Refuting the Church of Christ (Why I left the Baptist Church)

This morning, while checking stats for my sites, I ran across this article I wrote for Beliefnet.com back in 2004. I think it bears reposting here.

Today, while doing some study, I ran across this portion of a book titled “Why I Left the Church of …” The title aroused my curiosity and I soon found that the book was a compilation of articles written by the different church of Christ members as to why they left their previous denomination.  I knew there had to be an ex-Baptist in the lot, so after scrolling through a number of screeds by C of C members who had changed their belief system, I found this article. It was written by Grover Stevens (a Church of Christ member) about why he left a Baptist church. I say ‘a Baptist church’ rather than ‘the Baptist church’ for a reason which will be discussed further down.  For sake of brevity, (this is looooong) I’ve left out much of the article which is personal and has nothing to do with Baptists. As I said, this is long so I’ll wait while you grab a cup of coffee or whatever else you want.

 

Ok, welcome back; my comments are in red;

Why I Left The BaptistChurch

By Grover Stevens

NO ANIMOSITY FOR BAPTISTS

I would like to say in the beginning that I have no animosity whatsoever against Baptists. Personally, I have no reason for leaving the Baptist church, but quite to the contrary, if personal reasons counted, I would never have left the BaptistChurch, because personality is in their favor. Especially is this true of the congregation of which I was a member in Phillips, Texas. I believe that the Baptists are, for the most part, splendid people. I believe that most of them are honest and sincere. I believe that, if there are Baptists here tonight, most of them want the truth, and will consider the things that are said honestly and open-minded. However, sometimes, out of a sense of loyalty to that which we have become members of, we are prone to cast aside lightly any charges that might be made against us. I sincerely hope that that will not be the way you will do tonight. I beg you to hear what I have to say, study it carefully with an open Bible in hand, then, out of honesty to your own soul and to God Almighty, to embrace all that you find to be in harmony with the Bible. Believe it, not because I said it, but because you found it in the word of God. That is the only thing any of us would have you believe–the Bible, the word of God. In spite of all the accusations made to the contrary, we still preach only the Bible. Such expressions are idle, I suppose, in view of the fact that all “churches” claim the same thing. We know that all of them do not preach “only the Bible” for they are many and the Bible is one. The Bible does not teach contradictory doctrines. The Baptists hold the Bible up and say, “We preach the Bible.” That is what we do.

So, what have I gained by telling you that we take the Bible and nothing but the Bible? Nothing, I suppose. I will just have to prove to you that we do actually stand on the Bible and nothing else, and that the Baptists do not. If they did, I never would have left them. I want you to consider the things that are said as honestly as you know how, tonight.

 That night I confessed that “God for Christ’s sake has saved me from my sins, and I want to join the Baptist Church.” Upon hearing that confession, they voted to receive me, and I was baptized into the Baptist Church that night. It was April 24, 1938.

ZEAL IN THE BAPTIST CHURCH

I took a personal interest in the work. I worked diligently. I was instrumental in leading several people to what I honestly thought was Christ, and they joined the BaptistChurch. I was given a Sunday School class, made the assistant director of the B. T. U., and was licensed to preach. I preached once a month for a little congregation in Sanford. Texas, about twenty miles out, and filled in for our local preacher when he was away.

I had been preaching and working for some time, and nothing had challenged my attention pertaining to Baptist Doctrine. Then, one day my mother and oldest brother who had been attending the church of Christ, told me how the church of Christ preached the Bible.

Notice here that the author does not use a capital “C” in the word church inferring that this particular congregation is ‘the’ church of Christ.  However, all congregations that claim to be the church of Christ use “Church of Christ” on their signs.  More on names later.

They urged me to attend a meeting starting in a few days. What I had heard about the church of Christ was told with contempt, so I had learned to feel that way toward them–at least, a little. However, I made up my mind that I would attend the meeting, listen to what was said and accept all that I could. I was determined to “give the devil his due.” I wanted to learn what was taught whether I believed it or not.

