Why I am a Baptist
Why I am a Baptist
by Robert Breaker III
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Many years ago, a pastor of a Church of Christ denomination visited the home of an Baptist Minister. Because of their broad differences in doctrine, an argument quickly ensued. And after half an hour of a rather heated debate, the Church of Christ minister concluded, "I believe our denomination is right because we are the church that Christ founded! And to be saved one has to be baptized in water to go to heaven! And you ought to know that seeing that you are a 'Baptist.' Thus, why don't you take the name 'Baptist' off the sign of your church if you don't believe that one is saved by water baptism?"
The Baptist Pastor quickly responded, "Well it seems you have a glitch in your philosophy there, Mister! You see we have a bunch of heretics from the 'Church of Christ,' which claim to be the church that Christ founded, going around telling people they must DO SOMETHING to get to heaven rather than just TRUST in the LORD JESUS CHRIST ALONE to be saved. They preach that one MUST BE 'BAPTIZED' in water to go to heaven. This totally omits what Jesus did on the cross, and makes the means of salvation one's WORKS, rather than FAITH in what Jesus (the founder of the Church) DID, when he SHED HIS BLOOD for man's sins.
With that in mind, we had to differentiate ourselves from that blasphemous Church of God crowd and choose another name. We figured since you all were so hypocritical in calling yourselves 'The Church of Christ' even though you don't TRUST CHRIST, but rather TRUST YOUR BAPTISM, that we'd just do the opposite and take the name 'Baptist' and then preach salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone!"
The Church of Christ minister left bewildered and confused, and continued down the street to his house wondering if he indeed had the right name for his church, and why they called themselves the "Church of Christ," when they were not trusting in Christ Jesus alone to save them, rather their water baptism.
Of course the above story was made up, and probably never happened, but it does illustrate a good point in raising the question: "Of what denomination are you a member and why?" Are you a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Luteran, etc. Why are you a member of that denomination? Do you belong to that group out of conviction or out of convenience? Do you agree with their teachings?
With these thoughts in mind, the author of this booklet decided that he not only study more about why he was a Baptist, but he should publish a book declaring openly why he chooses to be thus.
If after reading this booklet, one should come to the realization that their denominational affiliation is only one of convenience rather than sound Biblical conviction, the author encourages them to change their membership to a good, Independent, BIBLE BELIEVING BAPTIST CHURCH!
The author, knowing that we live in a Television Generation, where people's attention spans are much shorter than those of days of old, has decided to keep this booklet short, perceiving that an exhaustive thesis on the subject would result in many less people reading the material. For this reason, the author has tried to be as brief as possible and to "say more with less."
A Bibliography will be found at the end of the book listing other sources for the more studious person who might endeavor to contemplate a more thorough erudition of the people, denomination, history, and tradition known as the Baptists.
When the author speaks of the term Baptist he understands and is fully aware that there are many different sects within the Baptist denomination including the following, to name only a few: Missionary Baptists, Hard Shell Baptists, Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Independent Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Calvinistic Baptists, Landmark Baptists, etc.
The author wishes it to be known to the reader that when he uses the term Baptists he does not necessarily designate any one sect in particular, and uses the term in speaking of the whole of Baptists over the centuries and their similar doctrines, teachings, and history. He does not refer to or identify with modern day apostate Baptists who have deviated from the word of truth, turning their back on what they once believed, and separating themselves from Baptists of old.
Further the author desires that it be known that his own affiliation leans towards that of the Independent Baptists, more specifically, Bible Believing Baptists. (Yet even more specifically KING JAMES BIBLE BELIEVING BAPTISTS!)
This booklet, as brief as I can make it, has three chapters covering the subject of "Why I personally am a Baptist."
The chapters have been set up homiletically and are as follows: Chapter One: The Harmony of the Baptist's Doctrine with That of Scripture, Chapter Two: The History of the Baptists, and Chapter Three: The Heritage of the Baptists.
The Harmony of Baptist
Doctrine with That of Scripture
The first and foremost reason I am a Baptist is because of the Harmony of early Baptist doctrine with that of the scriptures. The Baptist doctrine of old by far is closer to that of scripture than any other denomination on the face of the earth. Baptists as a whole have chosen to follow God's rules and His words while other denominations have many times set up their own traditions in place of the Bible as their final authority. Thus, to be a Baptist is to be a member of the denomination who's roots prove it's closest to the Bible in it's doctrinal teachings.
The main Baptist teachings, or the Baptist Distinctives as many have termed them, may be expressed in the following acronym:
B iblical Authority
Atonomy of the Local Church
Priesthood of All Believers
Two Ordinances: A. Baptism B. The Lord's Supper
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved Church Membership
Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon
Separation of Church and State
Let us briefly look at each of these in light of the scriptures, and make a few comparisons with other denominations to see if indeed the old Baptist position is much closer to the Bible than that of other "religious" systems.
First, and foremost, is that of BIBLICAL AUTHORITY. Since the time of the apostles, Baptists have believed and used as their basis the word of God not only for preaching and teaching, but also for doctrine. They have no Pope or hierarchy that mandates from time to time "new revelations" or "new mandates" for their denomination. Nor do they have "dogmas," "creeds," or "bulls" of men that one must adhere to in order to belong to their denomination. Each Baptist Church has had as its head the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:23), and His word is the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16).
