Three Questions

Does it matter to God which church His children attend?
Should it matter to God’s children which church they attend?
Will it matter in eternity which church God’s children attended?

Intro:  If the answers to these three questions are in the affirmative—“Yes it does matter”—then the next question is, “Then which church is the scriptural church according to God’s standards, and how can we know?”  The answer to this question is a three fold cord, which is not easily broken, according to Ecc.

1. Does the church have authority from God to represent Jesus Christ?
2. Does the church hold to the same doctrines as the N.T. churches did?
3.
 Does the church have historic perpetuity from the time of Christ until today?

I. WHICH church haS GOD’S authority to represent Jesus Christ?

Note:  The matter of who has God’s authority is the refrain of the O.T., and the foundation of the N.T.  Remember that God formed the Nation of Israel out of Abraham’s seed, which choosing by God is pictured in Ez. 16:1-14.  Israel was God’s sovereign choice (Deut. 7:6) to the exclusion of every other nation on earth.  There was no aspect of Israel’s national or religious life that was not prescribed by God.  The Nation of Israel, and Israel alone was given the authority to represent God, and present the promised Messiah.  But by the time of the book of Malachi, God had tired of the apostasy of Israel, and He rejected their worship, and the 400 silent years began.

    A.  It’s Source of Authority is God

Note: After 400 years God broke His silence by announcing the birth of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:11-17).  It was John’s purpose to “turn many of Israel to the Lord,” and “to prepare a people for the Lord” in fulfillment of Mal. 4:5-6.  This he did under the direct authority of God, and as God’s only authorized representative.

            1. God’s Line of Authority Begins with John the Baptist.  His authority is seen in Jn. 1:6
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John”

      a. John the Baptist’s testimony
Jn. 1:7:
“The same came for a
witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe” (Jn. 1:7).  So John’s ministry spanned the promised Messiah, and the presented Messiah.
  
b. John the Baptist’s method:
       1)
Preaching to conviction.  “Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2)
   
   2) Baptizing to identification.  “And were baptized (immersed) of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6)

           2. God’s Line of Authority Confirmed by Christ (God in the flesh) Matt. 3:13
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him”
 
               a. Where John was baptizing was a 3 day journey from Nazareth where Jesus was ministering
               b. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, went to the only one with the God-given authority,
to be baptized
       
1) To be identified with God’s proper authority
       2) To fulfill all righteousness
       3) To sanctify the outward act of baptism
|       4) To receive the mantle of God’s earthly authority

Matt 3:16-17 “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway 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 lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I Am well pleased.”

      1. God’s Line of Authority Continued in Jesus.  Jn. 1:35-37
“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and
they followed Jesus

Note: Jesus continued the line of authority set by God.  Jesus was baptized by John, and preached the message of John.  Those baptized by John, who followed Jesus, baptized others, under the authority of Jesus“(Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,)” (Jn. 4:2).

Note:  Remember the authority to represent Jesus Christ rests with God and not with man.  It does not matter how sincere a man may be—God’s standard is not sincerity!  God’s standard is truth.  And God has determined the line of authority, the Nation of Israel in the O.T. and the church in the N.T., to protect His truth.  

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  1 Tim. 3:15

So, I hope you see that it is a matter of authority, not of sincerity!  It has always been a matter of authority! And the authority is God and God alone! Certainly the religious rulers of Jesus’ day understood this.

Matt. 21:23-25   “The chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Jesus as He was teaching, and said, By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?”  “And Jesus answered and said unto them,...The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?”  ().

I. Which Church has God’s authority to represent Jesus Christ?
   A. It’s Source of Authority is God.

   B. It is the church which Jesus Christ founded.
 
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
        1. Christ’s church was founded on the rock of Peter’s confession,
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
        2.  Christ’s church was founded as a local assembly of believers called out to transact the Master’s business.  The Greek word ekklesia (“church”) means “called out assembly,” and the historical grammatical usage includes the idea of being called out of your homes to assemble, and then to transact business.  Further, only those who had an “interest” in the assembly were allowed to take part—it was not for anyone and everyone.
        3. Christ’s church was to be of a certain definable “kind” and “type.”  (“I will build
My church”)
        4. Christ’s church was established to always, in every day, month, year, and century, maintain its presence in this world, and thus fulfill Christ’s promise that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
        5. Christ’s church was established to protect the truth of the Gospel (1 Tim. 3:15), and the purity of the saints (Matt. 18:17)
        6. Christ’s church was established to administer the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 16:19; 18:18), and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper
        7. Christ’s church was established to do what Jesus Christ would be doing if He were still here in His earthly ministry (1 Cor. 12:12-27).  Christ’s church is Christ’s earthly representative to a lost and dying world.
        8. Christ’s church was established to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20)

Note:  And the first church that Jesus Christ began, and which was empowered at Pentecost, was the first Baptist Church at Jerusalem, which is the mother church of every other scriptural. Baptist church.  Like Adam is the father of all mankind, the First Baptist Church at Jerusalem is the mother of all Baptist churches down through the centuries..

