The Simple Gospel

An Examination of Baptist Doctrine

Larry Ray Hafley


Editor's note: What we have in this article is the response by Larry Ray Hafley to a Mr. Charles Ellis of the Baptist Church. If this were a formal debate, we would publish both sides of the discussion. However, this is not intended to be in such a format, even though Mr. Ellis is directed and quoted in the article. Our purpose in publishing this is to show the inadequacy of Baptist Doctrine in light of the Word of God. If there is a need for any of this article to be challenged, then we will deal with that as it occurs. We commend the article to you for your personal and private study. May God help us all to know His will and do it.

I. "How Can I Be Sure?"

Mr. Ellis is correct about two things. First, we can be sure that we have been saved. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). When we have done what the Lord said, we can know that we are saved (John 8:32). We can know that we have been forgiven of our past, or alien, sins. Obviously, if one may forget that he was forgiven, cleansed of his past sins, he must have known it to begin with, for one cannot forget what he has never known (2 Pet. 1:9). John wrote "that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13; Cf. 1:7; 2:3-5, 25). Second, feelings, indeed, may be deceitful. Jacob "felt," believed, that Joseph was dead (Genesis 37:33-35). Joseph was alive. Jacob's feelings that Joseph was dead did not make it so. Saul truly "thought" that he "ought" to persecute the name of Christ, the disciples of Christ (Acts 26:9-11). His feelings, his murdering of the saints "in all good conscience," did not make it right (John 16:1-3; Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:13).

However, being sure and certain that one has been saved from his past sins is one thing. Being certain that one is saved thereafter is quite another (Acts 8:12-24). For example:

Even though, according to Mr. Ellis, it "is a terrible way to live," "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12)! Even though Mr. Ellis says it "is a terrible way to live," the Holy Spirit said, "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17). Even though Mr. Ellis says it "is a terrible way to live," God says, "When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it" (Ezekiel 33:13).

Observe, please, that God said the righteous "shall surely live." There was no doubt, no uncertainty. Yet, if he then committed iniquity, "he shall die for it." Mr. Ellis may say that "is a terrible way to live," but it is what the Lord said! Suppose Mr. Ellis is right. Suppose that is, indeed, "a terrible way to live." Do you know what is worse than that "terrible way to live"? It is far worse for Mr. Ellis to tell the righteous man that he can never fall, that he need never fear, no matter what he does or how he lives, when God has said that it does matter. That is more "terrible," for it causes a man to rest in a security God has not promised (Cf. Ezekiel 3:17-21).

Remember that we are not questioning or doubting one's salvation from sin. Those who are made righteous through the blood of the cross are saved, forgiven (1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:20). They need have no fear of their status as children of God (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26, 27; Colossians 2:11-13). We are speaking of the time after one's obedience to the gospel. Should we have any apprehension or "fear" after we become children of God? "Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Hebrews 4:1; Cf. 2:1; 4:11). (Mr. Ellis, is Hebrews 4:1 advocating "a terrible way to live"?) One must serve God "with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28). It is true that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:17, 18). That is, if we live obedient lives, we need not fear the judgment of God, but we must live in awe and fear "lest" we drift away and come short of the promise of eternal rest!

II. "What Can I Do To Be Sure?"

This is the question posed by "Pastor" Ellis. He answers it by citing Hebrews 6:18, 19. However, I am puzzled that he would even ask the question. According to Baptist doctrine, there is nothing one can do to make his salvation sure. Baptists teach that the moment one believes his salvation is eternally secured and that there is nothing he can ever do to lose it. If that is the case, why ask, "What can I do to be sure?"

One must flee for "refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." That hope is "an anchor of the soul." It is "both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:18, 19). Of that, there is no doubt. Note that the hope is "both sure and steadfast." It cannot be moved, but we may be "moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). Mr. Ellis and I agree that "the hope set before us" cannot be moved because it is "both sure and steadfast," but does Mr. Ellis believe that one may be "moved away from the hope of the gospel? The Spirit says that we will be presented "holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight if (we) continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:22, 23). What "if" we do not continue in the faith? What "if" we are moved away from the hope of the gospel? What then?

1 John 3:3 says, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." What if one does not "purify" himself? What if one does not cleanse or purify himself "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1)? What if one does not "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11)? What then (Galatians 5:19-21)?