  1. A.    G. Hobbs, .Jr., was doing the preaching. Brother Hobbs is a very plain preacher. He is very kind, but he never leaves a doubt as to what he is talking about. I went home and looked up some of the scriptures and found them right there. On many points I would say, “You know, I believe he is right about that,” but on others, “Now, he just missed it there. If I could show him a few things in that connection, he’d see differently.” I know that many of you will feel that way toward me before this lesson is over. You will think, “I wish I could tell him something.” I wish you could, too, because I would like to remove every objection so that you could see your way to obey the truth. I learned that when I offered my objections to his position, that it was even more evident that he was right. That’s the reason that the denominational preachers  ”don’t believe in arguing.” They do believe in arguing their side of it, but they don’t believe in allowing a gospel preacher to examine their side. …

Baptists are NOT a denomination. Each individual congregation is autonomous controlled by no one outside their congregation other than Christ.

MY ATTENTION CHALLENGED

The first thing that challenged my attention as I listened to Brother Hobbs was that there was just one church. I suppose there is nothing in the Bible more plainly taught, yet more disavowed. The Bible says that the church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:2223). It says, “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4). The church is the body; there is one body; therefore. there is one church. Along with other proofs, I saw that there was just one church. Which one? So I began to study.

Other things challenged my attention as I studied. I wondered about God calling all preachers to preach. Does God call all preachers, then cause them to preach conflicting doctrines? Does God call Baptist preachers to preach, and then cause them to preach that immersion is the only kind of baptism, that only ordained Baptist preachers have the authority to baptize, the impossibility of apostasy, the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit, and numerous other things?

It appears that there is a lack of knowledge of Baptist doctrine. Baptists do not teach that only “ordained Baptist preachers’ have the authority to baptize. 

 

Why belong to a church? I told you that people, when convicted of sin will join one church or another, even though they do not know what it teaches or stands for. It is a church; they tell the story of Christ, and they were convicted of sin there, so they become members of it without questioning, or even knowing anything about its doctrines. When somebody criticizes it, they resent it. Why? Because the criticism was true or not true? NO, we just don’t like for people to criticize the church we are members of. Because of a sense of loyalty, we resent it. That is human nature. We must overcome feelings like that and be ready to face facts.

 

Why become a member of a church? …

Here, the author discusses joining a church but uses the word church referring to a particular denomination or congregation. When one is saved, one is ‘baptized’ into the body of Christ (church) by the Holy Spirit.

THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS NOT THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

The BaptistChurch is not the church you read about in the Bible. Baptist preachers, and all other preachers, take the Bible and read the word “church,” but they do not comment on it. They leave the impression that it refers to “their” church. The Baptist preacher will read a passage with the word “church” in it, and apply it to the BaptistChurch.

This is untrue. When Baptist preachers speak of the church, they are speaking of the body of called out, saved and baptized believers unless they are specifically speaking of their local assembly/building. (ie: the church parking lot will be repaved next week)

CHURCH-THE “CALLED OUT”

First, the word “church” means “called out.” “Called out” of what? What does it mean? The Baptists teach that you can be a Christian–you can be saved, and not be a member of any church, including the Baptist.

This author continues to confuse the word church with a congregation. There is only one true church and that is the called out body of Christ, however, there are local groups/churches/congregations that call themselves ‘Baptist.’

Let us see. The word “ecclesia” translated “church” refers to the “called out” –to that body of people that have been called out of the world, out of sin, into Christ. That is the meaning and significance of the word “church” in the New Testament. It does not mean denomination.

On this, we agree.

It does not have reference to the BaptistChurch, not the Methodist, nor any of the rest of them. It simply means “the called out.” The point is this: if you can be saved without being a member of any church, then it follows that you can be saved without being “called out” or a member of the “called out.” You have to be called out of the world into Christ to be saved. The same thing that calls you out, that redeems you, makes you a member of the church or “called out”; don’t you see? The Baptists do not use it that way. They talk about a person being saved and in Christ before he is a member of the church, and without being a member of any church.

