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• The Church

As I am in the middle of finishing an exhaustive book on the subject of elders, it is frustrating that I am not yet ready to fire back at those who are exerting great effort in promoting this newfangled theory of a plural eldership in Baptist churches. Their forceful claims to have received an inner revelation from God’s Word to which our Baptist forefathers were ignorant, is quite frankly a very arrogant position to nurture. When they boast their theory of leadership in churches is the ‘biblical way’, they censure and condemn all churches who have…

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Introduction

10 Sep 2013, by

Clifford Pond served in the pastoral ministry among Grace Baptist churches for more than 50 years. Having seen the need for congregations to better understand the complexities of adopting a plurality of elders, he wrote a book entitled “Only Servants.” The back cover of the book offers a reason why the author is a respected authority on the subject: “Clifford Pond writes out of a lifetime of pastoral ministry, having served churches in Suffolk and Surrey as well as exercising a wider ministry at various times by responsible leadership in young people’s fellowships, associations of churches and the council of Grace Baptist Mission.”

In the fifth chapter, under the heading “Plurality of Elders and Deacons”, Mr. Pond writes:

“Since the Second World War every part of life generally has been questioned, and churches too have been put under the scrutiny of Scripture…For example, in the earlier part of this century the most common structure in local churches was a pastor with a group of deacons. In the absence of a pastor…

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A lecture on the ordinance of the Lord’s Table.

There are two ordinances Christ has established for His church: Baptism and the Lord’s Table. Baptism qualifies a Christian to become a member of the church; the Lord’s Table enables a Christian to maintain his membership with the church. Baptism symbolizes a believer’s submission to the will of God; the Lord’s Table demonstrates a believer’s discipline to the Word of God. This study seeks to provide an overview for the ordinance of the Lord’s Table.

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J. A. Shackelford completed his “Compendium of Baptist History” in 1891. It was not his original intent to write a history of the Baptists, but rather prepare a chart “which would give a bird’s eye view of Baptist History, with its relations to the Catholic hierarchy, and the branches of the Romish church.” However, the amount of material acquired through research provided an abundant supply of historical facts which suggested a larger work should be produced. The finished manuscript is a superb summary of significant events which tell the story of Christ preserving His church through two millennia.

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An unusual interest has, of late, been awakened in the study of church history. This is a hopeful indication. It shows that many are disposed to turn away from human organizations, and seek for the true church of Christ, as revealed in the Gospels. It is worse than folly to suppose that the Saviour left his work so incomplete that uninspired men, of later years, must take it up and bring it to perfection. It must be a recognized fact that Christ established his Church, as a “pillar and ground of the truth.”

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The advent of John the Baptist into the world was not an unexpected event. Although his birth had not been announced by angels, as was Christ’s, yet God had declared, “I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me.”—Mai. 3:1. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”—Mai.4:5,6. Jesus declared that it was John of whom this was written. —Matt. 11:10. He also testified that Elias (Elijah) must first come, but declared that he had already come, and they knew him not.—Matt. 17:11,12.

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Before proceeding further it will be necessary to examine into the meaning of the word “church.” This word has come to be used in such a broad sense that it takes in and is applied to any religious organization, or society, whether a Scriptural church or not.

By some writers it is made to “include the entire body of professed Christians.” By others it means “the spiritual congregation, or aggregate of the regenerate, including the saints in heaven, the saints on earth and the saints yet to come.” The general usage of the word at present justifies both of these definitions, but its Scriptural use does not, nor was the word so used in the time of Christ and his apostles.

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The night before his crucifixion the Saviour formally assembled his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem, and with them he instituted the Memorial Supper. This was the closing act of his life as far as it related to his church, and was well calculated to remind it continually of the responsibility which rested upon it as the executor of his laws, and the administrator of his kingdom.

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A.D. 29. After the day of Pentecost the disciples went everywhere gladly preaching the word, while great success attended their ministry. In a very short time a second church was planted at Samaria, and soon another at Antioch. Persecutions were now inflicted upon the Christians everywhere, and Saul was on his way to Damascus, with authority to arrest men and women, and breathing out threatenings and slaughter against all Christians, when he was suddenly stricken down and made to cry out for mercy. Being converted to the Christian faith, he attached himself to the church at Antioch.

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“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days. And to the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, times, and a half time, from the face of the serpent.” (Rev. 12:6,14 “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them and shall overcome them, and kill them.” (Rev. 11:7)

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Baptists have always been advocates of religious liberty. This constitutes one of their fundamental principles. They have always claimed the right for themselves, and others, to worship God according to their understanding of His word. They have always opposed a union of church and State, and have refused to accept any legislation in religious matters for themselves, and have opposed it for others.

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These articles are about the historically, and more importantly, scripturally authentic church practice known as Closed Communion. The practice is also known as ‘Restricted Communion’, and it is from the word ‘restricted’ that ‘Strict Baptist’ churches take their title.

Although the casual or unsaved visitor to a Strict Baptist church may indeed find the congregation rather stern, dull or strange at first meeting, the designation ‘strict’ has nothing to do with any such behaviour or dress code which might exist in such a church.

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Actually Strict Baptists are still around, but on darker days sometimes it feels like there are only two or three of us left. To understand where the others went, it’s helpful to know where we started. Leaving aside the obvious contention that John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul were all Strict Baptists, (which I would be happy to prove from the scriptures on another occasion) let us zoom forward instead to Great Britain in the 1700’s to see where the actual title came from.

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The writer contends that closed communion is not merely a practice dictated by a certain theological view of the church. On the contrary: A church which practices closed communion as the beginning of its theological thinking for church management, and diligently follows all naturally occurring corollaries of the full doctrine of closed communion, will soon discover that a closed communion table favourably governs correct practices in all areas of church life, and will preserve the existence of the local church.

The reverse has been demonstrably proved time and again:

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Closed communion is superior to open communion because it more effectively helps to protect and nurture the sanctity and industry of the church.

Specifically, the purpose of the communion supper is fourfold:

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