Charles A. Holt, Jr.
Baptists have a difficult time when it comes to teaching about the church. They will affirm that the church is a non-essential and useless institution as far as man’s eternal salvation is concerned, and that one can be saved “regardless of church membership.” Yet they turn around and stress with might and main the importance of being a member of it—and they mean the “Missionary Baptist Church.” They try to make Baptists of all possible. They truly will compass land and sea to make one proselyte to their denomination. They do not hesitate to proselyte members of other churches and would, if possible, do away with all other churches. They are really wedded to their sectarian order.
It is hard to reconcile the place of honor, dignity and importance that they have given the church in their more serious moments, with their teaching that the church is a non-essential, unimportant institution. Mr. Kirkland, in our debate, affirmed that all true believers are saved “regardless of church membership.” The church, according to this, is of no value as far as man’s salvation is concerned. With this in mind, let us look at how important this useless, non-essential church is according to the Baptists. This should help all to see how inconsistent their teaching is.
In a little booklet, Baptist Doctrine (a study course used in Baptist churches of Kirkland’s brand), written by E. C. Gillentine, there is a chapter on “The Church, its Dignity and Identity.” Mr. Gillentine says:
By ‘Dignity’ of the church we mean the high-ranking position of honor which is given to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacred scriptures; its elevation of rank its moral worth; and the many wonderful qualities possessed by it which are worthy and inspire or command the respect and reverence of all God’s children (P. 32).
This sounds like he thinks the church is of some value and importance. Yet it cannot be of any value or importance relative to man’s salvation. It has no place in his being saved, his staying saved, or his final entrance into heaven—according to Baptists. One can stay out of the church, and just so he believes Jesus Christ is God’s Son, he is saved and bound for heaven regardless! Nothing of value can be gained by being in the church. Now look at how important Gillentine says the church is.
First, he says, “It is the purchase of Christ’s blood, Acts 20:28.” That is exactly what the inspired Paul said in the passage cited. Is the “purchase of Christ’s blood” of no value? Does it have no part in man’s salvation? This is what Baptists would have us believe. What did Christ purchase with His blood? The church! Did He purchase a useless institution, that has absolutely no connection with man’s salvation? Really can anyone believe such? The church is as valuable as the price paid for it, which makes it of equal value with the blood of Christ. All who are in the church are “blood-bought.” This is not true of any outside the church. The Baptists say that the church “is a congregation of baptized believers.” Hence, baptized believers are the ones who are blood-purchased the ones “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” One is not purchased with Christ’s blood before he enters the church. If so, Christ did not and could not purchase the church with His blood. If one has ten dollars and purchases a pair of shoes with the money, he cannot use the same purchase price to buy something else once it is spent. Everyone can see this, and should be able to see the same with reference to the church. The purchase price of the church was the blood of Christ. If one is purchased or redeemed by the blood of Christ, he is in the church; if he is in the church, then he has been redeemed by the blood. If there was no other passage to set forth the value and the indispensable place of the church, this one passage is enough.
Mr. Gillentine says further that the church is “the light of the world,” and “the salt of the earth.” Yet one does not have to be a part of the light of the world or the salt of the earth to be a Christian. He can refuse to be such and it effects not his eternal welfare, so say Baptists. He can join any of the many human churches that he pleases, which will keep him from being a part of “the light” and “the salt,” and be saved regardless.
Next he says that the church is “the body of Christ—Christ is the head and the church is His body, Eph. 1:23.” Then the body of Christ is useless! It has nothing to do with the salvation of man! Can one be a Christian and not be a member of the body of Christ? The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ as plainly as words say anything (Eph. 1:23; Col. 1:18,24). There is one body (Eph. 4:4), and every Christian is a member of it. All who are Christians have been baptized into that one body, and in that one body they all drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13) No man can be a Christian and not belong to the church, any more than he can be a Christian and not belong to Christ, for the reason that the church is the body of Christ. If a man can be a Christian out of the church, he can also be a Christian out of Christ. A man’s relation to Christ defines and determines his relation to the church, for the reason that the church is the body of Christ. If a man is in either Christ or the church, he is in both; if he is out of either, he is out of both. Can one be a Christian out of Christ? Certainly not (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:10).
