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2009.01.29

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wade burleson

Peter,

The real Dr. Nathan Finn is already standing.

It's you who wishes he were seated.

Blessings,

Wade

peter lumpkins

Wade,

Thanks for logging on. If you would like to make a credible point concerning Dr. Finn's position or thoughts I wrote, Wade, I'd be over-joyed to dialog with you. As it is, I have zero motivation to tit/tat.

Have a great evening. With that, I am...

Peter

Byroniac

Peter, take what I am going to say with a grain of salt: I guess I am not really Baptist any more (not that it matters to anyone one way or the other), though I do consider myself Baptistic. What follows are just my beliefs, and they are open to correction by Scripture (the gold standard for truth).

I wanted to comment that Baptism is not a salvation issue (at least I hope it is not!), though it is a very important obedience issue. To compare methods of baptism to allowing or disallowing the deity of Christ, for legitimacy to the Baptist name, is comparing apples and oranges. I affirm that immersion is the only proper method of baptism, but I can still fellowship with paedobaptists as Christian brethren. However, I affirm that the deity of Christ is essential, and have no true fellowship with any who deny that non-negotiable tenet. Whether they are "Baptist" in any other way does not matter to me, as I feel that no true Baptist (of which I am not one, please understand) can deny the deity of Christ, but Christians (even among Baptists) can argue about baptism in every one of its details without doubting the salvation of any involved in the argument.

I have a question, also, more out of my curiosity than anything. And pardon me if this is a stupid question. Could a church who restricts membership to immersed-only baptism yet keeps no membership rolls as such (but a general church acceptance of membership which includes some attendance standard) still be considered closed membership? Or is the question itself moot? The reason I ask is, there is a Bible church near where I live that I may join in the future if the Lord leads. And I was just pondering membership in that context, as I have been Baptist for the last 18 years.

peter lumpkins

Byron,

To answer the last question first, from my view, membership rolls and "closed membership" have no substantial overlap. How a church chooses to keep track of its members finds little assistance from the NT. "Closed membership" has to do with the stated (and hopefully practiced) church policy of not accepting for membership those who a) possess no believable testimony of his/her faith in Christ; and/or b) has not been baptized as a believer by immersion. Given such, the church you describe apparently has some notion of "closed membership."

Now as for your concern about my doctrinal analogy. I do not dispute your theological hierarchy making Christ's deity more significant than baptismal mode. Insisting such contra my point, however, does nothing to overturn it. The question to address is, can a church stand with integrity on theological principle for itself--fill in the blank any way you like--while at the same time allow, without restriction, people to join their community as members who outright deny the very principle upon which the church insists it stands? I answer, a church cannot do such and maintain theological integrity.

With that, I am...

Peter

Byroniac

Peter, I have to concede your point about church integrity. I know of no way around that if by integrity you intend 100% compliance. Though I believe this to be a minor infraction of integrity as opposed to serious violation, and my question would be, what is the minimum threshold of acceptable compliance to be considered as maintaining integrity?

What I mean by that is this (what follows are my admittedly own opinions and reasoning). The ultimate reality is the Universal Church of Christ holding all His elect without exception, and excluding all non-elect (unbelievers) without exception. The local church, though pictured and even mandated by the New Testament, is at best an imperfect model and representation of the Universal Church, being composed of both true and false confessors. The local church by my definition could never be 100% accurate because the spiritual reality of true and false conversion is not directly knowable.

In light of this, I would consider physical baptism, the only proper mode of which is immersion, to be the symbol of death and resurrection (spiritual baptism) in Christ, with no guarantee that the spiritual reality it represents ever actually occurred for the participant. It stands to reason then, that the proper physical observance does not guarantee membership in Christ's Universal Church, just as the lack of it does not preclude such (assuming of course that physical baptism is not a salvation prerequisite). It would follow that minor infractions of integrity concerning physical baptism could be allowed in light of truly regenerate believers who have had spiritual baptism even if they are disobedient (knowingly or unknowingly) concerning the physical symbol of it. And what church has the authority to exclude from local membership those whom Christ has added to the Universal Church? (I'm sorry but I'm probably assuming things left and right here without realizing it, but there is basically where my thought pattern lies).

