A Word Of Introduction As we promised some time ago, we intend to reflect editorially on this question and, in connection therewith, on the material presented by the Synodical Study Committee. Our last Synod referred the report of the Study Committee to the churches for study. And these editorial comments have as their purpose to assist that study. Meanwhile, we trust that our people, and especially our consistories, will indeed study this matter.
In our previous editorial we explained that our Form of Ordination of Missionaries was originally only a form designed for the ordination of missionaries to the heathen. If you want to read the Form as it was originally composed, then you must omit the section entitled, “Unto the Dispersed.” The latter was added by the Christian Reformed Church in the early 1900s, and we inherited this revised form.
In this installment of our series on the above subject we wish to concentrate, as promised in our December 1 editorial, on the stipulation in the Form of Ordination of Missionaries which limits his baptizing anyone on the mission field, “. . . if it pleases God to make thy work fruitful unto the gathering of a church. . . .” Before turning to this question, however, I wish to make two items clear:
In this installment of our consideration of the Study Report we wish to return to the item which we by-passed earlier, namely the decision of the Synod of 1956. First of all, let us quote what the Study Report has to say on the matter. Their mandate was “to take into account . . . the previous decisions of Synod, especially 1956.” In referring to this decision of 1956, the committee offers the following summation:
There are various other aspects of this subject which are touched on by the Study Report which we must still consider. Among these are: 1) The reference to the Lord’s Supper in the Form of Ordination of Missionaries. 2) The matter of using the prescribed Form for the Administration of Baptism (both of infants and adults, by the way) on the mission field. 3) The obvious conflict between the Church Order and the position of the Study Report in regard to baptism on the mission field.
In this section of our discussion we will try to cover that part of the Study Report which deals with what the Church Order has to say about baptism. The material of the Study Report appears on page 107 of the 1976 Acts of Synod, and it reads as follows:
We now continue our discussion of the section of the Study Report which deals with the Church Order. At the conclusion of our last installment we pointed out that the Report’s solution with respect to the Baptism Form (use of which is required by Article 58 of the Church Order) does not fit.
The last paragraph of Section III (The Church Order) of the Study Report we have not yet discussed. Actually, this paragraph is only partially concerned with the Church Order. The latter indeed has something to say on the subject: Article 59 states that “Adults are through Baptism incorporated into the Christian Church, and are accepted as members of the Church.” And this in itself rules out the position of the Study Report, which in effect proposes a baptism which is not incorporation into the Christian Church and which does not involve acceptance as members of the Church.
We are now ready to comment on the very first section of the Study Report, entitled “The Biblical Doctrine.” As stated earlier, we believe that the 1975 Synod gave the Study Committee a seriously mistaken mandate, and that the committee should not have been instructed to turn to Scripture first, as though the matter under study had never previously been studied and decided upon, and as though our Reformed confessions and liturgy and Church Order had nothing to say as to the principles and practice with respect to the question under discussion.
We are now ready to look at the Scripture passages from Acts which the Study Report cites as Scriptural proof for its position. To refresh our memories, let us quote the two paragraphs of this section of the report which refer to Acts: Exactly how the Lord intended the commands of Matthew 28 and Mark 16