The second chapter of Acts tells us that at Pentecost, about 3000 were added. They had received (to welcome /approve/accept) the word and  were added unto them. (Note: it does NOT say ‘gladly received the word AND were Baptized.’ It says “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.”) So, what were they added to? The church. Not the church at Damascus, the Antioch church, etc.  They were added to the body of Christ.  [for more on Baptism, see my recent post on the subject here]

I want to illustrate this point by substituting the terms “called out” and “redeemed” for church in a passage of scripture or two. Acts 2:47 says “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The Lord added to the “called out” daily such as should be saved. Now, see this body of people over here that are in sin and in the world, and the Lord added to this other body over here, the “called out,” “such as should be saved.” All of those who were saved were called out of the world into Christ. The process of saving and calling out are the same. “The Lord added to the saved daily such as should be saved.” The Lord added to the redeemed daily such as should be saved.

Again, we agree.

In Acts 8:1 we read, “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem.” Now watch it, “At that time there was a great persecution against the called out which was at Jerusalem,” “a great persecution against the redeemed which was at Jerusalem,” “against the saved which was at Jerusalem.” Do you see that? I do not see how you could miss it.

Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” The called out of God “which he hath purchased with his own blood,” “the saved of God,” “the redeemed of God.” The church is the redeemed, the saved, the called out. This is the significance of the word “church,” and is a far cry from the meaning Baptists give it. Remember, they claim that a person can be saved, redeemed, belong to God and not be a member of the Baptist Church. The church is the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ, the family of God. When viewing the church as to its relationship to the world, it is the “called out”–called out of the world–the church. When viewing the church as to its government, it is a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. As to its organization it is the body of Christ. With reference to its relationship to each other, it is the family of God. Don’t you see that the church in the New Testament is not and could not be the Baptist Church?

Again, and I tire of bringing this up, there is no “The Baptist Church.”  We are members of God’s church as differs from members of the Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church, Church of God, Assemblies of God, etc.  “Baptist” only signifies a certain congregation just as the church at Damascus, the Antioch church, etc. And just like those and all other New Testament churches, we are autonomous. In fact, I once toyed with the idea of lobbying our congregation to change our name to “The church on the road to Damascus.”  (the road does lead to a town called Damascus)

 

“CHURCH” NEVER REFERS TO BAPTIST CHURCH

If the word “church” never refers to the BaptistChurch, then the BaptistChurch is eliminated from the Bible. You know, of course, that the expressions “BaptistChurch,” “Baptist Churches,” “Baptists,” or “a Baptist” are not to be found in the Bible. We have now shown that the word “church” never refers to the BaptistChurch. Inasmuch as the Baptists admit that you can be a member of the NewTestamentChurch, the kingdom of God, before and without being a member of the BaptistChurch, then it follows that the Baptist Church and the New Testament church are two different institutions, entered at two different times, by two different processes. That is exactly it. This is according to the Baptists, themselves. Therefore the Baptist Church cannot be the New Testament Church.

No it does not follow. That is like saying the church at Damascus is different from the New Testament church.  Churches and groups have names. Church of Christ is a name just like Baptist is a name. It signifies not only the building but also the beliefs of the group meeting there. For instance, Church of Christ churches believe in baptismal regeneration and no instruments in church. Baptist churches believe just the opposite. Baptism has no saving grace and the Bible is full of illustrations where instruments were used to praise the Lord. How do we know these things? By their names.

…This being true, then it follows that a person can be a member of the kingdom of God, or body of Christ, or New Testament Church, before, and without belonging to the BaptistChurch.

 

Or any church including the Church of Christ for that matter.

