Ecclesiology

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 4)

Landmarkism and “Apostolic Succession”: a Common Misconception

It is a common charge to say that Landmarkers believe in a chain-link, almost apostolic-like succession of local churches. What saith Graves?

Landmark Baptists very generally believe that for the Word of the Living God to stand, and for the veracity of Jesus Christ to vindicate itself, the kingdom which He set up “in the days of John the Baptist,” has had an unbroken continuity until now.1

This makes good sense, from Graves’ point of view. However, he takes great pains to emphasize he is not speaking of an apostolic succession of churches.2 So, what on earth does he mean? Read more about Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 4)

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 3)

(Part 3 considers more of the implications of Graves’ doctrine of the church. Read the series so far.)

Implication #3 – All Non-Baptist Ministers are False Ministers

Graves wrote, “If Baptist preachers are scriptural ministers, Pedobaptists certainly are not, and vice versa, since two things unlike each other cannot be like the same thing—scriptural.”1 One should not be surprised that Graves made this leap. After all, if local Baptist churches are the only “true churches” which accurately represent Christ’s Kingdom, then it naturally follows that only the Baptist ministers of these “true churches” are legitimate ministers of the gospel. Graves wrote:

Nothing could be more inconsistent than to admit those preachers into our pulpit who hold and teach doctrines, on account of which we would exclude both from our pulpits and our churches, any minister of our own denomination.2

This is a startling proclamation by itself, but Graves was even more explicit elsewhere: Read more about Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 3)

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 2)

The Implications of Graves’ Position

Graves’ foundational assumption impacted his entire ecclesiology. Many of Graves’ Landmarker distinctives flowed directly from his peculiar views on the Kingdom of God. Now, to be sure, a Baptist can believe any of the following implications and not care one whit about J.R. Graves. But, for Graves himself, his faulty view on the Kingdom of God was the determining factor.

Implication #1: The True Church Is Only a Local, Visible Institution Located upon this Earth

A kingdom is nothing if not literal and physical. Thus, in Graves’ view, the church is always a local, visible institution. “He has no invisible kingdom or church, and such a thing has no real existence in heaven or earth. It is only an invention employed to bolster up erroneous theories of ecclesiology.”1 Graves lists three possible views on the church: Read more about Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 2)

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 1)

If you’re a Baptist in America, you’ve probably heard of a peculiar brand of Baptist polity called “Landmarkism.” D.A. Carson recently quipped that hyper-Calvinism is a term usually reserved for somebody you don’t like!1 In Baptist circles, this is usually the intent when one uses the term “Landmarker.” That is not the way the term is used here! It is a genuine historical term, and its American founder was proud to call himself a “Landmarker.”

This series is a survey of what the father of American Landmarksim believed about the local church, and why he believed it. It is not a refutation of that position, although I will make some brief remarks along that line. This is an important topic, because I suspect many Baptists who hold to Landmark distinctives don’t actually understand what original Landmarkism actually taught.

A fiery, intelligent and formidable preacher from the mid to late 19th century named J. R. Graves is largely responsible for the development of Landmarkism. He admitted as much in 1880: Read more about Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 1)

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 3

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010). Used by permission. Read Part 1 & Part 2.

When Is It Wrong to Judge?

1. It is wrong to judge someone before you know all the facts in the case.

The Apostle John wrote, “Our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing” (John 7:51). In other words, the believer should never judge on a whim, an impression, a rumor. The facts are necessary, and the believer should be quick to hear and slow to speak.

2. It is wrong to judge when judging is based on a person’s convictions and/or preferences.

Romans 14 makes it clear that personal decisions can direct activities in areas where the Scriptures are silent. For instance, the Bible doesn’t specifically address credit cards, dating practices, plastic surgery, watching television, using electric guitars in church, ad infinitum. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 3

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 2

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010). Used by permission.

In the matter of church discipline, the Bible is clear that believers must judge themselves (See Part 1). When else is it right to judge?

2. It is right to judge someone who is openly living in sin.

The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you. You have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this. (1 Corinthians 5:1-3)

Paul clearly announced, “I have already judged him.” It is important to note that Paul called attention to this man’s sin (sexual immorality) in the presence of the congregation. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 2

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 1

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010).Used by permission.

Paul instructed Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) which means we must engage in an active defense of the faith. That battle for truth begins in the local church where truth and holiness must be defended. And of necessity that involves church discipline. But what exactly is church discipline?

Church discipline can be broadly defined as the “confrontive” and corrective measures taken by an individual, church leaders, or the congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a believer (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek Testament. Regency, 1976, p. 237).

Discipline and discipling are actually interconnected actions with similar goals in mind. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 1

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