I would challenge you to take some time to study the whole context of Romans 14 (and of other similar passages). These show the difference that has come under the new covenant established through Christ’s coming to earth. We no longer live under the Old Testament law. Baptists have rejected the idea of “replacement theology,” that is, that “the church” has replaced Israel. This not only creates eschatological issues, but it also inhibits the practice of individual soul liberty from our society. The Old Testament Mosaic Law established theocracy—carried out through a “state run” _____. This can be seen through the 613 laws that were established for the Israelites. That dispensation is done, and Christ established a new dispensation. The New Testament helps us understand this.
Today many Independent Baptists have issues with the concept of soul freedom. We love to criticize, undermine, and ridicule churches that differ in practice or in the economy of their local church. However, if that same person would turn and start to ridicule the practice or economy of “our” church, we will cry from the rooftop that we are “independent.” We also proclaim our belief in the autonomy of the local church. There is a lot of misunderstanding here. I believe that we should “lift the banner” by warning about incorrect doctrine. But some who criticize are not dealing with doctrine, but just silly pettiness—or preferences in their own personal taste. I say, “Don’t claim to be a Baptist.” You might do better as a Presbyterian, Methodists or Lutheran. They all believe similarly to you, but Baptists have fought, been persecuted and have died for the concept of Individual soul liberty. Study this concept and learn what the Bible has to say about your own inflated opinion of ourselves.
Third, I have still found developing personal relationships is still the most satisfying and Biblical approach to keeping lasting friendships. It has become common practice to lambast publicly, and when there is backlash towards this, the defense becomes “It is all over the internet so it is public, and I can say whatever.” This is a weak argument. We will all answer individually for our words and actions no matter what anyone else says or does. I would recommend that when you find something that is offensive to you, go to the source and try to speak to them privately. Did you know that there is a way to message someone (even in a social media setting) privately? Some might say “this person would not give me the same respect.” Again, that is not a Biblical response. It is childish and immature. It certainly does not align with Scriptural guidelines. We have allowed the world to belittle the importance of social contact and sound friendships. Learn how to be a friend to someone Biblically. Learn to enjoy the relationship with a fellow believer through fellowship. The internet has replaced the Biblical concept of fellowship, and this has damaged churches all over the world.
Fourth, the final lesson that I will put in writing for this article is something that I again came across in my study of Baptist History over the last month. It is called the Gainsborough confession. John Smyth, who had been trained as an Anglican and then had aligned himself with a separatist group in Gainsborough, wrote this confession for the group of people. It was a great reminder of the continual working of the Spirit and the Word of God in one’s life. William Bradford wrote about this in the following paragraph,
“ They shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in the fellowship of the gospel, to walk in all His ways made known or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavors, whatsoever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.”
The phrase “to walk in all His ways made known or to be made known unto them” is the phrase that spoke to me. Yes, God is omniscient and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; however, man in his understanding is frail and faulty. This is helpful for us in this life. There are some times that I come to a different understanding of a Biblical concept from earlier in my life. Some think of this as compromise, but as John Smyth wrote, this is just God making known more of His Word to me. I don’t have to fret about the past and throw away all that I have done. I don’t have to feel like a compromiser because of changing more into His image. No, this is the process on this earth of God continuing to finish what He has begun in my life.
These lessons have been helpful to me over the past weeks. I pray that they can be a help to someone who reads them. I pray that we will understand that these events are not a surprise to God, and He brought them into our lives to teach us and to bring us into a closer relationship with Him. May we ever be learning to be more like our wonderful Savior.