For the Baptist, what God said is what he should believe. Not only do the Baptists draw their doctrine from the word of God, but each bible believing Baptist firmly believes the word of God is what saves (1 Peter 1:23), sanctifies (Juan 17:17), and steers or governs not only the church but each individual member as well (1 Thes. 2:13).
The Baptists for centuries upon centuries have used only the Bible as their basis of fellowship, fundamental doctrines, and the framework for their rules and regulations.
This brings us to our next topic of "AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH."
Almost, if not all, Baptists believe that each individual local Baptist Church has the God given right to govern itself without any outside authority intervening, or mandating terms, rules, regulations, or laws for them to follow. They believe that since Christ is the head of the church (Col. 1:18), He and He alone is the one that should direct the business of His church.
Each church has a Pastor as the shepherd or "overseer" (Acts 20:28) of the flock who is the director of the church and is responsible for teaching and preaching God's words to the people.
Some Baptist sects differ on how exactly the governmental body of the church should be run. Some Baptist churches give all the power to the Pastor to make decisions on how things should be done (as he is in obedience to Christ). Other Baptist sects form committees or deacon boards which decide with a democratic form of governmental leadership. While still other Baptist groups use the majority rule in church votes, elections, and other governmental affairs. But they all have one thing in common, they are all in agreement that each separate Baptist Church should govern itself (under Christ Jesus) without any outside interference.
How different this is compared to the Roman church, which has one ruler (the Pope in Rome) that makes all the decisions, affecting all churches of that affiliation in the entire world. And how strange this would seem to those of the Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, and other denominations which are accustomed to letting their denominational headquarters decide the affairs of their diocese, parishes and missions.
Baptists throughout the centuries have based their belief in autonomy of the local Church from the writings of Paul to young preachers such as Timothy and Titus, in which Paul tells them the rules of a bishop or deacon, and how a Pastor's testimony should be in the eyes of the congregation.
They also cite many other passages such as that of the words of Christ Jesus himself in Matthew 18:15-17 when he says,
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican."Clearly, when one brother has a problem with another, it is a church matter, and no one calls upon the secular "magistrates" or the "hierarchy" to sort things out. It is the responsibility of the church to resolve the problems that be within between its own members.
Next, we come to the "PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER." Baptists have always held that each individual, saved member of the Baptist church is a priest in himself (Rev. 1:6, 5:10), in the aspect that he need no sinful man to help him come to God, but can instead, as a priest of the Old Testament was a go-between for the people of Israel to go to God through the blood of a lamb, he, as a New Testament saint, can go directly to God and His throne through the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19).
Bible Believing Baptists teach that each born again child of God need not an earthly priest to which he must confess his sins, but instead has a "High Priest" - The Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1), in the heavens (Hebrews 4:14), which has no sin (Heb. 4:15).
Now compare this with what the Roman church teaches when it declares a man must make confession to a priest of their order and that he is the only one that can absolve their sins. Clearly this is not a Biblical doctrine, for even the Pharisees of Jesus' time questioned, "Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Luke 5:21)
How can one sinful man, an earthly priest, forgive another sinful man of his sins? He cannot. The simple truth, that all Baptists have adhered to for centuries, is that only God, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:16) can forgive sins (Mt. 9:5-6; Acts 13:38).
Of the TWO ORDINANCES, Baptists have always believed in the first, of BAPTISM IN WATER, only for Born Again Believers as a testimony (1 Peter 3:21) of their salvation after their conversion to Christ, to show their faith in Christ Jesus and be identified with his death, burial, and resurrection.
The Baptist mode of Baptism is by immersion or going completely underwater and then coming back up again. This can clearly be seen in the scriptures at Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:16, "And Jesus, when he was baptized went straighway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." And in Matthew 3:5,6, we are told that the people came out of Jerusalem to the river Jordan to be baptized "in" the Jordan, where according to John 3:23, there was, "much water."
Also, we find in Acts 8:38 and 39 that Christ's disciples used the same method in baptizing a man after he was saved (vs 37), as we read, "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Notice how this method and reason for baptizing is very different from other denominations and religions that exist today.
The Romanist Church desires to baptize babies for remission of original sin, when this is not found in either Testament of the Bible! And in other sects we find baptism is the saving element in itself, instead of faith in Jesus Christ's sacrificial blood atonement on the cross. While even other denominations teach that baptism is not of immersion but rather of sprinkling. Truly the "Baptists" know more about baptism than other denominations, for their convictions are strictly biblical.
Moving on to the second ordinance that the Baptists hold dear, we come to that of THE LORD'S SUPPER. This ordinance comes from First Corinthians chapter eleven. And according to verses 25 and 26, it has two purposes. We read, "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come."
The Lord's supper then is 1. to "remember" Christ Jesus' death on the cross, and 2. to "remind us of his coming." Although some sects of Baptists use fermented wine and others grape juice in the Lord's supper, they are both of agreement that it is not a saving sacrifice or sacrament (a term not found in the bible). It is only an ordinance that is given to the church to help believers reflect upon Christ's first and second comings, and his sacrificial death on the cross for their sins.
How much different is the Roman practice of The Mass, which they term "a bloody sacrifice in an unbloody manner," in which Catholics are lead to believe that they not only eat their Jesus, but also have their sins remitted by so doing.
