THE BASF - ITS IMPORTANCE AND TEACHING
“That the way to obtain this salvation is to believe the gospel they preached, and to take on the name and service of Christ, by being thereupon immersed in water, and continuing patiently in the observance of all things he has commanded, none being recognised as his friends except those who do what he has commanded:- Acts 13:48; 16:31; Mark 16:16; Rom 1:16; Acts 2:38,41; 10:47; 8:12; Gal 3:27-29; Rom 6:3-5; 2:7; Mat 28:20; Jno 15:14.
In emphasising the vital importance of steadfastly adhering to the Gospel as taught by Christ and his Apostles, the Spirit through Paul exhorted the believers at Galatia: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed, as we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8,9). Here are words and concepts which are positively condemned by the humanistic ideals of our age. In an age of ‘free speech’ and liberal thinking, the notion that people should be pronounced “accursed” for expressing their “views” and “opinions” and teaching their own ‘interpretation’ of things, is seen as an outrageous suggestion; a violation of the human ‘rights’ of those in question. Such is the perversity of the human mind, that man might, with impunity, teach other principles and still claim to be teaching the Gospel that saves – whilst those who protest that because what they teach is different to the Gospel, that those teachings cannot save, are scorned and disregarded as mere “extremists” out to unlovingly criticise the opinions of others. Even those who ought to know better speak of the doctrines of these ‘accursed’ persons as being “different views,” the people themselves merely having “chosen a different spiritual pathway.” But such is not the way of the Most High. Yahweh will not be mocked. Such false professors, despite the following and admiration they attract are leaders not into life and liberty (cp 2Pet 2:19), but death, and the bonds of the grave.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not speak of the ‘views’ of those who resisted the gospel he preached – how can blind people have a ‘view’ of anything? “to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is 8:20), and if there be no light, there can be no sight – and no ‘view’ of anything. The Master described the class of men in whom no light dwells, by way of asking a question: “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the pit?” (Luke 6:39). It is a simple truth, and a fundamental principle of Scripture that those who cannot see their way to accept the Light of the Glorious Gospel of Christ cannot lead others into any other place, but the pit, and the darkness of sheol.
This is a truth emphasised in the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith. The way to obtain the salvation spoken of by the Apostles, “is to believe the gospel they preached …”. Belief in any other gospel will not do; for no other gospel can save. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel” was the admonishment of the apostle to those who were being led astray by blind teachers of dark things. There are those who severely frown upon Christ’s brethren who obey the injunction to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). They say that we should do “positive things instead,” that we “should be helping others, not condemning them.” They say we are most “arrogant” for daring to criticise another, highly esteemed man’s ‘views’!
“DOING POSITIVE THINGS”
But such do not appreciate either the high calling to which obedient hearers of the Gospel have been called, nor the responsibilities that such a calling brings. It is the Truth of the Gospel that saves, but the folly of man that brings him to the grave. The “views” of men are unstable and uncertain, whereas the certainty of the Scriptures gives hope. It is written that “the way of the fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth to counsel is wise” (Prov 12:15). Of what use is the “view” of such an one, pronounced to be a ‘fool’ by the Spirit? Is such a wise counsellor unjust for correcting such a man’s ‘view?’ Again, it is written that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death” (Prov 14:12). Is it not a good and positive thing to demonstrate from the Word to such a man that his way is in fact, not right, and that if he persues it he will go to the grave without hope? How can a brother of the Lord Jesus stand idly by, and watch a blind man walking into a pit, with blind people being led along behind him, all thinking that their ‘way’ is the right ‘way’? Surely he would want to cry out and warn of the danger? Is it not a “positive” thing to do, to utter such a cry? Apparently not, if our detractors be believed. Apparently, it is more ‘positive’ to look the other way (cp Luke 10:31,32), to frown upon such uncouth and unloving people shouting out in such a way, and to attend instead to quietly arranging the flowers for the meeting, to bake the cakes for the ‘interested friends’ at the seminars, and to discuss their ‘views’ with them, taking care not to mention anything that smacks of ‘doctrine,’ lest the visitors be offended and no longer enjoy their tea and biscuits!