I understand that some Baptists (Landmarkists?) would not even believe in a Universal church? Or at least, not in the way I have explained it. But also, I realize a counterargument could be made that since the spiritual reality cannot be observed, it makes sense to restrict membership by the physical ritual which can be. However, I personally believe that passages such as Matthew 7 are more important here, because "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20), and this trumps even the lack of the physical sign of the baptism mode of immersion.

Benji Ramsaur

Peter,

I appreciate the compliments you have given to Nathan. I also believe that it is fair for you to express your thoughts on his writings.

However, I think ending this by saying "Will the real Dr. Finn please stand up?" is making things too personal.

Now, I want to take to heart what I am typing here as well. I may have made what I consider a mistake elsewhere in the blogosphere [are 4 fingers pointing back at me?:)]

Anyway, I hope I have not come across as high and mighty in this comment. What I hope is that we can all practice disagreeing, if we wish, without making things unnecessarily personal.

God Bless you,

Benji

Byroniac

Peter, also, thank you for your answer concerning closed membership.

r. grannemann

Baptism is a symbol of the new birth. The symbolism is properly satisfied when the one receiving baptism has been born again.

The Lord's supper is a symbol of having partaken of Christ's broken body on the cross, that is having been saved by Christ's sacrifice. The symbolism is properly satisfied when the one taking the Lord's supper is a Christian.

Byroniac

r. grannemann, but isn't the symbol less important (authoritative or necessary) than the reality it represents? I agree with you concerning the symbols being "properly satisfied." My question would be, on what basis would you deny a believer church membership or participation in the Supper, if both realities have taken place (as best as we can tell by judging externals, such as in Matthew 7)?

r. grannemann

Byroniac,

A church is to decide for itself how best to do everything "decently and in order." It is a judgment call of the local congregation.

In the case of baptism, I think it is appropriate for a church to require believers baptism as a condition for church membership. Baptists believe in the "believers church," which is what a church is anyway. So believer's baptism as a condition of membership emphasizes that the church is a church of the truly born again. Why wouldn't a born again believer want to follow his Lord in baptism?

I personally wouldn't deny a fellow Christian participation in the Lord's supper. But this is something for each local church to decide.

Byroniac

A false confessor can be baptized and join a church, and all he or she did was be immersed in liquid and have his or her name added to a membership roll (either literally or figuratively), but that person's spiritual identity and status have not changed one iota. Of course only true believers should be baptized, but of course in the real world that's impossible. So what about the brother or sister who is truly born again, but mistakenly thinks his or her infant baptism to be sufficient? Is he or she any less of a believer? Is the "believer's church" lacking belief by adding such a one, or less of a church for adding the true believer?

Good question though, concerning following the Lord in baptism, because this is an obedience issue. However, if I understand correctly from R.C. Sproul, he said that his church will baptize believers who were not baptized as infants and came to faith later in Christ (though I do not know if this is immersion or simply sprinkling, as I am not familiar with Presbyterian beliefs). Unless the symbol is equal in necessity with the spiritual reality it represents, I think it would be less important than that spiritual reality.

1 Cor 1:2 seems to echo this truth by saying, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:". I take note of the words, "sanctified in Christ Jesus" and "called to be saints". And I note the phrase, "with all that in every place call upon the name...both theirs and ours:" And also, 1 Cor 15:9, "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." I note here the use of the singular "church."

Peter Lumpkins

Benji,

I appreciate your note. The "stand up" line is often used as a metaphor which suggests a contradiction, inconsistency or "waffle.". That's all I intended with it. I meant no suggestion, casting a cloud over Dr. Finn's person. Someone can be inconsistent but not deviant--at least I hope so.

Even so, I take your words seriously. I'll post a footnote on the original post.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

Peter Lumpkins

r. grannemann,

The biblical mode of Baptism as immersion is presumed here. It is presumed even by open membership, open communion churches. Given such, your concerns make no sense to this discussion. Please wait for a time when the issues at stake is immersion.

With that, I am...

Peter

r. grannemann

Peter,

I was actually trying to make a small point concerning closed membership and closed communion, but certainly what I wrote was not very clear as I look back on it.

