Friday, May 24, 2013

Comparing Two Statements of Faith: Part Three

          Clearly there are similarities in the two confessions being reviewed.  However, the differences in the two statements abound.  A lengthy discussion of the efficaciousness of God’s grace or the nature of the atonement would fit nicely into a monograph such as this.  However, the author will limit the discussion to the three areas previously mentioned.
          The first of the disagreement to be discussed are the ordinances of the church.  Both the New Hampshire Baptists and the Free Will Baptists agreed that baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and the observance of the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the church.  Here the agreement ends. Where the New Hampshire Baptist confession states there are only two ordinances, the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834) also includes as an ordinance the washing of the saint’s feet.  It is their belief that this is an act of humility which reminds the believer of the need of daily cleansing from all sin.[1]  The act of washing the saint’s feet was performed by Jesus as recorded in John 13:1-21.  However, this act is not unique to the New Testament.  In fact, the act of foot washing can be found as early as Abraham (Gen. 18:4; 19:2) and continued in the nation of Israel (Judg. 19:21).[2]  Foot washing was usually done by the person or a servant.  It was very unusual for the host to perform the act (1 Sam. 25:41) and failure to provide such amenities was considered a discourtesy (Luke 7:44).[3]
          When Paul wrote to Timothy about the qualifications for a widow to be provided for by the church, he listed foot washing among them (1 Tim. 5:10).[4]  Clearly, there was something to the washing of feet that demonstrated humility that Jesus Christ himself held in high regard.  As baptism symbolizes the cleansing of the forgiveness of sins, foot washing symbolizes the cleansing needed for fellowship.  If cleansing is the focus then a clear case for the observance of foot washing as an ordinance can be made.  If the forgiveness or example aspect of foot washing is the emphasis then simply practicing the spiritual truths the ritual illustrates would argue against foot washing as an ordinance.[5]
Election or the Gospel Call
          The Free Will Baptist view of the Gospel Call is one in which Christ’s atoning death on the cross makes salvation equally available to all men.  Any failure to come to a saving faith in Christ is wholly the fault of the sinner.  This is in contrast to the view of the New Hampshire Baptists in which Election is the means unto God’s end plan.[6]  From this perspective, Christ’s death on the cross secured the salvation of those elect and also the faith necessary to come to saving faith.  The New Hampshire Baptist Confession also states in Section VI that the blessing of salvation is made free to all by the gospel though the sinner’s depravity and voluntary rejection prevent acceptance.[7]  This seems to contradict the notion of election described in Section IX.
Perseverance of the Saints
          Here again a distinct difference between the two confessions is clearly visible.  The Free Will Baptist position states that there are strong grounds to hope that the regenerate will persevere until the end but that people can fall back into sin and thus lose their salvation.[8]  Where the Free Will Baptist saw the loss of salvation, the New Hampshire Baptists would see backsliding as described in Proverbs 14:14 or Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38, 39.[9] 
For the New Hampshire Baptists, once a person comes to saving faith in Christ, a special Providence watches over their welfare allowing them to endure to the end.  It is this perseverance that sets them apart from the others who would fall away from the faith.  This doctrine can be found in John 10:28, 29; Rom. 11:29; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:5. It, moreover, follows from a consideration of (1) the immutability of the divine decrees (Jer. 31:3; Matt. 24:22–24; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:30); (2) the provisions of the covenant of grace (Jer. 32:40; John 10:29; 17:2–6); (3) the atonement and intercession of Christ (Isa. 53:6, 11; Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; John 11:42; 17:11, 15, 20; Rom. 8:34); and (4) the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (John 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14; 1 John 3:9). [10]

[1] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter XVIII.
[2] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 458.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Freeman, James M., and Harold J. Chadwick. Manners & Customs of the Bible, Rev. ed. (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 26.
[5] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 495.
[6] New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833), full text in Grudem, Wayne. “Appendix 1: Historic Confessions of Faith.”  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1197. 
[7] Ibid.
[8] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter XIII.
[9] Easton, M. G. Easton's Bible Dictionary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), Backsliding.

[10] Ibid, Perseverance of the saints.

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