II. The Name "Baptist"

       A. Names Given to Followers of Christ
            1. Disciples (“learner, follower; one who follows both the teacher and the teaching”)
“And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His
disciples came unto Him”  (Used 215 times from Matt. 5:1 to Acts 21:16)
                a. A term of identification/position
            2. The way (“manner of action, method of proceeding”)
“And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of
this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem”  (Used 6 times from Acts 9:2 to Acts 24:22)
              a. A term of identification/
derision
          3.
Saints (“set apart ones”)
“Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy
saints at Jerusalem”  (Acts 9:13. Used 58 times throughout N.T.)
                a. A term of
position
           4.
Christians (“Christ ones”)
“...And the disciples were called
Christians first in Antioch”  (Acts 11:26.  Used 3 times; here, Acts 26:28, & 1 Pet. 4:16)
                a. A term of identification/derision

Note:  Names are given for the purpose of identification.  It makes it possible to differentiate between two or more of anything of like kind.  It also makes it possible to slander a person simply by calling him/her a “name.”  Further, you can easily know (or think you know) what a person believes by the attachment of some indentifying “name.”  Believers were first called Christians to differentiate between them and the religious of that day.  It was likely a name of derision given by those who opposed the teachings of Christ.  It was also the only name necessary to identify the followers of Christ during the 1st century, since all Christians were in basic theological agreement with each other at this time.

          5. Anabaptist  (“rebaptizer,” a general term for those who “rebaptized” believers before admitting them into their churches).  Used from the 2nd century to the 17th century
               a. The Ana-Baptists churches/groups were often named after their leaders like
Paulicians, Arnoldists, or after their locations like Albigneses, Waldenses, etc.
               
b. A term of identification/derision

Note:  The word baptizo means to immerse, dip, submerge. Its primary meaning is of a ship sinking.  It was first given to John as an identifying mark (name) because of the act of baptism committed to him by God (John 1:6).  John was the first to baptize others.  Early believers were called Christians (Christ ones) until there began to be divisions in the camp.  Now it was necessary to “label” the differing groups of Christians according to their beliefs.  As some “Christians” departed from the faith (to one degree or another), those that stayed true to the teachings of Christ could no longer admit the “departed” into their assemblies.  In order to maintain a pure church, the true churches refused to accept the baptism of the departed churches, and demanded that a believer seeking membership be rebaptized.  Thus the name Anabaptist/rebaptizer.  The identifying name [ana]Baptist  did not become a universal mark until early in the 2nd century, because all Christians until that time were holding the same basic doctrinal views.  As apostasy among Christians made the "rebaptizing" of  "believers" necessary to maintain a pure church the term was more widely used by the enemies of truth. 

             6. Baptist.  Used from the 17th century to the present.

Note:  The ana suffix was dropped after the Catholic Church lost much of its power during the Reformation.  [Ana]Baptist and Baptist, like the name Christian, are terms of reproach given the true church by the enemies of Christ.  It is now the identifying mark of those churches which have remained the closest to the N.T. ideal down through the centuries, and which churches have suffered persecution from every other "religion."

 III. HOW TO IDENTIFY THE PEOPLE CALLED BAPTISTS

Note:  “There are various ways to identify the particular doctrines that have marked these people called Baptists.  Perhaps, the easiest is to focus on those peculiar teachings for which men and women have been forced to give their lives.  Baptists, since the days of the apostles, have been willing to die for doctrine and have done so by the millions.  Baptist have lived and died contending for certain narrow truths” (Manley).

