Many of us, if suddenly asked, "Why are you a Primitive Baptist?" would perhaps be at a loss as to how to give an intelligent answer.
How many of us could answer in such a way that others could see the real beauties of that hope?
The more I study on this matter the more I am convinced that I cannot frame words to describe that hope as it should be told.
There are many reasons why people ask questions, but I think any time a person asks sincerely, with a desire for the truth, that we should certainly give it the best we have.
Why am I a Primitive Baptist? Do I really know? Yes, I think I do.
As I look back over my family history, I can see many of my forebearers were strong Primitive Baptists -- in fact, leaders in the Primitive Baptist Cause, and many of them took an active part in the interest and defense of the Primitive Baptist Church, its doctrine and all of its tenets.
My grandfather, W. H. Richards, was a great leader in the church. Many years before his death, he told me he had baptized nearly 2000 people, helped to ordain about a hundred ministers and many deacons and was in the organization of quite a few churches.
He had declared the truth from almost every hamlet and village in Texas and in many other states. He was also at one time the editor of one of the church papers, the Glad Tidings. I think he was worthy of me following in his footsteps, if indeed such things should lead one to the church.
My father was also a minister of this cause -- preaching the gospel in many states, wherever he felt Providence directed him, and he was considered by many as one of the better defenders of the doctrine. He met some of the most able representatives of the opposition and publicly put the Primitive Baptist doctrine up beside theirs for all to compare. Also two of his brothers are able ministers of the same doctrine.
Maternally, I have equally as rich a heritage. My great grandfather Short was a Primitive Baptist who could be classed only as the "very elect." I have fond memory of him, and many of his writings from the church papers. Also, I have an old church history that bears his name as the original owner.
My grandfather Short was a great Primitive Baptist for more than half a century. He was a deacon of reputation and also a great lover of music. He spent much of his life in singing gospel songs and had conducted singing schools to teach others how to sing better. A few days before he drew his last breath, our two small children stood at the foot of his bed and sang "Whiter than Snow" in their childish voices. When they had finished, some one in the room said "that was beautiful". Then he spoke up quickly in his feeble but firm voice and said "It was the truth too."
My first trip, when only a few days old, was to church at the church at Rule, which will soon be observing its golden anniversary. 1 can remember back when I was a child, sitting around the fire at night, falling asleep on a bench listening to my father and some visiting brethren discuss the fine points of doctrine. This was a regular and accepted practice in our home.
To bring the family ties on down a little closer, I married into a Primitive Baptist family; my wife’s father is a deacon in the Church; all 13 children are Primitive Baptists; most of the sons-in-law and daughters-in-law are members. Some of the sons and sons-in-law are ministers and deacons, as now, are some of the grand sons.
That is quite a Primitive Baptist background. If a person wants to be one to "follow the tide" and to follow in ancestral footsteps, then I have good cause for being a Primitive Baptist.
And some times people will tell us, that the reason we hold to this faith is that we are just following father and mother.
Are these the real reasons? If they are, I don’t have very much to base my hope on. Because father might have been a great man, that is no merit for us. I read that cursed is man that trusteth in man and makes flesh his arm. Now if I were trusting my hope in man and letting some one else make my decisions, I don’t know where I could go for a better example and better instruction, but if I really know myself, these are not the reasons of my hope, nor the real reason why I am a Primitive Baptist.
I will tell you this, they are one of the reasons why I am happy to be a Primitive Baptist and they further confirm my conviction in the thought that truly ours is the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, while I am asking myself this question, will you who are reading this ask yourself the same question? Why are you what you are? Why are you, denominationally, and religiously what you are? By doing this maybe we can both come to a logical conclusion.
Did I become a Primitive Baptist because mother and dad were such? Was it in quest of popularity or to make a great name for myself? Was it because this church is more popular than the others? Was it because it has the nicest church buildings, or the largest membership rolls?
No. This is not the answer to my question. Is it the answer to yours?
The Primitive Baptist Church is not popular, as popularity goes. It has no standing in society; and you will never make a great name among men for your activities in this church.
So, when you see people walking down the aisle and taking the preacher by the hand and making the request, "I want to be a member of the Primitive Baptist Church," you may be sure that person has, other motives than the ones mentioned above. But what are they?
In the 42nd verse of the 2nd chapter of Acts we read of the disciples: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." <
I know of no other group that contends for the apostolic doctrine as do the Primitive Baptists, and they do it steadfastly. I know of no other group of people or ecclesiastical body that has such great fellowship as they. Nor do I know of any group of people that prayer means so much to them as do the people we call Primitive Baptists.
Then why am I a Primitive Baptist? Let me tell you plainly and simply in words that are easy to understand: Because I want to be. It supplies me with those things that I want and expect from the church. It affords me the type of place and environment that I desire to use to worship my Lord and God, or such is my hope and my trust.
Because I want to -- this may seem to you like not much of a reason, but to me it is the greatest reason there is. If we understand the true principles of cause and effect, if we understand the true principles that Christ taught -- make the tree good and the fruit will be good -- then we can understand that the person who really wants to he a Primitive Baptist has a desire prompted by the spiritual values that he or she sees in the church.
Some churches attract, people into their ranks by many methods -- they have a nice place in society, they are popular in the community, and some may offer you a chance "to help Christ save sinners." Then there might be some who just plain score people into their churches.
But none of these means are available in the Primitive Baptist Church. It is not a popular group. In fact, people will sometimes make fun of you and call you a Hardshell. The Primitive Baptists don’t have many nice buildings, and usually they don’t have the largest membership in the community either.
When our daughter was about 6 years old, she came to her mother crying. She wanted to join the church. When her mother pressed her for a reason, the only one she had was because she wanted to. The next day, she walked down the isle and gave her grandfather her hand. When he asked her why she wanted to join the church she told him because she loved them. And as he picked her up in his arms and carried her into the water and baptized her, then picked her up and carried her back out of the water and handed her to her waiting mother who stood nearby in tears, he had a happy expression on his face he had not had before.
The Primitive Baptist Church is a very peculiar group of people. Those who are not acquainted with them don’t know quite how to accept them. They do not have the rigid, minutely planned and rehearsed form of worship. There are not any of the professional touches you see in some of the churches you enter. There is no organized choir, and more than likely the minister is not a college man. He does not speak from a studied, carefully prepared script. He enters the pulpit with nothing in hand except the Bible. He is usually armed with a very good knowledge of the Bible, having probably spent many hours, days and years of tedious study and a trust in the Lord to direct his mind in a fruitful channel, and a message for the people. And the people are not usually disappointed.
This all may seem like a lot of rambling, but I am getting down to this one point -- the one great, strong and abiding principle of the Primitive Baptist Church is a strong faith in God and heartfelt religion.
For the person who has strong faith in God, and one who really and truly believes in heartfelt religion, there is no organization in the world or this side of heaven like the Primitive Baptist Church. This I believe with all my heart.
A few years ago, a girl of our acquaintance married a boy of another denomination who knew absolutely nothing about the Primitive Baptists. He began going to church with her and gradually became interested and before long he became a member. Later he told some of his folks, "I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t love it that understand it."
The wonderful spirit of love and fellowship I find in the Primitive Baptist Church is something that is not seen anywhere else. As the services break up, you do not see the usual scramble to get out and get gone; but the people want to stand around and visit, have fellowship one with another, and just rub shoulders together. They have a feeling toward each other that no one else feels. Other people just cannot understand this strong tie that exists between them. When two men take each other by the hand and call each other Brother, something passes between them that cannot be felt in many of the churches of the day.
If I were out today away from home and needed help; if I found myself in Modesto, California; Hopewell, New Jersey; Syracuse, Kansas; or Hogansville, Georgia, I could go into a Primitive Baptist home, take them by the hand and call them Brother and Sister, and would immediately receive the best hospitality that that home could afford. This is a truth that has been proven so many times, and I would stake my life on it.
One of the deacons of our church lives in a nearby community, and his community and our community were having a basketball game there. My son and his son are both members of the respective teams, and he and I were watching these games a few nights ago. In the recess between the boys' and girls' games we went into the school dining room adjoining the gymnasium and were drinking coffee together, and we got into a discussion of a Bible subject in which we were interested. Suddenly, he grinned a little, looked around at the seething crowd around us, who were laughing and joking, and then said to me: "We are probably the only people here tonight who are talking about the Bible."
Primitive Baptists are not only people of sincerity, but they are people of honesty and integrity. If they tell you a thing, you can count on it being that way. Any person who is a Primitive Baptist, I would loan him anything I had and not even ask him to sign for it. This is a matter of principle. A person who is not just that honest does not deserve to wear the name Primitive Baptist.
Other people will make fun of you, and persecute you in a church way, but you will find, if you look around, that the person who wears the name of Primitive Baptist usually wears the name of a good person in the community; maybe not for being a person of wealth and position, but honored for integrity and honesty, and a good name for things in the community that are morally sound and decent.
If it is any other way, it is not like it should be.
These are some of the sentimental feelings I have toward the Primitive Baptists. Later, I want to go into other reasons, deep and abiding, in the doctrine and practices of the Primitive Baptists.
Why do I love them? Simply because they are the greatest people on earth and closest to heaven.
I find the Primitive Baptists are the ones who really and truly believe this same thing, and harmonize all the principles and doctrines to this one major theme. This, among other things, is why I am a Primitive Baptist.
All other people, regardless of the name of their denomination, claim, and I am sure in heart they do believe in this kind of God, yet when it is all boiled down to its essence, their general practices and their tenets of doctrines many times deny the power of God and the divine attributes of God.
We read in Isaiah 59:1 that "the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear." In Psalms 89:11-13, we read: "The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine, as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them. The north and the south thou has created them. ... Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand."
Also, the inspired writer said in Psalms 89:26: "Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation."
In Daniel 4:35, we read, "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will, in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, `What doest thou?'"
In Deuteronomy 32:4, we are told: "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without inequity, just and right is He."
In Hebrews 4:15, we read: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
In Romans 8:34, we read, "Who is he that condemneth? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?"
