ACCORDING TO THE EVERLASTING COVENANT OF GRACE
By Elder Bobby Poe
In the Everlasting Covenant of Grace as in the Covenant of the Law as given to Israel, there is a prominent place devoted to giving. The purpose for tithing under the Law Covenant was for the support of the Levite (the priest), the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. (De 14:28-29). It is very similar under the Covenant of Grace, where giving is for the support of the ministry, widows, the fatherless, and the poor. (1Co 9:7-11; Ro 15:26; Ac 6:1; 1Ti 5:9; James 1;27; Mt 25:34-40; 1Jo 3:17).
The question may be raised, why did God give a definite standard under the law (the tithe or 10%) for the purpose of supporting the Levites, strangers, widows, and the fatherless, and did not specify such a standard under the Covenant of Grace? Could it be because our needs would be less? I think not. Jesus says in Mt 26:11, “For ye have the poor always with you…” There will always be a need for the support of the ministry. There will always be widows and orphans. It seems to me the difference can be found in the kinds of people each covenant governed. The Law Covenant ruled both believers and unbelievers, and a definite standard was needed. The Covenant of Grace rules over believers only, and love is its motivator. Love will carry God’s child further into obedience than the rule of law required. This was demonstrated early in the book of Acts as the young church began to carry our the mandate of Jesus Christ. (Ac 4:32). “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” Continuing in Ac 4:33-37, one can readily see the power of the grace of God which governed the lives of the believers.
The design of the Covenant of Grace is to gain rule over the believer by winning his heart. (Pr 4:23) “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” When God has won the sinner by winning his heart, He then is able to control every area of his life- his family life, his professional or business life (both employee and employer), his social life, his recreation, his church life, and even his pocket book. Man will never be perfect in this earthly life because he is still hindered by the “old man” or the flesh; but God’s child does yield obedience to God from the heart.
The most magnificent motivation to giving is the Christian’s correct view of Christ. Having been brought by the Holy Spirit to understand the tremendous gift of Christ when Christ gave His all to save him, the Christian is motivated to give of himself in the service of Christ, and this includes giving of his money or income. (2Co 8:9) “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
GIVING IS A GRACE:
Generosity is one proof of the grace of God. (2Co 8:1-3) “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves…” Also see 2Co 8:7 “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.” The grace of God received into one’s heart will make him a generous person.
GIVING IS A PROOF OF ONES LOVE:
(2Co 8:8,24) “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love… Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” (1Jo 3:17) “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” Love will go far in carrying out the revealed will of God. Love to God and to one’s neighbor stands out in Scripture as the hinge upon which everything else swings.
The above Scriptures reveal that for giving to be acceptable unto God, the state of the heart and the focus of the giving is of the utmost importance.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE HEART:
(2Co 9:7) “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2Co 8:12) “For if there be first a willing mind…” That which one gives should first come forth from the heart. There should be the free consent of the heart, not with grief because he is giving what he wants for himself, nor because he is pressured by what others will think or say. The heart should be cheerful and delighted in what is given.
THE FOCUS OF GIVING IS UNTO GOD:
Giving is an act of obedience, and obedience is always done first unto God and with a view to pleasing God. If we are giving to the preacher or poor widow or orphan and they do not please us, we might withhold from giving as we should; but if we are giving as unto the Lord our hearts will be generous. God always and forever deserves our best. He has never let one of His children down. Man, whom we support with our giving, may let us down, but God has never turned His back on His child. For our giving to be consistent, our focus must be unto the Lord.
GIVING IS AN ACT OF FAITH:
When one gives, he is trusting God to bless the balance of his income to be sufficient for his needs, and that which he gives to be sufficient for those whom he helps. (2Co 8:15) “As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” (2Co 9:10) “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness…” (Mt 6:33) “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” God can multiply one’s income to stretch far or he can cause it to shrink, as if it has taken wings and vanished.
HONESTY IN GIVING IS THE ONLY POLICY:
After Barnabas and others had given so generously in Ac 4:34-37, Ananias and Sapphira feigned to do the same. They only gave a part of the price of the possession which they had sold, but lied and said it was the full price. In Ac 5:3 Peter said, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” Ananias and Sapphira both lost their lives, not because they didn’t give all from the sale of their possession, but because they lied. This happened only once in Scripture, but God doesn’t need to keep repeating His word to get His message across to His obedient child. Once is enough. The attitude, desire, and will of the believer is very important under the Covenant of Grace. Hypocrisy is a definite “no.” Deceit and lying are extremely dangerous. God looks upon the heart.