TWO DIFFERENT PROCESSES OF SALVATION

You had to confess that you were saved before you could join the BaptistChurch. When I asked the Baptist preacher if he would baptize me, he asked, “Are you saved, Grover? We want saved people in our church.” Then, at services that night I confessed that “God, for Christ’s sake, has saved me from my sins” and I went to join the BaptistChurch. I was visiting a BaptistChurch one time and saw them do it this way: The preacher asked, “Do you believe that you were lost and that you are now saved for Christ’s sake?” The reply was “yes.” “Do you desire to join the BaptistChurch?” “Yes,” again. “You have heard the statement, what is your pleasure?” Then they took the vote. Once more I say that this proves, according to Baptists, that a person can be a member of the kingdom of God (saved) before and without being a member of the BaptistChurch. Hence, to be a Christian, to be saved, and a member of the kingdom of God, or the church you read about in the Bible is one thing, and to be a Baptist is another. Friends, the conclusion is inevitable. ‘THE BAPTIST CHURCH AND THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH ARE TWO DIFFERENT PROCESSES. This argument alone should show every honest person why you can’t afford to be a Baptist.

I’m not at all sure what happened in the above account but as a Baptist allow me to explain the process.  First and foremost; you do not have to ‘join’ a Baptist church/congregation to worship with that group. You are free to come to all services and participate fully. However, before we, as a congregation allow anyone to vote on church business, teach a class, etc. they must be a ‘member.’ To join, one only has to be saved and scripturally baptized. We will accept their word for this or a letter from their previous church or if they get are baptized in our church.

THE “VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE” CHURCHES

Baptists teach that the church is used in two senses, a visible sense and an invisible sense. They claim that when you are saved, God adds you to His church, the New Testament Church, which is the invisible church. If you are regenerated, you are saved; God knows it, and you know it, but nobody else should pass judgment on you–that is, nobody except the Baptists; they vote it, you know. That makes you a member of the kingdom of God or the new testament church, which is the invisible church–to them.

This is a fabrication. There is no ‘invisible church.’ And we do not vote on anyone’s state of salvation. If you are not saved, you cannot be a member of any local congregation (Baptist) that I know of. As stated above the vote is more of a procedural thing. We simply want to know that a person claims to be saved and scripturally baptized before we allow them to teach or vote on church business.  If someone says they are saved, then that’s the end of it. In my 40+ years of attending Baptist churches, I’ve never seen an opposing vote. 

 

WHAT MAKES A DENOMINATION?

I want to use an old illustration: Suppose that three denominations, the Baptists, Methodists and the Presbyterians have a union meeting. In the course of the meeting 400 people are saved.

A denomination has a hierarchy. Baptists do not. We are autonomous congregations. We have no ‘manual’ other than the Bible. In fact, that is one of the Baptist distinctives. We accept only the Bible as our guide in faith and practice.

HOW NOT TO BE A SECTARIAN

But, what about the other 100? Suppose they couldn’t make up their mind which church to join. As they study about it, it suddenly dawns on them, “we are saved aren’t we? Our sins have been forgiven, haven’t they? We are members of the New Testament church, are we not?” O, yes. “We are members of the Kingdom of God, aren’t we?” Yes, “Well, suppose that we select a place, meet there upon the first day of the week according to the New Testament and worship God, and never join a denomination.” Can they do that? If not, why not? Would that make them a denomination? If so, which one? They didn’t join any denomination. They said, “We just want to be Christians, and Christians only.”
 

This leaves out a major part of the thought process. Let me finish it. What about the Church of Christ, no they believe I have to be baptized to be saved. I don’t see that in the Bible. Protestant churches, nope, denominational and they believe in baptizing babies, worshiping Mary, etc. Church of God, nope, they believe you can lose your salvation even though the Bible teaches you saved eternally…etc., mmmm, the Baptist seem to believe the closest to the New Testament church. I’ll visit there. So you see, as the author states, these were saved, forgiven, members of the Kingdom but there seemed to be differences between the congregations. Just as there were in the New Testament.  If you had to choose would you choose the Antiochians or the Corinthians to join?

