The following is from a sermon preached by Pastor
William Payne of Burlington, Ontario, Canada and helps to answer the
question: What is a Reformed Baptist Church?
If I were to be asked "What kind of a church are you?" I would not
hesitate to reply, "We are a Baptist Church!" We hold to those
truths which have sometimes been referred to as "Baptist
I would also reply that we are a "Reformed
Church" inasmuch as we hold to the great doctrines of the Reformation
in the areas concerning the salvation of men. In this sense, I am not at all
averse to our church being referred to as a "Reformed Baptist"
church, and I want to speak on the subject "What is a Reformed Baptist
I. The Scriptures
First of all, a Reformed Baptist Church is a local church which acknowledges
the supreme authority of Holy Scripture. In all matters of faith, that is in
the things we believe, and of practice, that is the things which we do, our
sole authority is the Word of God. If something, whether of faith or of
practice, is contrary to the Bible then no matter who pleads for it, no
matter what clever arguments are produced in favor of it, we cannot endorse
it. We recognize that in the operation of a local church there may be items
introduced for which there may be no specific Biblical warrant. For
instance, I am thinking of a church secretary as an illustration. It would
be hard to find chapter and verse which states that we ought to have one,
but we recognize that such things are necessary, and in accordance with the
Biblical principle that all things should be done decently and in order.
However, we would state emphatically that when
there is no express Biblical warrant for something, we are not going to look
upon it as sacred and binding. When the Word of God does not warrant
something, we are not going to be brought under bondage to it; but where the
Scriptures clearly call for something, no consideration ought to make us do
without it. We desire to have our conscience bound to the Word of God, for
there we believe is true freedom. It is my opinion that a number of items in
present day Baptist churches have no true Biblical warrant. They are a part
of the church because they were introduced some years ago and are now
"Baptist tradition." Perhaps many people take it for granted that
they are Scriptural, but if they were challenged to produce Scriptural
evidence for these practices they would be hard pressed to find any. In
other areas there are things which Scriptures clearly calls for which have
dropped out of most modern Baptist churches, and we ought to call for them
to be brought back. The eldership would be an example of this point. Baptist
churches used to have an eldership years ago; in most Baptist churches today
you cannot find it. But we believe that if we are going to be truly
patterned on the New Testament churches we need to return to the concept of
eldership. The Scriptures present it; we ought to have it!
So Reformed Baptists are not governed by tradition,
not by the opinion of man, not by sentiment, nor by pragmatism, but by the
Word of God alone. We believe in the authority of Scripture, and we desire
in our church life to be patterned after and conformed to the Word of God.
We should always be seeking for God to deepen our understanding of His Word,
and we should always be ready to reform any of our practices if it becomes
apparent that we are out of line with the Scriptures. The attitude which
says, "It doesn't matter what the Bible says, this is the way we have
always done it," is to us frightening; indeed sinful. It must be
"to the law and to the testimony"; or what saith the Scriptures?
Secondly, Reformed Baptist believe in the pre-eminence of the preaching of
the Word of God. We believe that the preaching of the Bible must have the
central place in our services. We believe that nothing can or should take
the place of the preaching of the Word!
Our conviction is that the church of Christ has
suffered because she has downgraded the preaching of the Word. We believe
that seminaries and Bible Colleges ought to be pre-eminently places where
preachers are produced and encouraged. We believe that God's people
everywhere ought to be encouraged to pray that God would endow men with
gifts of preaching, and that he would give to His churches preachers, great
preachers, many preachers. We believe that there is a need in the churches
of Christ for a fresh realization of the importance of the preaching of the
Word of God, and that young men ought to be encouraged to study theology,
church history and the sermons of great preachers of the past; that they
ought to work hard to become good preachers of the Bible.
III. The Doctrines of Grace
Thirdly, Reformed Baptist unashamedly declare their belief in those
doctrines which are sometimes called the doctrines of grace. By this
expression we mean in particular the doctrines of total depravity,
unconditional election, definite atonement, effectual calling, and the
perseverance of the saints. We rejoice in those glorious truths which uphold
the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men, and which so gloriously
affirm the great central reality that salvation is all of grace, and that
salvation is of the Lord!
We rejoice that the doctrines of grace are clearly
set forth in the London Confession of Faith of 1689, and in many other
historic Baptist creeds. We note that in 1861 when Charles Spurgeon opened
the great Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, that he celebrated the
occasion by having sermons preached by esteemed guests on each of those
distinctive doctrines. And yet it is not because Spurgeon, or any other
Baptist preached these doctrines that we believe them. It is not just
because these doctrines are found in the historic Baptist creeds, though we
rejoice that that is the case, but it is because the doctrines are so
clearly presented in the Holy Scriptures that we believe them. We recognize
that we live in an age when these great fundamental truths are ignored, and
even blatantly denied by many professing the name "evangelical"
and the name "Baptist". We know that they are unpopular truths,
but truth they are, and we receive them and rejoice in them.
