The following booklet was written by Dr. Ryan McGuire, pastor of the Bluestone Independent Baptist Church in Clarksville, Virginia.
Are Baptists Protestants? Did the Baptists come out of the Roman Catholic organization? Were they reformers of the Roman Catholics? Did they try to purify the “church” from within? These questions, and more, plague the minds of many that are trying to find the truth to their historical heritage. Certainly, the Lord has given us the answer to these questions through history and the Word of God.
Lutherans trace their beginnings to Martin Luther in Germany. Anglicans find their origin in England under Henry VIII. Catholics obtain their ideas from Constantine in A.D. 313. Presbyterians discover their commencement in Geneva under John Calvin. Protestants originate under Zwingli in Zurich. Mennonites derive from Menno Simons. George Fox founded the Quakers. Amish begin with Jacob Amman. The Methodists were initiated under the Wesley brothers in England and America.
Who is the founder of the Baptists? The Baptist Church is traced back to Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18). John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1) cleared the path for Jesus. Then, Jesus made the great proclamation of His “church”. From the calling of the apostles to the present time, Jesus has been building His “church”. We must note that “church” is singular, not plural. Evidently, there is only one church that Jesus will build.
How can we be sure that the right church is the Baptist church? The answer to this question is found in a word known as “distinctive”. Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, defines “distinctive” as, “That marks distinction or difference; as distinctive names or titles. Having the power to distinguish and discern.” The only way to detect if the Baptist Church is the right church is to note their Biblical distinctives.
Did the apostles believe as we do today? This is the wrong question to ask. We should ask, “Do we believe like the apostles did?” Following the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) is a distinctive of the church. What they taught is what we should teach today. Therefore, following the teachings of the Word of God will help to distinguish between the true church and the false.
Baptists have Scriptural distinctives that completely separate them from Protestants, Roman Catholics, and other denominations. This is proven both historically and Scripturally. These distinctives help define what is true and what is counterfeit. Many men have written concerning these distinguishing marks, of which some will be considered.
Dr. Don Green offers an acrostic of the word “Baptists” that present their distinctives:
1. B- Biblical Authority- II Tim. 3:16-17, Matthew 4:4, Psalm 119:9, I Timothy 3:14-15
2. A- Autonomy (self rule) of the local church- Col. 1:18, I Peter 5:1-2, Acts 20:17-28
3. P- Priesthood of every believer- Revelation 1:4-6, I Peter 2:5, I Peter 2:9
4. T- Two church Ordinances- I Corinthians 11:1-2
a. Baptism by Immersion (Dunking) Matthew 28:19-20, 3:16, Mark 1:4-5, Acts 8:26-39, Colossians 3:12
b. The Lord’s Supper I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-15
5. I- Individual soul liberty- Romans 14:5-12
6. S- Saved, Baptized Membership- Acts 2:40-41
7. T- Two Church officers, Pastor and Deacon- Ephesians 4:11-12, I Timothy 3:8-10
8. S- Separation of Church and State- Matthew 22:15-22
Dr. Ronnie Simpson, in his syllabus, provides several distinctives:
1. The Supremacy of the Scriptures
2. Baptist Origins
3. Regenerated Church Membership
4. Baptism by Immersion
5. The Lord’s Supper: Closed Communion
6. Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon
7. The Priesthood of the Believer
8. The Great Commission is the Work of the Church
9. Tithes and Offerings are the Finances of the Church
10. Separation of Church and State
11. Spiritual are the Weapons of the Church
12. Visible Assembly is the Nature of the Church
Dr. Phil Stringer suggests six distinctives:
1. The Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice
2. Independent, autonomous churches
3. Regenerated church membership
4. Baptism by immersion of believers only, and the Lord’s Supper as the two ordinances of the church
5. Priesthood of all believers and soul liberty
6. Separation of church and state
Pastor James R. Beller gives five distinguishing marks to the Baptists:
1. Independent churches
2. Regenerate church membership
3. Believer’s baptism
4. Baptism by immersion
5. Soul Liberty
Finally, Dr. Harold B. Sightler presents six in a message that he preached at the South Wide Baptist Fellowship in 1985:
1. The only non-Catholic and non-Protestant group in the Christian world
2. Being totally congregational
3. We are totally autonomous
4. We are evangelical- Our increase comes from our converts
5. We are missionary
6. We are non-Ecumenical (We are separated)
From these five views of the Baptist distinctives, we can conclude that, basically, there are eleven distinctives. Certainly, God’s church should be independent from and not subject to the control of others. It must be fundamental in the faith having the Bible as the basis for all doctrine. The church is to be missionary minded constantly propagating the gospel into the world. Baptist churches are to be autonomous, meaning that they should be independent in their government and possessing the right of self-government. Their goal is to plant other indigenous churches, which will give foreigners the right to worship God in their native land. All of these views are Scriptural and are Baptist distinctives. These are landmarks that are not to be removed (Proverbs 22:28). Notice a further explanation of these ancient landmarks.
