I were to be asked "What kind of a church are you?" I would not hesitate
to reply, "We are a Baptist Church!" We hold to those truths which have
sometimes been referred to as "Baptist Distinctives".
I would also reply that we are a
"Reformed Church" inasmuch as we hold to the great doctrines of the Reformation
in the areas concerning the salvation of men. In this sense, I am not at
all averse to our church being referred to as a "Reformed Baptist" church,
and I want to speak on the subject "What is a Reformed Baptist Church?".
I. The Scriptures
First of all, a Reformed Baptist
Church is a local church which acknowledges the supreme authority of Holy
Scripture. In all matters of faith, that is in the things we believe, and
of practice, that is the things which we do, our sole authority is the
Word of God. If something, whether of faith or of practice, is contrary
to the Bible then no matter who pleads for it, no matter what clever arguments
are produced in favor of it, we cannot endorse it.
We recognize that in the operation
of a local church there may be items introduced for which there may be
no specific Biblical warrant. For instance, I am thinking of a church secretary
as an illustration. It would be hard to find chapter and verse which states
that we ought to have one, but we recognize that such things are necessary,
and in accordance with the Biblical principle that all things should be
done decently and in order.
However, we would state emphatically
that when there is no express Biblical warrant for something, we are not
going to look upon it as sacred and binding. When the Word of God does
not warrant something, we are not going to be brought under bondage to
it; but where the Scriptures clearly call for something, no consideration
ought to make us do without it. We desire to have our conscience bound
to the Word of God, for there we believe is true freedom. It is my opinion
that a number of items in present day Baptist churches have no true Biblical
warrant. They are a part of the church because they were introduced some
years ago and are now "Baptist tradition." Perhaps many people take it
for granted that they are Scriptural, but if they were challenged to produce
Scriptural evidence for these practices they would be hard pressed to find
In other areas there are things which
Scriptures clearly calls for which have dropped out of most modern Baptist
churches, and we ought to call for them to be brought back. The eldership
would be an example of this point. Baptist churches used to have an eldership
years ago; in most Baptist churches today you cannot find it. But we believe
that if we are going to be truly patterned on the New Testament churches
we need to return to the concept of eldership. The Scriptures present it;
we ought to have it!
So Reformed Baptists are not governed
by tradition, not by the opinion of man, not by sentiment, nor by pragmatism,
but by the Word of God alone. We believe in the authority of Scripture,
and we desire in our church life to be patterned after and conformed to
the Word of God. We should always be seeking for God to deepen our understanding
of His Word, and we should always be ready to reform any of our practices
if it becomes apparent that we are out of line with the Scriptures. The
attitude which says, "It doesn't matter what the Bible says, this is the
way we have always done it," is to us frightening; indeed sinful. It must
be "to the law and to the testimony"; or what saith the Scriptures?
Secondly, Reformed Baptist believe
in the pre-eminence of the preaching of the Word of God. We believe that
the preaching of the Bible must have the central place in our services.
We believe that nothing can or should take the place of the preaching of
Our conviction is that the church
of Christ has suffered because she has downgraded the preaching of the
Word. We believe that seminaries and Bible Colleges ought to be pre-eminently
places where preachers are produced and encouraged. We believe that God's
people everywhere ought to be encouraged to pray that God would endow men
with gifts of preaching, and that he would give to His churches preachers,
great preachers, many preachers. We believe that there is a need in the
churches of Christ for a fresh realization of the importance of the preaching
of the Word of God, and that young men ought to be encouraged to study
theology, church history and the sermons of great preachers of the past;
that they ought to work hard to become good preachers of the Bible.
III. The Doctrines of Grace
Thirdly, Reformed Baptist unashamedly
declare their belief in those doctrines which are sometimes called the
doctrines of grace. By this expression we mean in particular the doctrines
of total depravity, unconditional election, definite atonement, effectual
calling, and the perseverance of the saints. We rejoice in those glorious
truths which uphold the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men, and
which so gloriously affirm the great central reality that salvation is
all of grace, and that salvation is of the Lord!
We rejoice that the doctrines of
grace are clearly set forth in the Second London Confession of Faith of
1689, and in many other historic Baptist creeds. We note that in 1861 when
Charles Spurgeon opened the great Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England,
that he celebrated the occasion by having sermons preached by esteemed
guests on each of those distinctive doctrines. And yet it is not because
Spurgeon, or any other Baptist preached these doctrines that we believe
them. It is not just because these doctrines are found in the historic
Baptist creeds, though we rejoice that that is the case, but it is because
the doctrines are so clearly presented in the Holy Scriptures that we believe
We recognize that we live in an age
when these great fundamental truths are ignored, and even blatantly denied
by many professing the name "evangelical" and the name "Baptist". We know
that they are unpopular truths, but truth they are, and we receive them
and rejoice in them.