       1. The Bible is the sole and final authority for all matters of faith and practice.
       2. Jesus Christ is God, and He alone is the head of the church(es).
       3. The church(es) is autonomous (no authority but God over the church(es)).
       4. Every individual believer is a priest before God and each has personal soul liberty.
       5. Baptism is for believers only, having nothing to do with obtaining salvation, and is by immersion administered through the authority of a scriptural church(es) upon a credible confession of faith by the individual seeking baptism.
       6. Salvation is by grace, and grace alone, through faith.
       7. There is to be maintained a separation of church and State (no State Church, and no State intervention in the church(es), but not a separation of State and God).

Note:  As we considered the history of Christ’s churches down through the centuries, we will find that each Anabaptist movement, no matter its name or location, exhibited these identifying marks of a N.T. church.

I. Which Church has God’s authority to represent Jesus Christ?

   A. It’s source of authority is God.

   B. It is the church which Jesus Christ founded.

   C. It is the churches or movement which have an unbroken line of descent from Jesus Christ’s first church, the Church at Jerusalem,

Note: The Bible records the first century spread of the churches, from the church in Jerusalem to the seven churches of Revelation (which 7 churches were all churches of Jesus Christ).  The book of Acts especially reveals how men sent out from (and with authority) of one church, began other churches that then continued the pattern of churches giving “birth” to other churches.  This was God’s way of perpetuating His authority and of protecting His truth.  Truth committed to men soon becomes perverted, but truth committed to His churches is protected by His presence, Christ’s headship, and the Holy Spirit’s power.

Note:  Once we leave the confines of the N.T., we are left with the pages of history to trace Christ’s churches through the centuries.  Unfortunately the majority of the sources for Baptist church history are the writings of our enemies and persecutors. The Anabaptist movement was not of the so called intelligentsia, but of the common folks.  It was not a persecutor, but was persecuted and hounded until there was no place to lay its head.

   Charles Spurgeon wrote, “We have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves.  We have always existed from the days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which travels underground for a season, have always had honest and holy adherents.”

   Hoad writes, “The gospel had reached all provinces of the Roman Empire (thanks to the size of their empire, their roads, and their persecution of Christians), from Britain to the Persian Gulf, from the Danube to the Libyan Desert, by 180 AD.  Justin Martyr wrote that there was no race, Greek or Barbarian, that either wandered or dwelt in tents, which did not offer praise to the Crucified.  Tertullian wrote, ‘We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled your empire, your cities, your corporate towns, your assemblies, your very camps, your tribes, your companies, your palace, your senate, your forum; your temples alone are left to you.’”

   The story of church history is the story of two women.  One is a chaste virgin, arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, and espoused to be married to her bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The other is an imposter, a harlot, a wannabe, arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, and drunken with the blood of the saints  These two women come down through history side by side, the one persecuting the other.
   But the harlot did not become a harlot over-night, but step by step left or did not embrace the truth of the Gospel for the lie of the world’s system. 
   In the first century the inroads into the church were
worldliness
(I Cor.),
factions and discord
, (1 Cor. 3:4)
legalism and formalism
(Gal. 3),
and finally, doctrinal error (Heb. 6)

All these were a threat to the N.T. churches even before the completion of the Scriptures (90-95 A.D.)!  It is interesting that all the falsehoods of the harlot’s churches find their practices and/or doctrines rooted in the O.T. system of works.   They reject salvation in Christ by grace through faith, and espouse salvation by works.

   At the beginning of the second century, pastors began exercising authority over other churches, slowly but surely until there were Bishops over churches and cities, Metropolitans/Archbishops over cities and regions, and at the top, those of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, and finally culminating with the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Greece.

Baptismal regeneration (saved by water) appeared as an addition to “faith in Christ.” (to complete salv.)
Baptism by pouring
came into being as a convenient means to baptize those professing their faith.
The Lord’s Supper
was transformed from a memorial to a means of obtaining God’s grace or blessing, and soon became the center of the harlot’s churches, culminating in the Catholic Mass.

As an example of how quickly things can go bad, in 250 A.D. the Roman “bishop” Stephanus excommunicated all the pastors of Asia Minor, plus other areas, calling them Anabaptists!  It is said that the harlot church was cloaked in “ambition, pride, luxury, worldly ease, and prosperity.”

The fourth century brought the union of the harlot Church and State

     In 312 before a battle, the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine claimed to see a vision of a cross in the clouds with the inscription, “In this conqueror.”  This he took as a sign that he should fight under its banner.  He therefore ordered his army to be baptized as christians, making “christianity’ the “state” religion, which then granted State approval to the apostate church of Rome.  “Of the Roman Emperor Theodosius (346-395) it is said, ‘He handed over to the Church the government of mankind’.” 

