Baptist Church Vote
Larry Ray Hafley
The Manual quoted below states a doctrine of the Baptist Church:
"The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their 'experience,' and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members. And while they cannot become members without baptism, yet it is the -vote of the body which admits them to its fellowship on receiving baptism." (Hiscox, The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, p. 22)
The Baptist doctrine and practice of voting to determine whether one may be admitted to the church cannot be found in the Bible. Jesus said "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (Jno. 6:37). Yet according to Brown's Baptist Manual, "No person shall be received as a member of this church, to whose admission five members object" (See. 6). It is a sorry practice that will reject those whom the Lord accepts! Diotrephes did it (2 Jn. 9, 10), and Baptists say they can do it.
One cannot be voted into the fellowship of the Lord's church. This can be seen by a candid consideration and an exhaustive examination of Acts 2:36-47. The apostle Peter instructed the guilt stricken sinners to "Repent, and be baptized . . . for the remission of sins" (v. 38). Verse 41 says, "Then they that gladly received his word WERE VOTED ON??" No, "they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Verse 47 says, "And the Lord added to the church such as had been ACCEPTED BY VOTING??" No, "such as should be saved."
(1) Baptist submit Acts 10: 44-48 as proof that the church should "vote on the reception of members." This passage DOES NOT MENTION: (a) the church (b) church members (c) reception of church members (d) voting. Yet it is supposed to prove that churches should vote on the reception of members! How is it possible to prove something from the Bible when it is not mentioned in the Bible?
God is the one who accepted the Gentile household of Cornelius, for Peter said the reception of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius proved that fact (Acts 11: 15-18; 15: 7-11). The gift of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius' household showed that the Gentiles were gospel subjects, so Peter says, "What was I that I could withstand God?" Again, no proof for "church voting" is found in Acts 10:44-48.
(2) Baptist submits Romans 14: 1 as proof that the church should "vote on the reception of members." Note that the passage is a command, a duty to be done - "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye" - it is not a matter to be discussed or voted on. They were told to receive, not vote. Voting would defeat the purpose of the passage, which says, in effect, it is not a voting matter, "receive ye." The verse lends no encouragement to the doctrine that churches should "vote on the reception of members."
Romans 14 deals with individual conscience, personal judgments. It is not discussing the role of the church, but what each is to do in regard to personal decisions that affect others. Some people try to make their conscience every one else's guide. This Romans 14 forbids.
(3) Baptists say that if preachers accept or reject someone that is the same as church voting, that if the preacher decides regarding a person that is the same as the church voting to receive members. But what the preacher does is no proof that the church does it. What if the preacher gets drunk? Does that mean the church is drunk? Of course not! So, to cite what a preacher does is not to prove that the church does it.
The two passages which Baptists most frequently introduce fail to authorize their doctrine, thus, they act without divine direction. And even if it is granted that the preacher votes on the reception of members, that is not the issue; that does not prove that the church should vote on the reception of members. However, that is what they must prove to substantiate their doctrine as set forth in their Manual.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 44, pp. 42-43