A Rebuttal of "Resetting the Landmark by Tom Ross"


    Here is yet another of these Baptist essays which is based on unsubstantiated claims to Apostolic Tradition. This one goes a little further than some of the others I have reviewed so far. He not only says the usual stuff against the Catholic Church but he also writes against other Baptists. He makes several assertions which he has not backed up by producing the evidence to support him.

    Let me turn now to what Tom Ross asserts in his paper:
" In recent years much controversy has arisen over the most fundamental ordinance of the New Testament which is scriptural baptism. Any student of ecclesiastical history knows that the subject of baptism has always been associated with controversy and heated debate. Those whom we would today identify as Baptists have always contended that they alone have authority to carry out the Great Commission as given by Christ in its fullness and completeness. True Baptists have always rejected the ordinances and ordination of the Roman Catholic Church and her Protestant daughters.

    Individuals may preach the Gospel successfully and teach some truth, but only true Baptist churches have authority from Jesus Christ to baptize. The responsibilities outlined during his earthly ministry and promised perpetuity too. There has been a holy succession of Baptist churches from the time of Christ up until this present day who have been "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints" Many have been tortured, beaten, burnt at the stake, hanged, impaled and publicly humiliated of their stand for "One Lord, one faith, one baptism".

    Here we have a new assertion which is a little different from the assertions we have seen so far from Montgomery and Webb. This time we have the "Great Commission". There is of course no backup, no historical documentation, just the assertion that there have been Baptists churches who received the Great Commission. Now how does this compare to the facts as we know them? Where are the link to the Apostles? Who were these Baptists who refused ordination in the Catholic Church but were supposedly given a commission by Jesus himself? It seems that the paragraph itself is contradictory. Does Tom Ross mean the Montanists and the Donatists? For we know that both of these sects originated within the early Christian Church. Montanus was a convert and Donatus was a Bishop in North Africa. We also know that the Donatists rebaptised because of the issue of "purity". Then there is the sweeping statement that the Baptists were tortured and murdered for their belief in "One Lord, one faith and one baptism", so who were these people? The early Christians, who were members of the Catholic Church were tortured, beaten and burnt at the stake so who does he mean ?

    Now let's look at the next paragraph where he attacks other Baptist churches.

    "Through the centuries there have always been Baptists in name only who were willing to compromise the truths of Scripture for power, prestige or greater numbers. These apostate Baptists are much like the Israelites in Jeremiah's day who refused God's admonition to walk in the old paths as Jeremiah 6:16 reveals...It is the duty of all true Baptists churches and pastors to stand against apostate Baptists of our day who seek to blaze new trails instead of
following the old paths that are outlined in Scripture. Many so called Baptist churches have removed the ancient landmark of Scriptural baptism by gladly and openly receiving alien immersion into their churches. This is especially prevalent among those affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Several have made it publicly known that they will receive any
person applying for membership who has been baptized by immersion regardless of the denomination they are coming from...."

    Ross then claims that these Baptist churches have forfeited their authority to administer the ordinances. He then claims a duty, based on 1 Timothy 5:20-21 that he has the right to rebuke these Baptist churches because according to him they are no longer scriptural and that their authority is null and void. Now of course this attitude is based on some kind of belief that the baptisms given by Pentecostals, Charismatics and Campbellites are null and  void because in Tom Ross's estimation these Churches are not true churches.

    Ross then claims:
"Baptism has always been the ordinance that has distinguished true Baptists from all other groups. Through the ages, Baptists are the only ones who can honestly claim to have stood for "One Lord, one faith, one baptism". Every aspect of this verse must be viewed as an intricate whole. The "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" are intrically linked together and can never be
severed if a Baptist church is to maintain doctrinal purity and unity. Let me illustrate what I am saying, Jesus is the head and the Lord of His Kind of church. Baptists are the only group that does not trace its authority to exist back to the Roman Catholic Church or to a human founder"

    Before I continue with this paragraph let us look at these claims. Again no proof has been provided to back these astounding statements. Once again the word "purity" pops up. What I find to be astounding is the claim that Jesus is the head of His kind of Church. What does that mean? He then claims that Baptists have no link to the Catholic Church, but the historical evidence proves him wrong if he is trying to claim Jesus as the founder of the Baptist church. It is here that we see the few words after the Catholic Church : "its human founder". It would appear that Tom Ross is claiming, incorrectly that St. Peter and not Jesus is the founder of the Catholic Church, by implication of his words.