GOD IS TO COME FIRST IN ALL THINGS:
The first priority in the life of God’s child should be his family. (1Ti 5:8) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” The first institution which God established was the family. When one serves his family according to the Scriptures, he is serving God, and putting God first. When one neglects his family by failing to obey what the Scriptures say is his duty, he is disobeying God and putting something before obedience to God. The Jews in Mr 7:9-13 has thwarted their responsibility to honor their father and mother by saying they had pledged their wealth to the Temple treasury by calling it “Corban.” They did this in order to shirk their responsibility toward their parents. Jesus rebuked them for their actions.
When God has prospered one to have more than the needs (not luxury) of his family; is there an example of Scripture to follow? I believe Abraham is that example. My reasons for using Abraham are as follows:
There are many types and representative characters in the Old Testament. In Genesis there are eleven chapters devoted to all that happened before Abraham came on the scene. Then the next 13 chapters are devoted to the life of this one man. This man is a very important person in the revelation which God has given us. I believe Abraham represents the child of God who walks by faith and not by sight. The Jews had great respect for Abraham, who was called the father of the Jews. Many Jews were trusting in their works to save them, but Paul shows that Abraham was not justified by his works. (Ro 4:3) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness…” It was not Abraham’s faith which was counted for righteousness, but the object of his faith, Jesus Christ. (Ga 3:16) “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
Since God has devoted so much space in the Scriptures to this one person, Abraham, the student of Scripture should be made to wonder why. Abraham is not only prominent in the Old Testament, but also in the New. I believe the reason is found in Ro 4:11. “That he [Abraham] might be the father of all them that believe…” The Scripture makes it plain: not only is Abraham the father of Jewish believers, but of the Gentiles also. Abraham is a type or representative of the child of God walking by faith and not by sight. The Old Testament children of God and also the New Testament children of God all walked by faith. Hab 2:4; Ro 1:17; Ga 3:11; Heb 10:38; 2Co 5:7.
If all of God’s children are to walk by faith and not by sight, and if God has plainly given to us a person who represents such a child of God, would we not want to study his life to see how he walked and lived? It seems to me that since Abraham is a representative character of one who walks by faith and not by sight it should not seem incredible that a child of God, who has studied Abraham’s life and had been blessed in material things, would want to follow his example in giving. To me such behavior should be commendable. When God’s child has been blessed to prosper and out of a loving and willing heart gives one-tenth, using Abraham as his example, that is not being legalistic, but is acting out of obedience of faith. Legalism is doing something to appear righteous before men and God. The focus of legalism is self. The focus of the obedience of faith is God. Obedience of faith is done out of love for God and for God’s glory. Abraham was never under the law as given to Moses. That came over 400 years after Abraham . See Ga 3:17. Abraham’s life was not lived according to law, but was lived according to the obedience of faith.
In Ge 14, when Abraham received the news that his nephew, Lot, had been captured by the kings who had defeated the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, he took 318 servants and pursued them. Abraham and his servants defeated the armies which had taken Lot and others captive. He delivered the people and all the goods which had he taken. Upon his return Melchizedek met Abraham and blessed him. (Ge 14:19-20) “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he[Abraham] gave him tithes of all.” God had blessed Abraham greatly. God had made Abraham prosper. Abraham gave freely, willingly, and generously, not because he was under law to give, but because he had a willing heart. 1Co 16:2 says, “upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him.” When God has prospered a person and the grace of God has made his heart generous, and he delights to give, I believe he is to be commended for following Abraham’s example. Abraham’s example does not limit God’s child who has been blessed to prosper in material things; he may give much, much more than the tithe which Abraham gave. Many of the saints of God have done so. Remember Barnabas’ outstanding example. Love will carry God’s “born again” child far beyond the rule of law.
In the Covenant of Grace there is no commandment requiring every church member to give the same percentage of his income. In the church there will be the poor, who barely have enough to cover their family needs. Others will be more prosperous and can give like Barnabas did in Ac 4:36-37. See 2Co 8:14: “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality…”
When we give our money, we only return a small portion of that which God has already given to us. (De 8:18) “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…” (1Ch 29:14) “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.”
THE BIBLICAL TEST OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
The Scripture is the only infallible rule. If anything does not meet this test, it is to be rejected. Uninspired history, although valuable, is written by fallible men and cannot be trusted for the foundation of the Christian’s faith.
