The purpose of this rebuttal is to give an answer to Bob Ross' charges against us. And to be of help to any who may be taken in by his sophistry.
In Christ.... Rick Howard—Wm. Bekgaard
Wm. F. Bekgaard
A rebuttal of Bob Ross' treatise in opposition to Landmarkism.
Sources of this thesis:
OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTIST
An Examination of the theories of "Church Authority" and "Church Succession"
Bob L. Ross (Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, Texas 77501, 1979)
A 10 page Pamphlet:
"Landmarkism," The Church, And Church Authority
Bob L. Ross (Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, Texas 77501
The Non-Protestant Baptist
Wm. F. Bekgaard (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN. 47403 11/4/08)
Robert Ashcraft (Ashcraft Publications, Mabelvale, AR. 72103, ND)
Bro Ashcraft gives a powerful refutation of Bob Ross' attack on Landmarkism, in his Chapter Six (Landmarkism Defended) in this book.
Here are preliminary thoughts on this expostulatory investigation of charges laid against Landmarkers and Landmark doctrine. WFB—
Bob Ross, in his introduction to his book, wrote that his early Christian life was spent in Baptist churches which held to Landmarkism. He was introduced to the writings of J. R. Graves. Later he became a member of an Independent Baptist Church, which also believed strongly in Landmark views. In 1964 he left this church and began to study and examine the views of Landmarkism and the teachings of Graves. Ross states that he gave a more objective study, which led to abandonment of the two primary theories discussed in his book: church authority and church succession.
In the later part of 1964 Ross began issuing some short papers on these theories, and later the material was put into a small magazine-type booklet (now out of print).
The theme of his work and a short pamphlet (of which I have a copy) is indeed purposed to refute the views of church authority and church succession. Ross tells what he wants to accomplish but never gives any reason for doing it. He never reveals his motive behind his attack against Landmarkers and their beliefs. He fails to give any explanation for writing this book. If we knew why he attacks and makes personal accusations we might better understand him as a man and a Christian. All we are left to assume is that he only wishes to destroy the beliefs of a whole body of other Christians. In the end Ross is only one of many with personal opinions and theories, and yet we see a large ego in his setting himself up as an authority and scholar on the church; church authority and church succession.
The format of this rebuttal is first, to present from Ross' book the page number which is quoted from and to name the topic or subject. Following this are my comments and replies to his charges and assertions. Some of my rebuttals are multilayered, and I have used the symbol "§" to indicate follow up comments.
The purpose and aim of this work is not a defense of Brother Cross' or Graves', or any other points of view. My position is let others defend their own views and writings. I answer only for myself. The purpose of this writing is to rebut Brother Ross and his condemnation of Landmarkism.
OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTIST
An Examination of the theories of "Church Authority" and "Church Succession"
Bob L. Ross
In his Introduction Brother Ross has listed a number of endorsements from prominent anti-Landmark Baptist celebrities. They praise Brother Ross for his work of research, for providing documentation and quotations, for his scholarly refutation of "Landmarkism," showing much research, and exhaustive preparation and careful presentation.
"To me, this [rebuttal of Landmarkism] is not a matter involving anything vital as to salvation, nor from my point of view does it [church succession?] involve the validity of a church." - Ross.
—Ross concedes that Landmarkers are correct on salvation. So what is so horrible that he objects to? And herein lies the crux of the contention: what is "the validity of a church?"
He continues: "In a letter to a Landmark brother, of recent date, I told him that by his Landmark standards I could not accept his church as being valid, but according to scriptural standards I can accept his church as valid."
—I would have to assume by what Ross is saying that in his judgment churches which hold to the opinion of church perpetuity are not valid churches. What his "scriptural standards" are is the subject to be investigated. Furthermore, are his interpretations of "scriptural references" of the church valid?
Ross makes this observation: "According to Landmarkers, there is no authority in either the Word or from the Spirit for doing the work of the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church."
—First, actually this is a misrepresentation of the Landmarker view. The sole authority is not from the local church but ultimately from Christ when He gave out the Great Commission. Next, it is a falsehood to say Landmarkers deny the Word as a source of authority. Landmarkers and historical Baptists have always held to the Scriptures to be sole authority for doctrine, practices, and beliefs as they have been inspired by Christ.
Ross: In his presenting that Landmarkism is historically unknown among the Baptists he offers this evidence: "These earliest of [the English] Particular Baptists obviously did not teach the doctrine that the church, as institution, has been given an ecclesiastical franchise on the commission of Christ for evangelism, baptism, and other Christian faith and practice."
—His evidence using the Particular Baptists is irrelevant. These churches by their Confessions of Faith (1644, 1677, 1689) reflect their close connection with Protestantism. They are of this recent origin.
Ross: "The authority which validates baptism, or any other scriptural action of our time, does not reside in the church institution any more than does the authority which validates salvation itself; authority resides in Jesus Christ and is expressed in His Word. The church itself is dependent upon this authority, but the authority is not dependent upon the church."
— One wonders if Ross understands the meaning of "commission?" No one is disputing the authority of Christ, but what Ross overlooks is the concept that Jesus can grant an authorization of His authority to whomever He chooses. Is not Jesus sovereign, to do as He pleases? Was not this the case with John the Baptist who was sent from God? Scripture is rich in the evidence of His church having authority and rights of operation within the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 16:19 KJV And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 18:17-18, 20 KJV And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. . . .
