There is a great need in our day to know what it is to be a baptist. The push toward blurring the lines between civil and church spheres of governance has led to confusion at best and contradiction at worst. Today, I read of another influential baptist capitulating on the issue of believer’s only baptism together with views on separation of church and state.
I am in no way saying that civil governance should not be running things by virtue of God’s law—quite the opposite. The only way this can happen is through churches remaining churches, clearly separate from the state, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Call it what you will—but it is a baptist distinctive.
Not only is it a baptist distinctive, it is a Christian distinctive. Christians are confident that the triune God of the universe alone makes the gospel that gives hope to every sphere of society—self, family, church, state.
Today, there is confusing talk about parental rights. Some imply that unless you baptize your children into the covenant that you have no right or proper influence over them (cough: Cross Politic and the like). This is a manipulative plea that baptism does not resolve. Children are under the governance of their parents by virtue of the institution of the family, not by the revival of a works covenant. Covenant theology that is true to grace does not make the means of salvation any outward relationship. Grace works from the inside out by virtue of the Holy Spirit together with the Word of God. We are to disciple people with God’s love, not dictate people with man’s labors.
The confusion leads to a disintegration of evangelicalism, creates an atmosphere where everyone doubles down on those who disagree with them, and leads to down false avenues of true manliness in the faith. It ultimate leads to division of the body of Christ by bad influencers and not edification of the body of Christ with confessional doctrine—something that we should be extremely careful to diverge from.
As we celebrate holy week, the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, his righteous suffering for our sins and resurrection from the dead ought to teach us above all that to be baptist means to be baptized in suffering in this world, to take up our cross knowing that while many will view it as defeat and weakness, God is achieving victory.
We can be triumphing in Christ without being triumphalistic—and there is a big difference between the two. Knowing what a baptist is will keep us from making the error of the latter.
Ultimately, as a pastor I am concerned about the integrity of the church. The universal church is not helped by lack of baptist distinctives, but by bold conviction that such distinctives matter. We are not here to promote sameness. Sameness does not achieve unity, but artificiality for the sake of belonging to something that takes the place of Christ. And that is a serious pastoral matter. Thus, I write with that concern.
In Christ alone by grace alone. Pastor M.