In my last blog I endeavored to make the case that Baptist have uniquely held to the concept of Christ’s Lordship through the application of His Word to the life of the believer. This type of Lordship holds together all the other Baptist Distinctives, however, on its surface it appears much like the typical understanding all Bible-believing Christians.
SO WHAT MAKES LORDSHIP A BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE?
Once we understand and confess that Christ is Lord with Christians of all history, a question of vital importance hangs in the balance. How do we please our Lord? Some may answer with a call to become a people of a moral or spiritual integrity. Thus you may have heard the little phrase “Integrity is doing what is right when no one else is looking.” While this phrase has the ring of truth, no Baptist could ever affirm this statement. Why? We as believers can never do what is right without someone looking. Baptist understand Christ’s Lordship as a personal, ever-present watch-care of our lives. Since Baptist understand that Christ always stands with us, we must do all things knowing that Lord Jesus looks upon our works with pleasure or displeasure. Further, this statement leaves out a crucial element that we need in order to be a people of integrity. We cannot do what is right unless we first know what is right.
EXTREMES IN LORDSHIP: DO WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS OR DO AS YOU PLEASE
Thus, this question of knowing what is right becomes vital to Baptist Lordship. Even so, Lordship as understood in many places in today’s church culture tends to one of two extremes. The first of those extremes looks to the authority of a human intercessor like a priest or a pope to rightly understand and guide us by the Scriptures to please Christ. While Protestants and Baptists of the past adamantly deny such authorities and demand liberty from such authorities, many Baptists of today cede this ground to a favorite Bible teacher. To guard ourselves from danger we must ask
- How many of us who would so deny the authority of a priest, rarely if ever pick up God’s Word to interpret or apply it to our life?
- How often do we simply take a teacher’s word without checking it against the Word?
- Without careful devotion to interpret and apply the Bible, do we not cede to priestly authorities those areas we loudly demanded for ourselves?
The second extreme settles upon a kind of “spiritual Lordship”. In this type of Lordship, the Scriptures may play a part, but certainly it stands as second fiddle. This type of Lordship always looks for the will of the Lord in signs and symbols or in the emotional whims of each individual. Instead of turning to the Scriptures to seek out God’s revealed will, these people would rather pray and wait for a “word from the Lord” or “move of the spirit”. Is this the way Baptists understand Lordship? Again think about how you might answer these questions.
- Since such an approach to Lordship reflects the preferences of the person rather than a universal divine standard, how can any preference be known as sin?
- In essence have we not again ceded the Lord’s authority to our own relative selfish interpretations?
- In this system can there be any such thing as a real absolute right or wrong?
BAPTIST LORDSHIP = JESUS GRACIOUSLY CALLS US TO FOLLOW WITH HIS WORD
Baptist Lordship looks at the dangers of both these positions and their benefits making a path in their midst to a personal relationship with Christ mediated by the Savior himself through our interaction with his Word. Each person can readily go to the source of divine wisdom asking that the Holy Spirit illumine him as to their plain, practical application in his life and church. Turn with me to Jon 10:1-6 where we find a passage that directly addresses our need to understand how each believer can hear and understand Christ’s call with his Word. Here John records the parable of Christ in which he compares his call to that of a Shepherd and his sheep. Even so, Jesus does not permit the free-wheeling search of our inward leanings or the authority of an outside source in search of the Lord’s Will. Let’s examine the passage.
Verses 1-2: Jesus begins by making clear that only the one who enters any way but the sheepfold door must be a thief and a robber. He who enters by the sheepfold door must be the shepherd. This begs the question, “What is the sheepfold door?” While guarding against interpreting this passage allegorically where every word becomes a symbol, it should not seem a stretch to understand that Jesus intends for us to understand that this reference is to the Old Testament and New Testament promises to provide a Shepherd for his sheep in passages like Ezekiel 34. Therefore, the only one who can comes in order to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament can be the Shepherd of the sheep.
- Application: Hearing how the Lord Jesus comes to fulfill the promises of the Scriptures should make us love Christ more and discern how unsatisfactory substitutes for Him actually are.
Verse 3-5: Jesus continues on to say that the gatekeeper opens the door for the sheep. While many interpretations for the gatekeeper may be offered, no one can deny that the gatekeeper recognizes the authority of the shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd had many people recognize his authority. From peasants and publicans to Pharisees and even demons no one denied Jesus’ authority. This gatekeeper makes clear his recognition by allowing the Shepherd into the sheepfold. This brings up another point. The sheepfold was a place in ancient Israel prepared by the shepherd in which the sheep could rest in-between pastures. Even so, the sheep have learned the Shepherd’s voice in those pastures. Thus, both sheep and the gatekeeper in this passage know the words of the shepherd and his voice well enough individually to recognize when he calls. Could Jesus intend that we understand the church as the sheepfold? From the safe haven of the church he calls us into service in any number of different lives of service. Further, could it be that the gatekeepers of the sheep are those who consistently open God’s Word to the flock that they might hear the Shepherd’s voice? In any case both the sheep and the gatekeeper have been attuned to hear personally Christ’s voice unmediated and respond to him. Verses 4-5 continue to make the point that sheep hear and recognize only one person’s voice. They hear the Shepherd’s voice. Baptists have traditionally affirmed this sort of soul competency as they make it clear that each believer has full access to the Savior as well as total ability to hear and understand God’s Word for himself. Further, those who would preach and teach something different from God’s Word we as believers are competent to discern when a strange voice has spoken and are religiously free from adherence to that voice.
- Application: We must be so devoted to study God’s Word that upon its proclamation or upon its remembrance in the midst our lives of service, that we will understand the Lord Jesus’ imperceptible call to apply His Word in this circumstance. Further, should we be in a situation where we do not know what would please Lord Jesus, we would pray and search the Scriptures until he would speak with it unto our need.
Verse 6: In Jesus’ day this parable was not understood. Baptist believe the same happens to be true today. Many who claim to have Christ as their Lord put their trust in everything and everyone but the Word he has spoken. Baptist on the other hand claim that Christ has spoken personally and uniquely to them through his Word so that they can understand and apply it to their living. This gracious call from the Lord Jesus to his sheep may sound as a call that can be rejected or modified to those who do not know the Shepherd. For the Baptist who knows the Good Shepherd this is a call to simply trust His Word and obey.