Baptists have always rejected such nonsense, and yeah even blasphemy on the basis of Hebrews chapter ten and verses ten through fourteen: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God...For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Baptists also reject the foolish notion that one is eating Jesus Christ himself by following Jesus' words in John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Thus, once again, Baptists are much closer in their doctrine of the Lord's supper than those of other religions that teach Transubstantiation or even Consubstantiation. The Lord's supper is for Christians to meditation on the propitiation of Jesus Christ, and what he did for them on the cross to save them, and his promise to return again for his saints.
Let us now continue with the Baptist distinctive of "INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY." Baptists have always believed that every man should have liberty to choose which religion he should desire to follow without any one forcing their religion upon him against his will. As already stated, Baptists believe that God's word is the only authority in all matters of faith and practice, and their desire has been only to have those words to read and obey. Baptists also have had for centuries the burden of publishing God's word and putting it into the hands of the lost and sinful world so that they might read it and decide for themselves which path to follow.
Baptists have always believed every man should of his own conscience stand on what he believes. Perhaps they base this doctrine on the words of Paul in Romans 14:5 when he states, "...Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Notice then how different this teaching is compared to that of the Roman Church, which teaches that all men should be a member of their church, and when a child is born in their church, he is officially a Roman Catholic, without ever being given the choice to be so or not.
Our next historical Baptist teaching is that of "SAVED MEMBERSHIP." This teachings is not only Biblical, but very practical, for the church should only consist of regenerated, born again members. (However, this teaching does not exclude visitors. Baptists have always allowed the lost to come to their services, and yea, even invited them so that they might hear the Gospel message and know Christ Jesus as their Saviour).
There are several reasons why Baptists believe that members of each church be saved. First being that of the scripture with verses such as 1 Cor. 1:2, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints..." and Ephesians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus," just to name a few.
These saints of course are saved, born again believers. (Contrast this with the Roman church once again, that teaches saints are only those that are already dead from their church that did some kind of miracle in their life, and that were declared to be "saints" by the pope).
Secondly, only saved people should be members of the Local Church so that when it comes to deciding affairs, the Holy Spirit within each believer might be in agreement as what to do. As afore mentioned, we have seen that there are several forms of church government that the Baptist Church uses. But each saved member should be spiritual, and desire to follow God's will, where as a "lost" person might desire only to decided affairs based upon what is best for him.
Also, saved membership helps to bring the church together by prayer, and the burden for a lost world that needs the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:31). It also, as stated in Acts 4:32, allows them to be "of one heart and of one soul," and desire to do what's best for the church as they have "all things common."
Lastly, saved membership helps keeps "grevious wolves" (Acts 20:29) from entering the flock, and "false prophets" (2 Peter 2:1) from entering the fold, as saved members can "try the spirits" to see whether they be of God or no (1 John 4:1).
Following right along, the Baptists have always practiced TWO OFFICES in the Local church which are the only two mentioned in the Bible. These of course being that of PASTOR (bishop) and DEACON. The Prerequisites, or qualifications, of a Pastor and Deacon can be found in 1 Timothy Chapter three and Titus chapter one.
How different then is the Roman church with it's Pope, Cardinals, Archbishops, priests, altar boys and more. And how foreign to the scriptures are the titles of other church leaders in other denominations such as Rectors, Reverends, and clergymen. Does not the Bible speak only of Bishops (Pastors), and Deacons? Yes it does.
And what of the Romanist doctrine of not allowing their clergymen to be married, when in 1 Timothy 3:2 we read plainly that a bishop must be..."the husband of one wife," and again in verse 12 we read that the deacons too be "the husband's of one wife..." and are commanded in verse 11 to be "...grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."
Truly the offices of the church that Baptists hold dear are strictly Biblical, and all other denominations that have other offices are following man's tradition rather than God's holy word.
Finally, Baptists have stood firm on "SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE." This is not to say that Baptists are anarchists or anti-government for they believe as the Bible says that the "powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1), and that they are commanded to pray for the rulers of their country (1 Peter 2:12-17) in which they reside.
However, Baptists have never believed that a secular government should have the power to run the Local church, or to set one church above that of another, granting special powers to a specific group, denomination, or religion while excluding others.
Baptist make the distinction as so: The church is a spiritual authority while the state is the civil authority. And Baptists have always been partial to the belief of Freedom of Religion, or the freedom to worship where one pleases without a "governmental decree" making a person attend a church in which otherwise they would not freely associate. Baptist believe: "No government should enforce religious 'convictions' upon anyone!"
Contrast this to the Roman church which for centuries has been a state religion, and so powerful has been her control, that if one where to go against her beliefs, then he could be immediately executed for "heresy" against the "church-state" political set-up in the bloody Inquisition.
Baptists have always preached that a civil government cannot define a church nor rule it, nor should a church try to run a civil government. The government's job is to regulate morality not spirituality! And Baptists believe that the Church should be completely separate from that of the Secular government. This belief was not to keep the church out of state affairs, but rather to keep the state out of church affairs, as we have already seen in the Baptist Distinctive of Autonomy of the Local Church.
Baptists believe in obeying the laws of the land and that a secular government is needed to keep justice and order among the populace. However, when a secular government tries to pass laws against the Church, then the Bible and the Head of the Church—Jesus Christ—take precedence over that of the governmental world system.
