The church that I pastor belongs to an historic circle of churches known as “Strict and Particular Baptists”. Now, it is likely these labels have conjured up some false ideas, or at the very least, some negative views. One might assume the names “Strict” and “Particular” refer to rules and regulations, and therefore the churches are steeped in legalism and double standards. I can assure you, this most definitely is not the meaning of the terms. Here, let me provide some proper definitions:

• “Church”—The ‘church’ is a local body of baptized believers covenanted to follow the commands of Christ.

• “Baptist”—The membership of a church is restricted to those immersed (baptised) after regeneration (new birth).

• “Strict”—The Lord’s Table is restricted to those in membership with the local church.

• “Particular”—The atonement of Christ is restricted to those that have been chosen by God the Father and given to the Son.

Henceforth, the name “Strict” identifies the church as practicing Close(d) Communion, whereas the name “Particular” refers to a church subscribing to Sovereign Grace. As these teachings are the distinguishing marks of this circle of churches, it is helpful if I give a little further information concerning them.

With reference to “Strict Communion”…

Many of the Strict Baptist churches in England practice CLOSE Communion (members belonging to churches of the same faith and order may sit at the Table). However, I believe CLOSED Communion (only the members of that particular church may sit at the Table) is a more consistent practice. As the first church ordinance (baptism) brings the believer under the discipline of Christ within the context of a church, so the second church ordinance (communion table) maintains the believer in the discipline of Christ within the context of a church. Jesus Himself established these parameters in the church He organised at Jerusalem—the twelve charter members were first regenerated (or at least, made a profession of faith), then baptised and finally added to the membership (when Jesus called them to follow Him). It was after they were members, Jesus instituted the communion table, and only they were invited. However, before administering the elements, Jesus exercised corrective discipline by excommunicating Judas Iscariot from the church. Only then did Jesus observe the communion table with the remaining eleven members. And this was how the church in Jerusalem continued to be governed, for after Jesus ascended to heaven, the membership had grown to 120, and on the day of Pentecost after Peter preached the gospel, “they that gladly received his word (regenerated) were baptized (first ordinance): and the same day there were added unto them (membership) about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread (second ordinance), and in prayers.” Those who practice Open Communion view the Lord’s Table as a Christian ordnance (it should be open to all believers), whereas those who practice Closed Communion view the Lord’s Table as a church ordinance (it should be restricted to all baptized believers in membership with the church).

With reference to “Particular Redemption”…

We believe the gracious covenant of the TriUne Jehovah is the essence of the gospel of Christ—God the Father has set apart a remnant of the human race as vessels of honour by electing love; God the Son, in the Person of Jesus Christ, has set apart these persons as vessels of mercy by redeeming grace; God the Spirit has set apart these persons as vessels of gold and silver by regenerative power. Henceforth, we are opposed to the pernicious doctrines of duty-faith and the free-offer. We believe saving faith is a fruit of the new nature exercised after the new birth and therefore not only is it vain to demand sinners believe on Christ, but such demands often result in false professions. Likewise, we believe the gospel is to be freely preached to all, but that it should not be presumptuously offered to any. Sinners are regenerated, not because the gospel is offered to them, but because the Spirit of God imparts a new nature to their souls as the gospel is preached (proclaimed/explained) to them. Pandering to unregenerate sinners by making offers, or attempting to persuade them to make a decision, or manipulating them into faith and repentance by dangling the carrot of heaven on the stick of duty-faith, are unbecoming of gospel ministers and perversions of the gospel of Christ.


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