Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 2:03 PM

If you happen to agree with a religious sect or cult on a matter, that is not necessarily an indictment of what you believe. For example, Baptists agree with the Campbellites that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but that does not have any bearing upon us or the validity of our view of the Bible.

But sometimes it does raise a question when there is such a wide and common rejection  by so many of a particular doctrine or practice. For instance, there seems to be a sort of "unity" on the part of the cults in the rejection of the Trinity and the Eternal Sonship of Christ. I would hate to be included in that category along with those groups who unitedly reject the Trinitarian-Sonship view held by Baptists.

On the matter of "public invitations," we do not say that the rejection of the use of public invitations as practiced by Baptists is necessarily significant simply because certain sects and cults are also opposed to such invitations; however, it is an item of interest and consideration.

Who rejects the common Baptist practice of the use of a public invitation, which is extended to persons after a Gospel sermon, to come forward to openly confess faith in the Son of God as Lord and Saviour before the eyes and ears of others?

Here are a few of those known to me to reject this type of public invitation:

Roman Catholics, Presbyterian Pedobaptists (of the Iain Murray variety), Anglicans or Episcopalians, Lutherans, Christian Reformed, Quakers, Mennonites, Hardshell or Primitive Baptists, Campbellites, United (Oneness) Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unity School of Christianity, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mourners Benchers ("praying thru" practice), Holiness, Four-Square Gospel Church, Church of God in Christ, Philadelphia Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrongites), some Plymouth Brethren, some Reformed Baptists, and some Baptists in the Founders movement.

Of course, there are others.

These groups, however, must and do have some other system by which to secure new members in accordance with their requirements for membership. Some may even invite a public response, not as Baptists teach -- to simply confess Christ as Saviour on the basis of faith alone (John 1:12, 3:16, 3:36, 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9, 10) -- but to perform some act or ceremony which is deemed essential to salvation.

For example, there is the practice of Pedobaptists [baby baptizers] who use the "infant baptism invitation system." By this method, children of "believing parents" are invited to bring forth their children who are presumed to be "regenerate" as a benefit of an alleged "covenant," and thus they are baptized and become members of the church -- according the view of Louis Berkhof and Iain Murray. As we have noted before, Mr. Murray writes in opposition to the Baptist "public invitation system" inasmuch as he prefers the "infant baptism invitation system."

Those who are generally known to approve and use a public invitation as a means to accommodate the responsibility of those who hear the Gospel to believe it and confess Christ openly before men include most Baptist groups in the United States such as most churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Bible Fellowship, World Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Association, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Conservative Baptist Association, General Association of Regular Baptists, Southwide Baptist Fellowship, Bible Churches, and some other independent fellowships and unaffiliated churches.

The complaint by some anti-public invitation advocates often focuses upon the number of those who are "missing" in church attendance at Baptist churches which use public invitations when compared with the number enlisted as "members." Indeed, there are quite a number "missing."

However, when one evaluates the statistics published by all the various religious groups, the ratio of attendance to membership does not reveal a significant difference in attendance between the "pros" and "cons" regarding use or non-use of a public invitation -- except in Roman Catholic and Pedobaptist denominations wherein there is a significant greater ratio of nonattendance.

This is especially so in Great Britain where church attendance by those who use the "infant baptism invitation system" is reported be at an all-time low. There are perhaps thousands of the English, the Scots, and the Irish presumed to have been "regenerated" in infancy on the basis of the supposed "covenant," spending their "Sabbaths" in other ways besides attending church.

When I was in England and visited the place of Spurgeon's baptism, some bulldozer operators were at work shoring-up the banks of the River Lark near the site. We spoke to the five or six workers, and when we asked them about their religious faith, one spoke up and said, "With us, we attend church three times in our lives: when we are baptized as infants, when are married, and when we are buried."

The Southern Baptist Convention statistics, published by Lifeway Christian Resources, reported an average "primary worship attendance" in SBC churches of 5,873,880 (The Baptist Standard, May 3, 2004, page 24).

That means that next Sunday it can be expected that close to six million will attend SBC churches. It can be safely assumed that the overwhelming majority of these confessed faith in Christ on the occasion of a public invitation.

No system of method is perfect or foolproof in the sense that there are not some false professions, some who "backslide" after professing faith, and some who are truly saved but bear less spiritual "fruit" than others.

Jesus gave a parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15) wherein only one out of four bore "fruit an hundredfold" (Luke 8:8). Even under the ministry of Jesus there were "many" who turned back and walked no more with Him (John 6:69). It is therefore to be expected today that many who profess faith, get baptized, and are enlisted as church members will not manifest the "hundredfold" fruit.

Paul mentions "false brethren" and some others who were "carnal." Some of his close companions. such as Demas, went back to the world. Many of the Galatians gave Paul reason to question their professions (Galatians 4:11). Many in the early apostolic church in Jerusalem were believers yet still "zealous of the law" (Acts 21:20). Even the apostles, Peter, James, and Barnabas, were a part of what Paul called "dissimulation" (Gal. 2:11-14).

No method is perfect. No method can assure 100% validity in professions.

But until someone can come forth with the one-and-only method of public confession authorized by the Bible in accordance with somebody's "regulative principle," we will continue to deem it a matter of "Christian liberty" to use ANY practice of inviting confessions of faith which is used in relation to a reasonably accurate presentation of the Gospel of Christ.

Baptists affirm that the Gospel demands belief in Christ and confession (Romans 10:9, 10; Matthew 10:32, 33), to be followed by baptism (Mark 16:16). As Christian churches and ministers of the Gospel, it is both our duty and our privilege to accommodate and encourage the hearers of the Gospel in the facilitating of these responsibilities.
-- Bob L. Ross

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