June 19, 2012 by Michael Dewalt
The blogosphere, within Evangelical and Baptist circles, has continued to go back and froth about the recent discussion on soteriology and the Ten Article Preamble written by a number within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The Preamble has been written with a major concern of New Calvinists gaining ground and number within the SBC denomination.
The Ten Article Preamble has a heavily bent towards Arminianism; and at times has been argued as Semi-Pelagian. It has brought constant posts, disagreements and differences among a number of leaders within the SBC. From the beginning, Calvinists have taken the time, on a number of platforms, to respond by pointing out their differences with the Ten Articles, none of which excel Rev. Dr. Tom Ascol’s 13 part series titled “Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.“
I have seen a number disagreements with almost every point of the Ten Article Preamble, including Number 10 which concerns The Great Commission. As a matter of fact, The Rev. Dr. Tom Ascol, from my reading and understanding, did not disagree with Article Ten: The Great Commission. Article ten states,
We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation. We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Scriptural proof text, the writers of this article use the following:
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
It is what the “Traditional SBCers ” affirm that brings some concern and is in need of clarification for a proper understanding and doctrinal agreement for myself. Two things come to my mind after reading the 10th Article along side their Scriptural proof texts.
The first concerns the fact that the SBC has remained dominantly Dispensational in their hermeneutics. Seeing the writers use proof texts in the Old Testament, such the Psalms and Isaiah, while applying them to the New Testament people of God seems to be a move towards a more covenantal hermeneutic.
The second applies to Article Ten which states “that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth.” This is proof texted by Matthew 28:19-20. I would like to see some clarification on what is meant by “commissioned His church.” What does “His church” mean in the Article? Is it every single individual member of the church? Is it the commission of the church? Does it mean that the commission was given to the offices of the church? Is this “great” commission given to both men and women of the church?
Maybe it is time that the “Traditional Baptists” of the SBC take a look at their elder brothers of the Protestant Faith such as the “Particular” Baptist. The 1689 London Baptist Confession (LBC) chapter 28 sections 1 & 2 state the following,
1. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. 2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. Scriptural Proof Text: Matthew 28:19-20.
What American Evangelicals, such as the SBC have commonly titled The Great Commission and used as a Scriptural proof for the Church to evangelize has lost its theological intent and audience. Here in the LBC (as well in the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 28 & The Belgic Confession Article 34 ) traditionally Protestants have seen Matthew 28:19-20 not as The Great Commission, but as the Apostles Commission, or better said The Apostles Ordination by Jesus Christ.
Here Jesus ordaining the disciples into the office of Apostleship, passing the keys and authority that had been given to Him from His father, telling the Apostles their commission, “to teach and baptize… to all the nations” meaning both to the Jew and Gentile takes place before His ascension. Later in the New Testament, it is this office of Apostles and commission of teaching and baptizing that had been given to them by Jesus Christ himself that is passed to the office of the teaching elder. (Cf. Acts 14:23, 20:28; Titus 1:5) As John Calvin gives light to the original intent and theological importance of the passage to the church today;
Now since this charge is expressly given to the apostles along with the preaching of the word, it follows that none can lawfully administer baptism but those who are also the ministers of doctrine. When private persons, and even women, are permitted to baptize, nothing can be more at variance with the ordinance of Christ, nor is it any thing else than a mere profanation.”