    Infant Baptism

     If baptism is necessary to salvation (according to the harlot Church), then the sooner an infant is baptized the better for its soul.  This is a reasonable assumption based on the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration, but completely without scriptural support. 

   The fifth century saw the strengthening of the harlot Church.  The Church at Rome continues to strengthen under the protection and provision of the State.  Emporer Constantine had placed the bishops of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinope at the head of their brethren.  From there the Roman bishop/pope assumes more and more authority, claiming to be the apostolic successor of Peter, “to whom was given the supreme control over all other churches.”  It was “Pope” Leo the Great (390-461) that sought to “institute laws and measures which should make his authority and that of his successors paramount in all spiritual matters, thus centering in his See the general oversight of the Christian church in all the countries of Europe” (Lord).  This was an age of ignorance, superstition and corruption.

   Jerome (Church at Rome) translates the Heb./Greek Bible into Latin.  Afterwards his translation (Latin Vulgate was exclusively adopted by the Roman Church.

   When Rome is overthrown by invading German invaders, ushering in the period known as the dark ages, the Roman Church continues to consolidated its power.  Pope Leo now asserted that the primacy of the Roman See was derived from St. Peter (not Christ),—that Christ had delegated to Peter supreme power as chief of the apostles, and that he, as the successor of St. Peter, was entitled to Peter’s jurisdiction and privileges  This is the corner-stone of the papal fabric.  He now became the interpreter of his own decrees, —an archpontiff ruling by divine right.  His power became indefinite and unlimited” (Lord).

   Infant baptism is proclaimed Roman Church doctrine by Augustine.

   The sixth century:

   (588) John the Faster, of Constantinople, Greece, assumes the title of Universal Bishop.  His successor assumed the same proud title.   Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, who was contemporaneous with the successor of John, took great offence since he felt that title belonged to the bishop of Rome.  At the death of Gregory, Emperor Phocas confers on Pope Boniface III, the title of Universal Bishop, and declared that the Church of Rome was to be the head of all other Churches.

   In 595 Pope Gregory finally united the State to the Church and the Church to the State, thus formalizing what we know today as the Roman Catholic church.

What of the Anabaptists?

There were the Sabians (“Baptists”) (dessert dwellers) who had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel throughout Mesopotamia and Persia.  From the purity of their life Mohammad derived many of his religious externals.

There were the Montanists, who though they over emphasized the Holy Spirit, yet had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel throughout N. Africa and Asia Minor, including Rome itself.

There were the Paulicians, who had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel throughout the known world.

There were the Novatianists.  Novatian was an elder in the Church of Rome, and came out over the readmission of apostates into the Church.  They spread the Gospel throughout the known world. N. Africa, Greece, and Rome.

There were the Cathari, who had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel across Europe.

There were the Donatists, who refused to surrender their churches to Constantine or to be called Catholics.  It was in controversies with the Donatists that many Roman Catholic doctrines of church government were developed.

There were the Albigensis, who had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel across Europe, finally incurring the wrath of the Catholic Inquisition.

There were the Arnoldists, followers of Arnold of Brescia, a converted Catholic priest.  He practiced a life of purity and poverty.  He was martyred in 1148 by the Catholic church by being hung, burnt and having his ashes thrown into the river.

There were the Waldenses, who had apostolic origins and spread the Gospel across Europe.  Their 12th century leader, Peter Waldo, was the first to translate the Gospels into a modern language  (French).  Ultimately many of the movements found themselves merged and seeking safety from the Catholic Inquisition by fleeing to the Piedmont Mtns. between France and Italy.

Some Considerations in tracing Baptist history.

1. Our history, for the most part, has been written by our enemies
2. Those parts of the Baptist movement that became the most troublesome to the State or Roman Church authorities gained the limelight.

3. Though the enemy lumped all churches in an area under one banner, it does not follow that all the churches in that area followed the one designated
the leader” by the enemy. 

   We were persecuted first by the religious and civil authorities in N.T. times.  Then the various Roman Emperors sought their pound of flesh.  Next it was the Roman Catholic church’s turn to torture, burn, and exiled.  After Luther posted his thesis on the door, the Reformers and their State churches added their whip to our persecution.  

 “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: [37] They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; [38] (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Heb. 11:36-38

Return to top of this page