III. John 5:24, Condemnation, And The Judgment

Next, Mr. Ellis cites John 5:24, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." He then concludes that "you will never stand before Him to be judged because Jesus was judged for you on the cross."

Certainly, all who hear and believe "shall not come into condemnation." No Bible believer doubts or denies that fact. As Mr. Ellis correctly observes, God cannot lie; thus, the promise is true. However, Baptist doctrine teaches that even if one should cease to hear and cease to believe that he is still immune from condemnation. No such promise is made in John 5:24. It is the hearing believer that is promised eternal life in the passage. It is the obedient believer who "shall not come into condemnation" (Matthew 7:21; John 3:21, 36; 5:24). Again, no one denies that, but what about the man who quits hearing, believing and obeying? There is no promise to that man; so, the question is, "May a child of God cease to hear and cease to believe?"

First, a child of God may cease to hear the word of God. Isaiah speaks of God's "children that will not hear the law of the Lord" (Isaiah 30:9). Some children of God "turn away their ears from the truth" (2 Timothy 4:3; Cf. Acts 20:29-31; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2; 2 Peter 2:1-3; James 5:19). Second, a child of God may cease to believe. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). God spoke of some of his children in the Old Testament who had forgotten him, and he said that they were "children in whom is no faith" (Deuteronomy 32:18-20). Therefore, a child of God may quit hearing and believing.

Remember that the promise of John 5:24 that one "shall not come into condemnation" is made to the one who hears and believes. We are all agreed that the one who hears and believes "shall not come into condemnation," but what of the one who ceases to hear and who ceases to believe? Is that man still saved? Baptist doctrine says he is! The Bible says he is not (John 3:36; Hebrews 11:6)! Since children of God may cease to hear and cease to believe, those who do so shall come into condemnation (Jude 5). James warned "brethren," "lest (they) fall into condemnation" (James 5:12).

Despite the fact that the obedient believer, "shall not come into condemnation," he will, contrary to Mr. Ellis' assertion, "stand before" God to be judged, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Both the righteous and the unrighteous will "stand before Him to be judged" (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28, 29; Revelation 20:12-15). So, Mr. Ellis is wrong when he says the saved "will never stand before Him to be judged" (Romans 2:5-11, 16 -- note "every man," both the obedient and the disobedient, vv. 6- 8).

IV. The "Passover" Blood

Mr. Ellis speaks of a hypothetical case in the land of Egypt. The last plague was the death of the first born. God promised to spare Israel if they would place the blood of a lamb on the door post and lintel. When he saw the blood, he said he would "pass over" that house and none would die (Exodus 11 & 12). Says Mr. Ellis, "Now suppose after the blood was placed where God said for it to be placed the first born son had said, 'Daddy, I am afraid. I fear I will be killed tonight when God does visit Egypt to destroy all the first-born.' How could that boy be sure?"

Certainly, as Mr. Ellis correctly notes, the boy's feelings do not determine what will happen. Further, as he also rightly says, the young man can be assured by the promise of the word of God. Since God said, "I will pass over you," that ought to be the end of all fear and uncertainty once the blood was placed as God instructed. So, Mr. Ellis concludes, "Thank the Lord we have his word that because of the blood of Jesus He will pass over us. He said it. That settled it."

Since Mr. Ellis has asked us to suppose, let us do some more supposing. It is undeniably true that all were safe who were in the houses with the blood appropriately applied. God told the Israelites not to leave their houses. "None of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning" (Exodus 12:22). Now, suppose that same little boy says to his daddy, "Daddy, since you have put the blood where God said to put it, I am going fishing with my friends, and we will set up camp down on the river." If the boy's dad told him to stay in the house and not "go out the door ... until the morning," suppose the boy said, "But, dad, we have the word of the Lord, and since the blood is on the house, it will be alright. I will not die. All we need is the blood, so it does not matter whether I am inside or outside the house. If you say I must stay in the house, you are making the house, and not God, my Savior. Dad, put your trust in the blood and not in my having to stay in the house."