And in Romans 8:35-39, we read: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth; nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We could quote column after column of such citations declaring the sovereignty of God, hut this should suffice. You can look the world over, check the thousands of people meeting and worshiping the name of the Lord, and I know you will find that none do so with reverence as do the Primitive Baptists.
There are those who claim to believe in a sovereign God with an arm that can save, but will use such terms as: "Give God a chance." or "God has done all He can do until you act." Do such statements declare a sovereign God, that we see described in the Bible?
Do you believe in an all powerful God? Do you believe in a God that knows all things? Do you believe in a God that always does His will?
Do you want to be associated with a group of people who believe these same things? Do you want to worship in a church that requires all its principles, all its doctrines and all its practices to always harmonize with this line of reasoning?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then you are a Primitive Baptist at heart. You believe like Primitive Baptists, and I think you will find that the Primitive Baptist Church of Christ is the only organization on earth that fits this pattern. This is a broad statement, but it is true. If you know of any other organization or group of people that always recognizes the sovereignty of God in all its actions and tenets, then I would like to know about it. I know no other such group.
Primitive Baptists read in the Bible that God can and will save. We take it and believe it, period. We don’t add any if, or ands. We don’t contradict the Scriptures by saying that we believe in a sovereign God, and then advocate in our daily worship that His powers of salvation are limited. I like to think of the Church as a place to worship God, a place to ascribe honor and praise and glory unto God. I want to be a member of a church that worships a strong and mighty God, and recognizes the weakness of mankind.
That is what I like about the Primitive Baptist Church. There, God is on a pedestal, and man is recognized as having no good, no power, and worthy of no honor, except what God has given
If you want to worship in the church set up by Jesus Christ Himself, and one who recognizes Him as their Head and Lawgiver, their power and their strength; a church that is not trying to help God, but praying God to help them, then you want to be a Primitive Baptist.
Then, if we want to be connected with Christ’s Church, it would doubtless help us to know as much about that Church as possible -- its origin, how it had its beginning, and such things. If we knew about this, we could make a more intelligent decision as to what church we want to be a part of.
About these things we are not left to guess, for the Bible gives us a complete record; all we need do is turn and read about them. I only wish I knew more about this book.
The gospel church of Christ did not exist in the early dispensations of time, but we find all the ancient Israelites anxiously looking forward to it. It was their constant hope, and many were enabled by the power of God to look into the future and see it. Such men have been termed aprophets.
All the prophets were pointing forward to the new era, to the coming of Christ the Messiah, and the gospel age.
In the Old Testament, we have many, many types of the gospel age, that have great meaning, when we look at them at the right angle.
We have King Solomon’s Temple, perhaps the most expensive building ever erected on the earth. It is certainly a. type of the church -- with its specially prepared material; all the building laid with pure gold, nothing but the finest; the Temple being built in the name of the Lord; the mercy seat occupying a very prominent place in the temple. All of these point to some precious value we may expect to find in the gospel church.
Also we find where some people once attempted to erect a huge building, not in the name of the Lord -- the tower of Babel. They said: "Let us make a name for ourselves." And they wanted to run the building right into heaven.
Instead of specially prepared material, selected stones, etc. they used brick (man-made stone) and they put them together with slime -- not much of a comparison to King Solomon’s Temple.
God was displeased with this plan, so He confused the language of the people, and their great dreams of a building of their own making that would reach heaven soon came to naught, and the great idea of making a name for themselves did not materialize.
Can you see in this a type of the institutions of the world, trying to use their so-called churches as a medium by which to climb into heaven? Can you see the brick they use (souls they claim to save) and the slime they use for mortar (the righteousness of men). Man’s righteousness, according to Isaiah 64:6 "are as filthy rags." And can you see the confusion of tongues? Some say work this way, others say work that way, but like the builders of the tower of Babel they all say work your way up to heaven.
We see, in some respects a type of the church in Noah’s ark, as those who listened to the warning and sought the protection of the ark during those days were saved from the ravages of the flood. Even those today who listen to the gospel and seek the shelter of the church are saved from many of the evils that could engulf them.
As the children of Israel in the wilderness were fed manna from heaven literally, so we see a spiritual type of this. God’s people in the church being fed with the gospel coming down with inspiration from heaven and feeding them with spiritual food.
What did the prophets say about the Church? Daniel 2:44 said, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever." The foregoing prophecy proves that God has a kingdom in this world and that He Himself set it up and that no people or force on earth will ever be able to destroy, tear down, bring to an end, or for that matter to inherit it.
We know that God has but one institution in the world, so then we may be sure that the Kingdom of Heaven; the Kingdom of God and the Church of God are one and the same; otherwise God has more than one body. This can not be true. We know that Daniel did not mean that God would set it up at the end of time because he said it would stand forever reckoning with all timely opposition and proclaiming that it would exist in time. Daniel placed it in the future from his day, but placed it in time.
Now, let’s confer with another prophet. Micah 4:1: "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains and it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it."
Isaiah used almost these same words in 2:2.
We can very clearly see that Daniel. Micah and Isaiah all are looking for and prophesying of the same thing, the establishment of the Kingdom of God which is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The House of the Lord is the Church. He was to establish it in the last days.
Mountains and hills primarily mean high places, and that is just what is meant in thin place and not literal mountains. It does mean that the church is to be the very highest institution in the world. All fraternal orders, all institutions of men, or hills, are far below the Church or the mountain of the house of the Lord. Micah is telling us that none of the hills reach the height of the Lord’s house. It supercedes them all.
Every type and shadow of the ceremonial law directed the worshipers to the Coming Day. The people were seeking a city that had foundations whose builder and maker was God. The true worshipers were ever looking for the coming of the Lord.
In Malachi 3:1, the final prophet of the Old Testament spoke to his people as the mouth of the Lord in this manner: "Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple."
Paul said that the Church is the Temple of the Lord and Isaiah said the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains and that all nations shall flow unto it.
What about this messenger we have mentioned? Matthew 3:1-3 quoted from Isaiah in this manner: "In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying 'Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.' For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias saying, 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.'"
Let’s have more about this messenger. He was to go before the face of the Lord when He should come to His temple. If we can see that John did this, then we can be able to determine when the church was set up.
Mark 1:1-5. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in the prophets, behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before me. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord , make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the River of Jordan, confessing their sins."
We have established the fact that John was the messenger of the Lord. So the logical conclusion is that the Lord "suddenly came to his temple" when Jesus appeared on the banks of Jordan. There we find a band of worshipers where they had met for baptism. John had taught them that Jesus was coming and they were expecting Him. When the midnight cry was sounded (Matthew 25:6), "Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him," those faithful, humble, obedient ones that were there on the banks of Jordan with John had their lights shining brightly and were ready for Him.
When those good people were there at Jordan listening to John -- that ancient Primitive Baptist -- preach, Jesus suddenly appeared, just like the prophets had predicted that He would do. Here the Lord suddenly came to His temple. John the Baptist felt unworthy but was persuaded of the Lord to do so (Matthew 3:14-15).
When John baptized Jesus in the waters of Jordan, here the marriage ceremony took place; then and there the Church was set up. He set the apostles in it first, by calling them to him and ordaining them. How could he have set them in something that did not exist?
In Luke 16:16, we read: "The law and the prophets were until John, since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it." Notice he didn’t say since the day of Pentecost.
In certain cases people were told under certain conditions, and about certain things to "tell it to the church" (Matthew 18:17). How could they have done this if there had been no Church?
So, we can see that the real Church, the true Church of Jesus Christ, had its origin during the life of Christ here on earth. Any organization that has its origin this side of Christ’s personal ministry is too late and too young to be the true Church of Christ.
We know that Christ did set up His Church. We have all confidence and all faith that it is still standing and that it will continue to stand; it will never be destroyed. So then, what we would all like to do is to determine to our own satisfaction, where the true Church of Jesus Christ is today, and how it may be identified.
The law was not fully completed until Christ died on the cross. And the church was not fully extended into all the world until after the apostles had completed their commission of preaching the gospel in all of the world.
But our contention is that those devout Jews who had heeded John’s preaching, and were ready there on the banks of the River Jordan as Christ the bridegroom approached, had everything they needed.
There, the marriage ceremony was performed. The Bride and the Bridegroom were joined. As John baptized Jesus, the Holy Ghost descended in the bodily form of a dove and we have this expression being proclaimed by divine inspiration: "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased! The charge that if the church existed at this time it was without the Spirit does not reckon with this scripture.
In the fifth chapter of Galatians, we read that faith is a fruit of the Spirit. As early as Abel’s day, we find faith. Certainly if the fruit were there, also there was the fruit-bearing tree, the Spirit.
So to say there was no Spirit before the day of Pentecost is to say there were none of the fruits of the spirit -- no love, no joy, no peace, no long- suffering, no gentleness, no goodness or meekness and no temperance. None of these fruits of the spirit would exist.
If the Holy Spirit did not bear its fruit before Christ’s resurrection, then none of these fruits was borne, even in Christ’s personal ministry. I hate to even think of this kind of a situation. It is completely foreign to all of the principles of Christianity.
Now, this is the dilemma that a person finds himself in who says they did not have the Holy Spirit in the days of John the Baptist.
Also Christ, during His personal ministry, set the apostles IN the Church. How could He have set them in something that didn’t exist? This I cannot understand.
Also, the objection has been raised that the gospel ministers could not preach Christ’s death burial and resurrection until after it had happened. This argument is very weak.
The old prophets had been preaching this thing for many hundreds of years, and they spoke with just as much authority on the matter as does a gospel minister today. The blood of Christ will flow backward, uphill, toward, and embrace all the old early day patriots and cleanse them just as effectively as it will reach those immediately after his death.
To say that the church did not exit before Pentecost, because the blood was not actually shed, and they did not have the Holy Spirit, is to say that all those who lived and died before Pentecost will not receive the benefits of His death, burial and resurrection.
The gospel church in John’s day and in the early days of the disciples was alone for the Jews, that is true. As the disciples first went out, they were instructed not to go to the Gentiles and the Samaritans, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And then at Pentecost they received the power to preach the gospel in all the world. The gulf between the Jew and Gentile, the middle wall or partition was taken down, and beginning there the Gentiles had the gospel and the church extended to them.
