Article VII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Following is another in a series of columns on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Southern Baptists refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances, meaning the Lord commands believers to carry out these symbolic activities, which picture the finished work of Christ and prepare us for his imminent return.

Article VII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

Southern Baptists refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances. That means the Lord commands believers to carry out these symbolic activities, which picture the finished work of Christ and prepare us for his imminent return.

Ordinances have no saving value, for a person receives everlasting life only by faith in Jesus. Even so, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important acts of obedience.

Some, like Roman Catholics, refer to baptism and Holy Communion as sacraments, meaning they are necessary for salvation.

Others, like Presbyterians, also call baptism and the Lord’s Supper sacraments, but that doesn’t mean they are necessary for salvation. Rather, they are “means of God’s grace” – special ways that God speaks to our hearts, gives us a visible way of establishing the difference between believers and unbelievers, and prepares us to serve him.

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God’s angel in the lions’ den

In addition to the angel of the Lord’s appearance in the fiery furnace of ancient Babylon, we should briefly review the well-known story of Daniel in the lions’ den, paying particular attention to Daniel’s report to Darius the Mede, the ruler of Babylon, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan. 6:22). Who is this angel? Could it be the angel of the LORD?

You may recall that Daniel has distinguished himself among Darius’ appointed leaders. In fact, he is one of three administrators who oversee the work of one hundred twenty satraps, or provincial governors, and Darius now plans to set Daniel up over the entire kingdom (6:3). This arouses jealousy among the satraps and the two other administrators. They try to find grounds for charges against Daniel but discover he is neither corrupt nor negligent (6:4). 

So, they hatch a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to Yahweh against him. They convince Darius to sign an irrevocable edict that anyone who prays to any god or human over the next thirty days shall be thrown into a den of lions. In effect, this makes Darius the only priestly mediator during this period. Prayers to the gods are to be offered through him rather than through the kingdom’s pagan priests. Perhaps Darius believes this to be a unifying decree among his subjects in the Middle and Near East. Or, he may be convinced this is a good test of loyalty for the people, especially his appointed rulers. 

In any case, punishment is severe for anyone who breaks the law. The Assyrians and Persians are known to capture lions and keep them in cages, so a large natural or manmade pit into which lions are placed is one particularly gruesome venue for those who displease the king. Further, the Persians are known to employ an array of ghastly forms of execution, including crucifixion. Tossing humans into a pit of ravenous lions is as certain to cause death as crucifying them, although the latter method could prolong the excruciating pain by a matter of days.  

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Article VI of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: The church

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The church is neither a physical structure nor a man-made institution. It is the living, breathing body of Christ spoken of in two ways in Scripture: as a local body of believers, and as the universal body of the redeemed under the Lordship of Jesus.

Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

“The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

The Greek word translated “church” is ekklesia and means “called out ones.” The term  appears more than 100 times in the New Testament and refers to the community of believers over which Jesus is head (Col. 1:18). Thus, the church is neither a physical structure nor a man-made institution. It is the living, breathing body of Christ.

The Bible generally speaks of the church in two significant ways: as universal and local.

The universal church is the complete body of believers who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It cannot be divided along denominational lines, although such distinctions provide clarity in beliefs and practices. 

Membership in the universal church cannot be bought, begged, stolen, inherited, earned, or conferred by any human or angelic being. It comes only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 5:24; Eph. 2:8-9). Key passages that address the universal church include Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:29-30; Col. 1:18; and Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9. 

Most New Testament references to the church focus on local congregations. The local church may be defined as a body of baptized believers in Jesus who live in the same community and gather at a common place for worship, fellowship, instruction, and service.

Scripture instructs Christians to identify with a local church in order to grow spiritually (Heb. 10:24-25). It is through the local church that believers exercise their spiritual gifts and take part in worship, fellowship, Bible study, church discipline, missions, and other communal activities. Key passages that address the local church include Acts 9:31; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 1:2; 16:19; and Col. 4:15. 

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His dominion is everlasting

In the first year of King Belshazzar’s rule – 553 BC, some fifty-two years after the first exile under Nebuchadnezzar – Yahweh gives Daniel a vision of four huge beasts rising out of the sea. Each beast is unique and represents successive earthly kingdoms, as we discover later in the chapter. These are the same empires represented by the four elements comprising the colossal statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2). 

The first beast, appearing as a lion with eagle’s wings, symbolizes Babylon. The second beast, a bear raised up on one side and clenching three ribs in its teeth, depicts the Medo-Persian Empire. The third beast, a leopard with four wings and four heads, foretells the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, whose kingdom is divided into four parts after his death. Finally, we encounter a fourth beast, which Daniel describes as “frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth” (Dan. 7:7). 

The fourth beast devours and crushes, trampling what remains beneath its feet. What’s more, this beast is different from the other three, and it sports ten horns, with a little horn rising up to supplant three others. This little horn has human eyes and speaks arrogant words. Generally, this is considered the Roman Empire, although some commentators argue that the beast more accurately depicts the Islamic caliphate, rising up to become the false religion of the last days.

The vision distresses Daniel’s spirit and terrifies his mind. He asks “one of those who were standing by” (perhaps an angel) for clarification and receives additional details, particularly about the fourth beast (Dan. 7:15-28). While much could be written about these beasts, we are focusing on what Daniel sees between the vision and its interpretation – a scene from the divine court in heaven:

As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of his head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire; its wheels were blazing fire.

A river of fire was flowing, coming out from his presence. Thousands upon thousands served him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened.

Daniel 7:9-10
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One like a son of the gods

Daniel is a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He is exiled to Babylon in 605 BC, along with Judah’s King Jehoiakim. Daniel, whose name means “God is my Judge,”  records events and visions that span seventy years, indicating he lives through the entire Babylonian captivity. The central theme of the Book of Daniel is God’s sovereignty over the people of Israel and the nations of the world, as noted when Daniel recalls the fate of former Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar:

He was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over human kingdoms and sets anyone he wants over them.

Daniel 5:21

The book consists mainly of historical narratives (chapters 1-6) and apocalyptic prophetic visions (chapters 7-12). For our purposes, we examine two events featuring a divine figure, one from each section of the book. In Daniel 3, one who “looks like a son of the gods” visits three Hebrew exiles in a fiery furnace. And in Daniel 7, “one like a son of man” arrives before the Ancient of Days with the clouds of heaven. In each case, we survey Daniel’s description of the divine visitor, ask whether it is the same figure in both events, and explore whether this could be the angel of the LORD.

In the next post, we briefly observe the angel God sends to rescue Daniel from the lions’ den (Dan. 6), as well as a “man dressed in linen” in Daniel’s final recorded vision (Dan. 10). Could these figures also be the angel of the LORD?

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