There are at least three tests to measure whether a religious assembly can be called a New Testament church.
1. Does the church stand under and support the truth as delivered by Christ and the apostles? Is she committed to a defense of that truth? Is she committed to a spread of the truth?
2. Was the church established with members who had been discipled by a New Testament church of Jesus Christ which is founded upon Christ and the teachings of Christ and the apostles?
3. Does the church keep the ordinances which were delivered to the New Testament church by Jesus Christ and confirmed to the apostles?
I. The New Testament church of Jesus Christ has been made the depository of truth. The teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles have been entrusted to the church for safe keeping. This is seen in 1Ti 3:15: “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.” It is also seen in Joh 17:14-21:
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: the word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
It is true that God has preserved the Old and New Testaments, but many have the inspired record in hand who have perverted its teachings and will not defend its truths. In fact, many who have the inspired Scriptures hate its truth and therefore pervert them. The New Testament church of Jesus Christ had been empowered by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, she is committed to the trust which has been given to her to keep the truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures pure. As is said in Joh 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” It is also written in Ac 2:33: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” As long as the Holy Spirit abides in a church, there is every reason to hope that the church will continue in her support of the truth. If error, either in practice or in doctrine enters into the church and the Holy Spirit abides in her, there is hope that the church will purge herself of the error. If she does not purge herself, the Holy Spirit or candlestick will be withdrawn and even though she continues for years and years to exist, she will cease to be a New Testament church of Jesus Christ. The Lord warned a church in Re 2:5: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” He warned another church in Re 3:16: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
Not only will the New Testament church of Jesus Christ believe the truth, she will also defend the truth with her blood. It is written in Jude 3: “It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” One of the most sobering things to note in reading church history is the unwavering dedication of the church to stand firm upon truth and not to be swayed from it, even though that meant the shedding of blood. The ordinances of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, have been the cause of more blood-shed, I suppose, than any other thing. The church would not accept unscriptural baptism from non-churches and refused to corrupt the Lord’s Supper by allowing unbaptized people to partake of it.
It has been, and it is still today, God’s revealed will that the “born again” ones should be set free from ignorance, false religion, traditions of men, fables, foolish and unlearned questions which gender strife. Truth will set them free! It is recorded in Joh 8:31-32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth has been given to the New Testament church of Jesus Christ which is charged with the responsibility of carrying the truth into all the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not give life, but it does bring spiritual life to light where it can be seen, and it does set God’s children free. This is made plain in 2Ti 1:10 “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
When God made the New Testament church of Jesus Christ the depository of truth, He did not purpose for her to keep it hidden nor to limit its dispersion. His revealed purpose was for the truth to be spread far and near. The church fulfills this trust given to her by God, when she keeps the truth in its purity, is willing to defend it with her life, and spreads it abroad.
II. Was the church established with members who had been discipled by a New Testament church of Jesus Christ which is founded upon Christ and the teachings of Christ and the apostles? This is a most vital point! The inspired history of scripture reveals God’s method of spreading the gospel and establishing churches. Does the inspired scripture teach that the New Testament church of Jesus Christ is spread by the self-taught method or by the discipleship method?
To set the stage for what I want to write, let me state what I
believe to be a false view of how the New Testament church of Jesus Christ is
spread. Some have advanced the idea that if God wanted a church in a
heathen country that in His providence He would place a Bible into the hands of
a man whom He would call to preach. The Holy Spirit would teach him the
truth of scripture and he would begin to preach, gather a group of disciples,
and start a New Testament church of Jesus Christ. Others hold to the view
that God may start New Testament churches by calling someone in a false
religious institution to preach, and teaching him the truth. He then
gathers disciples out of the false religion and starts a New Testament
Both of these views are in error according to God’s revealed word. The inspired scriptures reveal that the ones who go out to spread the gospel and start New Testament churches of Jesus Christ are first established by an existing New Testament church. After Jesus had taught His disciples for a long time, He sent them forth to search out the lost sheep of the house of Israel. You will note He did not send them until they were first taught. He did not send them alone, but two by two. (Mt 10). In Mt 28:18-20 Jesus commands His church to go into all nations. “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.” After Jesus’ resurrection, He again commands His church to spread the gospel. (Joh 20:21) “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” (Ac 1:8) “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
When the church began to carry out this commission to spread the truth and establish New Testament churches of Jesus Christ, the inspired history of scripture reveals to us that the ones who did the work were those who had already been discipled by the New Testament church of Jesus Christ. There isn’t one case in the book of Acts where a church was started by someone who was self-taught.