The Apostles, at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, were given the power from on high, and they completed this commission themselves. Romans 10:18.
So long as the apostles were under the commission, no man could take their lives. They went through the wilderness and the jungles with immunity to the poison of the reptiles, etc. No harm came to them. But after they completed the mission, they no longer had this power. Most of them died violent deaths at the hands of wicked men. This, God would not have suffered to happen so long as they were under the commission.
Gospel men are not under that commission today. They are not commanded today to go into all of the world. God calls and qualifies a man to preach, and the Holy Ghost sets a place for him to work. Acts 20:28 shows that God works on both ends of the line. The Holy Ghost impresses the preacher to preach, and he also impresses the people. This is the "from faith to faith" we read about.
Every man has a field to work in, and if he studies and prays and follows the impressions given him by the Holy Spirit he will find that field. No man today is under the apostolic commission.
Let me give you two witnesses to prove this. While the apostles were under the commission, the Holy Ghost was interpreter for them. This broke the language harrier, and they could speak in their own tongues, and the people could hear them in their own native tongues. Any man today who is under the apostolic commission could do likewise. So then any man today who wants to prove his commission, just let him give such a performance. Let him preach in his own tongue of English, and let him have a congregation of other nationalities -- say French, German and Spanish. If these other people can hear him in their native tongues, as they did the apostles. then he has made a good beginning, but otherwise we know he has not been given the work placed upon the apostles.
Also it was said of the apostles that no deadly thing would harm them. This is not true today. We are all subject to death, unlike the apostles during the time they were fulfilling the commission. That this was not true later proves they finished their work.
The gospel church was pointed out by the prophets of old. They told when, where, how, why and by whom it should have its beginning. They also predicted that it would never be destroyed, but would stand forever.
If divine authority means any thing to us, and certainly it does, then we know this church is now in existence. And if we want to be a part of the true church, we must find it.
About this we are not left to guess. We find it described in pinpoint detail.
If you remember, earlier, I quoted from the second chapter of Acts, referring to the church, "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayers.’’
I think we may logically include that when we find the true church, we will find a group that is doing this very thing. Don’t you think so?
Let’s examine first, the apostles' doctrine and see what it was, and then see who is holding to that doctrine today! That is a sure way to find it.
The Apostle Paul preached the doctrine of special choice, predestination, effectual calling, justification and glorification as recorded in the 8th chapter of Romans. This, no one can deny.
Let’s look at Paul’s doctrine and see what he is teaching us.
Paul says that all things work together for good to them who are called, according to the purpose of God. And He says that those "whom God foreknew, He predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son." And then He adds, in a direct link, "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
This is Paul’s doctrine. How does it look? We hear a lot of criticism about the doctrine of predestination, but this criticism is based on a false premise. Men have twisted this wonderful doctrine and come up with something ugly. The criticism is based on the ugly picture, rather than the predestination that the eminent apostle tells us about.
Read this over and over again and you get only one thing from it. God predestinated some people to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Now, try as hard as I can, I just cannot see any thing bad or ugly or undesirable about God desiring and determining to make people in the image of Jesus. Can you see anything bad or wrong about that? That is the sum and substance of predestination? But how wonderful it is!
Remember, Paul said all things work together for good to them who love the Lord. ... To those He predestinated to be conformed to the image of Jesus ... and then he tells us what these things are: choice, calling, justification and glorification.
He asked the question, "How shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
Here are the all things that work together for our good: everything that God freely gives us in Christ. Everything that is necessary to lift one whom God loved, from the depths of depravity to the heights of heaven ‘and immortal glory and to be made to look like Jesus, all tied together in one unbreakable link, all supported by the divine attributes of God. They are all working together, and that for our good. God has purposed that it be this way, and He is faithful to keep His promise.
It seems to me that Paul had an idea there would be critics, because he changes from his positive declarations and begins to ask questions, and those questions are today just as unanswered as they were the day he uttered them.
Paul asked: "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
There has been quite a lot said about these things in the years since Paul delivered this historical sermon, but none has come along who could successfully be against a person if God were for him. There are many places in the Bible that record instances of where Satanic powers tried to be against a person that God was for, but all their opposition proved to be fruitless. The greatest consolation a person could have in this world would be to know that God was for him.
In our daily lives, in politics (and we sometimes get politics into church matters), that is an oft asked question "Who are you for?" or "Who is for you?’ But the best of all would be to have Jesus for you. Paul thought so any way. He asked that question, "if God be for us, who can be against us?"
That’s only one of Paul’s unanswered questions. Here is another. "He that spared not his own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Jesus was delivered to the crucifiers "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." God suffered him to be cruelly tormented and tortured, and executed like a criminal, that his hatred of sin might be avenged, and that his justice might be satisfied, and then raised him up for our glorification. This Paul reminded the brethren, and then asked another question: "How shall He not with Jesus freely give us all these things?" This question, too, is unanswered.
If God would give His only begotten Son Jesus as a propitiation for sin, allow Him who knew no sin to become as a criminal, and die a shameful death, and then by His mighty power raise Him up from the dead, carry him back to heaven, holy ‘and pure, who can say that He will not also do this for us?
He then asks this question: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect ... who is he that condemneth?" And to make the question even harder to answer He said: "It is God that justifieth; it is Christ that died, yea that is risen who is even at the right hand of God who also maketh intercession for us."
Dying, being resurrected, and going back to heaven did not complete the work of Jesus in behalf of those He loved. No. But He is now in heaven at the right hand of God, making intercessions for us! What a wonderful thought.
So, do you suppose anyone can lay anything to the charge of the ones He loved? Do you suppose some one can condemn them? God is the judge on the celestial throne, and Jesus is there at his side always pleading our cause. Do you suppose God will hear Jesus? I am of the opinion that He will. I remember upon one occasion He said: "Ask, and I will give to you."
Paul already has his point clinched, but for good measure, he gives us another question: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Not tribulations, nor distress; not persecution, or famine, nakedness or sword! No none of these, because through Christ who loved us, we are conquerors over all of these!"
Well, then, what can separate us from the love of Christ? You can go to unmountable heights, or to unfathomable depths, but still God’s love is with you. There is not a principle nor power, nothing with enough life, nor the cold jaws of death, no, not even angels can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
There is no creature able to do it.
This is the doctrine of one of the apostles: and all the others agree with him. These are some of the principles which the church continued in. And when we find the church today, we will find it contending for these same principles.
Where do you find the doctrine of election and predestination preached today? Where do you find the doctrines of effectual calling, and final preservation of all of God’s people preached?
You will find these wonderful doctrines at one place, the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, known as the Primitive Baptists.
Read the eighth chapter of Romans, all of it, run the references and get what the other apostles said about these same things? Read and study them carefully. See what you think about it.
I think if you will forget what you have been taught, preconceived ideas, and read this and study it with an open mind, you will be affected like the Gentiles were who had the gospel preached to them as recorded in Acts 13:48: "They were glad, and glorified the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Why am I a Primitive Baptist? Because I, like others, believe what Paul and the other Apostles preached.
Let’s examine Primitive Baptist doctrine some more, and see just how much it misses the mark of being Apostolic!
Some of the Primitive Baptist principles, which we call fundamental are these, that God made man; he made him a good man, and gave him a law to keep; promising him blessings if he kept the law, and punishment-- death -- if he violated that law.
Primitive Baptists further believe, and teach, that the first man violated God’s law, and death followed -- not only for the first man, but that death was passed upon all men as a result of his transgression.
Then, Primitive Baptists firmly believe that only Christ has the power to remove the guilt of sin, to bring man from under that death, and cleanse him from his sin. We believe that all the obedience required to remove the guilt of sin was performed by Christ, that he alone can satisfy the demands of the law, insofar as cleansing man from the guilt of original sin.
Primitive Baptists believe that all who shall ever live in heaven immortal with God and the holy angels will enjoy this endless bliss, wholly on the merits of what Christ has or will do for them, and not on the merits of what they can or will do on their own behalf.
But it all boils down to this, the Bible amply proves the Primitive Baptist position.
Now, keeping the above principles or tenets in mind, lets go to the Word of God, written or inspired word, the Bible and see how far, or near, we are to the pattern.
In the first chapter of Genesis, in the story of the creation, we read about the origin of man, etc., and also of his fall.
The Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12 has this to say: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Could you ask for more confirmation of the Primitive Baptist doctrine than is given here? It just states our position in so many words, and needs no elaboration whatever! How could anything be any simpler?
Now, let’s read in the same chapter, verses 19 and 20: "By the obedience of ONE shall many be made righteous. ... Where sin abounded, GRACE did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might GRACE reign through righteousness unto eternal life by JESUS CHRIST."
This Scripture rules out man’s obedience as a means of obtaining righteousness unto eternal life. It says by the obedience of ONE -- not of many, but of one -- and that one is Jesus Christ. The Primitive Baptists are right in harmony with the Apostles on this point too.
Hebrews 10:14: "For by ONE offering HE (Christ) hath perfected forever them that are sanctified."
Not sanctified and perfected by many individual offerings, and not continual offering, over and over to keep oneself perfect, but it was done by ONE offering, and what Christ did in that one offering, which He made to God, the work was done forever.
Christ has only been offered one time and that was to God. He was never offered to the sinner.
In Heb. 9:12 we read, "By HIS OWN blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
We don’t obtain our redemption, but Christ obtained it for us with His own precious blood.
Romans 8:2: "The law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
We were under the law of sin and death. All, through the first man, passed under sin and death. But Christ, by His one offering of His precious blood, took the guilt of that sin upon himself, for all those the Father gave Him, and placed them under the law of Christ.
When Christ removed the guilt of sins of his people from them, and took that guilt upon Himself, they are no more under sin and death. They are free from it.
Primitive Baptists say man is not required to perform works of righteousness to obtain this cleansing, or removing of the guilt of sin. Do they have Scripture for this position?
In Titus 3:5 we read, "NOT by works of righteousness which WE HAVE done, but according to HIS MERCY He saved us, by the WASHING of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost which HE shed on us ABUNDANTLY through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that being justified by HIS GRACE (not our obedience) we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
These are only a few Scriptures. I don’t want to be tedious; if so, I could give an endless chain of Scriptures that tie in with these to prove our point.
