Why I Am Not United with the Baptists
When Prov. 6:16-19 speaks of things the Lord hates, things that are an abomination to Him, it includes the “one who sows discord among brethren.” We must understand that to have the mind of Christ requires a fervent desire for the kind of unity He prayed for in John 17:20, 21. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Those who love the Lord understand that loving their fellow-saints is essential; so with humility and longsuffering they work for unity within the body (Eph. 4:1-3). However, for true disciples it doesn’t stop with the right attitudes toward others, for they recognize there is but one faith that is to be accepted and defended (Eph. 4:5; Jude 1:3). They have willingly submitted to the one baptism proclaimed by the apostles (Eph. 4:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; et al). In fact, all seven “ones” are seen by them as vital to the true unity of the Spirit. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).
Unity is important, but consider the following quote from a blog that, however well-intentioned, reflected both an overly simplistic and unscriptural approach to unity.
“Some of you are saying, ‘I am a follower of Paul.’ Others are saying, ‘I follow Apollos,’ or “I follow Peter,” or ‘I follow only Christ.’ Has Christ been divided into factions?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13).
A modern rendering of that verse could be, “Some of you are saying, “I am Baptist.” While others say, “I am Church of Christ” or “I am non-denominational.” Has Christ been divided into different denominations?
Jesus said our testimony will be in our unity. What message is sent when we aren’t unified?
“May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (Jn. 17:23). (New Living Translation)
While names can be somewhat divisive, the reality is names or descriptive terms most often reflect a division that already exists or is developing. The Corinthian church was not in danger of dividing because some identified themselves by the names of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas; instead, they were in danger of dividing because loyalties had become misplaced and some, in their pride, were identifying more with men than with their Lord.
Also, 1 Cor. 1:11-13 does not even come close to being the equivalent of modern denominationalism with its differing doctrinal beliefs, but was a rebuke to several factions that were developing within the one church of God at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), a group still meeting in one place at the same time (1 Cor. 14:23). Modern denominationalism is a perversion of God’s plan, but 1 Cor. 1:11-13 was dealing with something entirely different.
Perhaps most significantly, this “modern rendering” equates being a member of a Baptist Church with being a member of a Church of Christ. It is implied that both are human denominations and if it weren’t for the different names we have chosen, one of which is used in Scripture to describe local churches (Rom. 16:16) and one used only of a man who died before the church was established, we could be united. If all it would take for me to be united with my friends and family in various Baptist churches is to stop calling the local saints a church of Christ and use another biblical designation, I would gladly do so. However, what keeps me from being united with my Baptist friends and family is not the name, but significant differences regarding the doctrine of Christ.
Even if we both agreed to use the same designation, I could not join them in worship as long as they continue to worship God with mechanical instruments of music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
If we shared a common biblical descriptive term, I would still feel compelled to protest against their promoting a false sense of security with the once saved—always saved doctrine (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
Would calling ourselves the same thing alter Baptists’ rejection of the New Testament pattern of elders having oversight of the local church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)? Further, I couldn’t be united with those who belong to an unscriptural organization like the Southern Baptist Convention. Even if Baptist were removed from the title, it would remain an unscriptural organization (2 John 1:9-11).
Most importantly, how can I be united in Christ with those who have never been baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins (Eph. 4:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26, 27)? Though I may share some common beliefs with people, until they become children of God, I can’t call them brothers and sisters.
Unity in Christ is the goal for which we must all strive, but it will not be achieved simply by shedding a “divisive” name, but requires the willingness of all to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 1:9). Let’s not confuse an interdenominational, ecumenical union with true nondenominational allegiance to Christ.
Unless noted, all quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
[This article has been given some revision since it originally appeared in Biblical Insights, August 2014.]