    Lets look at his next sentence: "Even Protestant historians conceded this fact". He claims it but he has not provided the historical proofs for his claims. Who are the Protestant historians ? Leger ? We do not know. This is an assertion only, there is no proof to back up the claim.

    He then goes on: "Because Christ is the Head of His kind of church He entrusted them with the "one faith". the system of truth and doctrine that is to be taught and practised in the Lord's churches.... " He then asserts in the same paragraph : "There is only one kind of Baptism that meets all the Scriptural requirements and that is, Baptist baptism. All others must be rejected as null and void, otherwise we are failing to maintain our doctrinal integrity and purity. When a church begins to receive alien immersion they are dishonouring the "One Lord" and failing to content for the "one faith" by recognizing other baptisms other than Baptist baptism as valid. They are in essence validating falsehood and error"

    What is Tom Ross saying? He is taking the position that somehow the Baptist Church is so pure that anyone who was received into another denomination by baptism has not been baptized at all and therefore they must be rebaptized. He has at once accepted a Donatist viewpoint on baptism (with reference to purity) and an Anabaptist viewpoint, by claiming an invalidity for all other churches. He is also claiming for all others "falsehood and error". However, he still has not provided any validity for his own claims.

    Ross then goes on to list the requirement of Scriptural baptism. What are these? The first requirement is that "it must be administered by the proper authority. Baptism is not a Christian ordinance that can be performed by anyone, it is a church ordinance that is to be carried out by the authority of the local church. When Jesus gave the Great Commission He did not give it to the apostles as individual Christians , He gave it to His Church to be carried out until He returns. If He would have given the Commission to the apostles as individual Christians then the force and the validation of the command would have died out with the apostles....The only Baptism that God approves of and has authorized is John's baptism. All the members of the first church had the baptism of John including the Head and the founder of the church Jesus Christ who walked sixty miles to be baptized by the proper authority."

    Now let us look a little more closely to the above statements by Tom Ross.  First of all, he claims Baptism as an ordinance. That is not correct, but I will cover this point later. He then says that: "The only baptism that God approves of and has authorized is John's Baptism".

    Now this is a very sweeping assertion and at the same time it is very ignorant of the historical facts regarding the baptism of Jesus. From the statement above I could then logically deduce that there were others in Israel who were going around baptizing the people. The question is : what is written in the Gospels about the Baptism of Jesus? When Jesus approached John what were the words said between them? Do those words support the above
assertion ?

    Matthew's Gospel says: "At that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John to be baptized by him. But John tried to make him change his mind. "I ought to be baptized by  you" John said and yet you have come to Me!" But Jesus answered him: "Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall all do that God requires" so John agreed (Matthew 3: 13-15).

    Do these words between Jesus and John back up the statements by Tom Ross. My answer to that is NO. Why do I say this? First of all, John is the precursor of Jesus. The birth of John was also prophesied in Holy Scripture.  John's pending conception and birth was also announced by the Angel Gabriel.  John was born to be a prophet, to prepare the way of the Lord, the Messiah,
his cousin, Jesus. Second, John's preaching was very austere and when a

person came to be baptized it was not simply a matter of belief in Jesus, it was a baptism to wash away the sins of the penitent. John gave to the people who lined up to be baptized a prescription to lead a better life. When he saw Jesus he recognized in him the Messiah and upon doing so, he recognized the higher authority of Jesus. Third, Jesus had replied to John that he was fulfilling something which was required by God. The Baptism of Jesus was not the fulfillment of an ordinance, it was not stating that John's Baptism was the only Baptism, it was indicating that Baptism was the beginning of a higher mystery - and for Catholics and Protestants alike, the beginning of our acceptance into the community of Christians and our life in Christ.

    And if we look further at the words of John the Baptist which were reported in the Gospels, we see the following from Luke: "I baptize you with water, but someone is coming who is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with
the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16).

    The question remains, why did Jesus want to be baptized by John? What was the other purpose for this action? I turn again to the words in Matthew's gospel:

"As soon as Jesus was baptized he came out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him and he saw the spirit of God coming down like a dove and landing on him (Jesus). Then a voice said from Heaven : "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am pleased."

    In this passage we have a manifestation of who Jesus is, announced to all who witnessed the baptism of Jesus, so that they would know and understand that Jesus was the Son of God, and those who were called to follow Him, would have no doubt as to who he was.