What then? Would that boy be saved outside the house? Let Mr. Ellis tell us. Though the blood was properly applied, would the boy have been spared if he had disobeyed the divine injunction not to leave the house? No, of course not (Deuteronomy 4:2)! He had to abide in the house (Deuteronomy 6:25). Yet, Baptist doctrine says that once the blood of Jesus is applied, it does not matter whether you abide in the house of God or not!

Yes, we have God's word "that because of the blood of Jesus He will pass over us." But, like Israel of old, we must abide in the house of God, the church (1 Timothy 3:16). The saved are the house of God; "whose house are we" (Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5; 4:17, 18). Jesus is the Savior of the body, the church (Ephesians 5:23). We must remain in his body, in him, in his house, in order to be saved. If we leave, if we abide not in him, we will be "cast forth" and "spewed out" (John 15:6; Revelation 3:16). "He said it. That settles it."

Now, we turn our attention to Mr. Ellis second article:

The Lord's Church

How Mr. Ellis could dare to speak of a Divine pattern for the church is beyond me. It would be amusing if it were not so amazing and serious. Citing Exodus 25:9 and Hebrews 8:5, Mr. Ellis speaks of God as "the Divine architect of His church," and correctly implies that we must build "The Lord's Church" "according to the pattern," just as they built the "tabernacle ... in Old Testament days" "according to the pattern" God "revealed".

Jereboam's corruptions of God's pattern are parallel to the Baptist Church's corruptions of the Lord's church (1 Kings 12:26-33). Neither is "according to the pattern" of "the Divine architect" (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11).

Note some obvious Baptist perversions of the Bible pattern:

  1. Weekly Lord's Supper -- The church of the New Testament broke bread "upon the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7). Most Baptist churches do not do so. Suppose Israel, who was commanded to, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," had kept the Sabbath day once a month, or once a quarter, and also at two annual feast days, like Christmas and Easter? Would they have been keeping the Sabbath as God's "pattern" directed? No, they would have been guilty of violating the Sabbath. As they were to remember each Sabbath day, so we must do as the disciples did and break bread every "first day of the week" (Cf. Exodus 20:8; Acts 20:7).

  2. Elders In Every Church -- New Testament churches had a plurality of elders, or pastors, "in every church" (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:2). Baptist churches are not organized "according to the pattern" of the New Testament. If Baptist churches can have one man as "the Pastor," could the Jews have anointed and appointed two or more High Priests to serve at the same time? If Baptist churches can reduce a plurality of "elders (pastors) in every church" to one man, why could not the Jews have expanded the one High Priest into a plurality? The truth is, the Jews had no more right to expand the number of High Priests than the Baptists have to lower the number of pastors "in every church." In both cases, neither is "according to the pattern" of "the Divine architect."

    Mr. Ellis acknowledges that, "The local church is the only kind that can have pastors and deacons; and other officers and teachers." Though he cites no Scriptures to prove a local church may have "pastors" (plural), he is correct to that extent. Now, let him find where "the local church" may have only one "pastor" (singular), as most Baptist churches have. Also, let him find Bible authority for pastors to serve under the jurisdiction and control of a "board of deacons," as is done is Baptist churches. Can he find that arrangement "according to the pattern" in the New Testament? If he cannot, will he deny it and denounce it as being contrary to "the pattern" of "the Divine architect"?

    Too, Mr. Ellis mentions "other officers" in a "local church". "According to the pattern," we find "the bishops and the deacons," "evangelists" and "teachers" in "the local church" (Philippians 1:1; Acts 13:1; Ephesians 4:11). Besides them, just who are these "other officers" in "the local church" to which Mr. Ellis refers? Who are they? What is their function? What are these "other officers" called? Since Mr. Ellis says "the local church ... can have" them, perhaps he could cite an example of them in the New Testament. Can he produce them for us?

  3. Adding Human Traditions -- Jesus forbade the addition of man - made, human traditions in worship (Matthew 7:21-23; 15:8, 9, 13, 14; 28:20). The Jews in Jeremiah's day wanted to add and mix human traditions with Divine service (Jeremiah 44:17-19; Cf. 1 Kings 11:1- 12). Likewise, Baptist churches add the human, pagan traditions of Christmas and Easter to their worship.

