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The Church Age

by Tony N. Boyd

Huntingdon, TN

There is much confusion in today's society concerning religious denominations, beliefs, and practices. To some, this issue of church affiliation is of critical importance and yet to others it seems

as if "anything goes," that "'one church is just as good as the other," that "we are all trying to get to heaven," etc. obviously, when they refer to the "church" they actually mean a particular denomination. Still, some others claim that they are not a "denomination" but are the "Church of Christ." And some foolishly say that "the church is what is in your heart" and that they can worship God without being a member of a local body. My purpose here is to introduce you to the church according to the Word of God.

John 1:6 tells us that "there was a man sent from god whose name was John"_ at the risk of sounding redundant, let me repeat _ his name was John. It was not "John Baptist," it was not "John baptizer," and it was not "John the dipper." As a matter of fact, God's word goes into great detail to clearly explain this fact, the account of John's birth is recorded in Luke, chapter 1. This instruction from God concerning John's name was so important to God that Zacharias was struck dumb until he wrote on the tablet "his name is John" (Luke 1: 63)

Now that we know who he was, let us look again at John 1:6 and it tells us that John was sent from God; that made John a missionary. Now Matthew 3:1 tells us that "in those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea." As we look at the suffix "ist," we find it means "one that adheres to and advocates a specific doctrine." This doctrine that John preached, my friends, was the same doctrine that Christ came preaching right after John, and that was to repent. And the apostles came after Christ preaching the very same doctrine and Baptist have been preaching repentance for the remission of sins for the last two thousand years. Now the suffix "er" means "one that does or performs a specific action"_ for example, a welder is one that welds; a baker is one that bakes, etc. so now we are able to see that the act of baptizing was named after the doctrinal beliefs, or denomination, of John the Baptist. John was not named after the act. In fact, the act of "baptizing" was not in existence until John performed it. (In the book of kings, Naaman immersed or dipped himself in the Jordan river, but it was not baptism).

Before we continue on this topic of the church, it is my obligation to remind you of this historical, doctrinal fact: Baptist have never, never preached that someone must be a member of our church or denomination in order to go to heaven. In fact, my friend, we will tell you that Church affiliation or membership has absolutely nothing to do with your eternal destiny, and we are one of the very few who hold to this belief.

Now let's continue to look at John the Baptist and see why Christ called him the greatest of men born of a woman (Luke 7:28). Once again, the word of God was made very clear concerning John's mission and his purpose, that he was a messenger sent to prepare a way and a people for Christ (see Luke 7:27). John went out of his way to inform and remind people that he was not the Christ _ that he was not the administrator of salvation. We cannot emphasize this enough! St. John's gospel is plain that John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of the light; and chapter 1, verse eight, clearly tells us that John was not that light and again repeats that "he was sent to bear witness of that light."

Now why is God's word repeating this message so much? Simply because we cannot confuse the preacher of the gospel (John) with the administrator of salvation (Christ). As ministers, we cannot perform a work that will produce salvation for the lost; we cannot tell the unbeliever which prayer is to be prayed; we cannot devise a lifestyle that can save someone thru good deeds. The relationship between John and Christ was clearly defined by John himself in St. John 3:28,29 when he illustrated that he was a friend of the bridegroom and neither the groom nor the bride. And as Christ approached Jordan that day to be baptized of John (because at that time God had given that authority only to John), John the Baptist proclaimed loudly "behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." In other words, "don't look to me to administer salvation, but look to Christ." And that, my friend, is what true Baptists have been preaching for the last two thousand years!

So if in our studies we determine that John the Baptist was not the Christ, and therefore not the administrator of salvation, then we must determine what his mission was. He said he was a "friend of the bridegroom," but that it was the bridegroom that had the bride. He rejoiced that he heard the groom's voice (John 3:28,29)! Now let's go to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5:22_33, and we can see the word of God explain the relationship of Christ and his church. And John's words in Revelation 21:2 tells us that the holy city, new Jerusalem, was "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." There should be no confusion then concerning the relationship between John and Christ and the bride, or the church. My friend, if God was allowing John to administer salvation thru baptism, as some believe baptism can do, then why would Christ come after John instead of before John? Wouldn't his death be unnecessary if baptism could save, seeing John was clearly baptizing before calvary?! And again, I remind you that almost every denomination since the Catholic church was organized and every denomination that came from the Protestant movement has taught water baptism for the remission of sins! Seeing that the Baptist church was in existence well before the Catholic church and obviously before the 16th century, we cannot be labeled "Protestants!"

So Christ gathered those to him that were saved_ Peter, Andrew, Nathaniel, and others, and sent them on a mission; that made them missionaries like John. They preached the very same message as John and Christ preached. They were baptized by John, proclaiming that they had been saved prior to the baptism. (Recall that John angered some of those that could not give him this testimony and he refused to baptize them). Christ spent all night in prayer on the mountain, called these many disciples to him, selected twelve, ordained them, and organized the first Missionary Baptist Church in Jerusalem! He commissioned them to go into all the world and preach the gospel. And he declared that it would be here in its spiritual purity when he returned. Yes, we secretly wonder if indeed all our members are truly saved; the fact is, we don't know _ there was a devil in the first Baptist Church and there will be a devil in the last one as well.

You may wish to continue this study on your own. May I suggest you research the origins of the Catholics. There you will find the alliances first being formed between governments and religions. I'm obligated to tell you that, as Baptist, we have refused to become the "state church" and we have refused to worship in conjunction with a state church. You will discover the attempts by the Roman Emperors to retain control over their subjects by merging pagan practices with the state church. As new areas were conquered, new pagan practices became part of the worship of the state church. Baptism, of course, was always taught as necessary to salvation in the state church of Rome. And the teaching of baptism for salvation, my friend, is just another attempt to bypass true repentance. In every instance, the state church prostituted herself by making doctrinal changes for the sake of gaining world control.

However, there, in Jerusalem, was a little "rag_tag band" of believers that would not change their doctrinal beliefs as Baptist to appease the state church in Rome. And my friend, as a result of that stand, 53 million Baptists were slain in the coliseums of Rome during the dark ages. They did not change the plan of salvation for Rome, they did not change it for my father, they did not change it for me, and they did not change it for my daughter. But thank God, it is a "whosoever will let him come" salvation and it's free to all who will come believing the simple message "repent." May God bless you as you study his word.