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matt. 28:18-20 KJV And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
§ The Promise:
John 14:26 KJV But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
§ The promised event detailed :
Acts 1:4 KJV And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
Acts 1:8 KJV But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
All of the above verses show the relation between Christ and His church. These scriptures reveal that Christ relegated power and authority to the church for the task it had been commissioned to do.
Naturally, Brother Ross debates what the nature of the church is: a local body or a universal body. He may attempt to deny it, but the foregoing verses all have the church corporate at the heart of them and not private individuals.
—Consider: If a task is assigned to others by a person of ownership or in authority, isn't it implied that those commanded to the work have the authority to do the work or carry out the commission? Although authority on this occasion is not implicitly stated it is implied by the right given for the work commissioned.
Landmarkism and The Baptist
On page 9 of this chapter Ross is under the impression that to the Landmarker a scriptural church is required to be a Baptist Church.
—There may be some who hold this view, and I can't speak for all Landmarkers, but I can say that this is not the accepted or popular view.
Ross further states that the theory of Landmarkers is that when Christ gave the Commission He, Christ, was speaking to a Baptist Church.
—"A Baptist Church?" There may be some Landmarkers who speak in these terms, but many would not! It is hard to find words to describe this misrepresentation of the truth concerning the greater numbers of Landmarkers. Ross should be ashamed of himself to put forth such a bizarre accusation which he knows is not factual or accurate. Where is his scholarship now? Where is his research now? Where is his exhaustive preparation and careful presentation now?
Ross draws this conclusion immediately following what he has just previously and inaccurately presented as truth: "Consequently, the Landmark view is that Baptist churches alone have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize and carry out all aspects of the Commission."
—Ross is devious in his argument. First he puts forth a proposition of his own invention (that Christ was addressing a Baptist church) and then draws a conclusion from it. If his purpose is to prove a point what he has actually done was to libel the Baptists. Everything this Brother says must be challenged and not taken casually as truth. His assertion is false, therefore, his conclusion is false.
"The system [of Landmarkism] further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue. This position, though not uniformly defined among Landmarkers, is believed to have been taught by Christ in such verses as Matthew 16:18, 28:19, 20. While Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so, their efforts to advocate their system of "church truth" are almost invariably characterized by several quotations from secondary sources and their own respected authors, supposedly establishing the historical claims." (all Ross' emphasis)
—Ross' first sentence is disingenuous when he names "Baptist churches." The issue is not about the lineage of Baptist churches but about the perpetuity, succession of the New Testament apostolic church. You remember: The initial Church in Jerusalem, the prototype Church.
I here refer Ross to Brother Ashcraft in his book* to answer "either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so,"
*Ashcraft rebuttal: Landmarkism Revisited, Chapter VI, pages 186 -189. Robert Ashcraft gives documented evidence of pre-Graves existence of Landmarkism.
For Ross' benefit here is a partial list of non-Baptist historians/authors who have provided evidence of the existence of the apostolic church throughout the ages of Ecclesiastical History.
Church History Publications
Title Author Date
Ecclesiastical History of the English People Bede 731
A Treatise of Baptism Henry D'Anvers 1673
Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History Johann Lorenz Moshiem 1878
History of Baptism and Baptist Robert Robinson 1790
Ecclesiastical Researches Robert Robinson 1799
Foxe's Christian Martyrs John Fox 1563
A General History of the Baptists
Denomination in America David Benedict 1848
History of The Welsh Baptists James Davis 1875
Marty's Mirror Thieleman van Braght 1886
The Bogomils of Bulgaria and Bosnia Linus Pierpont Brockett 1990
Churches of the Valley of Piedmont Samuel Moreland 1658
The Israel of the Alps Alexis Muston 1853
The Key of Truth: A Manual of the
Paulician Church of Armenia Fred C. Conybeare 1999
The Pilgrim Church Broadbent 1931
The Reformers and their Stepchildren Leonard Verduim 2001
Waldensian Researches William Stephen Gilly 1831
To some extent or another all of these authors in their publications have contributed to the History of the Apostolic Church. Any mention of Baptist is incidental.
The Doctrine of The Church
"An important theoretical view, the doctrine of the local church, is regarded as of great significance to the system. This view is pitted against the ever-threatening villain, the "universal, invisible church," which is a veritable root of all evil in the eyes of Landmarkers. They are ever alert against this latter theory, along with "alien immersion," "open communion," and "unionism." (Ross' emphasis)
—The debate of the nature of the church is discussed in detail in the reply of his Chapter 8: Church Organization.
—Other issues Ross presents in this chapter include the Lord's Supper, pulpit affiliation, the Bride of Christ, etc. These are secondary issues to which there is no need to respond. Ross seems to be on a vendetta and grasps at every straw of contention. Belittling, mocking, ridiculing, scorning, deriding, and even taunting are all gimmicks Ross employs to advance his cause and to smear the intelligence and integrity of men such as Cross and Graves and any other Landmarkers, as Bogard, Ashcraft, and Foreman. This is a common tactic: if you cannot defeat your opponent by reasons and facts then attack his character.
The Commission of Matthew 28
Ross begins by quoting Matthew 28: 16-20.