But it all boils down to this, the Bible amply proves the Primitive Baptist contention that all the glory and all the praise for the removal of the guilt of sin belongs to Christ. Man has no credit, and is due none.
Christ met all the demands of the law. Everything that was required to lift man from his poverty and weakness in the depth of depravity, to the glorious heights of heaven and immortal glory, were met by Christ. He lacked nothing. His atonement was complete in every respect.
These glorious truths are held by the Primitive Baptists. That is one of the great things I like about them. That is one of the reasons I am proud to be known as a Primitive Baptist.
What about man’s good works? There is no place in the work of eternal redemption for man’s good works. But, in its right place, man’s good works are very, very important.
Eph. 2:10: "... created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works." The good works are definitely important, but let’s keep them in the proper place and not try to get them in front of being created in Christ Jesus.
You can ask all the different groups of people that claim to be the church and more than likely, no two of them will outline the same procedure.
But what we are particularly interested in here is this, how does the Primitive Baptist position harmonize with the Bible answer? If we give the same answer that is found in the inspired book, then we are on safe ground, but if our position is not substantiated by the Bible, then we need to reexamine our position and find the truth.
The Primitive Baptist answer to the question is that it is impossible for man to do anything to save himself, from his lost position, to become a beneficiary of the blood of Christ.
Insofar as I know, the Primitive Baptists are the only people wearing the name of "church" that will say salvation is completely unconditional on the part of the individual.
Some say salvation is by grace, and that Jesus paid the price, but the sinner must accept Him. Some say Christ obtained eternal redemption, but that we must obtain it from him. And others say that ones obtaining eternal salvation depend on him keeping the letter of the law.
But what we are most interested in is what the truth of the thing is.
First, let’s see how close we are to the teachings of the Bible in our contention that it is impossible for man to save himself. In the 19th chapter of Matthew, we find one asking Jesus this question: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have life eternal?"
Jesus said to him, "If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments." Then he outlined the Ten Commandments to him. But the man replied that he had done this since youth. Then Jesus said to him: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and follow me." But when the man heard this, he turned away sorrowful, for he had great riches.
He proved by his actions that he was not as concerned in doing good as he would have people believe. In fact, he proved that he had just lied to the Saviour. He said he loved his neighbor as himself, yet he turned away when Jesus asked him to sell his great possessions and give to the poor.
If you notice this chapter carefully, Jesus never did tell him how he could "obtain eternal life." He told him how to "enter into life" and how to be "perfect" -- something entirely different than obtaining eternal life.
But these questions led to another question: "Who then can be saved?" And when Jesus answered them, what was the answer? It was: "With men, it is impossible."
Jesus, here, was talking like the Primitive Baptists talk today.
Let's get back to the Old Testament, and get a witness or two. It was said of Job that he was "perfect and upright, and a man that feared God and eschewed evil ."
Yet Job had this to say about making himself clean, in Job 9:30 "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me."
Isaiah said in Isaiah 64:6 that our righteousnesses "are as filthy rags" and described man's inability to better his condition.
We showed earlier that all are under sin brought on them by the first man Adam in his transgression. If man inherits sin, and he does, then he begins life in debt. God demands perfection. There will certainly be no sin in heaven. So if a person lived perfect all his life and never committed a single sin, obeyed all the laws and all the gospel commands, he still could not merit eternal life, because he would still be just a part of a sinful progeny.
So, may we logically conclude that if people ever reach heaven and immortal glory, something must be done for them that they cannot do for themselves?
But thanks be to His holy name, we are not left without this "something" having been provided.
One of the Old Testament writers, Isaiah, said in Isaiah 40:2, "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins."
What is this double, that she has received? It means that Christ has not only cleansed man of his sin, and death, but he has done more than that. That within itself would be a great thing, and something that man could never do for himself. But Jesus also placed his spirit within them, and made them new creatures. To restore one to the sinless state, at the creation, was not and is not enough; he must be made spiritual.
The third chapter of Titus says we are saved by "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here, Paul is saying the same thing, in his words, that Isaiah said -- not only a washing or cleansing from sin, but a renewing, or receiving spiritual life.
Primitive Baptists say this life is given unconditional of any act to be performed by the sinner. He does not even have to lift an eyelash, or to even incline his ear. Can we prove it? If not, then we had better quit saying it!
I have already shown that this is true; all the Apostles plainly taught that salvation is a free gift from God. Now, let us approach it from another angle: Jesus Christ and all the apostles and inspired writers not only taught that salvation is free and unconditional, but the very terms they used in describing the "salvation process" are words that will not accept conditions.
In the second chapter of Ephesians, we read where Paul described salvation as a "creation." Certainly no one would contend that a thing must perform any condition or act in any way in order to he created. The object is completely passive and under complete action of the subject in the case of creation. Would any student or instructor of grammar say otherwise? I am sure not.
In Col. 1:13 the act of salvation -- of being taken out of darkness into light, of redemption through the blood of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins -- is called a translation.
Once again, we see the ruling out of any conditions to be performed by the object. We are all acquainted with the process of translation. We know how a paper is translated from one language to another. That which is being translated is completely passive, and certainly no translator would expect any action on the part of the object.
Back in the 17th century, when our Bible was translated into the English language, did those learned scholars make any requirements or accept any action from the manuscript? The answer is so apparently no, that the question looks foolish.
Salvation in some of its aspects is referred to as an "adoption." Once again, we meet the some thought: is there ever any condition placed on the child in an adoption case? You may ask the most learned and experienced legal mind on the subject of adoption, and he will tell you that all the action and all the conditions are performed by the courts and the adopters, and none is asked or expected of the subject of adoption.
There are many other terms used in describing salvation a birth, a resurrection, a quickening, and others. None of these words accepts conditions.
So, in the light of all this I draw this conclusion: all the inspired writers taught that salvation -- or the cleansing from the guilt of sin, and the receiving of spiritual life, or being prepared to live in heaven, a place free from sin, a place that is spiritual -- comes as a free gift from God. They taught that salvation is a free gift of God's unmerited grace and favor.
And I feel certain and positive that I have not misunderstood them because, as stated above, they used terms that cannot be misunderstood. If they intended to teach that eternal salvation was conditional on the part of the sinner, please tell me why every term used describing it makes the object completely passive? The burden of proof for the conditionalist lies with him to explain away these terms. As of this date, it has never been done, to my knowledge.
So, again we come to another conclusion. When Primitive Baptists take the position that man receives eternal salvation unconditional of any action to be made by him, we simply agree with Jesus Christ and all the inspired writers.
When we say that it is impossible for man to save himself, we are only echoing what Jesus said: "With man, this is impossible."
And, further, Primitive Baptists agree with Jesus when He said right with this, "With God all things are possible."
Just as long as I can go to the Bible and find Primitive Baptist principles freely and abundantly taught in its pages, I am going to steadfastly contend with those wonderful principles.
I am happy to be numbered with an organization and a group of people that have the inspired word of God to substantiate their contention. How about you?
One gospel minister, in admonishing another minister, advised him this way, "Study ... rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim: 2:15)
If we are to get to the truth that is conveyed in the Bible, we must rightly divide it, and apply it as it should be.
In Matthew 19:26, in answer to the question, "Who then can he saved? Jesus' reply was, "With men this is impossible."
Yet in another place, Paul tells people how to save themselves. So, unless we rightly divide and apply these truths, we make the Bible a contradiction and that encourages infidelity.
The Primitive Baptist doctrine harmonizes the Scriptures. The word save and the word salvation always refer to deliverance in some form and the Primitive Baptists delve into theology and come up with the real harmony in the Scriptures.
We use words to convey ideas, and no words are used in the Bible just to take up space. Each one carries its own load. Some times we have words and entire phrases that are used to limit or to extend other words.
All of this brings us to the conclusion that if we want to get the true meaning of words, we must notice carefully the context in which they are used and notice the other things that are used with them to limit their meaning.
We know the fundamental meaning of the word save or salvation in theology is the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and the liability to eternal death.
We also know and have previously shown conclusively that Jesus Christ is the one who supplies this salvation. It is the blood of Christ that redeems from the guilt of sin, whose punishment is eternal death -- 1st Peter 1:18-19: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye ‘were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ."
Yet in the face of this, we read in many places that man can save himself.
So we must search the Scriptures and find the harmony or else we get ourselves into an inescapable dilemma.
To take the position that every time salvation appears it means to remove one from the guilt of sin and from its punishment of eternal death, or to say that every time death or damnation are used means that eternal death decreed by divine justice as punishment by God's holy laws -- to take such a position will make the Bible a complete contradiction and will put the sponsor of such a theory in an untenable position.
Let’s look at the cold facts about such a theory and see where it puts us. Bear in mind that we are exploring the consequences of the theory that salvation always means to escape eternal punishment, or to prepare one for eternal bliss, and that damnation or to be lost or in death always means "eternal punishment for sin."
Those who hold to this idea say that salvation is a reward for good works. They may differ on the extent of the good works, but the fundamental principle is the same -- that salvation is a just reward for works and that if these good works are not performed there is condemnation.
We are told by these people that Noah and his party of eight enjoyed salvation in the ark because they obeyed the command of God. They were righteous and as a reward were saved as payment for their good works; prepared to live with God in glory. Those who refused to heed the admonition died in the flood, eternally damned, lost, and forever banished from the presence of God according to the theory. If this be true, then in heaven we will have all manner of living things, beasts, fowls etc. since they all were saved in the ark with Noah and his group.
Also, if this theory be true, then all of the little children and infants who died in the flood will end up in hell, along with the adults. Pretty sad picture, is it not?
I don’t charge anyone with believing this, but if they will be consistent in their theory, they must embrace this consequence. I think you can see that this is true.
Let’s examine this some more.
In one place God promised that He would save an entire city if he could find ten righteous people therein. Also we hear a minister being charged that by taking heed to himself he could both save himself and others.
This puts salvation on a low level. If the theory in question be true, then one man can obtain salvation for another, and that puts them inconsistent again because each man must answer for his own sins.