An example of this would be found in Acts chapter four and verses 19, 20, when after having been commanded in verse 18 "not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus," the apostles replied, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Again in chapter five of the same book and verse 29, the apostles reply after being rebuked by the Jewish rulers not to preach in the name of Jesus, "We ought to obey God rather than men."
Thus, a Baptist's position is to be a good citizen and obey the laws of the land, as long as they do not contradict that of the Bible, which is his first and foremost authority, and no government should have any authority over the Lord's Church.
Other Baptist Beliefs
Aside from the "Baptist Distinctives" there are other beliefs that Baptists, for the most part, have held dear, and been faithful in preaching. Some call these the "Fundamentals" of the Faith. I will discuss just a few of these.
THE BELIEF IN THE VIRGIN BIRTH
Although many denominations hold to this belief as well, true Baptists are faithful to point out some things that other denominations don't. First, and foremost, they believe as the Bible teaches, that Mary was indeed a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:26,27) and that God the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and put the holy seed into her womb (Luke 1:35) from which came Jesus Christ—God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). Up unto this point, most denominations are in agreement.
However, because Baptists are Biblical in their doctrine, they do not worship Mary as do other religions, and they are quick to point out that Mary was only a virgin BEFORE she gave birth to Jesus Christ, for according to scriptures, she had other sons and daughters by Joseph her husband THEREAFTER (see Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55,56, Gal. 1:19 and others).
Further, Baptists deny that Mary was sinless, even though the Roman Church so dogmatically insists she was, for according to her own lips, she called Jesus Christ her "Saviour" (Luke 1:47), and according to the word of God, Mary was a sinner that had to have a "sacrifice" according to the law (Luke 1:22-24 and Levi. 12:1-8).
THE BELIEF THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
Most Baptists throughout the ages have always taught that salvation is by grace through faith WITHOUT WORKS in the dispensation of which we are now in. According to Ephesians chapter two and verses 8,9, we read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Bible Believing Baptists are quick to preach that salvation is a free gift (Romans 6:23) of eternal life (John 3:16). They shun the false teaching that the law will save (Galatians 2:16), and teach that it's God's unmerited grace (Acts 15:11) that saves when one trusts Christ Jesus as their own personal Saviour. The Bible teaches this clearly. The following three verses will suffice to show that salvation, or justification, is from God and not what a man can earn by his own merits.
Romans 3:28 "Justified freely by his grace..."
Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith..."
Romans 5:9 "...being justified by his blood."
Hence, justification or salvation is by God's grace, and man's faith in the Blood (Romans 3:25) that God shed (Acts 20:28), on the cross of Calvary for their sins (Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Contrast this with countless other denominations, religions, and sects that teach that one can be "enlightened," "saved," or "justified," by his own works, or a mixture of faith plus works. (Note: Sadly, in our modern age, many Baptists are turning from teaching salvation by faith alone to salvation by works).
THE BELIEF THAT ONCE A SINNER IS SAVED, HE IS ETERNALLY REDEEMED
True Baptist believe this today, and even though there have been some sects that might not adhere to this belief, generally "Eternal Security" has been held to be a Baptist Belief by those of other denominations.
Why do the Baptists believe that once a sinner is born again, he is saved for all eternity? Because the Bible clearly teaches us that this is so! With promises like John 3:16,36; 5:24; 6:47, 10:27,28; 11:25,26 and more, this doctrine is hard to dismiss.
Not to mention verses like Hebrews 9:12, which states, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His [Jesus] own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION for us."
And how about 1 John 5:13 which tells us, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW THAT YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE..."
And who can forget Jude 24, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
Thus, according to the Bible, when a person is saved, he cannot "lose his salvation" for it depends not upon what man DOES, but rather upon what Jesus DID for him. And once a man is saved by Faith in God's blood atonement, he is an adopted (Rom. 8:15) child of God (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26).
THE BELIEF IN THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST
Baptists throughout the ages have preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There we read:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved...how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
THE BELIEF IN THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST BODILY
Baptists not only believe that Jesus Christ rose again (Rom. 14:9), but that according to his precious promise, he will return again someday to take all born again believers back to heaven with him (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-57). This is found in John 14:3 when Christ says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Titus 2:13 also admonishes every Christian to look "for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
How different is this from other religions that are working at "Building a visible Kingdom" on their own with out looking for Him who is to come again to rule and reign for a thousand years (Revelation chapter 20).
The History of the Baptists
There are some who erroneously think that the Baptist denomination began with John the Baptist. They make this outlandish claim because he was called the Baptist. But John was not the founder of Christ's Church. He was called "the Baptist" only because he was baptizing by the river Jordan (John 1:28).
John started no church. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the founder of the Church. And even though John baptized him, John was in no means the founder of the Baptist Denomination.
This is an important point, as there are some Baptists (those known as Baptist Briders) who deceitfully teach that the Baptist denomination began with John the Baptist, and by elevating him to the position of the very first Baptist, they set up a sort of "apostolic succession," as the Roman Catholics do with Peter, to claim that the Baptist Church is not only the one that Christ founded, but is also the oldest Church in existence, as it predates Christ himself.