The Ethiopian eunuch had some of the Old Testament scriptures, but God sent Philip to teach and baptize him. (Ac 8:26-39). When Cornelius began to seek God, God sent Peter to teach him and his household and to baptize them. (Ac 10). Even the apostle Paul was sent to Damascus to Ananias who was already a baptized disciple. (Ac 9:10,18). There were a number of disciples at Damascus with whom Paul spent certain days. (Ac 9:19). The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas out to preach the gospel. They went, they preached, they gathered believers, and they established churches. (Ac 13:1 to Ac 14:28). Ac 13 and Ac 14 shows us the pattern for spreading the gospel and establishing churches. The Jerusalem church did evangelize, but their main focus seemed to be toward the Jews. The church at Antioch became the first center to spread the gospel to the Gentiles, and thereby establish New Testament churches of Jesus Christ. Since Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and the Jews had rejected the gospel, the book of Acts turns its attention to the work of Paul among the Gentiles. One thing stands out very clearly in Acts: There was not one New Testament church of Jesus Christ started by a self-taught man from heathendom or from a false religion. Every church was started by disciples who had themselves been discipled by a New Testament church of Jesus Christ.
In studying the book of Acts it is most evident that when
disciples of Christ left the church in Jerusalem to spread the gospel they did
not find one synagogue which had taught themselves the gospel according to
Christ and the apostles and had started a New Testament church of Jesus Christ
in their synagogue. Yet, in the synagogues they had the Old Testament
scriptures. Many of them had been to Jerusalem to attend the prescribed
worship according to the Old Testament. Some of them had been present at
these feasts in Jerusalem when Jesus had been present. There had been
much discussion on these occasions as to whether Jesus was the Messiah.
Yet, the Holy Spirit did not disciple these Jews apart from the ministry of already
established churches. If God’s purpose was to start New Testament
churches of Jesus Christ independently of already established churches, it
seems this would have been a great time for Him to reveal His mind.
However, He did not do so. Every new church we read of in the book of
Acts was started by disciples from previously established churches.
This pattern is confirmed by Paul to Timothy. In 2Ti 2:2, he said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
The question sometimes is asked: Has there ever been recorded in uninspired church history where a church started which came out of a false religious institution? From the uninspired history which has come down to us, there seem to have been such cases. However, since such history is not inspired of God we cannot leave the inspired record given in the Holy Scriptures and take uninspired history for our pattern. Every practice and every doctrine must be measured by the Holy Scriptures. If it will not fit, it must be discarded. It matters not how much God used a man, nor how great he became. When his teaching or practice does not conform to the Holy Scriptures, we must not hold to his error.
For the New Testament church of Jesus Christ to recognize as true churches those who were started by disciples from a false religion is a dangerous venture. If those who came out of false religions will not come into the New Testament church of Jesus Christ they are to be suspect. Why would they not do so? Is there something they still hold which is unscriptural? Does their pride keep them from the lowly assembly of believers?
III. Does the church keep the ordinances which were delivered to the New Testament church by Jesus Christ and confirmed by the apostles? “The two practices of baptism and the Lord’s Supper or communion were called ordinances of the church, and were strictly observed.” (Hassell’s History, p. 283).
The New Testament church of Jesus Christ has been given authority to keep these ordinances and has jealously guarded this trust by refusing to accept baptism not administered by authority of the church. She has also refused to allow those not properly baptized to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Because of this position, the church has been called “narrow minded, hard-hearted, and sectarian.” The church has lost more members by their willingness to lay their lives down for this one issue than for all others. This issue is the watershed of them all! For many, church authority to baptize is a yoke they are unwilling to wear. The problem in our day of so many religious institutions calling themselves New Testament churches of Jesus Christ is renegade ministers who have started their own thing.
When Luther, the great reformer, broke with the Catholic Church, he seemed to hold the Baptists in high esteem. The Baptists rejoiced because they were now able to come out of hiding. There was limited fellowship between the reformer and the Baptists. When the Baptists began to flourish, he took up the old ways of the Catholics and began to persecute them.