Once again if salvation always means the same thing and is a reward for works then we have God acting very strangely again.
We read in Titus 3:3-5 about those who "were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that, the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us."
And then in the face of this, we read in 1 Peter 4:18 about the righteous being scarcely saved.
Where does such a theory put God, in the light of these two scriptures? It puts Him in the position of abundantly saving the desperately wicked without the performing of any good works on the one hand, and on the other hand those who are living righteously in obedience to God being scarcely saved. I don’t know about you, but I am not worshiping such an unfair god -- but this is the kind of god we have if the consequence of the theory in question be true.
Let's look even further.
I don't want to get into the ridiculous, and if this seems such, it is only because the major premise is ridiculous. In 1 Timothy 2:15 we find that the woman "shall be saved in childbearing." If this theory be true that salvation always means the redemption from the guilt of sin, then all the mothers are all right; they are saved without hearing or obeying the gospel -- a salvation unavailable to males or motherless women.
This brings us to the thought that if we are to get the harmony of the scriptures and stay clear of the ridiculous, we must rightly apply the word of God. When we see the word salvation, we must study the words used with it and come up with the lesson conveyed.
This may seem like too much negative thinking, but in order to appreciate the beauties of the truth, I wanted to present the inconsistencies we encounter when we get off on the theories of men.
In Romans 8:2, the Apostle Paul said: "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
We have already shown where all the human race is under the law of sin and death. God demands perfection, and none can meet the demand. So death is pronounced upon all; all are under the law of sin and death in their natural state.
These is the type of people redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. This is the condition Paul was in before the law of the Spirit of life made him free from the law of sin and death.
The law of the spirit of life placed our sins on Christ; it puts the guilt of our sins upon Him, and of course when it does that, then we are freed from the law of sin and death.
It is sin that condemns, and when the law of the spirit of life in Christ charges our sins to Jesus, then they are not charged to us and we are free from the old law.
In Romans 6:18 we read, "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."
An in Eph. 2:10, we read, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Now, we have a new premise to work on. The alien sinner is saved unconditionally by the free grace of God. But this saved person, this person who was once lost, but now has the blood of Christ applied to his heart, is now under law to Christ, and God has ordained that he walk in righteous paths, and obey the laws and the commandments.
All the commandments of the gospel are given to the children of God -- those who have had their hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive commands, those who are not under the sentence of death but are under the law of the spirit of life.
Now, we can go back to Noah and the ark, and get the true lesson. Peter tells us about the salvation that Noah received and says (1 Peter 3:21) "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us." It was a now salvation with Noah and the salvation we get from obeying the gospel salvation and being baptized is a now salvation."
Noah and his family would have lost their natural lives in the deluge of water had they not boarded the ark. This is a figure of the way people lose the joy, peace and happiness of a Christian life today when they turn a cold ear to the preached gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To baptize one does not literally put away his sins. No, it takes the blood of Christ to do this, but one does get the answer of a good conscience. There is no feeling any better than that good conscience one has as he emerges from the act of gospel baptism. He feels he has done what the Lord told him to do, and he is happy.
Now, let's look at the abundant and the scarce salvation and see if we can get the harmony. When Christ saves us, that is an abundant salvation. It is every thing a poor sinner needs to cleanse him of his sins and take him home to glory.
Every child of God is under law to Christ, and is commanded to follow in His steps and His commandments all his life, and if he is to save himself from the torments of a guilty conscience and from the many stripes God has pronounced on those who know and do not, he must always walk in obedience. And if he is always righteous, he has only scarcely saved himself, and the unrighteous miss this salvation.
If a child of God obeys all the commandments all the time, he has only done what he should do, and still has nothing of which to boast.
Primitive Baptists read the scriptures with the desire of getting the harmony taught therein, and they enjoy much comfort that others do not get. When salvation refers to what God does for man, without action on his part, and by the meritorious work of Christ, Primitive Baptists know and realize that it refers to salvation in its highest order, preparing one to live with God in glory after death.
When salvation is mentioned in connection with the acts of men, or man is to perform some action to bring about or secure a better situation for himself, they know it is to the child of God, one freed from the guilt of sin, and refers to a timely deliverance, or something that is for man's benefit while he lives here in the world.
God has promised His people many wonderful blessings as rewards for obedience; and we do not have to die in order to get them, but we realize them from day to day as we travel along.
May we always rely on His promises and serve Him all the days of our life; not trying to work our way into heaven, but in humble appreciation for what He has already done for us.
I cannot see any beauty in holding to an idea, or a way of life or religion, that requires you to ignore certain scriptures, or to throw one scripture in conflict with another in order to keep that idea on its feet. The Primitive Baptist "theology" is the only one I know of that can always harmonize the Bible, and has a useful place for every scripture.
Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4 he knew a man who was "caught up to the third heaven ... into paradise."
So many people read this scripture and more or less accept it, and never give one thought to its real implication or its teaching.
We know that "the third heaven" is paradise. Paul tells us that in so many words. From what Paul tells us, we get the thought that this man was enabled to see directly into heaven and immortal glory, the very paradise of God, and saw visions and revelations.
Later in the chapter we are led to believe that it was Paul himself who was carried into the third heaven, because he tells us it is not lawful for him to reveal the things he saw and that lest he glory too much, he was given a thorn in the flesh to buffet him.
But I am not satisfied to just take what Paul said, and not explore further the meanings behind his statements. I know that when Paul used the term "third heaven," he recognized the existence of the first and the second heaven.
This leads us to this question, "What are the first and second heavens?" Are we going to forget about them, or are we going to examine these things and thus, by harmonizing the scriptures, come to the realization of the truth?
We Primitive Baptists think we know what these three heavens are, and in our church you often hear them preached on. Where else do you hear this explained?
We read about the "first resurrection" and the "second death," which leads us to ask another question or two: "What about the first death?" and "What about the second resurrection?"
All of these are pretty well connected with heaven, and hell. Unless we know the meaning of these expressions, we cannot be expected to know very much about the truth of the Bible.
Let's see if we can study this a little and get a clear and beautiful picture of the whole matter.
When the first man violated God’s law, he died. That was the first death. And as we have previously shown all mankind died with him in this first death.
Jesus says "I am the resurrection." and when Christ arose from the grave following his crucifixion, death and burial, that was the first resurrection. And all those who have part in the first resurrection, then the second death hath no power over them.
When Christ shed his blood on the cross and then was resurrected, all those for whom that blood was shed had part in that resurrection. If Christ died for you, then he was also raised for you.
In John 5:25 we read "The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." The "dead" of this text are those who were in the first death, and those who live are those who have part in the first resurrection.
To be resurrected is to be elevated, to be lifted up to a higher place or higher order or standing. And this resurrection puts people into a new life. This is the first heaven in which he is placed. We sometimes refer to it as the spiritual kingdom. In Acts 20:28, Paul called it the church, telling the ministry "to feed the Church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood."
This is the heaven every child of God enters when he is born of God - this is the place of light a person is translated out of darkness into.
This heaven knows no denominational bounds, no race, no creed or color. This is the body spoken of in 1 Cor. 12:13 "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body." This is Holy Spirit baptism.
You get this phase of the church, the first heaven, by the precious blood of Christ being shed for you, and it being sprinkled upon your heart; by His free grace, which is unmerited on your part.
Every person who lives on earth, from the first man until the last one to ever be born of woman, who has had or will have his heart tendered by the grace of God, becomes a member of this body, enters into this heaven. He might not have ever been taught about Jesus Christ, and he might not know anything about the apostles' doctrine. In fact, he may be worshiping a golden calf or a frozen pumpkin, but if he is one of the beneficiaries of the blood of Christ, he is a member of the Kingdom of God, in what we term the spiritual phase for the lack of a better word. This is the first heaven.
In first John 3:9 we read "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." That inner spirit of man, one born of God, is just as pure and holy as God Himself, and does not sin.
Also, in Romans 8:2, we read, "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." He is no more under the law of sin and death. The second death has no power over him or her. But that person is now under the law of the spirit of life.
We now come to a discussion of the "second heaven." This is the "new plateau of life." The second heaven is what we refer to as the church here in the world, the visible kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every child of God is under commandment to obey the law of Christ and to keep His word. It is conditional on our part whether or not we enter this heaven.
In Luke 16:16 we read, "The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it." The only way a person can get into this kingdom is by pressing into it.
In Matt. 19:17, Jesus told a man "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." The life we get by keeping the commandments is in the Church, and we begin to live it as soon as we enter.
We read in Rev. 12:3, "And there appeared another wonder in heaven" -- that old serpent called the Devil and Satan. Of course this is a figurative language, but we all know, if we know anything about the truth of God, that Satan has never been in heaven and immortal glory or paradise, the third heaven, for no sin of any kind is allowed there. So the "heaven" mentioned here is surely something else. God’s justice and holiness guards the portals of glory against anything evil, and certainly the things mentioned as happening in this chapter could not ever take place in that celestial home above.
But it is different in the church here on earth -- the second heaven. The guard and the protection of this heaven is placed with men, and men sometimes make mistakes. We read in Rev. 2:5 of a church that made a mistake. And God told that church "repent or I will remove the candlestick."
Local bodies sometimes go wrong to the extent they lose their identities -- in other words, God removes the candlestick or takes their light away from them.
Sometimes God’s people are deceived and Satan appears to them in the form of "a wonder" or an angel of light. But they can repent and cast Satan out of the church, or cast him out of heaven.
Satan is ever lurking to get in, and if you are not careful he will even go right into church with you and (Rev. 12:4) his tail will cast you to the earth.
Satan is wroth with the Lord's people and he is making war against them. He will do, and is doing, everything he can to destroy the Church, and he knows the best way to do that is from within. So, if permitted he will go in and take the topmost seat. It is a perpetual job to keep him and his angels cast out.
We hear much said about the strait and narrow way and also about the broad way. Both of these paths are open to the child of God. One of them leads to the church and a life of Christian devotion, and the other leads to a misspent life. If you take the broad way, Satan will cast you to the earth and you will miss the joys and happiness of a life in Christ and in his service.