Furthermore, Christ is the head of the body—the church, and no man can be a Christian without being a member of the church, unless he can be a Christian without having Christ as his head. Every man over whom Christ is head is a member of the church because Christ is the head of the church. To say a man can be a Christian and not be a member of the church is to say he can be a Christian and not have Christ as his head.
We learn also that Christ is “the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). That which Christ saves is the body over which he is the head—the church. If a man can be a Christian and not be a member of the church, he can be a Christian and not be saved. To be saved, one must be a member of the church because Christ is the Savior of the body. He does not save those who are out of the body. All who are in the body are saved, and all who are out of the body are not saved. To get into the body is to be saved, and to be saved is to get into the body. That is why we read that the Lord added to the church daily “such as were being saved.” (Acts 2:47—R. V. marginal reading). So the body of Christ is of vital importance, the teaching of Baptists notwithstanding.
Mr. Gillentine further says of the church, that it is “the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit on earth” “a school for religious instructions” “a field for service.” “It is a witness of the Lord on earth.” Though the church is all of this, one does not have to be a member to be saved! He does not have to work in the field of service. He can spend his life working in the devil’s field, outside the church—the field of the Lord, and still be saved. One need not enter the “school for religious instructions.” Stay in the devil’s school, heed his instructions, that is all right—so says Baptist doctrine! Who can believe such? In spite of all such confusion and error, the honest heart can, by taking God’s word as his guide, see through all such to the glorious truth regarding the importance of the church.
Gillentine also says that the “church of Christ is the House of God on earth, 1 Tim. 3:15.” This statement is certainly true. It is the church of Christ that is God’s house, and not the human institution known as the Baptist Church. This should be apparent to any discerning person. God’s house is God’s family. The word house is used to mean family. Nearly all Baptist scholars admit that the church is God’s family. J.M. Pendleton and A.T. Robertson are two outstanding examples.
Now, if the church is God’s family—and it is—where are God’s children? Can one be a Christian and not be a child of God? Can one be a child of God and not be in His family—the church? Surely not. God has no children outside of His family. Therefore, all of God’s children are in His family, the church. Thus, the importance and absolute essentiality of the church of the Lord is seen.
“The Baptist Church—The Bride Of Christ”
In the above I set forth the Baptist teaching concerning the church and how they value it. In this, I want to discuss the church as “the bride of Christ” from the Baptist viewpoint. Let us begin with a quotation from the booklet by Mr. E. C. Gillentine, called Baptist Doctrine. On page 14, discussing the subject of “The Church, its Dignity and Identity,” we find this:
The most highly honored position, and the most dignified place spoken of concerning the dignity of the church is that she is called the Bride of Christ, John 3:29; Rev. 2-9-10; 2 Cor. 11:1-2; Eph. 5:23-27. The church is now the Bride of Christ, but when He returns He will take her unto Himself and then she will be His wife…Christ is not a polygamist—He will marry but one woman. He will have but one wife; He will marry but one church. It is a wonderful joy to anticipate being a part of the bride of Christ and participating in the marriage feast with Him and His church.
Be sure to read the above statement carefully. The church is the bride of Christ according to Baptist doctrine and this is the “most highly honored position” of the church. Yet, according to Baptists, the bride of Christ is not essential and has absolutely no connection with man’s salvation. One does not have to be, yea, does not even need to be a part of the bride of Christ to be saved. Mr. Kirkland affirmed in our debate that “all true believers are saved regardless of church membership.” What is so wonderful about the church being the bride of Christ, if it is wholly useless as far as man’s salvation is concerned?
Mr. Gillentine says that the church is now only the prospective bride of Christ, and when Christ comes the second time He will take her unto Him as His wife. Baptists think that Christ is not now married to His bride. This is simply the “engagement period.” The marriage is something that is supposed to take place in the next age—the millennial age. Of course, this is not true, but I will not take time now to discuss this angle. Gillentine says, “It is a wonderful joy to anticipate being a part of the bride of Christ and participating in the marriage feast with Him and His church.” Why is it such a wonderful thing to anticipate? It is wholly useless as far as man’s salvation is concerned.