We would like to emphasize also that
we not only believe them but we further believe that they ought to be clearly
preached and taught from the pulpit!
We have a tragic situation today
when men in the pulpits say that they believe the doctrines of grace but
they refuse to preach and teach them to their people.
The result is that the churches are
full of people uninstructed in the great truths of the Scriptures (and
of the historic Baptist faith), and these people then imbibe the very opposite
doctrines -- which they easily receive over the radio and via religious
periodicals. Often when a man comes into such a congregation and preaches
the truths of grace, uproar and opposition ensue. This is tragic,
but common. We believe that our day needs the doctrines of grace, and that
our people need to be instructed in them.
In the next place, we would like
to affirm that Reformed Baptists believe in the necessity and responsibility
of evangelism. We have no more liking for Hyper-Calvinism than we have
We do not believe that there is an
inconsistency between God's sovereignty in the salvation of His chosen
people and His command to us to preach the gospel to every creature. If
there seems to be a difficulty in our minds reconciling any of the truths
of His Word, we see it as the result of the darkness of our own understanding,
and we believe that our duty is to obey the Word whether we understand
it all or not. We believe in evangelism!
Now it is true that we do not believe
in much that goes under the name of evangelism in this twentieth century.
We believe that much that is called evangelism today is little more than
psychology and salesmanship; we are appalled by the superficial work which
goes under the name of evangelism; we are appalled by the pressures, gimmicks
and schemes all calculated to produce "decisions" and impressive statistics
but which work such havoc in the souls of men. No!
Because we believe in evangelism
does not mean that we are going to cooperate with every scheme which bears
that name. We believe that in evangelism as in everything else, as
we said earlier, we must be governed by the Word of God. The message of
evangelism must be according to the Scriptures, and the method of evangelism
must be governed by the Word of God! Nevertheless, we repeat that we do
believe in evangelism, and our prayer is that God would ever keep us mindful
of the need to evangelize. May God ever give us a burden to evangelize,
knowing that it is for His glory and for the salvation of men.
We believe that it is our responsibility
to make known the gospel first in our own community, and in Canada at large,
and indeed in all the world. We believe in missions, home and foreign and
we believe that we ought to seek the souls of men in every way that is
consistent with the Word of God.
Finally, let me say that a Reformed
Baptist Church is a local church with a serious approach to worship. The
God we worship is a God of majesty, glory and holiness. And the God of
the Bible is one before whom the angels of heaven constantly cry, "Holy,
Holy, Holy", they worship Him day and night; He is great and greatly to
be praised. We believe that when we come together to worship this great
and glorious God of the Bible we ought to do so with reverence and with
godly fear. We believe that there ought to be a sense of AWE in our hearts
when we gather to worship this God!
You say, "But surely there must be
joy as well." Yes indeed, we agree, but equally surely it must be a joy
which is a joy in God; a joy not arising from some natural "good feeling"
but a joy arising out of the knowledge of the Lord, and a joy tempered
and controlled by reverence.
We believe that there is a world
of difference between a "dead" service and a serious, spiritual service.
The first is not desired; the second is. Now because of this desire for
serious worship, we believe that anything which would detract from that
ought not to be allowed among us. Frivolity and childishness seem to us
to be out of place and incongruous with the worship of God.
We also believe that our music in
the church ought to be governed by the great central fact of the One whom
we worship. So much of the music invading the churches today seems little
more than carnal imitation of the world. There is very little difference
between that which is presented on the church platform and that which is
presented on the television or the worldly floor show -- except, of course,
the "religious" words are uttered rather than "secular" ones. But the spirit
is of the world; the appeal is to the flesh. This we abhor and reject as
having no place in the worship of God. That which is sacred ought not to
be prostituted and used as entertainment. If men want to be entertained
let them be honest enough to go to some secular hall of amusement and be
entertained; let them not pretend to be worshipping or in a service when
entertainment is the order of the day. No! When we gather to worship,
we want to keep the world out; we want to appeal not to the flesh but to
the spirit; we want not the sophistication of the world but the simplicity
of Christ. Oh that when we worship we might feel the awe of the God in
our souls. Oh that we might see something of the glory seen by Isaiah and
by the servants of God of old!
This, then is the kind of church
we are seeking to build. Other things could be said, but we have sought
to touch on some of the basic points.
May God raise up many such churches
all over the land and all over the world which desire the same things and
strive towards them. May God be pleased to visit His people again with
showers of blessing that God might be glorified in and through His church!