This not only is ludicrous, but quite unbiblical, and unnecessary. The simple truth of the matter is that Baptists can trace their lineage back to Jesus Christ, who founded His church on Himself—the Rock (See Mt. 16:16-18 and 1 Cor. 10:4)
John the Baptist could not have been the founder of the Baptist denomination, as he didn't believe what modern Bible Believing Baptists do today. John said of himself that he was just the "voice of one crying in the wilderness... [making] straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:23).
Although it's true that John preached Jesus was the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36), he did not preach the Gospel, for Jesus had not yet died nor resurrected (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Nor did John baptize believers only. He baptized people unto repentance (Matt.3:11), and his reason for baptizing, according to John 1:31, was to make Jesus Christ manifest unto Israel as their Messiah. This he did, for when Jesus was baptized by John, the Spirit descended upon Jesus, and a voice from heaven declared Him to be the son of God.
Thus, it must be restated that the Baptist Church did NOT begin with John the Baptist. The truth is that the Church began with Jesus Christ.
There is no need to deceive people into thinking Baptists started with John the Baptist to prove the Baptist denomination is the oldest in existence. By studying history, it's plain to see that Baptist doctrine is deeply rooted in Christ and his apostles.
Most Baptist doctrines can plainly be seen in the teachings of Jesus himself. As we've seen, Baptists believed in salvation by faith. This is exactly what Jesus preached. Examples would be John 3:15,16; 6:40; 11:25-26 and more. The doctrines of Baptists are also clearly seen in the teachings of Christ's disciples—the apostles.
None of Jesus' disciples ever taught such unbiblical practices as: infant baptism, the doctrine of purgatory, salvation by faith and works, a church-state setup, confession of one's sins to a priest, praying to Mary or praying to the saints, worship of images or idols, self atonement of sins by flagellation, the papacy, the sacrifice of the mass (transubstantiation), or the church sanctioned murder of heretics (like the Spanish inquisition).
Baptists have always stood against such doctrines, and have maintained the pure teachings of Christ and his apostles (the Baptist Distinctives).
Although early Christians might not have been known by the name of Baptists, there have always existed since the time of the apostles groups of born again, Bible Believing Christians who preached the apostle's doctrine (Baptist Doctrine). And over the centuries, they have held many names such as the Donatists, Cathari, Paulicians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Anabaptists and more. (See the book, The Trail of the Blood, by H.M. Carroll for more information on these denominations).
History teaches us that these groups were usually labeled heretics by the Roman church-state religious setup (later known as the Roman Catholic Church), and suffered much for their faith. Yet they continued steadfast, defending Bible doctrine in spite of political dogmas to accept tradition instead of the Bible.
Not only does History confirm that the Baptist denomination is the oldest, with it's doctrines being the closest to that of Christ and his apostles, but Historians who've extensively studied the issue can come to no other conclusion.
In the book, Crossing the Centuries, edited by William C. King, and written by many learned men from Harvard and Yale, we read the following confession:
"Of the Baptists it may be said that they are not Reformers. These people, comprising bodies of Christian believers, known under various names in different countries, are entirely independent of and distinct from the Greek and Roman churches, and have an unbroken continuity from apostolic days down through the centuries." 1
With this weighty declaration by learned men it's hard to deny that the Baptist denomination is indeed the oldest in existence, dating clear back to the times of the apostles.
The Presbyterian Edinburg Encyclopedia also extends the history of the Baptist denomination very close to the time of the apostles when it states, "It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described as Anabaptists. Indeed this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time." 2
For those who may be unaware, Tertullian was born around 150 years after the death of Christ.
Professor William C. Duncan, of the Department of Greek and Latin at the University of Louisiana gives the following confession about Baptist History:
"Baptists do not, as most Protestant denominations, date their origin from the Reformation of 1520. By means of that great movement they were brought out of comparative obscurity into prominent notice. They did not, however, originate with the Reformation; for long before Luther lived; yea, long before the Catholic Church itself was known, Baptists and Baptist churches flourished in Europe, Asia and Africa." 3
Here Professor Duncan dates the Baptist church to before the Roman Catholic church. He also clarifies that Baptists are not Reformers or Protestants. They did not come out of the Catholic church, but rather existed before it, starting in the time of Christ and his apostles!
Robert Barclay, a Quaker, concurs that the Baptist denomination is much older than the Roman Catholic Church itself when he states:
"We shall afterwards show the rise of the Anabaptists took place prior to the Reformation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe small hidden Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the times of the apostles. In the sense of the direct transmission of Divine Truth, and the true nature of spiritual religion, it seems probably that these churches have a lineage or succession more ancient than that of the Roman Church." 4
Historians of all denominations who have studied Church History have been forced to admit that the oldest existing Christian denomination today is that of the Baptists.
Methodist Historian John Clark Ridpath confesses in a letter to Dr. W.A. Jarrell: "I should not readily admit that there were Baptists as far back as A.D. 100, although without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were Baptists." 5
Even Alexander Campell, founder of the Church of Christ sect, admits the following about Baptists and their mode of baptism by immersion:
"I would engage to show that baptism as viewed and practiced by the Baptists, had its advocates in every century of the Christian era...and independent of whose existence (the German Anabaptists), clouds of witnesses attest the fact, that before the Reformation from popery, and from the apostolic age to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists, and the practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced." 6
The Roman Catholic Church also admits to the antiquity of the Baptist denomination. I quote Cardinal Hosius, The president of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent who wrote the following in 1554:
"If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptists since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more generally punished or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people." 7
Here Mr. Hosius recognizes the existence of the Baptists back 1200 years, or around the time of the founding of the Roman Catholic Church itself (325 A.D. under Emperor Constantine)!
