Reposted from It Is Written.
Should we allow minors into the membership of the church? Most evangelical churches would, without hesitation, answer this question affirmatively. Those that practice infant baptism believe the Bible warrants the inclusion of the children of believers into the membership of the church de jure. On the other hand, many Baptist churches today pressure young children to “make a decision for Christ” and accept such decisions or professions of faith without careful reflection on credibility.
Every organization is prone to forget why it’s there. People come and go, the founders pass away, the culture changes. Sometimes an organization can wake up and find it’s lost its way. Other times, the organization never wakes up.
The YMCA started in London in the 1840s as a Christian outreach to young men in the inner cities during the industrial revolution. Now, the YMCA is a gym with a robust after school youth program.
Baptist fundamentalism began as a protest movement against theological revisionism and apostasy. Within one generation, the movement’s various flavors fractured over the issue of secondary separation. In some quarters, the mission drift is so extreme that evangelicals have long been considered ” the enemy,” rather than modern-day heresy and compromise.
So, mission drift happens.
On that note, here are some short reflections for pastoral ministry from Jesus’ interactions with the Sanhedrin’s representatives during the early portion of Passion Week. They’re about “mission drift,” too.1 It’s not a new thing.
This isn’t about Lordship Salvation. It’s about whether you actually reverence Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart and give Him allegiance in your life. On Palm Sunday, the crowd said Jesus was its King. They lied. How many pastors are lying? How many professing Christians?
"If we unpack all of what Scripture teaches about the local church, we’ll find that church membership is in fact in every nook and cranny of the New Testament. In that light, I want to focus on just one aspect of how Scripture talks about the church—the images of the church—and consider how these metaphors support and inform our understanding church membership." - 9 Marks
Baptism really isn’t a difficult topic, but it’s become difficult by all the history, tradition and baggage associated with the different interpretations of this ordinance. It’s a beautiful ordinance, and it’s too bad there’s so much misunderstanding about it!
Here’s the bottom line; baptism doesn’t “do” anything to you or for you. It’s a picture of what the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) has already done in a believer’s life. This means it’s only for repentant, professing believers – not infants.
There are good reasons why the Baptist position on baptism is correct, but that’s not my goal, here. Instead, I just want to look at what baptism means. What significance does baptism have? What does it mean? What spiritual truth does it convey? How does it convey this truth?
One good place to go is the Book of Romans.
In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul gives us the classic comparison between Adam and Christ; the two great representatives for humanity (Rom 5:18). We’re born belonging in Adam’s camp; the first man who disobeyed God and brought ruin to creation and to himself. We’re all fruit from the poisonous tree that is Adam; his disobedience was the fountainhead that poisoned the well, and that’s why you and I are born as sinful people who belong to Satan, not God. As Paul wrote, Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death leads to justification and eternal life for everyone who repents and believes – which is what Paul explains next (Rom 5:19-21).
With that context in place, we now turn to our passage. Paul writes:
This article is based on a sermon I preached on 23 September 2018, on the occasion of a new Christian joining our congregation.
Church membership is important. You’ve probably heard it before. But, why is it important? To frame the issue before I answer, I’d like to use an analogy.
The war in the European theater began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The Germans quickly overran the hapless Poles, some of whose army units even launched suicidal, mounted cavalry charges against tanks. Nearly nine months of uneasy calm followed, then, the Germans invaded France and the Low Countries in May 1940. In short order, they found themselves masters of Western Europe. Only Britain stood alone, but its army was forced to abandon most of its equipment on the beaches as it frantically evacuated the continent.
The US entered the war in December 1941 and began pouring men and material into Britain. The ground effort against Nazi Germany began with Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, and then in Sicily in July 1943. However, while the ground forces attacked this “soft underbelly” of Europe, British and American flyers began a campaign to destroy German industry by means of round the clock bombings. The British flew at night, and the Americans by day.
Amidst the unfolding homosexual, sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, it’s appropriate to consider the Roman Catholic position on the nature of pastoral ministry. The fact is that Roman Catholicism teaches (1) the priesthood is a special class above that of the laity, (2) that a priest is marked by the Holy Spirit in an indelibable and permenant way, (3) that he can thus represent Christ during the Mass, and (4) he therefore has the sacerdotal authority to make Christ present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, and (5) a priest can never lose this authority and marking by the Spirit, even if (for example) the priest sexually abuses children. This is an un-Biblical and un-Christian position. The Catechism of the Catholic Church advocates this false teaching:
The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons. Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. The diaconate is intended to help and serve them.