Ross then charges J. R. Graves (and all other Landmarkers, it is presumed) of having "presuppositional (sic) axioms." The presupposition was that the commission was given to the church as a corporate visible organization or institution. He [Graves] also held that the authority of Christ can come only through this church institution, so that the authority of Christ, in this age is synonymous to the authority of the church. (His emphasis)
—It is not the purpose of this thesis to defend the views of J. R. Graves. But for Ross to assert that: It is a "presupposition . . . that the commission was given to the church as a corporate visible organization or institution," must be proven to be a supposition. This is not only the opinion of Graves but of all Landmarkers. Again, in order for this criticism to stand it must be shown that this claim is a supposition! To say otherwise just out of hand shows a prejudice and bias based on his own supposition. Ross presents his alternative view and arguments later, which will be examined.
—I personally know of no Landmarkers who will not assert that all authority unquestionably rest with Jesus Christ. But at the same time by the sovereign will of Christ He can designate any of His authority to whomever He chooses. Landmarkers deny that the all power, authority of Christ is synonymous with the church as Ross falsely accuses! Did not Jesus give power to the twelve and the seventy over demons and also to heal? Consider this transfer of power:
Acts 1:8 KJV But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
—We ask who were those in attendance at this commissioning of Matthew 28? Was it not the church in its visible, assembled form who was addressed—commissioned? Were not these eleven the Apostles and were not the Apostles first set in the church? Were they not the nucleus of the unseasoned church, not as individuals but as a body of men.
1 Corinthians 12:28-29 KJV And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. . . . Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
Ephesians 2:20 KJV And [ye] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
—Well, as we shall see later in his crusade, Ross seems to believe that all saved or at least a portion of them must be apostles. However, Apostleship is not seen to be transferable. Obliviously these men in attendance have long since died but the commission did not die with them it is still in operation, functioning within the church till this day.
Matthew 28:20 KJV lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Ross writes: "Landmarkism therefore makes the same identical claim to authority as the church of Rome and the Pope."
—Well, not exactly. Anyone familiar at all with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church knows that their claim for authority is based on Matthew 16:18, specifically Peter, and not on the Great Commission of Matthew 28. They claim Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom.
Matthew 16:18 KJV And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Ross loves to dig into the revulsion of the Landmarker doctrines by shamelessly writing, "Landmarkism therefore makes the same identical claim to authority as the church of Rome and the Pope." There exists not a shred of truth or evidence that the two claims are identical.
Ross also charges Landmarkers as modern Pharisees.
—At this juncture a detailed examination of the Great Commission is helpful. What exactly are the elements of this commission? What does it contain and not contain? Much of the confusion on the part of Ross will be dispersed if matters are made clear.
§ What I propose may not be the orthodox view of the elements of the Great Commission, but bear with me. In the context of the Gospels I am persuaded that the second command of the commission (teach all nations) has nothing to do with evangelism. If this is true, it puts to silence the accusations and complaints of Ross concerning "Church Authority" and the preaching of the Gospel and the matter of salvation.
§ My first question, "Is evangelism a part of the Great Commission?" Many say "soul winning" is the meaning when Jesus said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations", (Matthew 28:19 KJV) The Greek word translated as "teach" is actually "make disciples" etc. The next question, "Is making disciples (literally discipling) the same as making saved people?" Answer: It is not. The salvation process is very different from the discipling process. The fact of the requirements for discipleship as given by Christ cannot be compared to the salvation process achieved by grace alone without works. Discipleship is earned through total obedience and self sacrifice.
—Consider ~ Discipleship:
Luke 14:26-27, 33 KJV If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple
—And compare this with ~ Salvation:
Ephesians 2:8 KJV For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
There is quite a difference between the qualification of the two is there not?
§ Prior to the Great Commission Jesus had given two minor commissions each with authority.
In these two limited commissions we have evangelism. The final commission of Matthew 28 is called by theologians as Great since it is greater in scope, world wide, however, it does not encompass evangelism. The command for evangelism was given (twice) prior to the Great Commission as a part of witnessing and preaching. Leading men to salvation is a universal duty and a ministry for all the redeemed. The command to evangelize is not limited to the church!
In the first four pages of this chapter, Ross gives a dissertation of Prominent Baptists and their views both pro and con concerning Baptist Perpetuity. Also in this chapter Ross addresses the subject of Church Authority.
His last sentence on page 33, reads, "Nothing is valid unless duly authorized by the corporate Landmark church."
—Brother Ross loves to repeat himself, and in this case he once again asserts that all needs to be authorized by a Landmark church. This is a figment of Ross' imagination. It is not Landmark authority but the New Testament Church authority, by whatever name it happens to be known by.
Ross writes: "I agree with a great deal of what Brother Bong has to say [apparently pro-Baptist perpetuity], for I, like Thomas Armitage, H. C. Vedder and similar non-Landmarkers have never denied the existence of the church in all ages."
His next paragraph: "It is the matter of Landmark 'church authority' which I deny, as well as a 'linkage' of churches by this mystical authority."