Baptists most certainly are not Protestants, as they pre-date many modern denominations. They are not the Reformers, rather those who have remained faithful in keeping God's word and the apostle's doctrines throughout the centuries from the time of Christ.
Mosheim, a Lutheran Historian, makes this clear with the following words, "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists." 8Probably the most amazing confession to the antiquity of the Baptist denomination, and it's defense of pure Bible doctrine, is that of Dr. Dermont, chaplain to the King of Holland, and Dr. Ypiej. These men were commissioned by the King to study Church History and report on which denomination is the oldest and closest to Biblical principles. I quote their conclusion:
"We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists...were the original Waldenses, and have long in the history of the Church received the honor of that origin. On this account, the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the Apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages." 9
What a powerful confession! No other denomination on the face of the earth can lay claim to such an amazing statement!
Truly the Baptists have a rich history. However it did not come without cost. For their defense of the pure word of God they were brutally persecuted, suffering unspeakable horrors, including mass murder from Papists and Protestants alike.
I'm reminded of David's prophetic words in Psalm 44:22, "Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter."
The History of the Baptist denomination is what H.M. Carroll entitled, "A Trail of Blood."
True Bible-believing Baptist Christians were slaughtered from the time of the apostles until our present time. They were persecuted for their faith like the apostles themselves (Acts 8:1), and were scattered throughout the world carrying the Gospel with them. Although much of their suffering has been forgotten, history still remembers them. They are by far the oldest Christian denomination on earth, following in Christ's footsteps, carrying their cross as commanded.
Contrast the Baptists denomination, whose history heralds from antiquity until now, with the many modern denominations of today. Most so-called Christians groups such as the: The Church of Christ, the Mormons, the Pentecostals, the Charismatics, the Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarians, the Universalists, and more can only trace their history back at most to only several hundred years.
I am a Baptist because the Baptist denomination is the oldest denomination on the face of the earth, with its lineage and history extending clear back to the time of Christ himself. Baptists, as a whole, have planted their feet firmly on the doctrines of Christ and his apostles, gladly taking their stand with Baptists of old. How about you? Are you a Baptist? Why not?
The Heritage of the Baptists
In 1931, J.M. Carroll wrote the immortal epic entitled, "THE TRAIL OF BLOOD: Following the Christians Down Through the Centuries or The History of Baptist Churches From the Time of Christ, their Founder, to the Present Day."
In this book, brother Carroll does a tedious job of showing how only Baptists can trace their doctrines and beliefs back to the time of Christ. The following are his own words:
"This compound word [Ana Baptist] applied as a designation of some certain Christians was first found in history during the third century; and a suggestive fact soon after the origin of Infant Baptism, and a more suggestive fact even prior to the use of the name Catholic. Thus, the name 'Ana-Baptists' is the oldest denominational name in history." 10
What an amazing heritage! To be Baptist is to be a part of the oldest Christian denomination in history!
But to me, one's heritage is more about the type of men who called themselves Baptists. So let us look at who Baptists were throughout the centuries, for what we find are men (and women) of exceptional character who do amazing things for God and are so dogmatical and unwavering in their beliefs, they have willingly given their lives for the cause of Christ, dying as martyrs if need be.
No other denomination on the face of the earth has ever suffered as much as the Baptists. William C. King says the following about the blood-stained heritage of the Baptists:
"Of the Baptists...they were bitterly persecuted for heresy, drive from country to country, disfranchised, deprived of their property, imprisoned, tortured, and slain by the thousands; yet they swerved not from the New Testament faith, doctrine and practice." 11
Hated by other denominations, the Baptists stayed firm in their doctrinal beliefs, and were brutally persecuted for it by both Romanists and Protestants. Yet they boldly remained steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58), amidst intolerably cruelty.
Roman Catholic Historian Cardinal Hosisus admits:
"If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptists since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more generally punished or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people." 12
And again he confesses:
"Were it not that the baptists have been grieviously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater number than all the Reformers." 13
Why were the Baptists so cruelly treated. History tells us it was because they were not afraid to cry aloud and spare not (Isa. 58:1), against sin, and anti-biblical religious practices.
Hiscox writes of a group of Baptists, "They were defamed and oppressed, calumniated and martyred because they bore witness to the truth of God and testified against the errors and vices of the so-called churches. History has never done them justice, and perhaps never will: because history has been too much written in the interest of our enemies, or from their standpoint. Tortured and tormented by those who should have been their defenders, crowns and miters alike pledged to their destruction, they could do nothing but suffer, and this they nobly did as Christ's faithful witnesses." 14
Notable scholar Sir Issac Newton said of the Baptists, "The Baptists are the only body of known Christians that have never symbolized with Rome." 15
This portrays their anti-ecumenical attitude, and explains why they were so brutally persecuted. Because they were unchanging in their doctrines, and chose not to adhere, join, or change their beliefs for others, many state religions hated them, and even passed laws against them. Yet they remained strong in the doctrines of the Bible, and counted it a joy to be worthy to suffer for their Lord Jesus Christ, as did the apostle's of old (Acts 5:41).