"The success and number of the Baptists ‘exasperated him to the last degree,’ and he became their enemy, notwithstanding all he had said in favor of dipping (while he contended with Catholics on the sufficiency of God’s word) but now he persecuted them under the name of re-dippers, re-baptizers or anabaptists. One thing troubled Luther, and he took no pains to conceal it, and that was a jealousy lest any competitor should step forward, and put in execution that plan of reformation which he had laid out: this was his foible: he fell out with Carlstadt, he disliked Calvin, he found fault with Zuinglius, who were all supported by great patrons, and he was angry beyond measure with the Baptists." (Orchard’s Church History-Page 345)
If those who came out of a corrupt religion claim their
baptism is valid, by whose authority is it valid? It must be usurped
authority because Christ only gave the authority to baptize to New Testament
churches of Jesus Christ. In every instance in the book of Acts, the
person who desired baptism was baptized by a representative of an already
established New Testament church of Jesus Christ. When Jesus gave the
commission in Mt 28:19
to the church to preach the gospel in all the world, He also gave them the
authority to baptize.
"Daniel McArthur a young man of Cowal, in the west of Scotland, about the beginning of the nineteenth century, was converted to grace, and immediately commenced to preach the gospel to his countrymen with fervency and zeal, the Lord working with him, so that his fame went far and near in that country and multitudes flocked to hear the word, a great awakening being among the people, and the great power of God was felt, and many added unto the Lord.
He being desirous to follow the rules laid down in the holy word of God, saw it his bounden duty to forsake the prevailing customs and be baptized according to the apostolic mode; and after much search found Elder McFarland, a Baptist minister in Edinburgh, who preached the doctrine of grace in its purity, who baptized him and ordained him pastor over the church." (Hassell's Church History - Page 880-881)
Jesus gave his church the ordinance of the Lord's supper the last night He spent with them. In 1Co 11:26 God inspired Paul to write: "For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." It is the revealed will of God that the church should continually hold forth the death of Christ. He has given the church an ordinance to display this grand truth and to keep the reality of His death before the church continually. The question arises: Who should be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper? The answer: Only those who are members of the body (a New Testament church of Jesus Christ. The only ones who can become a member cal the body are those who have been baptized. (Ac 2:41) "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand. souls." (1Co 10:16-17) "The cup of blessings which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ: The bread which we bleak, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread."
According to Armitage's Church History, Page 468, Kiffin became a Baptist in 1638. Kiffin opposed Bunyan on this question. "At this time the Baptists of England generally distinguished themselves from the Pedobaptists as those of 'the baptized way' because they held that sprinkled folk were not baptized at all. But those of this 'way' divided on the subject of communion, part of them being open communion, led by Bunyan, Jessey, and others, while the great majority of them were strict in their communion. Kiffin led this wing of 'the baptized way,' being followed by Denny, Thomas Paul, Henry D'Anvers and others. The controversy was hot, and in his 'Right to Church Communion,' Kiffin says in reply to Bunyan:
'If unbaptized persons may be admitted to all church privileges, does not such a practice plainly suppose that it (baptism) is unnecessary? For to what purpose is it to be baptized, may one reason with himself, if he may enjoy all church privilege without it: The Baptists, if once such a belief prevails, would be easily tempted to lay aside that reproached practice, which envious men have unjustly derided and aspersed, of being dipt, that is, baptized, and challenge their church communion by virtue of their faith only. And such as baptized infants would be satisfied to discontinue the practice when once they are persuaded that their children may be regular church members without it, for if it be superfluous, discreet and thrifty people would willingly be rid of the trouble of christening-feasts, as they call them, and all the appurtenances thereto belonging. So that in a short time we should have neither old nor young baptized and by consequence, be in a like condition to lose one of the sacraments, which would easily make way for the loss of the. other, both having an equal sanction in Scripture. And the arguments that disarmed the one would destroy the other, and consequently all ordinances, and modes of worship and lastly religion itself.
No morsel of reasoning in the English language has ever disposed of the essence of the communion question so fully as this; and if his proposition had been intended as a prophecy concerning Bunyan's Church itself, it could not have been more strictly fulfilled to the letter, in that it now discards baptism entirely as necessary to the right of church fellowship." (Armitage's Church history Page 469 - 470)
The question often rises: What about those religious institutions who have never been a part of the New Testament church of Jesus Christ or have lost their identify as true churches by going into error and never renouncing their error. First of all we should rejoice in whatever true gospel they do preach. (Php 1:15-18) "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good. will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
If God fed Elijah by using the ravens to bring bread and flesh, God can feed His sheep and lambs with the crumbs which fall from the table of the religious institutions which are not New Testament churches of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we should leave them alone because they stand before God who is their judge. (Lu 9:49-50) "And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
The New Testament church of Jesus Christ is a sacred trust. The activity committed to her is vital to the welfare of God's children. To compromise the truth by joining the New Testament church of Jesus Christ with non-churches - to fail to baptize all who come into the church - to pollute the Lord's Supper by allowing non-baptized persons to partake, is to despise this sacred trust.