—The question of the exact means of church succession has been much discussed and debated as to the various methods employed. Some speak of church linkage, an unbroken physical chain of churches. Others think of the succession of churches as being found on the doctrines and practices of churches which conform to the true pattern of the Apostolic New Testament Churches. (Of course this view is highly subjective and debatable due to personal opinion of doctrine and practices.) A third succession opinion is based on the Baptismal lineage of churches. Of course it could be any combination of the three methods.
§ An explanation of Baptismal succession: During the Dark Ages when churches were persecuted (such as the Waldenses, Paulicians and others) many of these Christians were scattered much like the persecution of the church of Jerusalem. "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." (Acts 8:4 KJV) This same action was repeated by the scattered persecuted church in later centuries. They continued to preached the Word, and when disciples met with other disciples they formed churches made up of valid church members of destroyed churches. These, in turn, baptized new converts. Were they reinventing the baptismal practice? Not at all. These disciples had "scriptural baptism," and hence they passed that scriptural baptism unto others. In the not too distant past many scriptural churches in the western United States were formed in such a manner. These people were called "trunk Baptists" since they carried Church Letters in their belongings.
The concept is quite simple. Can it be denied that Jesus authorized His church to baptize, authorized it to teach those saved, added to the church, to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded? If this is the case then the church has authority to carry out these commands. By giving a commission it is logically and reasonable to assume the right to perform tasks is granted; this is authority. It seems the problem with accepting such a simple premises is found in prejudice and bias, same as Ross had charged Graves of having "presuppositional axioms."
—We will see that the challenge to church authority is twofold. First; the church corporate is repudiated as being a true entity, and second; that all (and it is assumed any) Christians universally can carry out the charge given in the Great Commission. From this logic we are to conclude that the ordinances of the New Covenant are not church ordinances at all. We read on:
Ross: "Brother Cross argues that the Commission was given to the church . By this, he means a corporate organization, not the Christians who compose the "ekklesia" (assembly). I, too, believe the commission was given to the church, but not as a corporate organization. This commission lies upon each and all as Christians - not merely as an organization. This does not give us the liberty to be an "unorganized mass of believing disciples," as Bro. Cross states it, but these same Christians are to work together, assemble together, have government, ministers, and function as the Scriptures reveal. (Ross' emphasis)
—What Brother Ross proposes is exactly what he is repudiating! "I, too, believe the commission was given to the church, but not as a corporate organization." He denies the New Testament Church as a corporate body to carry out the commission with authority. Yet he proposes a that a man-made assembly, as a corporate body, is to carry out the commands of the Great Commission. Then he adds that these collections of Christians have the right (authority) and obligation to do this work.
§ According to Ross, we wonder how many of these man-established churches there are, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands? Can anyone possibly suppose that all these neo-churches believe, teach and practice the same thing. Again according to Ross in order for these neo-churches to be a New Testament Church they must all become "The pillar and ground of the Truth."
§ Question for Brother Ross: have all these "churches" been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, so that whatsoever they shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever they shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven? Do they have this authority?
—Ross says; "This Commission lies upon each and all as Christians - not merely as an organization." Immediately he suggests that "the unorganized mass" assembles together, with all the requirements of a New Testament church (pastors, ministers, government). He is recreating the church. No matter what he may deny he is suggesting a local church be formed to do the work of the established Apostolic New Testament Church. What's the difference between his solution of his church (corporate) and the church (corporate) of Matthew. He complains against the New Testament Church but wants a man-made church in its place. I will accept the Church which Jesus has built and is the head of, not the one of Ross' creation.
At this point Ross asks this astounding question, "What is the church but its individual members?"
—What an incredible question. This demonstrates that Ross has no concept of the depth and constitution of the New Testament Church!
—What is the church? Well let's see what the word of God says: The church is the body of Christ, it is the ground and pillar of the truth, it is the temple of God, it is the House of God, it is called the little flock of Jesus, it holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven, it has within it the royal priesthood, and is the Bride of Jesus.
§ First, Ross denies that the church institution has any part at all in the Great Commission—that Jesus was giving the commission as an open invitation to one and all of the saved to serve. By Ross' and others interpretation, this is contending that baptism is not a church ordinance since any individual can acceptably baptize others. This would also apply to his theory of the Lord's Supper not being a church ordinance. (1 Corinthians chapter 5 clearly sets forth the Lord's Supper as a church ordinance and only a local church is able to comply with the requirements of Paul for observance the Lord's Supper and church discipline.)
—Second is the issue of the nature of the church. Ross and those who oppose church authority as Landmarkers have presented it, believe that the church is Universal, Invisible, being made up of all saved. Therefore any saved person, as being a part of the church, has the right (authority) to carry out all the elements of the commission.
§ Very well, let's see how this argument measures up with the third element of the commission, "to Teach." What are they teaching—this universal church, this pseudo church?
§ To begin, if all the saved are in the church what are the doctrines and practices of this mega vague church? What is the stand of this incredible church as regarding the most basic and critical doctrine of all: Salvation? Remember, all the saved are a part of this monstrous church according to the universal church doctrine. Some folks in this church teach salvation by works: keeping commands, creeds, tenets, sacraments, etc. Some teach that baptism saves, some teach you do nothing but are predestined, some teach devotion and loyalty to their denomination, and some teach salvation by grace and faith. Now imagine this being multiplied by countless assorted man created churches which will undoubtedly contradict one another even in this basic doctrine; salvation. This is nothing less than chaos. And this is just one doctrine. What of the issue of church government, of church independence, ordinations, of church discipline, of the hierarchy of the priesthood and of popery, etc., etc.?
