We are nearing the end of our Gospel Convergence series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. I would still encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me.
The importance of the church in the life of a Christian is impressed upon us in the Confession as it devotes eight pages to this topic – the most on any issue in the Confession. There is a bit much for us to go through in detail, so here are the 14 headlines from this chapter regarding the church:
- The catholic or universal church is invisible. This invisible church “consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ” (pg. 103). In other words, every true Christian is a member of the catholic or universal church by default.
- Although there is an invisible church, there is also a visible church. This visible church consists of those “professing faith”, displaying “obedience unto God”, “not destroying their own profession” and therefore, “of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted” (pg. 103).
- One sad reality is that the visible church will inevitably be a mixed entity – consisting of both true Christians and pretenders. Indeed, some churches may even fall beyond recognition as a Christian church due to their indiscretion in admitting pretenders to their membership. However, gladly “Christ hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world” (pg. 104).
- The head of the church, whether invisible or visible, is the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
- True disciples of Jesus cannot and should not endeavour to go it alone. Jesus calls all of his followers to “walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification and the due performance of that public worship” (pg. 105).
- The head of the church, Jesus Christ, has invested each individual, local, gathered congregation with power for ensuring order in the worship and discipline of that local congregation.
- “A particular church, gathered and completely organised according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members” (pg. 106).
- The officers within a local, gathered congregation are known as elders and deacons. Individuals to fill these offices should be elected by the gathered congregation, set apart with fasting and prayer, and with the imposition of hands.
- Amongst the officers there should also be, means permitting, a pastor. Churches should offer pastors a healthy respect and a comfortable supply of material goods. In return the pastor should attend to the church with the Word and prayer, being hospitable with the material goods supplied and living out the gospel which he preaches.
- Although a pastor devotes the majority of his time to preaching the Word, preaching should not be confined to pastors. Rather, “others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it” (pg. 108).
- Joining a church in membership is an imperative under the rule of Christ. “[A]ll believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do” (pg. 108).
- Any individual members having issue with another member in the church should endeavour to avoid disturbing the church, refuse to absent themselves from the regular meeting or ordinances, but also wait for the church to act on the matter.
- Individual churches are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ.
- A grouping of churches may involve themselves in each other’s affairs for the mutual benefit of all involved. However, each individual church within the grouping does not hold authority or jurisdiction over any single church within the grouping.
For further reading some of these articles may be helpful: https://gospelconvergence.com/?s=church