We cannot agree. Just as the beginning of Wisdom is the fear of Yahweh (Prov 1:9), even so the beginning of a man’s salvation begins with belief in the “Gospel of God” (1Thess 2:2,8,9) as taught by the apostles of Jesus Christ – and in order to understand the Gospel to be believed, the ‘interested friend’ must be fed, not with a hollow shell with no nutritional value; but the nourishing and life-giving principles, or doctrines of Truth that form the very heart of that Gospel. Many will not hear, it is true – such has always been the case, and their response will demonstrate how interested the so-called ‘interested friend’ actually is, but the fact provides no excuse for Christ’s brethren to serve up empty husks instead of meat in due season. And if there is any love for those who have obeyed that way, yet who appear to be stumbling for obscurity of sight, brethren with integrity will cry out with all their might against that class of Gospel-perverters whom the spirit through Paul declares are worthy to “be accursed”, that their followers may have the scales removed from their eyes, ‘see’ the folly of departing from the precepts of the Truth, and be saved from falling into the abyss. We would submit that there is no more positive work that can be done, than that of plucking others from the fire (Jude 23) and saving them with fear; for such a work is commended by the Masters own brother in the flesh: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:19,20).
TAKING ON THE NAME AND SERVICE OF CHRIST
It is a fact taught by Scripture that in order to be granted the salvation taught by the Apostles, a person who believes the Gospel they taught must obey it. That is, they must be baptised. Hence, the Lord Jesus taught that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). But the BASF is most explicit in each aspect of the matter. Baptism is not the infant-sprinkling as taught by those in the darkest of blindness, but is being “immersed in water”. But being “immersed in water” is not an end in itself, rather it is the means whereby a person may “take on the name and service of Christ” (which again excludes infant-sprinkling where the sprinkled child has no idea about the name and service of Christ). It is but the beginning of a new life of holiness – and a life of holiness it must indeed be in order to gain acceptance before the Throne of the Almighty (Rom 6:19; 2Cor 7:1). Baptism does not in itself secure Salvation, but is merely an introduction to Christ in whose service the baptised believer must continue. There are those who feel that it is an introduction to “the Church”, and those who should know better who feel that it is an introduction to “the ecclesia.” But the Scriptures do not so speak. True, without Baptism a man cannot be truly called part of Christ’s ecclesia, or assembly of “called out” ones; but that is because that assembly constitutes the Body of Christ into whom a believer is baptised, not because the believer is merely baptised into a group of men. It is far more than being merely some rite of entry to a congregation of believers; – it is entry into the Name and Service of Christ.
THE NAME OF YAHWEH
It is written in the Proverbs that “the Name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run into it, and is safe” (Prov 18:10). To enter into the Name of the Father then, is to enter a place of safety. It is to enter into a strong tower which is impregnable, being able to easily withstand the very worst that the enemy can bring against it. This tower is founded upon the Rock of Peter’s confession that Jesus is indeed the Son of the Living God (Mat 18:6), and even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, for Jesus Christ has “the keys of hell and of death,” and is able therefore to unloose the bonds of those held captive in the grave, that others may share in his victory over it. But he will only do so upon certain conditions; one of those conditions being that the hearers of the Gospel which the Apostles preached become baptised, for it is through Baptism that a believer enters into the Father’s Name – which is also his Name, and the Name in which all the operations of the Father are performed. Accordingly, he commanded his disciples to “go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:19). Notice here; there is one name not three; the Name of the Father, which is also the name of the Son (cp Ps 72:17), and of the Holy Spirit, and it is into that Name that those who are ‘taught’ enter into through baptism.
THE OBSERVANCE OF ALL THINGS COMMANDED
Following Baptism, for the obedient hearer of the Word, is the observance of all things commanded by the Christ. The BASF declares that only this class are recognised as Christ’s friends, despite the commonly held woolly and nebulous notion that “Jesus loves you – whoever you are,” because that is a plain truth taught by Christ himself: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jno 15:12-15, cp 14:21). There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his loved ones; his friends. But his ‘friends’ are not the worldly down-and-outs who have no regard for his ways, as some would have us believe, in their exhortations to us to devote time and energies in catering for the needs of such; nay, his friends are those who belong to a particular category of men – the class who do his commandments. Those who do not his commandments, by his own terms of definition, are not the friends of Christ, and are not therefore among the number for whom he died. Here is the simple testimony as taught by the Master himself, which was repeated by his Apostle who brought this commandment to the attention of the brethren: “by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1Jno 5:2,3). And again, “hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1Jno 2:3-5).
Here then, are the vital prerequisites of Salvation, as required by the Prince of Life himself. Belief, Baptism, and a faithful walk according to the precepts of Christ are all indispensable requirements. A man may believe that it is not so; that his way is right, and may even teach such to others. But his ‘view’ will do him no good at the last, for none of such are recognised by Christ as his friends. To such, the Master will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mat 7:23). But for those who are partakers of his Death, having passed through the aqueous baptismal grave as he commanded, and who continue steadfastly in the performance of those things which he has ordained; of these “he is not ashamed to call them his brethren” (Heb 2:11), and as the Captain of their Salvation, he shall lead them into glory.