We would like to emphasize also that we not only
believe them but we further believe that they ought to be clearly preached
and taught from the pulpit! We have a tragic situation today when men in the
pulpits say that they believe the doctrines of grace but they refuse to
preach and teach them to their people.
The result is that the churches are full of people
uninstructed in the great truths of the Scriptures (and of the historic
Baptist faith), and these people then imbibe the very opposite doctrines --
which they easily receive over the radio and via religious periodicals.
Often when a man comes into such a congregation and preaches the truths of
grace, uproar and opposition ensue. This is tragic, but common. We believe
that our day needs the doctrines of grace, and that our people need to be
instructed in them.
In the next place, we would like to affirm that Reformed Baptists believe in
the necessity and responsibility of evangelism. We have no more liking for
Hyper-Calvinism than we have for Arminianism.
We do not believe that there is an inconsistency
between God's sovereignty in the salvation of His chosen people and His
command to us to preach the gospel to every creature. If there seems to be a
difficulty in our minds reconciling any of the truths of His Word, we see it
as the result of the darkness of our own understanding, and we believe that
our duty is to obey the Word whether we understand it all or not. We believe
Now it is true that we do not believe in much that
goes under the name of evangelism in this twentieth century. We believe that
much that is called evangelism today is little more than psychology and
salesmanship; we are appalled by the superficial work which goes under the
name of evangelism; we are appalled by the pressures, gimmicks and schemes
all calculated to produce "decisions" and impressive statistics
but which work such havoc in the souls of men. No!
Because we believe in evangelism does not mean that
we are going to cooperate with every scheme which bears that name. We
believe that in evangelism as in everything else, as we said earlier, we
must be governed by the Word of God. The message of evangelism must be
according to the Scriptures, and the method of evangelism must be governed
by the Word of God! Nevertheless, we repeat that we do believe in
evangelism, and our prayer is that God would ever keep us mindful of the
need to evangelize. May God ever give us a burden to evangelize, knowing
that it is for His glory and for the salvation of men.
We believe that it is our responsibility to make
known the gospel first in our own community, and in Canada at large, and
indeed in all the world. We believe in missions, home and foreign and we
believe that we ought to seek the souls of men in every way that is
consistent with the Word of God.
Finally, let me say that a Reformed Baptist Church is a local church with a
serious approach to worship. The God we worship is a God of majesty, glory
and holiness. And the God of the Bible is one before whom the angels of
heaven constantly cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy", they worship Him day
and night; He is great and greatly to be praised. We believe that when we
come together to worship this great and glorious God of the Bible we ought
to do so with reverence and with godly fear. We believe that there ought to
be a sense of AWE in our hearts when we gather to worship this God!
You say, "But surely there must be joy as
well." Yes indeed, we agree, but equally surely it must be a joy which
is a joy in God; a joy not arising from some natural "good
feeling" but a joy arising out of the knowledge of the Lord, and a joy
tempered and controlled by reverence.
We believe that there is a world of difference
between a "dead" service and a serious, spiritual service. The
first is not desired; the second is. Now because of this desire for serious
worship, we believe that anything which would detract from that ought not to
be allowed among us. Frivolity and childishness seem to us to be out of
place and incongruous with the worship of God.
We also believe that our music in the church ought
to be governed by the great central fact of the One whom we worship. So much
of the music invading the churches today seems little more than carnal
imitation of the world. There is very little difference between that which
is presented on the church platform and that which is presented on the
television or the worldly floor show -- except, of course, the
"religious" words are uttered rather than "secular"
ones. But the spirit is of the world; the appeal is to the flesh. This we
abhor and reject as having no place in the worship of God. That which is
sacred ought not to be prostituted and used as entertainment. If men want to
be entertained let them be honest enough to go to some secular hall of
amusement and be entertained; let them not pretend to be worshiping or in a
service when entertainment is the order of the day. No! When we gather to
worship, we want to keep the world out; we want to appeal not to the flesh
but to the spirit; we want not the sophistication of the world but the
simplicity of Christ. Oh that when we worship we might feel the awe of the
God in our souls. Oh that we might see something of the glory seen by Isaiah
and by the servants of God of old! This, then is the kind of church we are
seeking to build. Other things could be said, but we have sought to touch on
some of the basic points. May God raise up many such churches all over the
land and all over the world which desire the same things and strive towards
them. May God be pleased to visit His people again with showers of blessing
that God might be glorified in and through His church!