Elder Bobby Poe
The Perpetuity and Continuity of The New Testament Church
Perpetuate means: To make perpetual or cause
to last indefinitely.
Continuity means: Uninterrupted connection,
succession or union.
It takes both of these words to convey the Biblical teaching of how the New Testament Church will spread throughout the whole world, and how it will last until the Second Coming of Christ. The Holy Scriptures are the only authority by which the church is to govern her beliefs and guide all her activities. The Bible, which is inspired by God, is the only trustworthy authority upon which one’s faith is to rest.
THIS PAMPHLET WILL COVER TWO MAIN AREAS OF STUDY
1. An examination of the Biblical teaching on the perpetuity and continuity of the New Testament Church.
2. The methodology which the Bible gives for the spread of the church.
It is the purpose of this pamphlet to examine the Holy Scriptures and try to discover the responsibility and the methodology which the church has received from God for starting new churches. We would also like to examine the Scriptures to see if any other institution or if any individuals, apart from the church, were given this responsibility and authority.
Jesus says in Mt 16:18 “Mt 16:18 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.” In this verse we have at least two great truths. Christ says, “I will build my church.” The first New Testament church ever built was built by Christ, who is the head of the church. Every New Testament church that has been built since then is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. 1Co 3:11 says “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The second great truth contained in Mt 16:18 is that the church shall never be destroyed. The promise made by Christ was not that the church in Jerusalem would never be destroyed, but that the institution, “the church,” would never be destroyed. The promise was that the congregation of believers, earnestly contending for the faith, would have a continual existence in the world until He returned. In Lu 18:8 Jesus asked this question: “Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith on the earth?”
The promise of Christ in Mt 16:18 confirms that the church will continue from the time He first built it until He returns. This promise is believed by faith like all the promises of God. If one requires proof from church history that the church has had a continual existence from the time of Christ, he is walking by sight and not by faith. Christ promised that the church would have a continual existence and that promise is sufficient for the child of faith. The true believer does not need a chain link succession proven by church history to believe that it is true. His faith in the Holy Scriptures is sufficient for him. Did Christ promise that the New Testament church would have a continual existence until He returned? If Christ promised it, then it is a fact!
Mt 28:19-20 says “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.” Elder Mark Green, pastor of the church at Paris, Arkansas, made the following comment in a sermon on these verses: “The commission was given to the apostles as officers in the New Testament church. As officers of the church, they received the commission in behalf of the church. Their receiving the commission for the church is similar to the treasurer of a church receiving money for the church from an individual. The money was handed to the treasurer, but it was given to the church. The money was not for the personal use of the treasurer, but was for the church.”
Similarly, the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel was given to the apostles, but it was given to them in their capacity as officers of the church. So the responsibility and authority in the great commission was given to the church, not just to the apostles. It was not given to the apostles as individual Christians, but as officers in the church. 1Co 12:28 says that God set the apostles in the church. Eph 2:20 says that the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” The apostles received the great commission as “foundation officers” of the church.
The statement by Jesus that he would be “with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” should settle to whom He was speaking. The office of apostleship ceased with the apostles, but the activity required in the great commission was to continue until the end of the world. The commission was stated again in Ac 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” If the commission was given only to the apostles or only to the ministers of the gospel, we could expect them to be the only ones to receive the power to do the work. But Ac 2:4 reveals what actually did happen. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” The promised power to do the work came upon the whole church and not just upon the apostles or the ministers.
Some have promoted the idea that what God promised to perpetuate were the principles and practices of Christianity. This is to say that the principles and practices of the church are perpetuated apart from the institution, the church. Let us try this logic as we speak of something else and see how it will stand the test. For instance, would we accept the logic that democratic principles and practices have been perpetuated for 2000 years apart from democratic government? Would dictators perpetuate these principles and practices? Would communism perpetuate them? Who would perpetuate the principles and practices of democracy? Of course, the answer is that democratic government would.
