Pastor: Julien Baptist Church
In the Old Testament alone there are at least 600 times that the phrase "thus saith the Lord" is uttered. We find this Phrase uttered in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I just want us to look at the importance of these words.
Why is that a prophet would speak these words? Because this showed that they had authority to speak Godís Word. This authority was not based on their ability to speak but it was based on the fact that God had spoken to them and had given them the authority to relay to the people what they needed to hear. That is why the O. T. Prophets would preface the message God gave them to speak with "thus saith the Lord". Just as the O. T. Prophets gave "thus saith the Lord" when they would speak I believe we as Pastorís and Preachers of the Lord need to preface our messages with "thus saith the Lord".
However, I have seen a disturbing trend in recent years with Baptist Churches and Pastorís. Keep in mind when I say Baptist I am using that word in the strictest sense. I am not referring to what we would consider rank liberals i.e. those that deny the virgin birth or the substitutionary death of Christ or some other vital doctrine in which Christianity itself is predicated upon. No, I am talking about our kind of Baptist, those that believe in the literal return of Christ, those that believe the KJV is Godís Word for an English speaking people, those that believe that "Salvation is of the Lord".
We have Baptists quoting more men than Bible. Their writings and preaching contain less and less Scripture and more and more opinions. In most sermons and writings all we ever hear about is someone extolling about what this brother five hundred years ago believed or what this brother two hundred years ago believed. Frankly, it does not matter to me what a dear Brother believed over five hundred years ago if it does not line up with "thus saith the Lord". Manís opinion is just that an opinion. Before I get accused of being lazy and against studying I want to make known I enjoy reading theology books, commentaries, and Baptist History. I love reading the works of J.R. Graves, B.H. Carroll, J.M. Carroll, Vedder, Christian, Jarrell, T.P. Simmons, Spurgeon and others of years gone by. However, no matter how much I love and respect these brethren that I have mentioned I still do not hold them in the same regard as Godís Holy Word. It seems anytime that there is a controversy that comes up men run to their libraries and dust off some old book that has something in their to prove their point while the Bible they preach from is never consulted. As far as I am concerned my opinion carries as much influence as Matthew Henry, Bunyan, or Augustine. The reason being is not because of my great intellect but because their opinions are just like mine, uninspired opinions. If what they or I say does not line up with Scripture then it is wrong. It does not matter how many degrees there are behind the name or how many books or articles they have written. If it is not backed up with "thus saith the Lord" then it is of no consequence.
Having stated this I am going to share "thus saith the Lord" about one doctrine in particular that I hold very dear to my heart. The Scriptures I give will not be exhaustive but they will suffice for the time being. This doctrine is simply known as Church authority.
To understand Church authority we will need to understand that everything God has established has an order to it. And being as their is an order it is up to us to find out what the order is. We find in Genesis the book of beginnings that God established the order in the creation of the male and female. He created Adam first and then out of his rib he created a help meet for Adam and called her Eve. We also think of other instances in which God established an order. He established the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws and sacrifices, temple worship. Each one of these God established and there was an order given to each one. It is much the same with the Lordís NT Church. There is an order established with this organization and it needs to be adhered to in this day in which we are living. I am going to use just a few verses and hopefully we will be able to establish "thus saith the Lord" With Church authority. To establish this there are a few things that we need to clarify.
I. Who is the Church? The Church is a body of baptized believers covenanted together to carry out the great commission as given by our Lord and Savior. There are just a few things I want us to note in this definition. They are a body (a group of people), they are baptized believers (they have been immersed because they believe), they are covenanted together (unified for a specific purpose in a specific location) to carry out the commission ( As given in Matthew 28:18-20). This is the simplified definition of a Church.
II. When did the Church begin? Before or after Pentecost? We see in Acts 2:41 they that was saved was added to the Church at Jerusalem. Surely to add to the Church at Jerusalem surely means that the Church was already there. Also anyone open to the teaching of the Scriptures must admit that before Pentecost they had the Gospel because Christ Himself preached it (Mark 1:15), They assembled together as Christ called them out (Matt 28:16), They Baptized (Acts 1:22), They had a Treasurer (Judas Iscariot), They had the Lordís Supper (Matt 26:26-29). So having established the fact that there was a Church before Pentecost when did this happen? The Scriptures teach it was established when Christ called out His disciples in Luke 6:13-16. This correlates with the Scripture in I Corinthians 12:28 "and God hath set some in the Church, FIRST APOSTLES...." (emphasis mine). The twelve was the apostles, who did God set first in the Church? THE APOSTLES!!!!!! So when was the Church established? Luke 6:13-16 with the Apostles. Now that we have established what a Church is and when it began now we move onto the authority of the Church.
III. The Authority of the Church. When we say the authority of the Church we do not mean it like the Catholic Church does that the Church has the right to do whatever it wants to whenever it wants to do it. No, we mean by authority that the Lord has given the Church the authority to do only those things that are validated by Scripture and in conjunction with the Great Commission. What was it the Lord authorized His Church to do in the Commission?
A. We find the answer to this in Matt 28:16-20 and as we look at these verses we need to ask ourselves three questions to help us interpret these Scriptures.
1. Who was speaking? Christ was speaking
2. Who was Christ speaking to? To the eleven (this was after Judas Iscariot killed himself).
3. What was Christ speaking about? He was giving them the authority to Evangelize, Baptize and to Catechize (teach).
Now as we look and consider these verses what can we conclude?
First, this authority was given to the ones that he started the Church with.
Second, this authority was specific in what it entailed. It entailed evangelism and that is personal witnessing and starting Churches, baptizing those the Lord saves and then teaching them to observe all things that Christ has commanded.
Third, it was given until the end of the age and the authority would not cease until then.