Ross seriously needs to rethink his position of the recipients of the Great Commission.
Ross spent a great amount of time and printed space refuting and criticizing Graves, Cross and others of their beliefs. As I said at the beginning of this rebuttal, I have no interest whatsoever in defending others of their beliefs and teachings. I accept the basic premises of Landmarkism to be true and sustainable in scripture. It appears that Ross is more interested in discrediting these two men rather than keeping to his task of opposing the entire doctrine of Landmarkism and its assertions.
Much of the final pages of his book is rhetoric of what he has already argued simply restated. Ross praises "Protestant leaders," who were obviously not Landmarkers. He lauds these men; some of whom cruelly persecuted the Lord's Church and many other dissidents. If Calvin is his hero he ought to study his history—a tale of horrible persecution. Zwingli is another of these "great men," who according to Ross, measures up to the standard of greatness outside of "the corporate church institution," Zwingli cruelly persecuted those who refused to have their children baptized. There are others such as John Knox who burned at the stake those who opposed him (mainly who were Anabaptists), who is highly praised for his work for the Kingdom. Contrariwise, indeed, there are many noble men who have done great deeds for the Kingdom of God. This is not denied and as Jesus told John hinder them not, let them be, their judgment is in the hands of The Father. Luke 9:49, 50.
The Word Ekklesia
Ross writes: "The word "church" in the Bible is the word "ekklesia," meaning an assembly. Any assembly of Christians, meeting together to follow the Bible as a body of Christ, must be regarded as just what they are - a Christian assembly.
He later repeats himself. "If the people are saved and they assemble together as one body, endeavoring to be a Bible assembly, then that is exactly what they are [a church].
—What if these same saved people assembled together in multiple bodies? Would all these bodies be churches? Would these people belong to a multitude of churches?
His last paragraph on this page Ross writes; "This simple, use of the word "ekklesia" does not complicate the matter of church organization. It means simply that any group of Christians may gather together and, as a regular assembly, start following the Bible and thus become a strong, scriptural, useful assembly."
—This "scholar," Ross, is either entirely lacking in knowledge of the meaning of "ekklesia," or he is deliberately misleading people into believing something which is contrary to Bible teaching of the nature of the church. His statement is fraudulent concerning the church and serves to mislead, and thwarts the real meaning of the inspired word, and the nature of the church.
I here present a dissertation of the full meaning of ekklesia; this should leave no doubt as to the truth of the New Testament "Scriptural" Church!
—Ekklesia: The secular usage, “The ekklesia was the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those who possessed the rights of citizenship for the transaction of public affairs. That they were summoned is expressed in the latter part of the word (klesis --> kaleo: call); that they were summoned out (ek: out) of the whole population, a select portion of it, including neither the populace, nor strangers, nor yet those who had forfeited their civic rights, is expressed in the first.” Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament pages 1 ,2.
literal meaning of ekklesia can be found in every Greek
lexicon/dictionary. Some provide more details than others. This term is of
the Greek secular usage for a group of qualified citizens of a municipality,
called to assemble for the purpose of transacting some civic duty or
business. When the business was concluded the assembly or body, ekklesia,
disbanded and no longer continued. No individual member of the ekklesia
was legally authorized to conduct any business or affairs apart from the
whole. Naturally, this secular meaning cannot be anything but a
local/visible assembly. When the members of the ekklesia were
dismissed they dispersed into the general population of the country. The
ekklesia was not the kingdom, but was a portion of the kingdom with the
authority to carry out the affairs of the nation, keeping within the
limitations of the laws of that nation. This body did not have the right to
enact new laws. The entire citizenry did not legally have this right to the
note on the matter of the disbanding of the secular ekklesia. The
civic ekklesia was dismissed upon the completion of its business. As
to the church ekklesia its disbanding will not occur until it has
finished its business, which is the Great Commission. This will only happen
at the second coming of Christ.
—When Jesus employed the Greek word ekklesia for His church, He could have used other words such as an assembly or synagogue, but He didn't. He inspirationally used ekklesia. Moreover, He used it with the meaning and with the usage of the word as it was commonly known and understood: "Called Out Assembly." This is how all people of the first centuries would have understood the meaning of this word!
§ If for some reason Jesus was giving it a new meaning, and not only just a new meaning but a meaning contrary to its established usage, the people would not have understood it unless it was explained to them. There is no place found in the New Testament where ekklesia has taken on a new meaning. This "new meaning" is claimed to be that no longer is ekklesia a called out visible assembly but now it is just an assembly which is invisible. As A. T. Robertson has named it "an unassembled assembly." Robertson is just an example of the double talk concerning the church.
See Robertson's Word Pictures referenced Matthew 16:18.
—Now having this definition of ekklesia how is it possible that men such as Ross misrepresent the ekklesia usage in the Bible? All Ross does is to present a very superficial and distorted meaning of ekklesia as just an assembly. Ross: "The word 'church' in the Bible is the word 'ekklesia,' meaning an assembly." Regrettably that is only a portion of its meaning. All writers (which I have read) defending the universal invisible church theory (which places all the redeemed in the church) collectively ignore the "calling out" process of the ekklesia, other than by a possible implied function of soul salvation.