This road to life is hard to find because Satan will camouflage the entrance; he will try to hide the true beauties of this way. But he will erect huge signs, bearing false literature to the so-called beauties in the broad way. He makes it as difficult as he can for you to find the way of life, and then once you do find it, he tries every conceivable way to lead you astray or to cast you to the earth.
Poor old Moses, who even with his stammering tongue, gave us a type of this strait and narrow way leading to life. He was raised in the palace of a king, and he enjoyed all the niceties that the grandson of a king would want. Satan offered him many pleasures of the broad way, but what did he say? Paul in Hebrews 11 :24-25 puts him on record as follows: "By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."
This is a type of the difference in the two ways, if I understand the real meaning. Moses could have continued living in pleasure as the king’s grandson, in the broad way, but he chose to go with the faithful children of God in the narrow way, even though there were afflictions to be suffered.
I have been wandering around with this. Are you still with me?
The first heaven includes all those who have part in the death, burial and the resurrection of Christ -- all who are the beneficiaries of His blood. Everyone who receives the quickening of His spirit into divine life is in that heaven.
The second heaven is the local church, the place of rest for the faithful Christians who do the commandments and who worship "in spirit and in truth." Only a very few of God’s people ever enter into this strait and narrow way. But those who do enter live an abundant life.
Now, let’s go back to that third heaven, the paradise of God, that Paul mentioned. Who is it that will enter this heaven? How do they get there? How many will there be of them?
We hear a lot said about the "judgment day" and this is supposed to be at the final consummation of time, when people will enter into life eternal, according to the way they pass the judgment.
Well, Primitive Baptists believe in a final judgment day, but we will take it like it is taught in the Bible, rather than the way so many people erroneously describe it.
We have a pretty good description of the "judgment day" in the 20th chapter of Revelations. Let me give you this in my words and then you turn and read it and see if this is not what it teaches.
There is to be a judging take place, and John who was allowed to see this in a special vision saw it this way: The dead small and great were delivered up. And before the judgment throne there was the Lamb's Book of Life and also the books (in the plural).
In the Lamb’s Book of Life are written the names of all those the Father gave the Son. All of them will be kept by the blood of the Lamb (Col. 3 :3, John 17:12) and •none of them is lost. But those who are not found written in the book of life will be judged out of the books according to their works.
Any person who is judged according to his own works, will certainly he condemned, and it so states in Rev. 20:15 that all who were judged according to their own works were cast into the lake of fire.
Also we learn here what the second death is. Rev. 20:14 says, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
God promised Abraham (Gen. 28:14) "and in thee and in thy seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed." Also it is said (Deut. 32:9) "For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
John in his holy vision (Rev. 7:9) saw the people in this third heaven singing praise unto the Lamb for redemption "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues."
In this heaven, which is the heaven of all heavens, all the redeemed hosts of God will live in a place of holy perfection singing endless praise to God. The Bible teaches us that by far the larger portion of mankind will be there.
We are not universalists. We do not understand the Bible to teach that all will be saved, as there are some that will be judged according to their works and will be swallowed up by the second death, and cast into the bottomless pit with death and hell.
This brings us to a vital point of the Primitive Baptist doctrine of a limited atonement. God chose a definite, specific number of the sons and daughters of the earth, and predestinated to conform them to the image of Jesus, and to enable them to stand before him holy and without blame. He gave them to the Son who shed his blood for them, and provided everything necessary to lift them from the depths of depravity to the heights of heaven and immortal glory. Those that He did save from death, He placed under a spiritual law, and set up the church here in the world and commanded us to walk in gospel paths.
We are told by some that Jesus loved all humanity, but I know the whole world of John 3:16 does not mean all humanity because we read in Romans 9:13 of part of humanity that God hated. "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
Those who walk in the strait and narrow way enjoy that gospel life and do not fall into the snares and the pitfalls of Satan. Primitive Baptists do not believe, nor does the Bible teach, that predestination affects those that are not included in God's love. Predestination does not make them any worse, and it dues not add to their condemnation.
Only one thing will send a person to hell, and that is sin. For those whose names are written in the book of life, Jesus paid the price for their sins. Others are judged out of the books according to their own works. It is their own works that condemn them, or that bring them under condemnation.
This is an endless subject, and we do not have words to describe its beauty. I have tried to be brief, and in so doing I hope I have not jumbled it up so badly that you cannot get the ideas I have tried to portray.
If you want to get into trouble quick, just try to break an old custom or violate the traditions by which the group has been bound.
Traditions and customs are just as good, and as profitable, as there is scriptural authority for them. The customs that we find upheld by Holy Writ are good and fine and not to be tampered with, but we should be careful not to enslave ourselves with customs for which we have no Biblical authority.
The Primitive Baptist cause is rich with time-honored customs that we just simply would not part with. We honor and revere them just as much as we do the principles of doctrine. It always makes me sad to hear someone condemning our customs. Usually I become suspicious of such a person, fearing that person has some ill motive that prompts him to offer such criticism.
Let us examine some of our customs. If they are scriptural, let’s hold on to them dearly, but if we have no Bible authority for them, them let’s drop them as quickly as possible.
One of our customs is that of washing one another’s feet in connection with the communion. We know this is a good custom because it was begun by Jesus Christ Himself; and the examples He gave us, we can follow without question.
There are those who would ridicule us for following this custom that originated with Christ, but they have yet to offer any reasonable argument against it.
Some say feet washing was an old Jewish custom practiced because the people walked frequently on dirt roads, wearing open sandals, and their feet became very dirty; so it was considered a gesture of a good host to wash the feet of his visitors. This I know cannot be the reason for our Lord washing the feet of the disciples. First, we know it was not in fulfillment of an old custom, because one of the twelve disciples was a devout Jew and well acquainted with all of the customs, yet we hear Jesus say to him, as he prepared to wash his feet, "what I do thou knowest not NOW, but thou shall know hereafter-"
This was a new thing that originated with Christ washing the disciples' feet as recorded in the 13th chapter of John.
Also, we know that the purpose of this service was not to wash away the literal dirt of the road, Their feet were already clean before the service began. In case any of them had such an idea in mind, Jesus was telling them he was not doing this to clean the literal dirt, but it was a matter of ceremony.
Some would also argue that this was merely Jesus teaching the disciples a lesson of humility. It was a lesson of humility, but not one to be observed and forgotten.
Whatever was the background or the motive in the actions of Jesus in setting this example, we hear Him passing it on to those that follow -- "If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them."
If you ask any person, regardless of his doctrine, his practice, or his denominational leanings what he hopes to get from his church, the sum and substance of his answer would be "happiness."
That is our one objective from any religious activity, regardless of what it is.
So then, Jesus being our witness, one way of attaining this happiness is by following the example Christ gave us -- by humbling ourselves, kneeling at the feet of the disciples and washing their feet.
"If ye know these things," he says. How does that affect us? Well, just simply this way: there is no excuse for anyone not knowing it unless he does not read the Bible, or is not acquainted with it; or is not taught these things where he attends church services. But we know that everyone who is a careful reader of the Bible and all those who have a full gospel preached to them know that Jesus did wash the disciples' feet and that he promised happiness to all who follow the example he set before us.
Knowing that Jesus did and said this, and promised happiness when performed, Primitive Baptists feel they have a good custom when they follow the example and wash feet in connection with the ‘Lord’s Supper."
Let me add this bit of sentimentality: this, to me, is the most sacred and solemn of all religious ceremonies. People who do not wash feet in connection with such a service sometimes have a lot of fun about it, and sometimes our friends, not realizing the sacredness of it, offer statements of jest about this sacred service. But no one who ever witnessed such a service ever forgot it, and if they appreciate solemnity in its right place, it is not a jesting matter with them anymore.
I find that a great many people in the denominations with whom we come in contact believe feet washing should be practiced in a church capacity. But they do not have the spiritual fortitude to actually contend for these things and get them accepted, because they know they would be subjected to ridicule even to mention it.
One of the customs long held to by Primitive Baptists is that of having hour-long sermons and of respecting visiting ministers. We have been greatly ridiculed by others on this score. People often ask me, "Do you still preach three or four preachers at a service?"
This bit of fun making reminds me of the proverb about people living in glass houses not throwing stones. It is very seldom in our church services, that the service, the singing, prayer, and preaching lasts more than an hour and a half overall. And very seldom does the preaching last more than an hour.
But in the places of worship of most of our denominational friends, their services nearly always last for two hours. ‘The people arrive there at 10 a.m., and they are not dismissed until noon, two hours later. They have classes for a while, then preaching for a while, but altogether their services continue for two hours. If we choose to have our services in one place, and have two speakers or one speaker talk a full hour, why should people who consume two hours in their services criticize us?
One custom Primitive Baptists do not have is that of worshiping a day. We do recognize the Sabbath as being a holy day, but we also recognize the other six days of the week as being good days, too. In one place we read where the disciples took the communion on Monday morning. Some people would not think of doing this except on the Lord's Day.
Another custom that Primitive Baptists hold to very zealously is that of strict discipline. They hold the position that the life of every member of the church should be as an open book, and his daily life should meet the moral standards required in the Bible of Christians. They don't appreciate any church member wanting to lock himself behind closed doors, where his brother is not permitted to go.
Primitive Baptist custom forbids its members from associating themselves with secret, oath-bound institutions. Some may ask, "Why do you object to lodges? They have a lot of good in them."
I don’t want to go into the merit or "good" in the various lodges, but let's consider it this way! Granting there is some good in some of them, just what good do you find that you cannot find in the church? The prime purpose of the gospel is to take the "good news" to those who would appreciate it. Why would anyone want to keep a good thing behind closed doors? Also, any man who has that strong feeling of brotherly love and Christian fellowship, which the Primitive Baptists feel is a strong characteristic of the church, why would he want to go into a place where his life is not open to the inspection of his brethren? And we also have the Biblical command to shun the appearance of evil, but if we lock ourselves in secret chambers and engage in secret activities, are we doing this?
Another Primitive Baptist custom is that of using the proper thing in the proper place in our church worship.