I meant to say closed membership is justified (in part) by the symbolism implied by baptism. The symbolism of baptism supports the baptism of believers (since it symbolizes entrance into the Kingdom of God, being born again). The rightful observance of baptism therefore supports closed membership (not accepting for membership someone without believers baptism).

But closed communion is not justified by the symbolism implied in communion. The symbolism implied by communion is that of having partaken by faith in the broken body of Christ on Calvary. A person not baptized as a believer can still satisfy this symbol properly if he/she is a Christian. The symbol is not violated by open communion.

This is not all there is to say about these issues, just a small point.

peter lumpkins

r. grannemann,

I appreciate your clarification, my brother. Not to mention your points almost always possess hearty substance. My sole concern was to stay on point. You're always welcome here.

With that, I am...

Peter

Dave Miller

I have steered my son toward Southeastern Seminary (he kind of wanted to go there anyway) when I began to read Nathan Finn on the blogs. He is what I believe we should all be.

He writes plainly. He states his case clearly. He deals graciously with those who hold opposite opinions.

I appreciate, in this taxonomy, that he recognizes that the Baptist church has not spoken with a singular voice on these issues.

William Marshall

Bro. Pete,

Byron brings up a legitimate concern: how can we refuse the table to believers even if we disagree with their understanding of baptism? What scriptural warrant does one have to take such a stand (closed communion)? I think I asked this under a different post before, so if you don't want to re-address it here that's fine. At this point point though, I struggle to answer the above concern (maybe the rest of Dr. Finn's paper could help me).

wm

Bob

Peter,

I do not understand the insistence that baptism must precede communion in the believer's life. I do not see any command or exclusive practice of such in the New Testament. Often belief and baptism would happen before the next communion service, but this would not always be the case. Here in the frozen north, if your church lacks a baptistery, a person could confess Christ in November and have no opportunity for baptism until May. Your position would deny this new believer any partaking of communion for those six months. Is that right? Where does the Bible require this denial of communion to the new believer until after they are baptized?

peter lumpkins

William,

Thanks for raising these questions. I am unsure the context of why I failed to address the issue earlier. Evidently, I judged it "off subject" and that perhaps wrongly. Anyways, we'll consider it now.

Your concern is, "how can we refuse the table to believers even if we disagree with their understanding of baptism?" Or, you request a biblical defense of "closed communion," I presume.

First, you are on the right track--read Dr. Finn's "White Paper." He gives a great defense (which is why I'm puzzled concerning his latest circular essay, and my query concerning the tension between it and the White Paper).

Let me give you an abbreviated defense and then you can follow up if you desire. Fair enough?

First, to affirm baptism as prerequisite to partaking the Table is not a theological quirk spontaneously generated among Baptists. To the contrary, Catholics and Protestants alike affirm such. Virtually every denomination affirms it in some way. The real question--and this is why historically Baptists have been pooh-poohed so thoroughly--focuses on whether a person is baptized in a form or mode contrary to believers' baptism by immersion.

For Baptists, the over-whelming majority have contended that one is not baptized if not in the "Baptist way"--and this cannot be missed--which is the New Testament way. This gets them into endless, ecumenical contention with other faith groups, both historically and presently. Interestingly, as Finn notes in the paper under consideration here, even more it gets historic Baptists like myself and others pooh-poohed today from fellow Baptists!

Finn says virtually the same:

"The fact is almost all Christian traditions require baptism before one can participate in the Lord’s Supper. The quarrel does not concern the practice itself, but concerns the fact that Baptists do not recognize sprinkling, pouring or even some biblically-irregular immersions as valid. The difference is not in the practice of restricting communion to the baptized, but in not recognizing other modes of baptism as biblical" (p.7).

I want to go further, but Hun and I are headed to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. So, I'll return and pick this up in a couple of hours or so.

Grace, William. With that, I am...
Peter

scott shaffer

First, to affirm baptism as prerequisite to partaking the Table is not a theological quirk spontaneously generated among Baptists. To the contrary, Catholics and Protestants alike affirm such. Virtually every denomination affirms it in some way. The real question--and this is why historically Baptists have been pooh-poohed so thoroughly--focuses on whether a person is baptized in a form or mode contrary to believers' baptism by immersion.