Ross, uses the terms "a Christian assembly," "a Bible assembly," and "a strong, scriptural, useful assembly" applied to those who gather themselves as an organization. I would assume that to Ross, by his examples given, a home Bible study group would be acceptable as a church. Ross writes; "This simple, use of the word 'ekklesia' does not complicate the matter of church organization. It means simply that any group of Christians may gather together and, as a regular assembly, start following the Bible and thus become a strong, scriptural, useful assembly."
—Ross is not to be trusted concerning the word "ekklesia." The inspired word usage of Ekklesia absolutely does complicate the matter of church organization. It is not just an assembly but a called out assembly of Christians. Called out by God, covenanted together by the authority of Christ for the work assigned to it. If anyone objects to the "called out" portion I suggest they do a search on the subject within the New Testament and see how the calling of God is repeatedly referred to in many circumstances. (My emphasis.)
§ I have a list of 24 verses which contain the words "call" and "calling." Each of these verses deals with a specific calling to a service or to church fellowship.
Matthew 4:18-22, 20:16, 22:14, Acts 13:2, 16:10, Romans 1:6-7, 8:28-30, 9:24, I Corinthians 1:2, 26, 7:17, Galatians 1:6, 15-16, 5:13
§ But if there are scoffers of the calling out portion of the ekklesia I offer these verses for collaboration:
1 Corinthians 1:9 KJV God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 4:4 KJV There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Colossians 3:15 KJV And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
¶ I offer these repeated observations in defense of the nature and meaning of the Scriptural Church:
§ This doctrine of the church as local, visible is the only one, which precisely answers to all instances of the church in the New Testament. It requires nothing to be added to it or adjusted to accommodate what the Holy Spirit has said about it or its functional operations. This was the view of the church from Christ, the apostles, and those who were a part of it. The context, syntax, vocabulary, and metaphors used all speak of the church as a local, visible assembly, a congregation of disciples.
§ To recap: We have made much of the Greek term ekklesia. The word means a called out body, which assembles for some specific purpose. Any body, which assembles, is visible! The “catholic,” universal invisible body never assembles. The protestant universal church says it is called out by the function of salvation but goes no further in its constitution. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it assembles, but in no way can it justify that it is called out since it embraces all it can amass. Only the local visible church doctrine is consistent with the inspired language of the Holy Spirit. This is the position of historical Baptists. Most assuredly, God could have chosen a word other than ekklesia if He did not intend this definition of the church. He could have used synagogue (συναγωγὴ) or simple assembly (πανηγύρει) but He did not. Why? By observation we come to understand He built something new and very different, which was based upon highly qualified requirements to be apart of it, He wanted only disciples.
§ Nowhere in the New Testament is the word ekklesia used to represent an invisible organization. If for no other reason, this is true because it would be contrary to the very meaning of the word.
Does The Landmark View Find New Testament Support?
Ross: "An examination of Biblical baptismal experience will give the answer.
1. Acts 2:37-47. [Pentecostal Events] Ross—"Reader do you find in this passage any record of a corporate authorization of anything that was done? Do you find any corporate vote on the baptism of any person?"
The Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 reads: "Go. . . Teach. . . Baptize. . . Teach."
And we find this being done on Pentecost. But was it done by means of a corporate body voting on the matter as an organization, or by "disciples" who felt that this commission was given to each Christian to fulfill?
—This event as partially recorded in the verses Brother Ross quotes (Acts 2:37-47) must be taken in the context in which these events occurred.
What had just happened? What was the instigation of the actions of Acts chapter two? The church as a corporate body was assembled with one accord in one place. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and the church as a corporate body was baptized in the Holy Spirit (not by the Holy Spirit)!
Acts 2:4 KJV And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And people who heard and witnessed this "were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine." Then Peter, "standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice," and began preaching and giving testimony of what they were witnessing. That many of these men repented and were saved must be obvious. Then by Peter's urging they submitted to baptism.
Now Brother Ross takes issue that there was no vote taken. But the circumstances of the occasion did not require a vote. The church as a corporate body was assembled and the church acted as a body in unison to baptize these converts as commanded by Christ in the Great Commission.
2. Acts 8:12. "This concerns the ministry of Philip in Samaria. There is no record whatsoever that (1) Philip was 'authorized' by a corporate church vote; (2) that the idea of 'authority' had any place in Philip's mind; (3) that the baptism he administered was 'authorized' by a corporate church vote."
—(1) Brother Ross is correct in that there is no record of a church vote for Phillip, but is that proof that there was not a vote taken? It is a presumption either way that there was or there was not a vote. We don't know for certain. So it cannot be declared with assurance that Philip was not sent by the church to Samaria for the mission done there. Moreover, Philip was carrying out the instruction by Christ: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8 KJV) Will this satisfy for authority, or authorization? You must decide.
(2) As to what was in Philip's mind, who has any idea?
(3) The answer to this question is the same as the answer for his first question. It is not a common practice to send men out and authorize them to administer baptism.
3. Acts 8:26-40. "Here we read of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip. It was not by the voted 'authority' of a corporate church that Philip went down to meet this man, but by the direct leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the man was immersed no corporate church was consulted, no vote was taken. Philip was the sole judge of the man's profession."