God set up the institution of the family, to perpetuate the principles and practices which he gave to the family and to perpetuate the human race. All right thinking people will admit that when the institution of the family is perverted or weakened, or its responsibilities are given over to other institutions, this tends to destroy the family and to corrupt society. There is no other institution capable of doing the work of the family. The family is the backbone of society. If any family or society assigns the responsibilities of the family to any other institution, the family will inevitably be corrupted and society will be weakened.
When anyone maintains that principles and practices are important, but that the institution that God set up to support these principles and practices is not absolutely essential, he has reduced the value of the institution. Principles and practices must be wedded to the institution that God set up to support them or neither of them will long survive. If the principles and practices of the family, for example, are carried on by some institution other than the family, the family will soon lose its importance. Eph 6:4 says “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Since the father is the head of the family, God addresses this charge to him as the responsible party. If the father turns this responsibility over to others the family will finally be destroyed. The church should not take over this responsibility. Day care centers should not take over this responsibility. Many well-meaning people might try to assume this responsibility, but the results would be less than satisfactory because this is not God’s way.
What should be the response of the church when they see fathers neglecting this responsibility? Should they set up another institution to do the work? No! The word of God should be brought to focus on the problem and the father should be admonished according to the Scriptures concerning his responsibility. In Christianity we have often tried to use a Band-Aid to heal a major problem. It will not work. There must be a return to God’s way which is revealed in Scripture. There are not short cuts.
The New Testament church is the backbone of true Christianity. The church alone has been given the responsibility to perpetuate the principles and practices of true Christianity. When her God-given work is assigned to other individuals or institutions, the church will be weakened and its work will eventually be corrupted. Therefore, if the principles and practices of true Christianity are found in all generations since the time of Christ and the apostles, we can say with all confidence that it is the New Testament church, set up by Christ, Himself, who has done the work.
The principles and practices do not stand apart from the institution, the church. They stand together. It is evident from the Scriptures that God purposed to spread truth throughout the whole world and that the New Testament church is the institution that Christ established to spread this truth. Paul stated this in 1Ti 3:15: “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.” God deposited truth, both principles and practices, in the church and made it the responsibility of the church to spread it throughout the whole world.
In order for the church to fulfill her mission of spreading the gospel and establishing churches where there are none, God places gifts in the church who are uniquely equipped to do the work. God calls men in the churches to preach the gospel. The church recognizes these gifts. The church judges when they are fully prepared to do the work. The church ordains them and sends them out to do the work. According to 1Ti 3:6 a novice is not to be ordained. The pattern established by Christ in Mr 6:7 was to send them out two by two. In the book of Acts this same pattern seems to have been followed. Those who were sent out by established churches to spread the gospel and to establish other churches did not go alone, but carried with them other mature believers. When Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church at Antioch in Ac 13, they felt a responsibility toward that church. When they returned from their mission they called the church together and gave them a report of the work which they had done. (Ac 14:27).
The church has the responsibility of training the gifts which God places in her. Christ, in the great commission, says that the church is to be “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20).
It seems to be pride, arrogance, or self-will for an individual to say, “I was taught truth by the Holy Spirit apart from the New Testament church. Therefore I will start a church on my own by the authority given to me directly from God.” Even the apostle Paul returned to the church at Jerusalem and to the other apostles “and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.” (Ga 2:2). This spirit of Paul seems to be a far cry from the spirit of many ministers today.
If others are given the responsibility to train the gifts given the church and to send them out to spread the gospel and to start churches, the weight of this responsibility is removed from the church and she loses the sense of the importance of the work. The foundation of her unique work will be eroded and the very work itself will become corrupted. If it is taught that the discipleship method is only one way among others, the same sad results will follow.
If it can be shown from church history that some congregation got its start because a minister from a false religious institution taught himself the truth and subsequently gathered a congregation and founded them on true Biblical principles, this still does not make such an action Scripturally sound. If we accept this as a valid work of God and teach that this proves that God has another way other than church succession to spread the truth, we accept fallible history as equally valid with the God-inspired Scriptures. Scripture does not reveal that this is God’s ordained way for the church to be perpetuated. God’s law for perpetuating His church does not need to be proven by man’s history. History cannot be accepted on an equal basis with Scripture. A truth must be proven by Scripture and then it must be received by faith.
The question could be honestly asked: “Has God ever called a man in a false religious institution and taught him the truth independently of the church? Has a New Testament church ever been started by such a minister?” We can only reply: “The secret things belong to God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children.” When we make the secret things of God (those things not revealed in Scripture) our rule of faith and practice, we most likely will go into error. God is sovereign. He can do what He pleases. He may do something one time which is not given to us as a pattern in Scripture. When we make the secret things of God a pattern for our work, we may pattern our work by something which will never be repeated by God. God has given the church the Scriptures for our only pattern and to that alone we must be faithful. The Scriptures are to guide the church into all that she is to do and believe.