Tom Ross had then stated:
"All the members of the first church had the baptism of John"

    Here then is another sweeping statement. Where is the Scriptural evidence to back this claim. John the Baptist was captured by Herod's men in the first year of the public ministry of Jesus. He was beheaded on the command of Herod to please to daughter of his wife, who made that request on behalf of her mother.

    "including the Head of the church, Jesus Christ, who walked sixty miles in order to be baptized by the proper authority"

    Yet another sweeping statement by Tom Ross. He totally ignores the Scriptures in this statement. He claims Jesus as the head and the founder of the Baptist church and in doing so has denied the words of the Gospels where Peter was given the role as the head of the church on earth. Then there is the words "by proper authority". Tom Ross is creating a form of legalism to the baptism of John the Baptist, ascribing to John the Baptist, an authority which he did not have. Tom Ross completely ignores the words of John the Baptist as reported in the Gospels, that it should have been Jesus baptizing him, not the other way around.

Ross then claims:

"Jesus believed so strongly in Baptist baptism, He declared those who rejected it were in reality rejecting the counsel of God and he goes on to quote Luke 7: 29-30. He then concludes from this that: "all Roman Catholics have rejected the counsel of God concerning Scriptural Baptism. Therefore all true Baptists must consider their administration of the ordinances null
and void".

    So now I turn to what Luke said. The quote itself has been taken out of context. The disciples of John had been sent to Jesus to settle a dispute amongst themselves. By that stage, the people were divided as to who they thought the Messiah to be, some believed that John the Baptist was the Messiah and others that it was Jesus, as had been pointed out by John the
Baptist himself, when he had said : "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World" and who had announced Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus had replied to these disciples:
"Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard. The blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is preached to the poor. How happy are those who have no doubts about me!" (Luke 7: 22-23)

After affirming to the people that John was indeed a prophet, Jesus said: "I tell you, Jesus added, "John is greater than anyone who has ever lived. But the one who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John." All the people heard him (John); they and especially the tax collectors were the ones who had obeyed God's righteous demands and had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law rejected God's purpose for themselves and refused to be baptized by John".

    Nowhere in this passage does it refer to the type of baptism i.e. by immersion or by other means. Yet Mr Ross makes the sweeping statement that all other denominations have rejected Scriptural Baptism and therefore their ordinances are null and void. Where is the proof in Scripture that this is so? It is lacking. Take another look at what Jesus said: "they were the
ones who obeyed God's righteous demands and had been baptized by John." What righteous demands? Again, looking at the Gospels: "Crowds of people came out to John to be baptized by him. "You snakes!" he said to them. "Who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send? Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins... The people asked him, "What are we to do then?" He answered, "whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none, and whoever has food must share it." Some tax collectors came to him to be baptized and they asked him, "what are we to do?" "Don't collect more than is legal", he told them. Some soldiers also asked him, "What about us?What are we to do?" He said to them, "Don't take money from anyone, by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with your pay." (Luke 2: 7-14)

    From this passage one can see that John the Baptist insisted that the people who came to be baptized had to be truly repentant of their sins before their baptism. They were invited to turn away from their wrong doing. The scribes and the Pharisees were not prepared to turn away from their sins for they believed themselves to be "pure" and therefore they refused the baptism of John the Baptist.

    Therefore an interpretation which claims that Luke is saying that Jesus is claim that the baptism of John the Baptist is the only authorized baptism is simply wrong and not supported by the context of the quote.

    Critical to the assumptions made by Mr Ross is that Jesus was the founder and the Head of the (Baptist) Church, and that all other churches were founded by humans. There are many errors in the Ross assumptions. Here is a list of factors which Mr Ross has overlooked in reaching his conclusions:
1) John the Baptist was killed by the command of Herod during the first year of the public life of Jesus.

2)Jesus appointed the twelve apostles to form his church on earth. Jesus was the builder and the apostles were the foundation of the church.

3)John had stated that his baptism was only of water, to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

4) The authority of Jesus was passed to the Apostles, with Peter as their leader, and that authority has been handed down through the Catholic Church. This is attested to by the writings of the early Christians.

5) The early Christian community was established in a lot of towns and cities, but it was at the same time a united community. It did not consist of independent churches as claimed by Mr. Ross. There is simply no evidence to back up this claim. The early Christians followed oral tradition which has been handed down through the Catholic Church.