In spite of bitter persecutions, Baptists grew and flourished, faithfully preaching the Gospel, and teaching sound Bible doctrine. Sadly, their history is often overlooked, or swept under the rug by many historians.
The words of C.H. Spurgeon, a Baptist Minister in England during the 1800's, sums it up well:
"History has hitherto been written by our enemies, who never would have kept a single fact about us upon the record if they could have helped it, and yet it leaks out every now and then that certain poor people called Anabaptists were brought up for condemnation. From the days of Henry II to those of Elizabeth we hear of certain unhappy heretics who were hated of all men for the truth's sake which was in them. We read of poor men and women, with their garments cut short, turned out into the fields to perish in the cold, and anon of others who were burnt at Newington for the crime of Anabaptism. Long before our Protestants were know of those horrible Anabaptists, as they were unjustly called, were protesting for the 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.' No sooner did the visible church begin to depart from the gospel than these men arose to keep fast by the old way. The priests and monks wished for peace and slumber, but there was always a Baptist or a Lollard tickling men's ears with the Holy Scriptures, and calling their attention to the errors of the times. They were a poor persecuted tribe. The halter was thought to be too good for them. At times ill-written history would have us think that they died out, so well had the wolf done his work on the sheep. Yet, here we are, blessed and multiplied; and Newington sees other scenes form Sunday to Sunday. As I think of the multitudes of your numbers and efforts, I can only say in wonder—what a growth! As I think of the multitudes of our brethren in America, I can only say, What hath God wrought! Our history forbids discouragements." 16
The old saying goes, "The blood of Martyrs is the seed of the Gospel," and as more and more Baptists were brutally murdered throughout the ages, their numbers flourished like the early church of old. Martyrdom only helps to breed a cause, not stamp it out. And the Baptist denomination grew tremendously through continued discrimination and persecution.
Time would fail me to tell the story of Baptist persecution or of those noble Baptists who loved not their lives unto the death. So I will only briefly give a few of the millions of horrible atrocities against the Baptists for their unwillingness to compromise their sacred beliefs.
"In 1160, a company of Paulicians (Baptists) entered Oxford. Henry II ordered them to be branded on the forehead with hot irons, publicly whipped them through the streets of the city, to have their garments cut short at the girdles, and be turned into the open country. The villages were not to afford them any shelter or food and they perished a lingering death from cold and hunger." 17"In the year of our Lord 1539 two Ana-Baptists were burned beyond Southwark, and a little before them five Dutch Ana-Baptists were burned in Smithfield." 18
"At Zurich, after many disputations between Zuingliuns and Ana-Baptists, the Senate made an Act, that if any presume to rebaptize those who where baptized before (i.e. as infants) they should be drowned. At Vienna many Ana-Baptists were tied together in chains that one drew the other after him into the river, wherein all were suffocated (drowned)." 19
In 1553, Stowe, an English Historian, wrote the following account, "The 25th of May-in St. Paul's Church, London-examined 19 men and 6 women. Fourteen of them were condemned; a man and a woman were burned at Smithfield, the other twelve of them were sent to towns there to be burned." 20
Froude, another English Historian, says the following of these Ana-Baptist Martyrs,
"The details are all gone, their names are gone. Scarcely the facts seems worth mentioning. For them no Europe was agitated, no court was ordered in mourning, no papal hearts trembled with indignation. At their death the world looked on complacent, indifferent or exulting. Yet here, out of 25 poor men and women were found 14, who by no terror of stake or torture could be tempted to say they believed what they did not believe. History has for them no word of praise, yet they, too, were not giving their blood in vain. Their lives might have been as useless as the lives of most of us. In their death they assisted to pay the purchase of English freedom." 21
Throughout the centuries from the time of Christ, millions of faithful Baptists were slaughtered time and again. Clarence Walker says:
"The History of Baptists...was written in blood. They were the hated people of the Dark Ages. Their preachers and people were put into prison and untold numbers were put to death. The world has never seen anything to compare with the suffering, the persecutions, heaped upon Baptists by the Catholic Hierarcy during the Dark Ages. The Pope was the world's dictator. This is why the Ana-Baptists, before the Reformation, called the Pope the Anti-Christ." 22
Of the exact number of these honorable martyrs of Christ, it is impossible to tell. J.M. Carroll writes, "I again call your attention to those upon whom the hard hand of persecution fell. If FIFTY MILLION DIED OF PERSECUTION during the 1,200 years of what are called 'the Dark Ages,' as history seems positively to teach—then they died faster than an average of four million every one hundred years." 23
Neither time nor paper would suffice to tell the unspeakable horror stories of cruel persecutions against Baptists written in Fox's Book of Martyrs (a book the author highly recommends be read by every Christian the world over).
Although many forget these blood stained saints of God, the truth is the world has never seen such amazing people, who dogmatically stood for truth against unsurpassing odds. Not only did they have the secular government against them, but the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Protestants, branded them heretics for not baptizing babies. For this, they were known for centuries as ANA-BAPTISTS, or those who were against Baptism of infants. Later, the ANA was dropped, and these noble martyrs, who's heritage is written in blood, became famously known as simply BAPTISTS.
