By Bob Dickey
The worship of the Baptist Church is generally characterized by the same popular perversions and innovations of modern denominationalism. Clearly, these erroneous practices indicate that such vain worship is in violation of the New Testament order, and reveal that the Baptist Church cannot be the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us examine Baptist thought and worship practices in regard to the following: (1) Observance of the Sabbath; (2) The frequency of Lord’s Supper observance; (3) The question of close communion; (4) The matter of giving; and (5) The use of mechanical instruments of music. While practices vary somewhat among the different Baptist sects, these seem to predominate.
Observance Of The Sabbath
Baptists call Sunday the Sabbath day. But Exodus 20:9-10 says, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God. . . ” Clearly, that makes Saturday the Sabbath day, and if we were commanded to observe this Israelite holy day (which we are not), we would have to observe it on Saturday – not on Sunday.
It is no wonder that many Baptists are confused about this subject. They meet on Sunday, yet teach that it is the Sabbath day. The truth of the matter is that the day of particular significance for the Christian is the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10) or the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The Old Testament law, with its Sabbath observance, has been taken away (Col. 2:14-16; Rom. 7:1-7).
Frequency Of The Lord’s Supper
Among Baptists, the frequency of Lord’s Supper observance varies. It may be once a year, twice a year, quarterly, or as often as once a month. “As to the time, place, and frequency of the ordinances, no Scriptural directions are given. These are left optional with the churches. They are usually observed on Sundays, but not necessarily. As to the Supper, our churches have very generally come to observe it on the first Sunday of each month” (Edward T. Hiscox, The Standard Manual for the Baptist Churches, p. 20, note 5). Speaking of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Hiscox writes: “These ordinances are usually administered on the Sabbath, and more commonly once each month -particularly the Supper. They may, however, be administered at any time or place the discretion of the church as circumstances may require” (The Baptist Church Directory, p. 36).
Like other sectarians, Baptists generally argue that the Lord’s Supper becomes too commonplace if taken every Lord’s Day. But to follow that logic consistently would rule out (1) a coming together each first day of the week, (2) a collection being taken every first day of the week, (3) and the preaching of the Word on that day. Why do not these things become too common, if weekly observance of them continues? The same passage that sets the example for us to come together (Acts 20:7), also teaches us to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
The early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42), indicating a regularity or frequency of observance. Acts 20:7 shows us just how frequently this was done: every first day of the week.
The children of Israel had no difficulty understanding the requirement of weekly Sabbath observance. When they were told, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8), they realized they were to keep every Sabbath. The same is true of the Lord’s Day. The New Testament says, “upon the first day of the week. . .”, and every week has a first day just like it has a seventh. The Corinthians assembled to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20), and the frequency of their assembly was “upon the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Let any who practice the weekly passing of the contribution plates explain why they do it each first day of the week as commanded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, but fail to partake of the Supper on that same day. Consistency, thou art a jewel!
Where in the Scriptures has anyone learned that it ought to be observed monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually? As Christians, we practice that which Paul received of the Lord and has delivered unto us (1 Cor. 11:23); we remember the instruction of 1 Corinthians 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death til he come”; we observe this memorial as early Christians did – on the first day of every week.
“Baptists believe in close communion. Jesus Himself was a close communionist. He did not invite His mother, or the man in whose house He instituted the Lord’s Supper to be present at that supper. How could you have closer communion that that?” (H. Boyce Taylor, St., Why Be A Baptist?, p. 13).
Certainly, it should be remembered that only those who belong to Christ have the privilege of receiving the memorial feast. It is the Lord’s Supper, and only those who are in His kindgom can benefit by eating it (Matt. 26:29). However, no man or religious group has the right or ability to judge who is worthy to partake (any more than to vote on the salvation of another). This understanding prompted the restoration motto: “We neither invite, nor debar.” The self-examination of 1 Corinthians 11:28 (“But let a man examine himself. . . “) clearly places the responsibility on the individual, and condemns the notion of close communion. True worshippers practice neither close communion nor open communion. It is an individual act of worship done in communion with Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:16) in the presence of other Christians.
The Matter Of Giving
Baptist worship practices regarding the matter of giving involve a number of errors. The practice of tithing, collections taken too frequently, and solicitations of various forms are worthy of note.
Most Baptist churches teach and practice the tithing of Judaism instead of the free-will offering of the New Covenant of Christ. We are taught: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him . . .” (1Cor. 16:2), and “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). If we tithe because we want to follow the law of Moses, we are debtors to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3) and are fallen from grace (5:4). The frequency of the free-will offering should be the same as the Lord’s Supper: “Upon the first day of the week . . .” (1 Cor. 16:2), not every time we feel like “passing the hat.”
Also we note that only Christians are commanded to give. That is the reason why churches of the Lord do not beg businessmen for money, or ask listeners of a radio broadcast to support their work as the Baptists commonly practice. Carnivals, suppers, bake sales, and other fund raising drives are neither authorized nor necessary when divine directives are followed. The New Testament plainly teaches that Christians are the ones who are to give to support the work of the church – they are not to beg others to do it for them.
Mechanical Instruments Of Music
Like most denominations of today, the Baptists use mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. This is an innovation even among the Baptists: “In my earliest intercourse among this people, congregational singing generally prevailed among them . . . Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them . . .” (Benedict, Fifty Years Among Baptists, pp. 204-207).
The New Testament contains no authority for worshiping God by playing on a mechanical instrument of music. There are nine passages in the New Testament that reveal that the church of God is to worship in song. In each of these passages we find the word “sing” or its equivalent:
Matt. 26:30 – “sung an hymn”
Acts 16:25 – “singing hymns”
Rom. 15:9 – “sing unto thy name”
1 Cor.14:15 – “1 will sing”
Jas. 5:13 – “sing psalms”
Eph. 5:19 – “singing”
Col. 3:16 – “singing”
Heb. 2:12 – “I will sing”
Heb. 13:15 – “fruit of lips”
When we have examined these passages, we have the sum total of what the New Testament says about mechanical instrumental music: Absolutely Nothing! That is why we do not use it.
The instrument that God commands we use in worship to Him is not a mechanical one, but is spiritual – the heart: “Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19) and “singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16).
The fact that mechanical instruments were used in Old Testament times will not authorize their use today under the law of Christ (Col. 3:17; 2 Jn. 9-11). Jesus and His apostles never taught or authorized such; they were never used by the early church. They were introduced into religious worship in the seventh century by Pope Vitalian of the Catholic church. Leading scholars of many prominent denominations, including those of Baptist persuasion, opposed them. Charles Spurgeon, a well-known Baptist preacher, wrote: “What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it . . . We do not need them. They would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto him” (Commentary on Psalm 42:4).
Other innovations (aliens and women who lead public prayers, choirs, youth worship, etc.) and errors of Baptist worship could be mentioned. These and the popular perversions mentioned above clearly reveal that the worship practices of the Baptist Church mark it as a man-made religious organization that does not belong to Christ (Matt. 15:8-9, 13).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 108-110
February 17, 1983