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Session 3—Corporate Distinctives

Published on 01/18/11

By Dr. Larry Oats; delivered during the MRBF Bible Conference October 2, 2008

Regenerate Church Membership
Autonomy of the Local Church

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Message Notes

The Corporate Distinctives

II. Regenerate Church Membership

A. Concept of “Membership”

1. Only saved people were added to the local churches of the New Testament (Acts 2:41, 47)

2. Membership is intimated in Acts 4:23; 6:3, 5; 13:1

3. Unbelievers are regarded as intruders in the local church (Jude 4).

4. Thyatira was rebuked for tolerating unbelievers in its membership (Rev. 2:20).

B. The nature of the church demands a regenerate membership.

C. Qualifications for church membership as given in Scripture: regeneration and immersion

1. Mt. 28:19-20 places the order as regeneration, baptism, and church membership

2. Acts 2:41, 47 puts this order into practice in the early church

III. Autonomy of the Local Church

A. The local church is complete within itself and independent of any external ecclesiastical controls – Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:4-5, 13; Acts 5:29; 15:25-26.

B. Three elements

1. Self-governing—no oversight by any other body.

2. Independent—no obligations produced by de¬nominational alignment.

3. Democratic—members are the ultimate authori¬ty, in accord with the Word of God.

C. The New Testament model for local church government is congregational rule.

1. The congregation disciplines its own membership.

2. The congregation elects its own officers.

3. The congregation commissioned Barnabas and Saul as missionaries (Acts 13:1-3).

4. The church at Antioch, not the leaders, sent men to Jerusalem to resolve a doctrinal dispute (Acts 15:1-3).

5. Churches are responsible to maintain their own doctrinal integrity (Rom. 16:17, 18; Titus 3:10).

6. Churches are responsible to celebrate the ordinances (Acts 2:41, 42; 1 Cor 11:23-26).

7. Churches are to establish their own system of worship and service opportunities (1 Cor 14:40).

8. Churches are responsible for settling their own internal affairs (1 Cor 6:1-5).

9. The churches chose the messengers who took the offering to Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:19, 23).

D. There are two offices in the New Testament church.

1. Pastor – spiritual leader

2. Deacon – temporal leaders

E. Office of the Pastor

1. There are five words in the New Testament that speak of the pastor’s ministry.

a) “Pastor”

b) “Bishop”

c) “Elder”

d) “Preacher”

e) “Teacher”

f) Scripture teaches that these three words describe different aspects of the same office.

(1) Paul used all three words as synonyms when he preached to the elders from Ephesus at Miletus (Acts 20:17-28).

(2) Paul used the words “elder” and “bishop” interchangeably (Titus 1:5-7).

(3) Peter uses all three words to describe the same office (1 Peter 5:1, 2).

F. Office of the Deacon

1. Diakonos

2. The origin of the office

a) We understand Acts 6:1-7 to record the election of the first deacons.

b) They were elected to meet the need for physical, material service in the local church (6:1, 2).

3. The function of the office

a) From the beginning, the apostles gave deacons charge of a temporal, practical ministry.

b) Some deacons exercised a spiritual ministry also.

c) The main contrast between requirements for pastors and deacons is that deacons are not required to be “apt to teach” (1 Tim. 3:8-13).

Our Distinctives as Baptists

The distinctives discussed in this study are not the traditions of men which have become distinctive of Baptists. They are, rather, biblical truths that distinguished the local churches in the New Testament era and are distinctive of all true New Testament local churches, regardless of the name they use. Baptists have historically espoused all these distinctives, thus they have become known as the Baptist Distinctives. Some other denominational groups accept various of these biblical truths, but not all of them.

The Baptist Distinctives need to be emphasized to every generation of Christians. This is especially true as many Baptists and Baptist organizations have moved away from their biblical foundations, convictions, and distinctives in recent years. Modernism and new-evangelicalism masquerade under the name “Baptist,” as they do under many other names today.

If these truths are not biblically grounded, they should be rejected. If they are taught in Scripture, then they should be believed, defended, and obeyed.

Dr. Richard Weeks, Maranatha’s first academic dean, was an avid bibliophile and Baptist historian. Well educated, he pastored for several years in Chicago before going to Pillsbury and then Maranatha to teach Baptist Polity and Baptist History, among other classes. Not content with the usual BAPTIST acrostic for the Baptist distinctives, he began a study of the various lists of distinctives identified by a wide variety of Baptist writers—old and new, northern and southern, American and European, and especially Fundamental Baptists of the early 20th century. From this study he created a list of what he thought the key Baptist distinctives were, without trying to force them into an acrostic grid. He also established an order to these distinctives, considering not so much that some distinctives are more important than others, but rather that some distinctives tend to flow out of other distinctives. The result was BRAPSIS2.

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