    Strangely, Baptists do not do as the early disciples did; that is, break bread upon the first day of the week, but they fervently and zealously observe an annual day, Easter, which the Lord never authorized! Baptists will not break bread every first day of the week, which, as we have shown, the Bible "pattern" authorizes, but they will celebrate an annual day to observe the birth of Jesus which neither the Lord nor the disciples ever did! Yet, Mr. Ellis speaks of building "The Lord's Church" "according to the pattern"!

    We are to "hold fast" to the Divine "traditions," or teachings, of "the Divine architect" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We are to observe and do only those things that are "according to the pattern" of "the apostles' doctrine" (Matthew 28:20; Luke 10:16; 1 Corinthians 4:6, 17; 14:37; Galatians 1:8, 9; Colossians 3:17; 2 John 9). Where does Mr. Ellis find "the Divine architect's" design for the observance of Christmas or Easter? Again, will Mr. Ellis tell us?

    Baptist churches add mechanical instruments of music to their worship, which is another human tradition. They often justify this practice by what was done in the Old Testament (Psalm 149:3; 150:3). Well, they burned incense and offered animal sacrifices "according to the pattern" of the Old Testament, too (Exodus 31:11; Psalm 66:13-15). Should Baptist churches burn incense and offer animal sacrifices today? "According to the pattern" of the New Testament, Christians are to "sing" and make melody in their heart (not "on their harp") to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Still, Mr. Ellis speaks of making "all things according to the pattern."

    Frankly, if a tailor began with a pattern for a dress for a petite lady and ended up with a circus tent, he would be about as much "according to the pattern" as Mr. Ellis is when he starts out to make "The Lord's Church" "according to the pattern," but winds up instead with the "First Baptist Church."

  4. The Baptist Name -- Since Mr. Ellis quite correctly encourages us to construct "The Lord's Church" "according to the pattern," perhaps he could tell us where "the form (the mold, the pattern) of sound words" refers to "Baptists" or to "Baptist churches" (2 Timothy 1:13). We know that "The Lord's Church" was referred to by a number of designations, including "the churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16). Where is there any reference to a "Baptist Church" or to "Baptist Churches"? We know that saved ones are referred to as "saints," "disciples," "brethren," "children of God," and "Christians" (Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Galatians 3:26; 6:1). Where were they ever referred to as "Baptists"?

    Surely, one of the first things to be done in identifying and constructing any organization according to its original pattern would be to refer to that organization by the terms that were initially used to describe or designate it and its members. Mr. Ellis needs to tell us what those terms were, and he needs to tell us why he wears and uses names that are nowhere found in the original pattern.

    Historically, it would be confusing to refer to a ruler of ancient Egypt as "Caesar," or to call a leader of Rome, "Pharaoh." Worse, still, it would be wrong to refer to them as "Mayors." Why? Because that is not what they were. That is not what they were called. Likewise, to refer to those who are supposed to be representative of New Testament Christians as "Baptists" is not right, either, for that is not what New Testament Christians were. That is not what they were called (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).

Miscellaneous Matters

A few isolated remarks by Mr. Ellis in his second article need to be dealt with before we conclude this study.

First, after citing Acts 2:41, 47, concerning those that "were added," Mr. Ellis says, "It was necessary for the church to be already existing to add to it." This is Mr. Ellis' proof that the church existed prior to Pentecost. Suppose 12 men, banded together as charter members, announced a meeting to begin an organization and invited all to join with them on the beginning day of their club. Others who came that first day would be invited to join and to be "added unto them." That did not mean that the club existed before that day. It was purposed, and it was announced that on that day the new club would begin. Those who came would be invited to join and be "added" to the 12 men who gathered to initiate the organization. That would not mean that the organization officially and formally "existed" before that day.

So, the Lord purposed and promised to build his church. He did not say, "I have already built my church." He said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). With power and authority from heaven, the apostles were "set in the church," which had its "beginning at Jerusalem" (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; Luke 24:47; Isaiah 2:2-4; 1 Corinthians 12:28). On the day of Pentecost, thousands were "added unto them" (Acts 2:41, 47). Peter refers to the events of Pentecost as "the beginning" (Acts 11:15). "The beginning" of what, Mr. Ellis?

