Saturday, October 11, 2014

Historic Baptist Teaching on Church Membership - Regeneration, Evidence of salvation, Baptism, Walk must match the talk

Acts 2:42 "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls."

Introduction & review:
For the past several days we have labored in understanding the historic Baptist teaching on who are consider to be members of the local church. We have been examining the conditions of church membership as spelled out by Edward T. Hiscox's classic treatment: "The New Directory for Baptist Churches". As mentioned before, this writer finds the Biblical teaching of regenerate church membership a very significant teaching in understanding the nature of the local church. We've looked so far at the following conditions spelled out by Hiscox:

1. A regenerate heart. 
2. A confession of faith.
3. Believer's Baptism 

Today's post deals with the final condition of their being agreement between the first three conditions and one's public lifestyle in the community or what Hiscox calls: "Christian deportment". That is to say, "your walk needs to match with your talk."

Excerpts from Edward T. Hiscox's "New Directory for Baptist Churches" on the subject of regenerate church membership

A Christian deportment (walk matching with your talk). 

"This condition must appear manifest. The first act of Christian obedience after conversion, is, naturally, baptism. In most cases, in primitive times, it followed immediately after an exercise of saving faith. " They believed and were baptized." There was, consequently, little or no opportunity to test the sincerity of their profession, or prove the genuineness of their conversion by a well-ordered life and godly conversation. With us it is usually somewhat different; for while no specified time is required for probation, or proof of sincerity, some time usually does, and prudently should, elapse after a profession of faith, before Church membership is consummated. 

Union with the Church usually follows baptism immediately, but baptism does not usually follow conversion immediately, as it might lawfully do. But whatever time and opportunity there may be for observing the spirit and conduct of professed converts, that spirit and conduct should be found in harmony with the professed change of heart. 

If they still choose their old companions, find pleasure in their old pursuits of worldliness, are captivated with the vanities and frivolities of life, to say no more, who could believe that any vital and radical change by grace had passed upon the soul .'' 

And if that be not apparent, how can they be fit members for the Church of God ? An external Christian life must corroborate the profession of an internal Christian faith. This apostolic injunction must, to a good degree, be made manifest to all in every professed disciple. " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." — Col. 3:1,2. 

No amount of attestation can make the world believe that he is a Christian whose conduct does not correspond to his profession. And if there cannot be a good degree of conformity between the professed and the practical, persons had better remain out of the Church than to enter it. Positively so, if there be a manifest disparity and contradiction between the two."

Closing thoughts
Well that concludes our study on the historic Baptist teaching on church membership. I hope and pray this has proved illuminating to some readers. For this author, reading what former generations have written on a particular subject aids greatly in fortifying one's faith and committment to the Lord. We close by defining what we have learned with regards to the conditions necessary for membership in the local church:
1. A regenerate heart. 
2. A confession of faith.
3. Believer's Baptism 
4. A Christian Deportment (one's walk matching with their talk)