This is exactly what the church of Christ pleads for. We ask people to be just a member of the New Testament church, and not of any denomination. I preach that a person must belong to the New Testament church to be saved. So do the denominations. I preach that a person does not have to belong to any denomination to be saved. Every one of them teach the same. When I teach the same thing that they do, they do not like it. Of course, they teach that you do not have to belong to any denomination to be saved, but that you ought to belong to one; and I teach that you do not have to belong to any denomination to be saved and that YOU OUGHT NOT BELONG TO ANY because the Lord did not build them. Yes, we are pleading with people to be a member only of the Lord’s church, the New Testament church, the kingdom of God, and NOT to be members of any denomination. Be a Christian, and a Christian only.

Again, we are not a denomination and we do not teach that you should join a denomination. We DO teach that you should attend a local congregation of like beliefs and if God leads, join that congregation. I doubt very seriously that any Church of Christ would allow me to come into their congregation, preach, teach or have a say in how the business of the church was handled without some sort of vetting process. (Business meaning where the tithes and offerings were to be spent.)

 

[Large portion delete that did not apply to Baptist]

THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS UNSCRIPTURAL IN WORSHIP

They call Sunday the Sabbath day.

No, the Sabbath is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Sunday is the Lord’s day. It’s no wonder he left the Baptist church. He had no idea about what they taught.

Baptists use mechanical instruments of music in their worship. I think a good bit has been said about that in other lessons, so just suffice it to say that the New Testament Church did not use mechanical instruments of music. David used them, but neither Jesus nor his disciples ever did. That is as good an argument as is needed. They had it to use, but did not use it. That is reason enough for not using it.

Baptists set aside the Lord’s Supper and say that it makes it too common to take it every Lord’s Day. The same passage that says for us to come together, says also for us to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (Acts 20:7). They come together every first day of the week, they take a collection every first day of the week, and they have preaching… but to take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week makes it too common. Why is it not too common to give every first day of the week? Why is it not too common to come together every first day of the week? Why is it not too common to have preaching every first day of the week? They read in I Cor. 11:25, where Christ is quoted as having said, “this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me,” and conclude that they are left at liberty to take it when they are pleased to do so. The Bible plainly states, “upon the first day of the week . . .” (Acts 20:7) . Every week has a first day. When God told the children of Israel “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” they understood that they were to keepevery Sabbath holy. Just so with us in regard to the Lord’s Supper. The Lord said “Do this in memory of me,” so we meet every first day of the week to remember the Christ in that humble and simple way, by keeping the Lord’s Supper.

Not at all supported in scripture. Acts 20:11 clearly shows they were eating on that first day of the week, and not partaking of the Lords Supper.

They have unscriptural means of raising money. In the first place, they teach tithing. The Jews gave a tithe, but we are taught to “lay by in store as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:2), and as we “purpose in our heart” (II Cor. 9:7), which will “prove the sincerity of our love” (II Cor. 8:8).

There are many good arguments for tithing and for not tithing. Too many discuss here.

Baptists will build an elaborate building, then go around begging the business men in town to pay for it.

I’m not sure if this is simply ignorance or plain out lying. I know of very few “elaborate buildings” belonging to Baptist congregations. Most Baptist buildings are simple brick structures. Some are very large, but elaborate? I don’t think so. Additionally,  our congregation does not believe in asking for donations from anyone outside of our congregation and then only from those who have joined.

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THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS WRONG IN THEIR PLAN OF SALVATION

They teach that a person is saved by prayer. I could tell several incidents in which people were saved by prayer, according to the Baptists. One Sunday night three boys, who were alien sinners, a preacher, and I, all engaged in prayer until the boys arose and confessed that they were saved.

We do not teach that a person is ‘saved by prayer.’ There is only one way to be saved and that is to accept, by faith, the saving grace of Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s it.