—This episode is extraordinary. Due to the direct intervention and leading of the Holy Spirit this is like no other example of the work of the apostles with the exception of Paul. Although Ross denies it, Landmarkers do believe that all power and authority lies with Jesus Christ. This being true also applies to the Holy Spirit and to The Father. Indeed this is an undeniable attribute of the Godhead.
So if the Holy Spirit is directing Philip to witness and baptize this precludes absolutely any need of the church involvement in what Philip is called to do.
4. Acts 9:1-18. "The baptism of Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) by Ananias was performed apart from any mention of a corporate church vote. If there were such a vote, the Bible does not mention it here, just as it does not mention it anywhere else. And if the Bible nowhere mentions such a vote, is it not obvious that this notion is foreign to the Scriptures."
But again, it has been claimed that this baptism was by "Holy Spirit authority," and is an "exception." That might be plausible, if the Bible gave one single example of that to which this is supposedly an "exception."
—To answer Ross' first accusation concerning voting there is such a vote mentioned in Acts. It will be discussed in the episode of the baptism of Cornelius. Which is next in Ross' list of arguments.
—As to the "Holy Spirit authority" Ross writes, "That might be plausible, if the Bible gave one single example of that to which this is supposedly an 'exception.'" Actually there are two additional examples of divine intervention and leading. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is one example and the second was that of Peter and the Gentile Centurion. Neither of which example will Ross admit.
5. Acts 10:44-48. "This is the record of the baptism of Cornelius and his household. . . The 'candidates' presented themselves before no church; no vote was taken by any corporate church organization: they were baptized 'into' no church body."
"The only thing that even resembles a 'vote' is the question of Peter to his six brethren, 'Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?' These six were not a church."
—Ross writes that no vote was taken. But he fails to understand that Peter was asking for a consensus of opinion to the question. In reality this is a voting procedure, no matter how Ross may spin it and put his slant on it. To take a consensus is to take a vote.
As it has been seen with Philip and Ananias divine leadership and intervention is evident. The vision and message Peter experienced on the house-top was from God directly. The message was that no longer were Gentiles considered to be unclean!
—This episode was also extraordinary in that it was the initiation of Gentiles into the church corporate. As is seen in chapter eleven when the Jerusalem church learned what Peter had done, he was called to give an explanation and justification for his baptizing these Gentiles. Peter rehearsed all that was Divinely told him. The corporate Church at this time consisted only of Jews. Then they understood that this Grace of the New Covenant of God was now extended to Gentiles also. (This grace is not salvation, for Gentiles had a long history of being redeemed: re. the city of Nineveh. But never before were they brought into any Covenant relationship with God other than salvation.)
Pages 128, 129.
Ross' points 6, 7, 8, and 9 on these pages all deal with the same criticism, that baptisms took place without church vote or church authority, etc.
He writes of the baptism of Lydia, the Philippian jailor and family, the Corinthians (Acts 18:8) and the re-immersion of the twelve at Ephesus. That all of these baptisms were without church vote. Ross repeats this subject of Lydia's baptism four times.
Ross page 63
10. He [Cross] says Paul was sent out on the "authority of the church at Antioch." Fact is, Acts 13:1-4 says nothing about Paul being sent out on such authority. Only five men are to be found in that passage, and I am sure the church had more than five members. If Bro. Cross can find the church, then let him produce the passage. These five men were "in the church," but where is the rest of the church? But even if he could find the rest of the church, he would not find the notion of "church authority" in the verse. This notion has to be "read into" the account, the same as infant baptism is "read into" passages that mention "houses." *
*Same exact quote in Ross' pamphlet on page 4 article 10.
Ross page 89
[Subject: Lydia's baptism]
Cross claims that the apostles received "authority" to baptize in Acts 13:1-4 from the corporate church at Antioch. However, Acts 13:1-4 does not reveal this; it does not even indicate that the church as a whole, was present when Paul and Silas [sic] were sent forth. Only a few members of the Antioch church are mentioned in the passage. And certainly, there is absolutely nothing in the passage pertaining to the "authority" these preachers would have as to baptism. Such a concept as corporate church authority is not evident in any verse. [Ross' emphasis]
Ross page 129
[Subject: Lydia's baptism]
Of course, it is said, "Paul was a missionary sent out by the church." This is based upon the assumption that Paul was really sent out by a church on the church's corporate "authority." The truth is, Paul was sent by Christ, the Holy Spirit directing him and whatever "sending" a church did was merely their joyful participation of prayer and support of the apostle. Paul never was sent out on corporate "church authority." And the text most often quoted , Acts 13:1-4, does not reveal that a corporate church sent Paul, but that a group of Christian leaders in the church of Antioch simply prayed and added their blessing to what the Holy Spirit had already revealed.
Ross page 131
[Topic: Questions Answered]
2. "Doesn't acts 13:1-4 indicate church authority?"
No, if you will read carefully, you will not find the entire Antioch church at all, but only a few leaders of it. Therefore, this could not be corporate church authority. [My emphasis]
—The answer is very simple as we shall see. But first we must "read carefully" Acts 13:1-4 as Ross admonishes us.
