BAPTIST WAY OF CHURCH ORGANIZATION
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20).
The above passage is what is commonly referred to as THE GREAT COMMISSION. It was given to the Lord's churches - not just to any group of people - for a specific purpose. The power of Christ was handed down to the church at Jerusalem, and then handed down to each true New testament church since.
God is not the author of confusion (See I Corinthians 14:33) in anything and the method of church organization is no exception! Yet, there be some false teachers who have arisen in our ranks who have sown seeds of confusion on this very important topic.
A question about church organization needs to be scripturally answered. Human opinions, creeds, and confessions ought to be checked by the Scriptures, for only God's word has been inspired by God. So, let us look at the Bible for our answers.
ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:11-12)
" And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."” (Genesis 1:21).
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:24-25).
Though there be some who think they are intelligent scientists who claim that a monkey can become a man, the Bible teaches no such thing. It is against God's ordained order of the way things work! And we have some in Baptist churches today who think they are intelligent theologians and claim any group of people can group together to be a church. This too is against God's way of doing things.
CHURCH ORGANIZATION IN
"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Timothy 3:15).
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17).
In the Bible, we have examples for nearly everything we do. God has given to us His complete word. We have been instructed to keep it. It's what sets us apart from the Old Whore (Catholicism) and her Harlot Daughters (Protestantism). Let us examine the Biblical examples of church organization, as they are recorded in the New Testament.
THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." (John 1:6).
John was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and he set the stage for the church. He prepared the material for the church by baptizing (See Luke 1:17). Please note, John was the only man who was not a church member who had the authority to baptize. Everyone else since then has had to do it under the authority of the church (in order to do it properly).
"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11).
The truth that John's baptism was of Divine authority can be seen in the fact that Jesus Himself submitted to it. There should be no question whatsoever on this point.
"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." (I Corinthians 12:28).
The first members of the Lord's kind of church were the apostles, whom He called out. They had been baptized by John, and were the "charter-members" of the church at Jerusalem. He did not gather together a group of people at random, but He used those who were baptized by John!
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18).
The church was founded upon the Rock, Jesus Christ. And to that church was promised perpetuity. All true churches of the Lord came from the same Founder - Jesus Christ. Anything that traces itself to a man cannot be the same kind of church!
THE CHURCH AT SAMARIA
"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done." (Acts 8:5-13).
Philip was an evangelist from the church at Jerusalem. As he was preaching the gospel to the people in Samaria, many believed. He baptized both men and women there.
"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert." (Acts 8:14-26).
The church at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to assist Philip in Samaria. This ought to put to rest any question about the Jerusalem - Samaria link. Philip was not a freelance preacher by any stretch of the imagination! Once Peter and John were finished with their visit, they went back to Jerusalem. And Philip went on to preach in the desert.
"Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." (Acts 9:31).
From this passage, we find that a church was eventually organized in Samaria. This church sprung up from the authority of the church at Jerusalem. You might call Jerusalem the "mother church" of Samaria.
THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH
"Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." (Acts 11:19-21).
As a result of persecution in Jerusalem, many of the church members were scattered into other areas. When these folks went into another place, they witnessed to the people around them. This is what every church member (not just the preachers) ought to do! As a result of this, many people were saved!
"Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord." (Acts 11:22-24).
Those who were saved did not just band together and form a church. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas as missionary to Antioch when they knew the Lord was working there. Notice that the group at Antioch is not called a church yet.
"Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:25-26).
Barnabas went to get Saul, and they worked together there. Working under the authority of Jerusalem, these men organized the church at Antioch.
MISSIONARIES FROM ANTIOCH
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." (Acts 13:1-3).
The church at Antioch, just like the church at Jerusalem, sent out missionaries to continue the work of the Lord. Jerusalem had received the authority straight from Jesus and Antioch received it from Jerusalem. We can see the chain of authority taking form:
JESUS e JERUSALEM e missionaries e ANTIOCH e missionaries e .....
Notice from the passage, the Holy Spirit worked THROUGH the church at Antioch to send out these men. That's the way it is now. He does not work through mission boards, or associations. He works through the Lord's churches. Any other method lacks the authority needed.
Read the rest of chapter 13 and on into chapter 14. You will find that they went different places, carrying out the Great Commission.
"And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples." (Acts 14:26-28).
At the end of their journey, they went back to their home church to report the things that had happened. Thus, we see that the connection was not lost.
Some folks object to the idea of the Paul and other missionaries going out and baptizing people through the authority of their home churches. In an age of telephones and email, some churches think their missionary has to contact the home church to get them to vote for a person to be baptized or for a church to be established. I see no evidence that it has to be that way. If a church cannot trust their missionary to do right in these matters unless the church votes on each and every case, then the church ought not to send the man out in the first place. Before telephones and emails, churches sent out their missionaries with all the authority needed to do the great commission. And the churches often did not know what had happened until after the fact, as it was in the above case. Sometimes, missionaries were sent out and never heard from again. Does this mean their works were not valid? Absolutely not. People were baptized and churches were established under the authority of the missionary's home church!
A WORD ABOUT
THE TERM MOTHER CHURCH
Some in our day have problems with the mother church. Scripturally, I see no problem with it, as long as it is used within the limits of scripture.
By the term "mother church" I mean the church that organizes (or, gives birth) to another church. We sometimes call that church a "daughter church." Let us use Jerusalem and Antioch as example. Jerusalem was the "mother church" and Antioch was the "daughter church." As true Baptists, we believe that this terminology deals only with relationship, and nothing to do with authority. In other words, we do not believe that any "mother church" has had nor ever should have authority over another church! Our enemies have accused us as believing in one church having authority over another, and unfortunately some among us do apparently believe this. But this is wrong! The Lord's true churches are independent Baptists! King's Addition Baptist Church in South Shore KY cannot tell Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Mansfield OH what to do and vise-versa. We might advise one another and certainly should fellowship with one another but one church cannot tell another church what to do! Any church or preacher who would try to have authority over a younger or smaller church is in serious error. In fact, the very idea stinks of rotten catholicism!
True Baptists have held that the Lord's churches go back to the New Testament in a chain-link succession. I have tried to show a few examples from the Bible of this very thing.
Now, I do not believe every church has to have a genealogy going all the way back to Jerusalem to prove they are a true church. Many of the needed records have been lost or destroyed.
I am a descendant of Adam, the first man who was created in the world. However, I cannot show you on paper proof of that. The records of my genealogy goes back only a few generations. However, I have faith that I go back to Adam because God said so in His Word.
So it is with churches. I cannot tell you but a little information about the line we came from. However, I am sure it goes all the way back to Jerusalem, just as much as I am sure that I came from Adam. Why? Because God said so and I have faith that it is so.
That being said, if you look at your own church records and find it was started by a man or a group of individuals without the authority of a “mother church,” then your church is NOT a true church! A church that was not organized right will never be right! A church started by a man is no more a church than the Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.
In the beginning of this article, we looked at the Genesis example of reproduction. A group of molecules and cells cannot join together to become an animal. It goes against nature and the Bible. Neither can a group of people just join together and become a church. A group of cells will always be just a group of cells. And a group of people will always be a group of people. They will never be a church except they are properly organized as such!
him be glory in the church by Christ
Jesus throughout all ages, world
without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21).
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