Monday, April 23, 2007
2. FOR BAPTISTS 'JESUS CHRIST IS LORD'
Baptists begin a discussion about themselves by trying to understand the 'Good News', the 'Gospel'. In essence, Paul says (Philippians 2:10-11), the 'Good News' is that 'JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!' That's where Baptists start their thinking. This isn't just an abstract doctrine - it means that he's our Master, our King. We are his obedient servants, his subjects, who do what he commands. He is the ultimate authority for all thinking and acting. He is God the Son, through whom everything came into being and before whom everyone will ultimately 'fall on their knees'.
Jesus Christ is Lord - or 'Head' - of the Church, his Body. So Christians are people who both individually and collectively, are constantly asking: 'What does our Lord want us to believe, and what does he want us to do?'
Jesus is God's 'living Word'. And Baptists have always affirmed that the Bible, in which the mind of Christ is revealed, is 'the word of God written'. The Bible is God's authoritative guide for our faith and practice. It is the inspired record of the mighty acts of God in the history of his people Israel and fulfilled in the life, teachings, and saving work of Christ.
So Baptists are encouraged to be diligent 'Bible people', seeking with an open and reverent mind to understand what God is saying to us today. Sometimes we won't find specific answers to all our modern problems there, but we'll always find God's guiding principles. The greatest principle, or commandment, said Jesus, is to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'. And the second greatest: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'.
For Baptists, then, God alone is the sovereign Lord. They have always tried to follow the apostolic principle: 'We must obey God rather than humans'. Baptists reject doctrines or practices which either contradict or are not in harmony with Christ's will revealed in the Bible. They have simply believed that most of the differences between churches would be resolved if apostolic principles and practices were held in their true scriptural relationship with one another. And so, for just about every question we reply with another: 'What does the Bible say?'
But this doesn't mean Baptists arrogantly believe they are the only ones who are right. No one (except God alone) has 'a monopoly on the truth'. We are humble fellow-learners with others who also submit to the truth of Scripture. And 'God has yet more light and truth to break forth from his holy Word'. A Baptist says with love, to another Christian: 'You are my brother/sister, not because we happen to agree on everything, but because we are both God's children'. This is why Baptists have produced written 'confessions' but never written 'creeds'. Creeds become 'locked into' the particular questions of one historical era, and later Christians may be asking some different questions. Further, creeds tend to make people 'exclusive' - if you don't dot all the i's and cross all the t's you're not acceptable. Baptists aim rather to be inclusive: our bond is simply our common relationship to Jesus Christ.
This leads us to another Baptist emphasis for our next post -
The Church = 'The Company of The Committed'