schools. It would seem, then, that our Lord chose as the first preachers of the Word, men of all variety of attainment, and of very different grades of intellectual culture.
But we may come nearer to our own circumstances. The apostle Paul, after Christian churches were established and pastors were to be ordained, has on two occasions specified at considerable length, the qualifications of a minister of Jesus Christ. The first of these 1 Tim. 3:2-7:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall; into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
Such, then, is our constitution. Our laws must conform to it. It would seem from these passages that any disciple of Christ, of blameless manners, and pure character, meek, forbearing, temperate, sober, just, holy, thoroughly attached to the doctrines of the gospel, having a natural gift for teaching, and having had some experience in the Christian life—not a novice—has the qualifications for the ministry which the New Testament requires.
These are found to be precisely the qualifications demanded in the missionary field, and the men who possess them are the men found to be preeminently useful.