Peter,

I follow the argument here, but I would like to understand how Catholics and Protestants came to this conclusion. In other words, what is the biblical basis for it? This has been standard practice for every church I have been a member of, but frankly, I haven't given a lot of thought to its biblical justification.


Byroniac

I read the 2006 white paper by Nathan Finn and I fail to understand why he considers both baptism and communion to be church ordinances as opposed to merely Christian ones. Both ordinances were given to the Apostles before there were any churches. To the best of my understanding, baptism (at least Scripturally) came in with John the Baptist, and Christ Himself instituted communion at the Last Supper. Personally, as best as I can tell, any Christian can administer baptism or the Lord's supper, though ideally it should be ordained elders of a local congregation.

peter lumpkins

Scott,

Hold your tators, brother. I only affirmed a single point that the belief of "closed communion" is not a theological hegemony pawned off on the Christian world by tradition-hungry, old time Baptists. That's all. More is following...Did you read Finn's paper?

With that, I am...

Peter

William Marshall

Bro. Pete,

Thanks for the response. I have not read Dr. Finn's work, so I should start there, but like Scott above, I am still looking for a more biblical basis for refusing the table to believers. Hope you had a good breakfast!!

wm

peter lumpkins

William, et al,

Secondly, the practice of "closed communion" seems deeply embedded in the NT. No evidence exists that the New Testament makeup of the church held, as members, anyone other than a baptized believer. If there is evidence for this, I'd like to see it.

On the other hand, there is abundant Scripture which ties Baptism with being a part of the church (Mt. 28:18ff; Acts 2:38ff; Col. 2:11). Baptism seems clearly prerequisite to church membership. I take it no one here is prepared to argue for open membership.

Thirdly, if this is correct, it follows that baptism is prerequisite to the Lord's table, just as virtually all denominational branches have affirmed albeit a few within those branches admittedly dissent. However, I suspect the same %'s dissent in other groups as have historically dissented in Baptist thinking--very, very small.

Fourthly, unless one is prepared to argue that the Lord's Supper is an individual ordinance, given by Christ to each individual believer to fulfill, we are left with only two choices--it's given to "apostolic successors "(bishops) or it's given to "apostolic assemblies" (churches).

W.T. Conner said it similarly,

"In the first place, unless we are to regard the observance of the Supper as a purely individual matter, then somebody must be responsible for its administration. Naturally this would be the church under whose auspices the ordinance takes place. The only other alternative would be to regard the 'clergy' or official class in the church as responsible for its administration" (Christian Doctrine, p.289).

Byron comes close to arguing the Lord's Supper is an individual ordinance, though not in those same words. Rather it's put in terms of the "universal church." Functionally , however, such reduces to raw individual responsibility. For the fact remains, the "universal church" can come together and do nothing.

Indeed, by the very nature of the "universal church," it is quite impossible for it to assemble at all (at least for fulfilling ordinance purposes). The Apostle Paul, however, placed the Supper clearly in terms of the local assembly--"For first of all, when ye come together in the church..." (1Cor. 11:18). He mentions, in context of the Supper, "com[ing] together" at least 5 times in this paragraph.

Conner again says:

"This throws the responsibility for the proper administration of the ordinances on the church or congregation. The church, then, would naturally have the prerogative in deciding who should come to the supper" (Ibid).

This should give us some fodder to chew. Grace all.

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Byron & Bob,

Consider the above interaction. Perhaps it adressed some of your concerns.

With that, I am...

Peter

Byroniac

Peter, I had not taken my thoughts to their logical conclusion in my own mind. Yes, I accept that. But, I believe individual responsibility and observance would only take place in the most extreme of circumstances (i.e., a solitary believer, recently converted, who physically has no access to a local church). I would not condemn a brother or sister for observing in these or similar circumstances, but I have to acknowledge it does not fit the Biblical pattern (and I believe intention) that we are given in the NT. So I would strongly encourage such a one if at possible to physically relocate to an area where they could join and participate with a local assembly of believers.

