Thursday, December 17, 2015

Baptist Catholicism

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh: And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:  To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."  ROMANS 1:1-7
  In verse 1 Paul claims to have been "separated" unto the gospel. Are you? Before you answer, consider this: didn't God draw you unto himself according to John 6:44 and John 12:32 ?  Weren't you told later on in Romans 8 that, having been received of God, nothing could separate you from the love of Christ?  Weren't you told in Luke 6:22 that men would separate themselves from you as you followed Christ?  If you are saved, you are separated from whatever you were before ( Ephesians 2) and joined unto Christ while also being joined to every other believer. Paul isn't presenting himself as unique here, he is  stating what is true of every born-again person.
  But it doesn't stop there.  In verse 5 Paul claims to have "received grace".  Have you?  Paul says in the same verse that he "obeyed the faith" . Have you?  If so, then according to verse 6 you are among those who are "also called". Furthermore, in Romans 8:30, the Bible says "Moreover whom he did predestinate , them he also called : and whom he called , them he also justified : and whom he justified , them he also glorified ." Taking this verse at face value, we can determine that if you are "justified" by the propitiatory death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then you are also,among other things "called". The epistle isn't directed to the church leadership, but rather to the "saints".  A saved man or woman who argues against their 'calling' simply because they aren't in a position of leadership isn't heeding the scriptures. Paul , rather than highlighting what makes him different, speaks of those things that all saved people have in common.
  Looking at 1 Cor 3:1-9 we see an interesting attitude displayed. It says: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither  yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?  For while one saith , I  am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but  ministers by whom ye believed , even as the Lord gave to every man?  I have planted , Apollos watered ; but God gave the increase . So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase . Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. "
  Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was used of God to start churches and spread the gospel. Paul was used by God to wrote most of our New Testament. Despite all that, Paul , under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, refers to himself as nothing, and to his fellow laborers in the ministry as nothing. He considers himself just another laborer alongside those other saved people who are among "the called".  In this passage he strongly condemns the elevation of one minister over another as the 'red flag' of carnality and division. Equally divisive is the elevation of the minister over the people to whom he is  he is ministering .  Paul rejects any special treatment that people might want to  shower upon him or Apollos.  According to Paul we're all in this together and we are all equal.  If you are saved you are called. If you are called you are in the ministry. If you are in the ministry, you are nothing, but then again, so is everybody else.
  For the sake of balance, it is worth mentioning that Paul also said "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" and then in 1 Timothy 5, among other places, lists  some people to whom honor is due. That list includes "elders that rule well....especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."  But when you look at Paul's writings over all, you see that he is  always trying to push that honor off of himself and onto his fellow laborers.  Paul always wants somebody else to get the credit with  Romans 16 being a prime example.
  We can conclude from all this that if man has the opportunity to minister (to the lost or the saved) and he does so under the conditions of special clothes ( robes, funny hats, etc) or special titles ('reverend' or 'rector, etc ') or special treatment (kiss my ring, obey my every whim, etc.), he is engaging in an unbiblical activity. It is scriptural for an elder who labors for the edification of others to be honored by the people he labors with, but it is not scriptural for that man to seek out or  demand such honor.
 By way of illustration,  there is a subculture of Christianity that exists  among independent Baptists in the southeastern United States.  In this subculture  the following scenario plays itself out over and over again. A young man will get 'called to preach' and from the moment he 'surrenders' he is regarded differently. He is now a 'man of God' and subject to different rules and expectations that your average run-of-the-mill church member. He is now part of a club, and in certain circles is expected to keep company with other 'men of God'.  None of that is harmful in and of itself, though I would take issue with the  exclusivity of it. If he isn't careful this young man will find himself laboring in fried chicken and golf clubs rather than "in the word and doctrine" because his chances to minister will depend on his ability to 'network' among his 'peers'.
  This young man, if he properly networks, might someday achieve the status of  'full time' in the ministry. He may work the circuit as an evangelist or maybe some little church will accept him as their pastor. Unless he grasps that he is nothing, he will begin to  regard the people he ministers with and the people he ministers to as not being on the same par as himself. This may be reinforced by some of his 'preacher buddies' who will assure him that those not similarly 'called' simply don't understand. 
  Some men catch themselves at this point and make a course correction, seeing the trap for what it is. Others plow ahead, dictating the lives of church members with positional authority as 'the man of God'. They tell the congregation that opposition to the pastoral agenda is opposition to God, and that God often kills those who push back against  'God's anointed'. Some of these men fight tooth and nail when dismissed by a congregation saying "God put me here and only God can remove me".  They cite their longevity in the ministry as  the authority by which they make proclamations outside of scripture. They regard themselves as being above correction or censure except by other members of the club.
 Outside of the pastorate men who travel the land  singing or preaching will lament (to fellow club members) how poorly they are treated financially by the people that they are supposed to be serving. Paul's position , by contrast, was "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."  Rather than suffering themselves to be defrauded as they give their lives for the brethren, they consider that the people of God owe them something.
  Under this culture honor is heaped, and received gladly. At camp meetings and the like,  aged ministers are sometimes seated in throne-like chairs on  the platform, while the common rabble are encouraged to come  pray before the 'old man of God' so that they (the rabble) might  someday experience 'the power of God'  like him. The people themselves often enable this behavior and somehow get the notion that this sinner with a suit has a better grasp on God than themselves.  Instead of seeing him as a co-laborer with some oversight responsibility, or as a valuable source of practical life-won experience, they see him almost as a mediator between them and God.  Men accept this reverence to their own hurt.
   At the end of the day, all of this behavior has its root in pride, it fails to grasp a very basic truth;  we are all the same. There is, in biblical Christianity, no clergy and laity.  There is no shepherd that is above the sheep, save the Good Shepherd. There is no priest class ( or pastor, or bishop, or reverend or archbishop) that is separate and above everyone else.  There are positions of oversight in the church, and there is authority that comes with that oversight, (and wisdom with experience whether that experience is earned or borrowed) but when ministers allow themselves to be elevated they are wrong.  Not only is it prideful, and hence satanic, but it strips the body of Christ of one of the great truths of the New Testament; we are all one in Christ and any saved person regardless of position or circumstance has as much access to God as any other saved person.  Anything less is thinly veiled Catholicism, whether we call it by that name or not.
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