I am one that likes coffee. I drink several cups of it every day, and the day usually is not far gone before I have consumed quite a bit of coffee. Yet, despite my love of coffee, I would not want to use it in the communion service in the place of wine. It would not be appropriate.
I am also fond of doughnuts, but neither would it be proper to substitute doughnuts for the "bread" in the communion. It just doesn't fit the Biblical pattern.
I am also fond of musical instruments, although I can’t play one. I think the piano and the organ make beautiful music, as do the guitar and the violin. Yet, I would not suggest that these instruments be used in our church song service. I don’t think they have any more place there, than do coffee or doughnuts in the communion service.
When singing is at its very best, spiritually speaking, is when the people are "making melody in their hearts". A musical instrument just does not have a heart. The most hardened criminal on death row, waiting in solitary confinement to be executed, could make just as beautiful music on an instrument as the most devout Christian, because that instrument has a fixed tone and is not controlled by hearts, spirits or moods.
In one of our Primitive Baptist papers, I read where a noted minister --who had spent many, many years with people wearing the name Primitive Baptists who sung with the accompaniment of an instrument -- had this to say about it:
"It has always been my judgment, and now is, that our brethren made a serious mistake when they introduced the organ and brought about the division of our forces. I urge our brethren everywhere, who do not have one, to leave them alone. My observation has been that they are not necessary. Any help which they have been in places has been more than overbalanced by the evil effects which have followed their use. Our people have become so accustomed to the instrument that it is difficult to have singing when there is no one present to play for us. In many instances, congregational singing has been destroyed and only a select few sing. Certainly spirituality has not been increased by their use. The condition of our churches prove that their use does not insure union, peace and prosperity. My heart and soul is with all those who are satisfied, to old-time Primitive Baptists, true ever to our faith, who regard the fellowship and union of our people as worth vastly more than all that the world can give or promise."
These are only a few of the time-honored Primitive Baptist customs.
May the Lord bless us to follow those customs that had their inception from Bible authority, and may we let alone those that were invented by men.
The church is a thing of spiritual values, and the primary good derived from it by its members and others is of spiritual concern, yet literal values are to be reckoned with in considerable degree, if it functions as it should.
The church needs a place where the members may be sheltered from the elements of the weather (buildings), and there are many things of a monetary value that must be taken care of if the church prospers as it should. Today, in this age of specialists, we can almost sum up the church's material needs with the dollar mark. Perhaps back in Biblical days when they dealt more in merchandise, money was not of such importance.
Any organization, regardless of its nature or purpose, must have some sort of financing, or it will not function for very long.
In some of the denominations today, their scope of activities is so broad it takes terrific sums of money for them to operate. The Primitive Baptist church has no auxiliaries, and no foreign programs, so it does not take so much money to carry on its work.
Not long ago, a man said to me "I have been attending your church off and on for three years, and there has not been a collection taken, and I have not heard a word said about money! How do you raise your funds?"
We are reminded of the Scripture (Matt. 11:5) that says "the poor have the gospel preached to them, "No poor person need worry about being embarrassed by a collection plate under his nose when he attends our church, yet the church has adequate funds to carry on its work. How can this be? Simply because they use the Bible system of financing the church.
What in the Bible plan? It's not assessing or pledging the members; nor catching them in a crowd and asking them for money, and it's not tithing. Let’s let the Apostle Paul give us the answer:
1st Corinthians 16:2 "Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
2nd Corinthians 9:7 "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver."
And then we read in Acts where the church selected specially qualified men of their number to attend to the business. That gives us the complete pattern for handling the necessities of the church. How are we to give? Freely, cheerfully, as we purpose in our’ hearts. How much are we to give? According as the Lord prospers us?
Each person, if he fellows the pattern given him by the apostle, is to set aside on the first day of the week that of his material worth, in accordance with the amount the Lord has prospered him. If he is prospered with much, he should give much. If his material things are few, then of course he could not give much. If he does this cheerfully, then he will purpose in his heart to give all he can.
There are some not's in this connection too. Not grudgingly, or of necessity. And let there be no gathering when the need arises.
If you are pledged, or if the church asks you to tithe, or to give a certain amount, then you do it of necessity. If you love money more than spiritual things, then you will be an "old tightwad" and will give grudgingly if at all.
If you do not "lay by on the first day of the week" and just wait until you are called on, then you do what Paul said not to do.
Primitive Baptists, when they are following the Bible plan, just depend on the Lord and His blessings. They try to get along with the church just about the same as they get along with their personal matters. When the Lord blesses them with material worth, they give freely of that worth to the church. If the Lord does not give them sufficient of the world’s goods to build a nice church house, they try to be content with what they have. This is Biblical too. The Apostle Paul preached for two years in a rented building.
When you go to a Primitive Baptist Church, there will not be any passing of the collection plate, and more than likely there will not be any mention made of money at all. But this does not mean that money is not being put into the church treasury. Many times a member will shake hands with one of the deacons and leave a roll of bills or a check in his hand. However it is done, there is no big display made of it.
Primitive Baptists do not have any "programs" as such, but you will find they are always ready to help those in distress. In fact, that was the first work of the deacons, to see to the widows and the orphans among them.
What about the minister being on a salary? If that were true, then he would be an "hireling" wouldn't he? We have been taught by Jesus that the minister who preaches for a salary will abandon the church when times are bad. John 10: 12-13.
If every Primitive Baptist would use the Bible plan of church financing, how well the church would get along in that regard.
It you are not using it, then how about starting right now and put it to work. Every Sunday morning, take inventory of your finances, and according as you have been prospered that week and as you purpose in you heart to give to the church, put that aside in a separate place with the notation "This is for the church."
Do this every Sunday without fail Don’t miss a week. Then at regular intervals, when it is convenient, give it to your deacons or to the person authorized by the church to handle the money. If every member does this, you will be blessed of the Lord to carry on in an acceptable manner. You will have the money for your building needs and your regular expenses. You will be able to care for your pastor in the right kind of a way, and when the need arises on some kind of an emergency, you will not have to take up any special collections, but the money will be there to take care of it.
The Primitive Baptists have the Bible system of church finances. We may not use it as well as we should, but if that be the case, the fault is not with the system.
I don’t like to see our people turn to unscriptural means of raising money when we run into an emergency. That only makes bad matters worse. Let us stay with the Bible way.
I want now to deal with another matter. It has been said by some that Primitive Baptist preachers "boast too much," and it was recently passed along to me that some think we "boast too much" in the paper. Whether or not we boast too much depends upon what we are boasting about. If we boast of ourselves and what we are accomplishing with our own good works, then any boasting at all is too much. But when we boast about our Lord and our Saviour, then let the critics say what they will.
In Deuteronomy 32:3, we are admonished to "publish the name of the Lord" and to "ascribe ye greatness unto our God." The Apostle Paul devoted most of his writings to "bragging" on the Lord. The book of Psalms is the same way. So, if you ask Primitive Baptists to quit boasting about the Lord and His goodness, and about the wonderful story of salvation by the free grace of God, you are asking them not to say anything.
We also have a Biblical pattern for "boasting" about the church’ In Rev. 2:2, we find Jesus recorded as doing this very thing. Even though the church, the local body to which we go, at all times may not meet our every expectation, the pattern is to boast of the good qualities before we criticize. Jesus said of a church "I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake, hast labored, and hast not fainted." Jesus did this much boasting of a church which He held "somewhat against in other matters."
Did you ever hear a Primitive Baptist bragging on himself? When one of them does, the others are usually ashamed of him. I am reminded of 1st Corinthians 1:31: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Is there any limit to how much we may glory in the Lord? I think not.
First, what shall we teach? We read in Hebrew 8:11: "And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying know the Lord, for all shalt know me, from the least to the greatest." So we, have established a point: no one is to teach another to know the Lord. This is God’s work. If you are worrying about people not knowing the Lord, you are wasting your time because the author of the Book of Hebrews, speaking by inspiration and as the Lord speaking, said all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest.
I am glad this so important a matter has not been left to man. In the hands of God it will not fail; but in man’s hands the work is limited. If you are a member of a religious sect that is accumulating money, means and personnel to teach people to know the Lord, your efforts are doomed before you start. You are taking upon yourself the work of God.
If I were to express my objection to the modern-day Sunday School, this would be it more than any other thing -- most if not all of them have dedicated their whole work to teaching people to know the Lord. They are not impressed with the thought expressed in the above scripture, that teaching people to know the Lord is God’s work, and He will perform it.
Now, to teach people ABOUT the Lord is something else. A person who has been taught OF the Lord (by the Lord) is then ready to be taught more ABOUT GOD, and that is where Primitive Baptists like to begin. That is the person they enjoy telling more and more about the wonderful works of God. They enjoy taking to such people the "knowledge of salvation.".
Fundamentally, the truth of the matter is this: God has ordained two wonderful places of teaching -- the home and the church. Are you, as a parent shirking your duty to teach your children the truths of the Bible? Do you send your children off somewhere, to have, them taught by someone with no one single concept of the real spiritual import of the Bible? If you are, you would do well to stop and think carefully.
I thank God from the depths of my heart for the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and having parents who taught me "about the Lord" in our home and did not pass this important matter along to someone else. I can remember, as a small boy, working in the field chopping or picking cotton, having many interesting conversations with my father "about the Lord".
We were always full of questions, and some of them I now know (since raising sons and a daughter of my own) were far fetched and maybe a bit silly. But he always had a good answer, and we children were always impressed with the thought that if there was anything about the Bible we did not understand, "Daddy knows." If at school, or at play, someone tried to tell us something that did not ring true, we went to Daddy, and we got a simple explanation of the whole matter. This is something that has always been very dear to me, and even yet, I catch myself wishing so very much -- sometimes, when I get tangled up in my mind on some part of the Bible -- that I could just pull up a chair and say "Daddy, tell me what this means." But this is not possible any more..
If you don’t have this relationship with your father and your mother, you are missing one of the most valuable things in the life of any boy or girl God has designed. It is his chosen way that parents teach their children that which is just, and good, and right. There just is not anything else that will do as well.