4. What the Church was authorized to do?
We answered this question already but we want to get into this just a little bit more and as we get into this I want to keep my comments to the bare minimum and let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Lets consider this negatively and then positively.
A. What the Church was not authorized to do.
1) Entertain the masses. Such as concerts, pony rides, carnivals, ETC, ETC.
2) To meet the needs of the community (clothing and food centers). The Bible teaches compassion and love for those that are less fortunate and I believe that we as Godís people should be sensitive to others needs but the Lordís Church was not given the authority to start a soup kitchen and clothing center for the community. There are Biblical principles for taking care of those in the body that are widows indeed and even in Acts 2 the early Church sold their goods and gave to those as they had need. However, we are not told to start soup kitchens for the community.
B What the Church was authorized to do.
1) Preach the Gospel. Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15,16; II Timothy 4:1,2. This is the first and I believe most important duty of the Lordís Church because without the preaching of the Gospel people will not be saved and if people are not saved then there would be no need for the rest of the commission.
2) Starting Churches. Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 11:19-30; Acts 13:3; Acts 14:26-28. Just for a minute take a moment to review Matthew 28:16-20 and who Christ was speaking to as He gave the commission. It was not an association, convention, fellowship or even to individuals. This was given to the Church.
Now look at Acts 13:1-3. Who was the Spirit of God directing to send out Barnabas and Saul? We find the answer by asking those three important questions that are used for interpreting Scripture. Who was speaking? The Holy Spirit of God. Who was the Spirit of God speaking to? THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH!!!! What was the Spirit of God speaking about? The establishing of Churches. It seems very obvious to me that Verse one is hard to ignore, "Now there were in the Church at Antioch..." We even notice in Acts 11:19-30 that the Church at Jerusalem is connected with those that have been converted under the Preaching of Stephen. Word got back to the Jerusalem Church that there had been converts there and they sent Barnabas to them. Then the next time we hear about Antioch it is the Church at Antioch that was sending Barnabas and Saul out to start Churches. To my knowledge I find nothing about Saul and Barnabas not being connected to a Church. As a matter of fact in Acts 14:26-28 we find where they reported back to the Church at Antioch. This to me teaches that they believed in and practiced what we commonly refer to as CHURCH AUTHORITY.
3) Baptizing Converts. Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:1-8,26-40. Again we note Matthew 28 and the fact that Christ told His Church to baptize converts.
Now we will look at just a couple of examples of this happening. Acts 2:41 "and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand." Added unto whom? The Church at Jerusalem as evidenced by keeping in context what was going on in Acts one and two. Both of these Chapters are dealing with the Church at Jerusalem. So what does this teach? I know to many people this is so simplistic but, this teaches the Church at Jerusalem was the one doing the baptizing. Not one time in this Scripture do you find reference to the men carrying out the baptism on their own. So it must be the Church carrying out this ordinance. Now notice Acts 8:1-8; 26-40. To be very honest I was confused at one time how this Scripture could be reconciled with what we hold to concerning Baptism and that it must be carried out by a local N.T. Baptist Church. Then I got to looking at the whole chapter and not just the last fourteen verses. In verses one through eight we find Saul persecutes the Church at Jerusalem they scatter, then we find in verse five the statement "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them." This teaches that Philip was a part of the Church at Jerusalem, because when Saul persecuted the Church at Jerusalem Philip went to Samaria. He was scattered to Samaria because of this persecution. So again at the very least this implies that he was connected to the Church at Jerusalem. Now skip down to Verses twenty-six through forty. Here Philip hears the messenger of the Lord say go to Gaza. So he goes and he finds one man this man is sitting in his chariot struggling with the Scripture he reads in Isaiah. He asks the man who Isaiah is speaking about and then Philip preaches Jesus to Eunuch, the Eunuch is saved and then he baptizes him. Now where did Philip have the authority to baptize from? Very simply put, THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM!!!!
4) Teaching all things, whatsoever I have commanded. Matthew 28:20; Acts 20:27. We are to teach all things, especially those things regarding God and His word. I am not only to teach my favorite subjects but also those things that I have not as zealous about. I am to preach all the doctrines found in this Book. Not mans opinions, nor philosophies but "thus saith the Lord."
5) Until the end of the world. Matthew 28:20; Matthew 16:18. This is how long this authority has been extended to the Church that Christ started. This also teaches me another great and important truth out of both of these verses we have referenced. According to Matthew 28:20, How long does this commission last? Christ said until the end of the world. What did Matthew 16:18 say in reference to the Church that Jesus built? That it was built upon a rock (Christ and not Peter because Christ is referred to on more than one occasion as a rock), and the gates of hell would not bring it down. These two verses alone teaches Church perpetuity and succession. One of the things that I love to study is Baptist History. I love reading "The Trail of Blood", "Foxes Book of Martyrís", "History of the Baptistís", "Fifty Years among the Baptistís" and several other books regarding Baptist History. These books are valuable and should be read and studied but, we must keep in mind that these books are written by men. These men by and large was very learned and studious men but, they were still men that could be influenced by their own thoughts and ideas as they researched. You see a person can take history and twist it anyway that they want to so that it will support their doctrine. Having said that I want to make a very brief and simple point. Even if I did not have one history book proving the perpetuity of the Baptist Church or the Succession of the Baptist Church I would believe it anyway. Why? Because I have "thus saith the Lord" and that is all I need. As we close I want to ask a couple of simple questions. Have I had to prove my point by digging out quotes by some great Baptist historian? Have I went to some Protestant theologian trying to prove my point? Have I taken one obscure verse and tried to build what I believe? I believe I can honestly and unashamedly say No to all three questions. I believe that I can honestly and without reservation say that I have went to the Word of God and said "thus saith the Lord" Because this is where our authority lies. Not in a history book or opinions but in the Word of God.