The Baptist Church Covenant
A covenant is a binding and solemn agreement by two or more persons, parties, to do or keep from doing some specified thing; a compact. Also a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will hold to points of doctrine and faith, - Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1975.
The once common, but now seemingly lost, church covenant we see was written by J. Newton Brown, a well respected and noted Baptist preacher, around 1833. It was revised from some earlier covenant of 1830, most likely written by him also. He popularized this covenant when he printed it in 1853 along with the New Hampshire confession of faith (which he also did a little editing to). It became even more popular when Pendleton published it in his Church Manual.
There was a time when Baptist churches without the Covenant posted on their walls were a minority. Every church I grew up in had the covenant somewhere. In this modern, do not offend, growth at all costs, no disiple time we live in now, the opposite is true, very few of our members know anything about the Covenant and to find it in full view somewhere in the church is extremely rare.
ENTERING THE COVENANT
"Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we do now in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
A covenant must be entered into by two parties. In the case of the Church Covenant those parties are of course the local church and the church member. These are the ways we join and church and it should be understood that by doing so we are also submitting to the authority of that church and entering into a covenant agreement with it.
Scriptural Salvation and Baptism.
John 1:11-13; Eph. 2:8,9;
A public confession of Christ as Saviour.
Rom 10:9; Acts 8:37, Matt. 10:32
A proper obedience in Scriptural baptism.
Baptized in the name of the Trinity.
This includes a proper candidate,
(saved) Acts 2:41, 8:36-38
method, (immersion) Matt 3:16
motive (symbolic) Rom 6:3-4
and authority. (the church) Matt 28:18-20
A Public Joining of Individual and Church
This is done before witnesses.
God is a witness to all our promises.
Angels witness our work.
The church witnesses.
This is a solemn and joyful occasion.
It is by mutual agreement.
The result is one body united in Christ and in covenant one with another. - Eph 2:19-22; 1 Cor 12:12-27
MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE COVENANT
"We engage therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love, to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality, to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
Our Walk "Spirit Led in Unity and Love
The aid of the Holy Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:5, Gal 5:16-18
To walk together. 1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 15:5,6
In Christian love. I John 2:10; John 13:34
Our Goal "The Advancement, Prosperity and Sustenance Of Our Church"
Advance in knowledge. Eph 1:17; Col 1:10
Advance in holiness. I Thess. 4:3,4,7; II Cor. 7:1; 1Petet 1:14-16
Advance in comfort. I Thess. 5:11-14; Isaiah 35:3-4, 40:1
By promoting its prosperity and spirituality. Eph. 4:11-16
By sustaining it worship. Heb. 10:25
By sustaining its ordinances. I Cor. 11:2
By sustaining its discipline. Matt. 18:15-17
By sustaining its doctrines. Acts 2:42; I Tim. 4:6,13,16; II Tim. 3:16
Our Means "Cheerful and Regular Giving"
Giving should be cheerful and regular. II Cor. 9:6-10; I Cor. 16:2
The ministry is to be thus supported. Gal. 6:6; I Cor. 9:7-14; 1 Tim. 5:17,18
The expenses of the church raised.
The relief of the poor Acts 6:1-7; Acts 11:27-30; 11 Cor. 9:1; 1 Cor. 16:2 I Tim. 5:3-16; 11 Thess. 3:10
The spread of the gospel. Matt. 28:18-20
INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY OBLIGATIONS
"We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances, to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment, to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger. To abstain from the sale and recreational use of intoxicating drinks or drugs, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.
Our Conduct In The Home.
Secret or private Devotions. Matt. 6:6; 7:7; Luke 18:1
Family Devotions. Gen. 18:19; Deut. 4:9; 6:7; Prov. 22:6; 11 Tim. 1:5; 3:15
Religious education of children. Eph. 6:4
Salvation of kindred and acquaintances. Matt. 5:14-16; Mark 5:19; Rom. 9:3
Our Conduct In The Community.
Walking circumspectly in the world. Eph. 4:1-3; I Thess. 5:15
Honesty, faithfulness, exemplary conduct. I Pet. 2:12, Heb. 13:21; Phil. 3:16-18
Controlling the tongue and anger. Matt. 12:36; Prov. 26:20; 6:16-19; Eph. 4:26
Abstaining from the sale and use of intoxicants.
Abstain from selling intoxicating beverages. I Thess. 5:22; Hab. 2:15
Abstain from its use. Prov. 20:1; 23:29-32; Eph. 5:18
Zeal in the work of the Lord. II Cor. 5:20; I Cor. 15:58; John 15:16
FINAL OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE COVENANT
“We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer, to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Saviour to secure it without delay.
"We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word."
Guarding Our Fellow Church Members.
Watching out for their welfare. Gal. 6:2; Rom. 14:7; II Thess. 3:14,15
Remember each other in prayer. Heb. 13:18; Eph. 6:18
Aiding in sickness and distress. Rom. 12:15; I Cor. 12:26
Practicing Christian sympathy. I John 3:17-18; Col. 3:17; 4:6
Protecting Our Relationship With Church Members.
Be slow to take offense. Prov. 15:18
Be ready for speedy reconciliation. I Cor. 6:7; Matt. 18:15,21,22; Rom. 14:19
Our Obligation For Moving Church Membership.
Need for earthly home and a church home. Many people move to distant cities and search for a house, but they do not consider a need for a church home until all else is settled.
It should be an Baptist Church of the same faith and order. Any church will not do. Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1-2; Heb. 10:25
It’s time to reclaim the covenant, to post it in our church, distribute it to our members and most importantly teach it to those interested in joining our local body. Could it keep some from joining? Yes, without a doubt, but better to not join than join with a faulty understanding of what we believe and what we expect from our members.
Let’s reclaim the lost covenant and by doing so also reclaim an important part of the heritage and history that makes us a Baptist Church and more importantly the Church that Jesus built.