 

THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS UNSCRIPTURAL IN ORGANIZATION

The BaptistChurch has a minister whom they call “Pastor,” and deacons, but no elders. The truth of the matter is this, pastors, bishops, presbyters, and elders are all the same and take the oversight of the flock. The deacons are servants of the church. The preacher is a minister or evangelist, not “the pastor” of a congregation.
Baptist preachers call themselves and have themselves called, “Reverend.” (There are a few exceptions to this, but very few). This word is used one time in the entire Bible and then in connection with the name of God. (Psalm 111:9). When you see the man you believe on a par with God, call him “reverend.’` This also violates the principle laid down by our Savior in Matthew 23:5-12.

 

Ephesians 4:11-12; “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

The Bible teaches that pastors are shepherds of the flock, under-shepherds to Christ, the head of the Church. Pastors shepherd and as the above verse states, ‘teach’ their congregation.

Pastors are not “Reverends” as stated, and Baptists do not (should not) call their Pastors “reverend.” It is usually the un-churched who will call a Preacher “reverend.”  The term is used only once in the Bible (Psalms 111:9 (KJV) He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.) and is a name given to God. 

THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS UNSCRIPTURAL IN DOCTRINE

They are wrong, first, in having a man-made doctrine at all. “This Declaration of Faith was framed many years ago by J. Newton Brown, D.D.” (Baptist Church Manual, foot note, p. 43). Christ says in Matt. 15:9, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

The Baptist doctrine contradicts the Bible in reason. Ask a Baptist preacher, “What is the Baptist Doctrine?” It is “what a church believes the Bible to teach.” (Baptist Church Manual, p. 41). I have pointed out that it is the distinctive features of the Baptist Church that make it Baptist instead of some other kind of Church. Now ask, “Must I believe the Bible to be saved?” Answer, “Yes.” “Must I believe Baptist Doctrine to be saved?” Answer, “No.” Then, if I must believe the Bible to be saved, and must not believe Baptist Doctrine to be saved, then it follows that Baptist Doctrine is not Bible Doctrine. Jesus told the apostles to go preach the gospel and said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” When any preacher preaches things that you do not have to believe to be saved, you may rest assured that he is not preaching “the gospel,” because you do have to believe “the gospel” to be saved. If a person can be saved without belonging to the Baptist Church and without believing Baptist Doctrine (that which is peculiar to Baptists), then why does the Baptist Church exist, and by whose authority? Baptists say they exist to save people, but how can this be, when a person can be saved and never hear of the Baptist Church? Friends, think about that seriously.

Baptist Doctrine contradicts the Bible in fact. “We believe that the salvation of sinners is WHOLLY of grace.” (Baptist Church Manual, Article IV of the Declaration of Faith, p. 47). We are saved by HOPE, (Rom. 8:24), and Peter said BAPTISM saves us, (1 Peter 3:21). If this is true, then we are not saved WHOLLY or ENTIRELY by grace, but by hope and baptism also. Then this article of faith is false.

This assumes that those who believe in baptismal regeneration or a system of works for salvation are correct when in fact, they are dead wrong. Nowhere does the bible teach that someone can do anything of themselves to be saved. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)” We see here that we are saved when we are washed (baptized) by the Holy spirit at the moment we accept Christ and His atoning work on the Cross.

 

Is it possible that Paul could be a cast-away? Paul thinks so, hear him, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Cor. 9:27). Was Paul a “real believer?” Paul said, “Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.

Text, taken out of context is pretext. Paul is speaking of service here and not salvation.

Again, “Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4). We are saved by grace. (Eph. 2:8) . Therefore, people can fall from that which saved them.

Keeping the law cannot save you because no one can keep the law. However, CofC members believe they keep the law and that saves them.

 

[E-vangelist: The above is far from an exhaustive description of the beliefs of those Christians who call themselves “Baptists.”  However, it does refute some of the myths of the author. For a better understanding of Baptist Beliefs,  check out baptistdistinctives.org/ or my blog at e-vangelist.org]

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