Mr. Kirkland had no little trouble explaining about the bride of Christ in our debate. It proved to be most troublesome in the light of his proposition. I asked him if one had to be a part of the bride of Christ to be saved. He answered in the negative. Then I kept asking him to tell us about the marriage feast of Christ and His bride. I asked him if the Baptist Church is the bride of Christ. He said, “Yes,” in so many words. Now since Christ is to marry His bride and His bride is the Baptist Church, and since “He will marry but one church” according to Gillentine, what about those who are not a part of the Baptist Church—which is supposed to be the bride of Christ? Will they be saved? If so, can one be saved and never be married to Christ? What about the Methodists? They are not a “part of the bride of Christ” if the Baptist Church be that bride. Will they be married to Christ? Will they get to enter the marriage feast? If so, on what condition and why? There is not a Baptist preacher that can explain this. Christ will not then marry Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc. He will only “marry one church” and that church is the Baptist Church! Those in these other churches are certainly not members of the Baptist Church, therefore, are no part of the bride of Christ, and will never be married to Him. That is Baptist doctrine for you! Actually Baptists teach that the Baptist Church is the only true church and that they are the only ones right, the only ones who will be married to Christ.
According to Baptist doctrine, if people of all the other churches will be saved, then they will be saved without being a part of the bride of Christ. Only Baptists enjoy this exalted position. Only the Baptists are to be married to Christ as His bride and hold this “most highly honored position.” If any Methodists make it they will only be attendants at the wedding! None can enjoy the place of dignity of the Baptists. The Methodists, Presbyterians, and others will not enjoy heaven as fully as the Baptists. Let Mr. J. E. Cobb, a Baptist scholar, tell us about these others. On page 11 of his New Manual For Baptist Churches, he says:
God’s children who, in the gospel age, are misinformed and misguided, and do not unite with the true church, or with a true church, will not be, in some mysterious way, injected into its membership in the coming age. Those who, because of misinformation or misguidance, refuse to become attached to a true church will suffer loss in the age to come. God, in His divine word of truth, has revealed the true way and the true church, but if one allows prejudice, misinformation, or misguidance to keep him out of the true church, God is not responsible, but He will hold the individual responsible for his gullibility.
Thus, we can see that Mr. Cobb holds out some small hope for those of God’s children who are not in the Baptist Church, but says that they will not be “in some mysterious way injected into its membership in the coming age.” Hence they can never be a part of the bride of Christ and share with the Baptists all the exalted privileges and blessings thereof. “God’s children” in all these other churches are “misinformed and misguided,” and because they are not members of the Baptist Church they “will suffer loss.” They will have to suffer for their “gullibility.” They will only have a second-rate salvation and not a real first-class salvation like the Baptists! In other words, one can be saved out of the Baptist Church and make it to heaven, but his salvation is not as full and complete as it would have been had he been a member of the. Baptist Church—the bride of Christ, and thus been able to participate in the marriage feast. Only by being in the Baptist Church can one really enjoy the fullness of heaven and eternal glory. That is Baptist doctrine.
After all then, according to these Baptists, it is important that one be in the church— the Baptist church at that—if one really expects to share fully in the joy of heaven. The Baptist Church is “the true church,” and one must be in it to fully enjoy heaven. All the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others, are “misinformed and misguided” and “gullible.” They are members of false churches. They have allowed “prejudice, misinformation, or misguidance” to keep them out of the true church. But the Baptists will be generous to them. They will let all the others come in, but they cannot participate in the marriage feast as a part of the bride of Christ, and they will all “suffer loss.” They will have only a second-rate salvation and not be able to as completely and fully enjoy heaven as the Baptists.
Such is the inconsistency and the absurdity of this man-made theology as taught by the Baptists. People need to learn the truth about such.