Acts 13:1 "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
—We have seen on three other occasions where the Holy Spirit has directly intervened in the affairs of the church and disciples. Here, The Holy Spirit spoke to the church (as a corporate body), commanding it to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work which He had called them. In verse three they fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, and sent them away.
—Now to Ross this involved only a few leaders of this church and has no extraordinary meaning to it. He advances the theory that the church was not involved in this process and as such this process has no connection with the church at all.
—There are two things which Ross must explain concerning this event!
§ First. Why did the Holy Spirit speak to this church at all? Why bother with the church? Cannot the Holy Spirit directly call men to the work He has for them, as we have seen with Phillip, Ananias, and Peter? Why did He command the church to separate these two men unto Him? There must have been a reason. We proceed to the second question.
§ Second. What is the significance of "when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away?" What is the significance of laying on of hands? We observe at the ordination of the chosen six to the office of deacon the apostles "when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." (Acts 6:6 KJV). Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritans; Paul laid hands on the twelve at Ephesus; healings were done by the laying on of hands, gifts were bestowed by the laying on of the hand. All this suggests the laying on of hands is a very significant act being performed. Today at ordinations a presbytery lays on hands confirming their recognition of the candidate to his called office.
(1 Timothy 4:14 KJV) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
(2 Timothy 1:6 KJV) Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
§ "they sent them away." This word "sent" is a word for "release," "to release," "to allow to depart." It is also related to divorce. What the church did was to free them, release them from their membership to go on to whatever work the Holy Spirit had for them. In the momentous act of laying on of hands, Barnabas and Saul together became a separate church. And, yes, a Church Corporate, with all the rights and authority to make disciples, baptize, and teach.
§ Thus, all the work they performed by baptizing, setting elders in new churches etc, they did by church authority, their own church authority.
—The closing of his book pages 131 - 168 is mainly rhetoric and sophistry. It contains many inaccurate, distortions and false teachings. One such example is found on page 131.
Question 3, "What is your concept of the church?"
Ross replied, "The Greek word is 'ekklesia,' meaning in its fullness, an assembly, Christ's assembly is an assembly of His people in any given locality who are in the habit of assembling together to fellowship worship and serve Him. The scripturality (sic) of any assembly simply depends upon how closely they follow the Scriptures, not upon a link-by-link, church-voted succession."
—Note carefully how Ross changes his argument from a stance of a universal church to a local church. ("Christ's assembly is an assembly of His people in any given locality who are in the habit of assembling together to fellowship worship and serve Him.") He has altered his view so that it now takes a local church to carry out the Great Commission.
—To understand the fallacy of Ross' church argument simply study the meaning of "ekklesia." The Lexicons give a far different meaning of his preconceived idea. Moreover, carefully take what he has written and follow it to its logic conclusion; compare that to what the New Testament states. I challenge him to produce man-made churches who have scripturality (sic) [a new word] and which are closely follow the Scriptures, who are in complete agreement internally in doctrines and practices. The challenge is to judge how closely Ross follows the Greek text in his concept of the universal church. Moreover, with the Gospel according to Ross, God must be establishing multitudes of churches throughout the centuries, all without unity.
This concludes the rebuttal to Brother Ross' contentions against church authority and church succession. Ross has presented a broad number of subjects for his arguments. How fairly and honestly has he presented his case is called into question. Many omissions and misrepresentations of facts are present in his work. Personal testimonies are not evidence of truth; the employment of unfamiliar words and phrases do not serve to clarify, arguments made from silence in the Bible, and the usage of half truths are all found in his work. Lastly, at no place does Ross give the reason for his effort to justify his beliefs. Now it is time to give closure to this confutation against Ross and this Advocacy of Landmarkism.
—Here are thoughts of the church, as comprised of all the saved and the events on the day of Pentecost.
As we have seen repeatedly, Ross maintains that the Great Commission was given to individual members of the church and not to the church corporate. Further, he writes that it was given to every individual, saved person.
Ross moreover denies that the church is a called out assembly, but simply an assembly, any assembly which is of a Christian religion. I don't know Ross' position of the Pentecostal event but all non-Landmarkers I have read say that this was the time and place of the beginning or founding of the church.
When the Holy Spirit came upon that assembled body on the day of Pentecost, that body was immersed into the Holy Spirit, not immersed by the Holy Spirit. This only happened to the approximate one hundred and twenty of Acts chapter 1 verse 15. What of the other Christians alive at that time living scattered throughout Judea? I Corinthians 15:6 Paul wrote that Jesus appeared to five hundred brethren at once. So it cannot be argued that there were only one hundred and twenty or so saved on earth at that time. Did the absent ones receive the outpouring of the Spirit? Did they even know of the outpouring of the Spirit on that day? Did they begin to speak in other tongues? Did they receive power on that day? Did they begin to preach and baptize on that day?
Does Ross believe that there were multiple outpourings of the Spirit on many bodies and individuals in various locations on that day? Now if Ross is unprepared to assert such a thing then he cannot sustain a universal church. Perhaps Ross might believe that individual Christians stand in proxy for all Christians such as he views the church standing in proxy for individual Christians. But this is very thin ground to build on. In order for all the saved to be in the church and have the Commission, they would have to have had a first hand experience of the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, they would not have received the promised power and final instructions given by Christ.
Acts 1:8 KJV But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726