The Novatians are named after their leader, Novatian (c. A.D. 240). Novatian was a pastor in Rome who had seen the evils that resulted from all the 'change' we have already discussed. Novatian knew the error of such apostasy and began to take a a very strong stand against such.
Novatian demanded that the Truth be preached and stood for. There were many who began to apostatize, whom Novatian encouraged his church to discipline. Already the doctrine of church discipline was being ignored or lessened. Novatian insisted that strict church discipline be administered. This met opposition.
When others sought to join with the Novatian church, he demanded they be 're baptized.' Consider his words:
If you wish to join any of our churches, you may be admitted among us by baptism; but observe, that if you fall away into idolatry or vice, we shall separate you from our communion, and on no account can you be readmitted among us...If you be a virtuous believer, and will accede to our confederacy against sin, you may be admitted among us by baptism, or if any catholic has baptized you before, by REBAPTISM. (emphasis mine)
Novatians would no longer accept the baptism of the established 'church.' They would hence, Re-baptize. It was this practice that would later lend to the Novatians being called 'Anabaptist.'
The Novatian churches spread quickly with new churches being birthed all over the Roman Empire. What distinguished these churches?
1. Purity of the Church Member. The believer must separate himself from all apostasy, impurity, and worldliness.
2. Church Discipline. The members would hold each other accountable in matters of apostasy, impurity, and worldliness.
3. Rebaptism. Baptism had to be by immersion, with church authority, and not 'Catholic.'
4. Doctrinal Purity. The Novatians held to true Biblical Doctrine. They held to the ordinances: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Novatians saw Communion as an ordinance of which the local church was the 'secure guardian.' (History of Baptist, Orchard, pg. 54).
Praise the Lord for believers who stood for Truth! The Catholic church was being conceived, apostasy was settling in, worldliness and impure lives were becoming accepted; but not in every church.
Today, sadly, much the same. Churches, Independent Baptist, are still influenced by the Catholic-established-'church.' Our doctrine has become weak, our demand for purity and holiness in the lives of believers silenced, discipline ignored, baptisms from every denomination accepted, the Lord's Table thought to be 'open' for any...NO! It is the Lord's churches that are to guard and secure the ordinances and continue to preach Truth. We must still demand holiness in our lives as members of our churches! The Lord's Table and church discipline are tied together in Scripture (1 Cor. 5:11). If the member in sin is not be granted the great privilege of membership, that of eating the Lord's Supper, how can a view of 'open' or even 'close' communion be possible? If I were to visit any given Baptist church this Sunday, they cannot possibly know the state of my spiritual life as my local church does.
No one who practices correctly will demand people leave or embarrass visitors attending when observing; but will simply teach the conviction of the church and expect visitors to submit to such. In all my years, there has never been anyone offended while visiting our body when we observe.
It can be done! Churches can and should still stand! One will say, 'Those kind of churches will never prosper or grow;' yet, the Novatians were "prosperous, very numerous...found extensive and in a flourishing condition when Constantine came to the throne in A.D. 306" (Orchard pg. 57).
We should join with the Novatians when it comes to the apostasy, worldliness, alien baptism, an open table; and say "NO WAY!"