Also, about the Universal Church, our assembly and worship is always in Christ. There is never a time when the Universal Church is not assembled in Christ, when the Universal Church is not functioning in Christ, because we are new creations by the Holy Spirit. The fact remains that when the local church assembles, you do not always have "perfect attendance" as it were, because sometimes you will possibly have some who later prove themselves unregenerate, or, in the Judgment, prove to have been false confessors. Therefore it is only membership in the Universal Church that gives the ritual performed by the local assembly that reflects the spiritual reality of union with Christ and worship of Him.

Again, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is given before there are any churches. I realize after further thought, that you do not see baptisms or communion taking place until after the church is established, and this does weaken my argument. However, there is nothing specifically in Matthew 28:18-20 which speaks directly of the church, though of course I have no argument with someone who would argue such indirectly. But look at the language given there by our Lord, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." These are the "all nations" of converts who form the churches, but they are taught by the apostles to observe correct doctrine, without any explicit mention of the church(es) to come.

Acts 2:38-43 is a strong passage. No doubt this is the Biblical pattern (baptism before membership and communion), and I cannot dispute that. However, I take note of two things. One, verses 44-45 are seldom mentioned (at least that I am aware). If this is what makes a church, why do we not follow the example of holding all things in common as well? We seem to separate the two in this context, and never mention verses 44 and 45, or if we do, as a localized item of church history. Two, I note in verse 46, that it says, "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house..." Now, if the 3000 of verse 41 are the church, then unless all 3000 broke bread in a single house under the leadership of an apostle, you definitely could have had single groups of Christians who observed this in a single house (perhaps several groups simultaneously, each group in a different house), not as a "church-wide" observance necessarily, with no explicit mention of apostolic oversight.

And finally, Colossians 2:12 says, "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." In the previous verse, we are spiritually circumcised in Christ. And here, unless one argues for baptismal regeneration, our Baptism is spiritual as well. It is on this basis that I can agree that membership is closed to those who have been Baptized, but that baptism is the spiritual baptism of Christ. Even if they are disobedient (ignorantly as I believe with the convinced paedobaptists, but not willingly with knowledge which is rebellion) according to the observance of the physical symbol, they have still received baptism with Christ and union in Him.

I stated before, "t would follow that minor infractions of integrity concerning physical baptism could be allowed in light of truly regenerate believers who have had spiritual baptism even if they are disobedient (knowingly or unknowingly) concerning the physical symbol of it." I am wrong concerning the word "knowingly" there and I recant of that error. I do believe membership (in the local congregation) can be extended to someone such as a Presbyterian if they appear to be genuine believers, but I do not think it would be right or proper to extend membership to someone who is knowingly disobedient, which seems rebellious to me and would reveal something wrong with that person's heart. I don't know that this exact scenario ever actually happens, and because I am not a pastor or church leader, it is not something I have to be concerned with except in theory. But I wanted to retract my previous statement and acknowledge my error.

peter lumpkins

Byron,

I appreciate your humble concession. We need more of such from our circles.

Concerning your assertion that "There is never a time when the Universal Church is not assembled in Christ, when the Universal Church is not functioning in Christ..." Byron, if this is true, the term "assembly" or the NT term "ekklesia" has just been bled of its meaning entirely. If there is "never a time" what is one to make of "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together"? (Heb. 10:25).

For me, it's this virtually complete reversal of the NT evidence of the teaching of the church. Out of 114 times the term "ekklesia" is used of the church in the NT, only a small portion is used of the church in its wider, "universal" sense. The overwhelming usage is that of "local assemblies" (cp.Mark Dever,"The Church" in A Theology for the Church, B&H, 2007).

In fact, Dever suggests that out of the many times "church" is used in Acts, only a single time can it be said to refer to the wider, broader sense (p.771). Hence, focusing on the "universal" church to the neglect of the "local" gathered assembly turns biblical ecclesiology on its head.

Nor is it germane that "perfect attendance" of all members is a prerequisite before the local assembly can be considered "gathered." How do you come to that conclusion, Byron?

Nor does the fact that the GC was given prior to Pentecost. Why is that relevant? Also, that the "church" is not mentioned at the GC does not seem to matter to anything I've claimed.