With this in mind, we must remember how GODLY is the Baptist Heritage, and how devout faithful Baptists have been in defending true Biblical doctrines, guarding them with their lives if need be. There has never existed a group as pious and saintly as Baptists of old who stood dogmatically against cruel religious oppression and satanic brutality.
Baptists throughout the ages have been known for their unwavering stand for doctrine. The teachings of the Bible have been so important to them, that they have willingly given their lives to the stake, the fire, the chopping block, and the sword, as a testimony to their commitment to preaching and preserving the doctrines of Christ.
Further, Bible Believing Baptist throughout history have been careful not to unite with other denominations which do not share their history, heritage, and harmony with the scriptures.
That is until now. Sadly, many who claim to be Baptists in our day are not the same caliber of those of old. Instead of dogmatically crying against sin, false doctrine, and religious deception, many are joining the Ecumenical Movement, and have given up their godly heritage, tossing aside sound doctrine. They choose not to suffer for Christ, but rather separate from their heritage and unite with the same denominations which persecuted them in times past. Some have even taken the name "Baptist" off their Church Sign in hopes of drawing larger crowds with a gospel of "non-offensiveness," with a "come as you are, leave as your wish," attitude.
Because of this modern swing among modernistic Baptists from godly heritage to great heresy, the author feels moved to write a new book in the future, entitled, "Why I Am An Independent Baptist!" Because, of all the Baptists left in the world the Independent Baptist Movement has been the only one who claims to consistently hold firm to the teachings of Baptists gone by, refusing to lay aside their doctrines in order to join with those of other denominations.
In closing, HISTORY clearly teaches us that the Baptist denomination is the oldest Christian denomination in the world. Their doctrines throughout the centuries ring in HARMONY with the scriptures, with the exception of modernistic, ecumenical, apostate Baptist heretics.
Finally, the true Baptist's strong stand against apostasy, and his willingness to suffer, and yeah even die for what he believes in, proves that being a Baptist means you come from an amazing lineage and a noble HERITAGE.
Dear reader, are you a Baptist? If not, why not? If you aren't, why don't you find a good, Bible Believing Baptist Church which preaches and practices the Baptist Distinctives, and cries aloud against sin?
And if you are one of these ecumenical Baptists, who has given the Baptist name a black-eye and joined with those who aren't interested in preserving sound doctrine, but rather persecuting those who are, why don't you get right with God and get in a good, sound, King James, Bible Believing, blood preaching, sanctified, sin-hating, Independent Baptist Church, so your children will known what it means to be a true Baptist?
1. Baptist Handbook for Church Members (Revised), by M. L. Moser, Jr., copyright 1983, Challenge Press, Little Rock, Arkansas, pg 45.
2. The Trail of Blood , by J.M. Carroll, Copyright 1931, 66th edition printed in Feb. 1993, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Ashland, KY, pg 4.
3. Baptist Handbook for Church Members (Revised), by M. L. Moser, Jr., copyright 1983, Challenge Press, Little Rock, Arkansas, pg 46.
4. Ilib., pg 44.
5. Ilib., pg 45.
6. Ilib., pg 45-46.
7. Ilib., pg 44.
8. The Trail of Blood , by J.M. Carroll, Copyright 1931, 66th edition printed in Feb. 1993, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Ashland, KY, pg 3.
9. Baptist Handbook for Church Members (Revised), by M. L. Moser, Jr., copyright 1983, Challenge Press, Little Rock, Arkansas, pg 47.
10. The Trail of Blood , by J.M. Carroll, Copyright 1931, 66th edition printed in Feb. 1993, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Ashland, KY, pg 55.
11. Baptist Handbook for Church Members (Revised), by M. L. Moser, Jr., copyright 1983, Challenge Press, Little Rock, Arkansas, pg 45.
12. Ilib., pg 44.
13. The Trail of Blood , by J.M. Carroll, Copyright 1931, 66th edition printed in Feb. 1993, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Ashland, KY, pg 3.
14. Baptist Handbook for Church Members (Revised), by M. L. Moser, Jr., copyright 1983, Challenge Press, Little Rock, Arkansas, pg 51.
15. Ilib., pg 46.
16. Ilib., pg 46-47.
17. The Trail of Blood , by J.M. Carroll, Copyright 1931, 66th edition printed in Feb. 1993, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Ashland, KY, pg 2.
18. Ilib., pg 2.
19. Ilib., pg 2.
20. Ilib., pg 3.
21. Ilib., pg 3.
22. Ilib., pg 2.
23. Ilib., pg 26.
BACK COVER OF THIS BOOK IN PRINTED FORM READS:
Are you a Baptist? Do you know what it means to be a Baptist? Have you ever heard the history of the Baptists? If not, this booklet will give you not only the reason why personally, I AM A BAPTIST, but why you ought to be as well!
The truth is the Baptist Denomination is the oldest Christian denomination on the face of the earth!
And to be a Baptist is to be identified with those who have been faithful throughout the centuries in preaching and preserving the Biblical teachings of Christ and His apostles, many times even suffering unspeakable torments for their unwavering stand for truth.
Baptists, as a whole, have a wondrous heritage, and this book only briefly explores their lineage from the time of Christ until today.
Being a Baptist won't get you to heaven, you must be born again. But after you are saved, there's nothing wrong with identifying yourself with true Christians of old who have not only loved Jesus and lived for him, but even died for him as well!