Second, Mr. Ellis chides those who "talk about an invisible, universal church." If there is no such thing as a "universal church," just which "local church" was Jesus promising to build in Matthew 16:18? Jesus did not say, "I will build my churches." He said, "my church." Since, according to Mr. Ellis, he was not referring to a "universal church," of which "local church" was he speaking? If a certain local church is named as the one Jesus built, how do we know that he built the others?

This same argument and the same questions can be asked regarding Mr. Ellis' use of Ephesians 1:22, 23 and 5:25-32, which he cited to prove that there is no "universal church." Christ is "the head" of "the church." Which particular "local church" is that? Christ loved "the church" (singular), and "gave himself for it." Which specific "local church" was that, since, according to Mr. Ellis, it could not be referring to the "universal church"?

There is a church, a body, in which Jews and Gentiles are to be "of the same body" (Ephesians 3:6). Jews and Gentiles are "reconciled unto God in one body" (Ephesians 2:16). Does that mean "in one" local church? If it is not "the universal church," just which "local church" is it in which Jews and Gentiles are "reconciled" together? Mr. Ellis cannot say that it is in any local church, for Scripture says it is "in one body," or church. So, if it is not in the one universal body, which local church is it? If he names a certain one, there can be no other local church in which Jews and Gentiles may be reconciled, for "there is one body" (Ephesians 4:4).

Jesus is "the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). "There is one body" (Ephesians 4:4). Of which local church is he the Savior? It will not do to say, "All of them," for there is only "one body," or church, of which Jesus is the Savior (Ephesians 1 :22, 23; 2:16; 4:4; 5:23). If that "one body" is not "the universal church," then Mr. Ellis has some explaining to do.

Further, all who are saved have been "baptized into one body," or church (1 Corinthians 12:13). But not all are baptized into one local church. Therefore, the "one body" of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is not a reference to a local church. It is a reference to the "universal church," which Mr. Ellis denies exists. Oddly, Mr. Ellis denies the existence of the universal body of Christ, which is mentioned in the Bible, but he declares the existence of local Baptist churches which are not found in the Bible.

Third, "The family of God and the church of God are two different things. Those in the family are not in the church just because they are in the family of God." Did Mr. Ellis "slip up" here? What does he mean by "the church of God"? It almost sounds like he is referring to that thing which does not exist, "the universal church"! What does he mean by "the family of God"? Is "the family of God" a "universal" family, or must "the family of God" be a local family? If "the family of God" can be a "universal" unit, why cannot the church be also?

Those who are "of the household (or family) of God" are also "of the same body" or church (Ephesians 2:16, 19; 3:6, 15). The "house of God, which is the church of the living God," is the "family," or "household of God" (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19; 3:6, 15). "Family," "house hold," and "body" are simply figures of speech to describe the same group or collection of people, the saved, the church.

If some folks, as Mr. Ellis alleges, are in "the family of God" and saved, but are not in "the church," they cannot glorify God, for "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:21). To be a fellow heir, to have fellowship with God, and to drink or commune with God in one Spirit, one must be "in" the "one body," the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:6). Since, according to Mr. Ellis, some are in "the family of God," but are not in "the church of God," they have no inheritance and no fellowship with God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:16, 19-22; 3:6; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Since that is true, those in "the family of God" and who have no fellowship "through the Spirit," are not of God. They are "none of his," for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, "he is none of his" (Romans 8:9). Mr. Ellis needs to tell us the plight and position of such people. He is the one who says they are in "the family of God," but not in "the church of God," so let him explain their status in light of his false dichotomy.

Fourth, Mr. Ellis correctly states, "There is no indication from the word of God that you are baptized into the church by the Holy Spirit." Then, he says, "We all receive the Holy Spirit when we are saved ...." Let the word of God tell us when we receive "the gift of the Holy Spirit." "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 Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Does Mr. Ellis believe that? Does he believe that one must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins before he receives "the gift of the Holy Spirit"? That is what "the word of God" says, but I would be surprised if that is what Mr. Ellis believes.

Fifth, "Only a saved person can receive baptism by the church." Compare that statement with this one, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). If "only a saved person can receive baptism," why did not Jesus say, "He that believeth is saved and "only" then can he, as "a saved person, receive baptism"?

One cannot believe both Jesus Christ and Mr. Ellis. Whose word will judge us in the last day (John 12:48)? It will not be the word of Mr. Ellis.


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