As for "the language given there by our Lord, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," I ask, what comes prior to that? Baptizing them! Unless we have a "church" with the norm being "unbaptized disciples" I'm wondering what we could deduce from this.

It's good we see eye-to-eye on Acts 2:38-41. A pattern is obviously visible. As for verses 44-45 and holding in common, a) this has nothing to do with the ordinances Jesus left with the Apostles, b) that this communal aspect of Christian society was a pristine experiment, it obviously was not a pattern discernible in the early church. If it was, where else did the church establish this?

Concerning the "breaking bread from house to house..." there is no necessity to interpret the "breaking bread" of v.46 identically with v.42. The former is linked with actual meals, the latter sandwiched between apostolic preaching/teaching and prayers, an obvious allusion to worship.

Moreover, Byron, supposing for argument's sake, it was concerning the Lord's Supper about which you "could have had single groups of Christians who observed this in a single house." It does not follow that apostolic oversight was absent. What demands such an assumption? My own guess is, that the Apostles did not literally, one-by-one baptize every Pentecostal believer.

Instead they probably supervised the mass baptism, by appointing the proper men to perform the baptisms. Recall a birth that has taken place. Would one expect such a young organism to be as sophisticated structurally then as later? It wasn't even till Acts 6 (most likely) that deacons were chosen.

Therefore, to assume "no apostolic" oversight if they did have several "cells" meeting to partake of the Table is at best conjecture. Even so, to argue from such unclear premises that the Table can be observed apart from the local church's authority is specious. To me it is nothing short of frightening. I know by experience how the Supper can quickly be abused by sincere but misguided unlearned disciples.

Finally, Byron, to argue from Col 2 that water baptism is "spiritual baptism of Christ" once again convolutes the meaning of baptism. No amount of arguing for a "spiritual baptism" can overturn the literal, visible water baptism pre-requisite to membership in the NT church. If you're correct here, Byron, you're correct about not being Baptist. In fact, you're not Presbyterian either, or even Catholic! You're arguing as a Quaker or Salvation Army advocate.

With that, I am...

Peter

peter lumpkins

Byron,

I appreciate your humble concession. We need more of such from our circles.

Concerning your assertion that "There is never a time when the Universal Church is not assembled in Christ, when the Universal Church is not functioning in Christ..." Byron, if this is true, the term "assembly" or the NT term "ekklesia" has just been bled of its meaning entirely. If there is "never a time" what is one to make of "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together"? (Heb. 10:25).

For me, it's this virtually complete reversal of the NT evidence of the teaching of the church. Out of 114 times the term "ekklesia" is used of the church in the NT, only a small portion is used of the church in its wider, "universal" sense. The overwhelming usage is that of "local assemblies" (cp.Mark Dever,"The Church" in A Theology for the Church, B&H, 2007).

In fact, Dever suggests that out of the many times "church" is used in Acts, only a single time can it be said to refer to the wider, broader sense (p.771). Hence, focusing on the "universal" church to the neglect of the "local" gathered assembly turns biblical ecclesiology on its head.

Nor is it germane that "perfect attendance" of all members is a prerequisite before the local assembly can be considered "gathered." How do you come to that conclusion, Byron?

Nor does the fact that the GC was given prior to Pentecost. Why is that relevant? Also, that the "church" is not mentioned at the GC does not seem to matter to anything I've claimed.

As for "the language given there by our Lord, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," I ask, what comes prior to that? Baptizing them! Unless we have a "church" with the norm being "unbaptized disciples" I'm wondering what we could deduce from this.

It's good we see eye-to-eye on Acts 2:38-41. A pattern is obviously visible. As for verses 44-45 and holding in common, a) this has nothing to do with the ordinances Jesus left with the Apostles, b) that this communal aspect of Christian society was a pristine experiment, it obviously was not a pattern discernible in the early church. If it was, where else did the church establish this?

Concerning the "breaking bread from house to house..." there is no necessity to interpret the "breaking bread" of v.46 identically with v.42. The former is linked with actual meals, the latter sandwiched between apostolic preaching/teaching and prayers, an obvious allusion to worship.