If the church does not have the exclusive authority and responsibility to spread the gospel beyond her local sphere of influence, it is clear why the Baptists in the early 1800’s set up a separate institution, the mission board, to do the work. If men who are called to preach have authority and responsibility as individuals apart from the church to spread the gospel, we could well suppose that they needed an organization to finance the work.
It is clear to me why a perversion and a corrupt practice was established. If Satan wanted to corrupt the work it would be much easier for him to corrupt an individual than it would be for him to corrupt the New Testament church. It would be much easier for Satan to place his false teachers into this most important work outside the influence of the New Testament church. A false teacher cannot stand the scrutiny of a New Testament church. A true man of God does not object to any honest person examining what he is doing. He especially delights to have the New Testament church examine what he is doing, because he knows how easy it is to fall into error.
When our forefathers in 1832 took a stand against the false practice of how the gospel is spread and how churches are established, they said in the Black Rock Address under the subject of missions: “Previous to stating our objections to the mission plans, we will meet some of the false charges brought against us relative to this subject, by a simple and unequivocal declaration, that we do regard as of the first importance the command given of Christ, primarily to His apostles, and through them to His ministers of every age, to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,’ and do feel an earnest desire to be found acting in obedience thereunto, as the providence of God directs our way, and opens a door of utterance for us…1st. In reference to the medium by which the gospel minister is to be sent forth to labor in the field, agreeable to prophecy going before, that out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the work of the Lord from Jerusalem, the Lord has manifestly established the order, that His ministers should be sent forth by the churches.” It seems that our forefathers in 1832 did not immediately unchurch those assemblies where error had entered. (Errors such as Sunday Schools, colleges, and theological schools to train ministers, mission boards, Bible societies, etc.). When these assemblies did not purge themselves of these errors after several years, our forefathers considered them as not being New Testament churches and would not receive their baptisms as valid. At first, their errors centered around practices, but false practices will lead to false doctrine. Also, false doctrines will lead to false practices.
The question that we must answer in our generation is this: Were our forefathers right? If we take the position that our forefathers were wrong and that those churches which they declared against were just churches in error, then we should try to help purge them of their error and return them to the true Biblical position. If we take the position that our forefathers were right and that those churches had lost their identity as true churches, then we should leave them alone lest their errors corrupt our assemblies. From the warnings given in the Revelation to the seven churches, it is most doubtful that God would allow an assembly to go on in gross error for more than 150 years and still call it His church. For the New Testament church today to have church fellowship with the assemblies our forefathers declared against is to take a stand on behalf of those whom our forefathers opposed.
As is pointed out in Hassell’s History of the Church of God, p. 356:
When the Fullerite heresies had been introduced among the Baptists and produced great discord and turmoil, some of the old veterans of the cross met at Black Rock, Maryland in 1832 and published a solemn protest against all the newly introduced innovations upon our former faith and order and made the rejection of the new departure a test of fellowship…
The Old School Baptists never did consent to any of the antichristian doctrines and institutions of the new order, even when mixed up with in denominational connections, they protested against every practice for which there was no ‘thus saith the Lord’, and after laboring to reclaim the disorderly until they found their labors were unavailing, they withdrew fellowship from them. Christ has commanded us to withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly.
There are at least two great dangers which the church faces:
1. Assuming duties and responsibilities which have not been given to her by Christ, her head.
2. Farming out or assigning to others the duties and responsibilities which belong only to her.
Those who usurp the authority and responsibility which Christ gave to the church because the church is not doing her work, are not doing the church any favors. Their efforts would be more profitable if such would bring the Word of God to the church and lead her into obedience to that Word.
To be orthodox is not wrong. Orthodoxy should not be a hated word. For some to claim to be orthodox may be hypocrisy because they claim to be the church and exclude all who do not line up with their particular “political” group. But those not in that particular little group of Old Baptists could easily overreact and decide that almost any Christian group is a true New Testament church.
It is not my purpose to add confusion to the problems in Christendom, but to try to find the light of Scripture to walk by.
The New Testament church will continue in one place from generation to generation so long as she remains faithful to truth. The New Testament church is going to spread throughout the world by God ordained means-His church!