New, let’s move on. The position of a teacher in the church is a position that requires special ability and a special gift. A teacher in the church should be inspired of God and have a special revelation of the meaning of the scriptures -- a special understanding of their meaning that others do not possess. I will not take space to go into detail to prove this, but read Eph. 4:11 ("And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.") and 2nd Timothy 1:11 ("And I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles"). There are many more such scriptures.
Also, there is no instance in the Bible that I can find where the congregation was divided up into small groups. Too, teaching in the church is limited to the men. Women are forbidden to teach in the church. 1 Timothy 2:12: "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Primitive Baptists, in their way and manner of teaching, do not overlook the true meaning of the scriptures, but we like to take them just like we read them. That is the reason we do not divide the congregation into small groups; that is the reason we have only God-called and God-qualified men doing the teaching in the church, and that is the reason the real fundamentals of our Christian religion are taught at home by the parents. (Prov. 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.")
To those who believe strongly in church schools, as they are used in the commonly accepted form, I want to ask you this question, "To what avail are they?" Consider it carefully before you answer.
Let’s start at the top of the training ladder, and work on down and see how much they accomplish. I know men who have spent 12 years in the public schools, four years in a regular college, and then two or more years in a theological seminary, learning "how" to preach. They must outline their sermons minutely, study them carefully, and stick close to their prepared text. If their notes were to blow out the window in the middle of a service, the sermon very likely would be cut short.
Yet in the Primitive Baptist Church, we find men who have never had any formal training at all, preaching a full and complete sermon without any notes. Many times, they are so inspired with their subject matter, they could deal with it interestingly for many hours. They quit at the proper time, only for the sake of decorum and expediency. Their preparation in the ministry has not consisted of being taught by other men, but has been made up of many days, and sometimes years, in close study of the Bible, and in prayer and meditation So, we get back to the question, to what avail is the ministerial school? 1 am not particularly criticizing the right kind of study at any time, but the Primitive Baptists seem to get along pretty well ‘without it.
I know people who have gone to Sunday School almost every week of their lives, sometimes twice each Sunday, yet when you question them, they know hardly anything about the real spiritual values in the scriptures. Maybe they learn the literal lesson, but to many of them, that is all, and some do not learn that much.
I don’t say it boastingly, but as a matter of fact. You can take the rank-and-file membership of the Primitive Baptist Church -- the most of them having never attended any Sunday School during their lives -- and match them person for person with the Sunday school-trained membership of the denominations who boast of their church schools. I feel sure, with all confidence, that they can meet them successfully in a discussion of the Bible. I think Primitive Baptist people as a whole know as much or more about the Bible as any group of people in the world, and they have learned it from their parents in the homes, from the preaching in the church, and from their association with others and in their study.
The gospel minister whom God has called, and the man who is "apt to teach" -- which we learn is one of the requirements of the minister -- should certainly be able to preach to his congregation in such a way that all, both young and old, could benefit from his teaching.
I cannot find any authority in the Bible for appointing one person to teach the adults and another the children, but I do find where God told the same man to teach bath the young and old (John 21:15-17).
One reason I am happy to be a Primitive Baptist is because I like their teaching program. They have the right kind of teachers, they teach the right thing in the right place, and the teachers are the right kind of people.
The eminent apostle Paul, who declared to all the world (Romans 1:1) "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ") also said (1st Corinthians 15:19): "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
Paul said in Titus 1:2 "In hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie, PROMISED before the world began."
And then John said (John 17:3) "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
So we may look upon eternal life from a dual standpoint. To know God and Jesus Christ is life eternal. It has been said that we do not have eternal life here in the world, only the promise of it. But this Scripture teaches that we do: it is life eternal to know Him. But we do not have it in all its fullness and all its grandeur. As good a thing as it is to possess that eternal life here in time, the Apostle Paul felt it only a subterfuge if we had no hope of it beyond just this natural life.
When a person is cleansed from sin and his heart made pure by the spirit of the Lord, he receives a new life, and that is eternal life. It is, like God Himself, without beginning or ending. It has a beginning with man, but that life itself is eternal.
And then, once we receive this never-ending life, we are made to hope, with all that is in us, that we not only will always have that holy thing, but that we will yet receive it in a fuller degree. Man is happy with the possession of the spirit of the Lord within him: but he is still in sinful flesh, and is buffeted sore by the sinful nature that is also in him, and has a hope that some day he will be made pure and holy in body as well, and will live in heaven eternal with God and all the holy angels. This hope is based on the PROMISES of God.
What about these promises? Are they sure? Do they have foundation? The Lord has begun a good work in us, it is true, but will He continue it? Will He hold fast to us or will there be something to come along that will be able to separate us out of eternal glory? Will God remember all to whom He made the promise, or will He forget some? These are some of the questions we must have the answer to.
Some have one answer, others have many answers. Our best answer is to examine the holy scriptures and take that as our guide. In 2nd Timothy 2:19 we read "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His."
In Philippians 1:6, we are told, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" And in Hebrews 10:23, we read: "Let its hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he is faithful that promised."
So there we have the answer to all our questions. No, He will not forget us. No, He will not quit the work before it is completed. Yes, the foundation standeth sure, sealed with the infinite knowledge of God. Yes, His promises are sure.
One poet put it this way: "‘His promise is sure, my Jesus will come, some wonderful day I am going o’er home. Oh wonderful trip, my Jesus is near to pilot my ship. The tempest may roar, the billows may foam, with Christ at the helm, I'm going o’er home."
Another poet phrases his hope in this manner: "Standing on the promises of Christ my King, through eternal ages let His praises ring, glory to the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God."
What about the promise? We know now that it is sure and that "God is faithful that promised," but how many and who are embraced in the promise? The Apostle Peter told us in Acts 2:39 "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even AS MANY as the Lord our God shall call."
Here, Peter pulls the rug out from under those who make such a great display on the 38th verse ("Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.") and try to prove that the promise is based on what men shall do, He says the promise is to as many as "the Lord our God shall call."
So after careful examination, we find the truth quite a bit different from the prevalent idea among some, that the promise is unto all mankind, but that it is not sure; that a person is promised "eternal life" only if he repents and is baptized; and not even then unless he continues faithful all his life, Can you see anything like that taught in any of these Scriptures? I am sure you cannot.
Aren’t you glad that the promise of eternal life is not based upon the faithfulness of the preacher to take the gospel to the sinner? That it is not founded upon man’s response to that preaching, but that it is sure, sealed with the divine attribute of God?
Peter told that band of Jews gathered there on the day of Pentecost, "The promise is unto you and to your children." If he had stopped there, it would not mean much to us today. That would have left us without hope. But he added, "... and to all that are afar off." To whom did he refer here? Well you can include in this just whomever you will. It means ALL that are afar off. I am inclined to believe that he had reference to the Gentiles. Not only unto "we of the house of Israel but to those who are not now with us; those across the gulf. Ephesians 2:14: "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." While the oracles of God were originally delivered to the Jews, are we to say that those afar off will not receive the promise? No.
We hear quite a bit said by the denominational alarmists about the poor heathens "afar off" being without the promise because no one has preached the gospel to them, or because they have rejected the gospel that was taken to them. Peter rejects this theory and brands it as false.
Yes, the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off. Then to sum it up in one expression he says "even as many as the Lord our God shall call!"
Try as we may, we can’t get away from predestination. Paul teaches us in Romans 8:29-30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also CALLED, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified he also glorified." In this we find the same very definite number ‘from foreknowledge to glorification, Then here comes the Apostle Peter and ties in the promise with this whole thing by saying the promise is to as many as the Lord our God shall CALL.
So may we now conclude that the promise is to "as many as the Lord our God has predestinated"? Yes, that is the logical conclusion when we harmonize the teaching of the two writers. This is the truth about God’s eternal promise.
Now, let’s look to the timely promises he has given us. Has he promised us wealth and fame? Has he promised us an abundance of the things of the world? David did not seem to think so. He spoke in this manner -- Psalms 73:2-3: "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Once when asked about food and clothing and shelter by one of the disciples, Jesus said (Matthew 6:33): "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
God has promised many spiritual riches to his children here in this life when they live as they should and trust his grace. These things are part of "the promise’’ that is sure.
One song writer who was deeply impressed with God's promises wrote a very touching account in song which goes like this: ‘‘God has not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathway all our lives through, God has not promised sun without rain, peace without sorrow, joy without pain." These things God has not promised us: we need not expect them, and when we do, our lives become miserable. We are told in one place, they who will live Godly will suffer persecutions. And this we know is true.
And, now listen as the poet so beautifully tells us what God has promised us. They are the things of value -- the things that really count in our lives. "But God HAS promised strength for our day, rest when we labor, light on our way, grace for our trials, help from above, unfading kindness, undying love." If God has promised us these things; and, if he has promised us the necessities of life "when we seek the kingdom and his righteousness above everything else," then what should be our attitude toward Him? Should we not be so thankful for these greet things that we would want to serve and adore His great Name?
With this thought., I close the subject of "Why I am a Primitive Baptist." I am relying on the promises of God to lead and to direct me in this life. I need His grace and sustenance in my meditation and in my daily activities. I need Him in my dealings with my associates, and especially I need Him in my efforts to worship and serve Him. Above all things, I need Him to lift me from this vale of sin into a life of joy and peace. My only home is in the love, grace and mercy of a higher power. I find it impossible to live perfectly even one day, much less a lifetime.
This is my conclusion of the whole matter: the Primitive Baptists are my people. The church is of divine origin. Its doctrine is apostolic, and its practices and customs are those set and given by Jesus Christ. Primitive Baptists have a feeling of love and fellowship one toward another that I find no place else.
The Primitive Baptist Church has no standing among the institutions of the world or in society. But our trust and our hope is that it does have a high and exalted position in heaven.
May I adopt the language of one of the old writers "I entreat you not to leave me. Where you go I want to go."
If what I have written has helped you get even a small glimpse of the real beauty of the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ, or if it has helped you view God as an all-powerful all-wise, ever-to-be-adored Redeemer, or has helped you to realize man’s deplorable condition without His grace and mercy, then I feel well paid for the time and effort I have devoted to the preparation of this study.
May God be ever praised for opening our hearts and revealing His truth to us.