Moreover, Byron, supposing for argument's sake, it was concerning the Lord's Supper about which you "could have had single groups of Christians who observed this in a single house." It does not follow that apostolic oversight was absent. What demands such an assumption? My own guess is, that the Apostles did not literally, one-by-one baptize every Pentecostal believer.

Instead they probably supervised the mass baptism, by appointing the proper men to perform the baptisms. Recall a birth that has taken place. Would one expect such a young organism to be as sophisticated structurally then as later? It wasn't even till Acts 6 (most likely) that deacons were chosen.

Therefore, to assume "no apostolic" oversight if they did have several "cells" meeting to partake of the Table is at best conjecture. Even so, to argue from such unclear premises that the Table can be observed apart from the local church's authority is specious. To me it is nothing short of frightening. I know by experience how the Supper can quickly be abused by sincere but misguided unlearned disciples.

Finally, Byron, to argue from Col 2 that water baptism is "spiritual baptism of Christ" once again convolutes the meaning of baptism. No amount of arguing for a "spiritual baptism" can overturn the literal, visible water baptism pre-requisite to membership in the NT church. If you're correct here, Byron, you're correct about not being Baptist. In fact, you're not Presbyterian either, or even Catholic! You're arguing as a Quaker or Salvation Army advocate.

With that, I am...

Peter

Byroniac

Peter,

I believe the Universal Church and the local church are two different things. I have not studied Hebrews 10:25 in depth, but in my view, this verse is not speaking of casual lapses in attendance but deliberate separation from the local assembly of believers, whether this is outright apostasy or habitual neglect to join in worship. We should never forsake the local assembly, but there is never a time when the Universal Church is not assembled in Christ who alone gathered us together in Him.

I did not speak very clearly concerning "perfect attendance," as I was not trying to focus on the number of members present out of the total membership of the church, but the reality of their union in Christ. There is probably never "perfect attendance" in this regard, of only born-again believers in a local church, and most certainly it can said that it is not always the case that there are no false confessors present who are "members" in the local congregation.

I think it matters that baptism and communion were given at GC without explicit mention of the church, because who would do the baptizing? Eventually you have the case of the baptized eunuch who probably did not move to Jerusalem and join the church there. Does the exception prove the rule? I do not think so. I am sure he took the gospel with him back to his country with the intention of gaining and baptizing converts, but in the Calvinist system (to which I hold), there is no guarantee of him starting a church or gaining converts because election is held solely and firmly in the hands of God alone.

And I am not assuming there was never apostolic oversight of communion in Acts 2:46. Most likely on many occasions (and possibly all) there was. All I am saying is there is no explicit mention of apostolic oversight. That could be an argument from silence, possibly. And I understand that at least one commentator I read believes the breaking of bread to be for common, everyday meals because of the context given in verses 44-45. But it seems to me that the overall context is salvation and worship, and it makes the most sense to me to interpret verse 46 in that light, which makes the absence of explicit apostolic oversight all the more stark. It is not unreasonable to assume that communion took place at least occasionally in simple groups of believers in a private home. Even in verse 46, I think that phrase is sandwiched in between references to worship, with attendance in the temple on the one side of it, and having gladness and singleness of heart (why? because of salvation) on the other. And I understand your point about "sincere but misguided unlearned disciples" but these were all Jews, and this ritual would not be mysterious or foreign to them, though they celebrated it with newfound faith in the Messiah Jesus Christ (which reminds me of the initiation of Passover so long ago where each believing household observed independently, without oversight from Moses except in his own household).

Col 2 only makes sense (to me, anyway) if the baptism is just as spiritual as the circumcision in the preceding verse 11. What is being spoken of here is the new reality created by Christ for all believers, Jew or Gentile. This is not a prooftext for physical water baptism (though I do believe in that). My point was, in the mind of the unknowingly incorrect paedobaptist, not only has the ultimate spiritual reality of baptism in Christ occurred if he or she is a true believer, but in his or mind (mistakenly) is the belief that they have kept any outward symbol as well. It is difficult on this basis to refuse them membership in a church since they give evidence of belonging to Christ, though we must not make the mistake of endorsing their error.

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