1. The Authority of the Scriptures
There are many erroneous views as to where humanity must get their authority for living. Humanists teach that man is his own authority and this power is based on consciousness or circumstances. Then, the Roman Catholic organization places authority within the church giving the Pope the right to render Biblical doctrines according to his interpretation. However, the Baptist place authority in the proper place. They look to the Word of God for their sole and final authority on anything. Scriptures offer the final “say so” on doctrine, living, practices, etc. Certainly, the mark of the Baptist is that of a loyalty to the Bible. It is the ultimate standard for faith and practice. Baptist believes that the only infallible words or thoughts are taken from Scripture, and not man. Dogmatically, Baptists confide in the Word as being inspired by God, infallible in content, and inerrant in its preservation. Apparently, this is one of the many distinctives that brought persecution on the Baptist.
2. The Origin of the Baptist Church
When was the commencement of the Baptist movement? Was it a part of the Roman Catholic organization and split off around A.D. 300? Did it begin with the Protestant Reformation? Could it have been created in Rhode Island under the leadership of Roger Williams? Certainly, none of these views is correct. Baptist history (written by people that were not Baptist) and the Scriptures reveal the origin of the Baptists. There has always been an unbroken chain of the Baptist in every century from John the Baptist to the present time.
It began with John the Baptist (the forerunner of Christ) baptizing believers after they repented of their sins (Repentance was a requirement before baptism according to John, Jesus, the apostles, Peter, and Paul). John the Baptist baptized Matthew, John, James, Peter, and Jude in the Jordan River. Surely, his greatest baptism was the day that he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Why did Jesus come to a Baptist to be baptized? He certainly did not come to John the Methodist or John the Presbyterian, but He came to John the Baptist.
Jesus was the founder and Head of the church. Baptist are the only group that accept Jesus as their only Head, Founder, and Leader. They look to Him and His Word for direction and not the Pope, priests, headquarters, or any other thing.
He said that He would build His church (“my church”). Notice that “church” is not plural, but singular. There is only one church that Jesus will build, and that church is the Baptist church. Also, notice the continuation of the built “church” when Jesus said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This statement leads us to believe that there will be a continuation of the church that Jesus said He would build. This affirms the fact that there must be an unbroken line of the church.
The first members of this church was the apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). They were the first “called out” people (Luke 6:13- “he called unto him his disciples”). This is the distinguishing mark of the church, or ekklesia (The called out assembly). Since the apostles, the Lord has been calling out people and adding them to His church daily.
Another element about the origin of the Baptist church that is not true about any other denomination is that Palestine was the location of their commencement. All other groups originated in Europe or America. What is the significance of this? The answer to this question is another question. Where was Christ and His ministry located? Was it in America, England, Europe, or Palestine? Certainly, it was Palestine. Since Jesus began His work in Palestine then the church can be traced back to Palestine. This is the place of the conversions of the apostles, which carried the gospel westward into Europe. The great apostle Paul was responsible for traveling through and establishing New Testament Churches in Syria, Cilicia, Phrygia, Galatia, Asia, Mysia, Macedonia, and Achaia. From these churches sprang other churches and the church began to spread westward.
3. Regeneration: A Qualification for Church Membership
Regeneration before baptism and then church membership was another distinctive that made the Baptist face persecution and martyrdom. Scripturally, a person must repent of their sin and be born again before they meet the qualifications for water baptism and then church membership (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:35-39, and Acts 16:30-33). Repentance was an element that took place before a person believed (Mark 1:15- “repent ye, and believe”, Acts 20:21- “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”). There was no power to believe unless there was repentance first. Today, this is reversed (“believe and then repent”). Definitely, this is not the “custom” (repent and believe) for many denominations today and centuries prior.
Having a Biblical understanding of salvation will assist one in the chronological steps prior to church membership. In Acts chapter two, we see the day of Pentecost. Peter preached, sinners were pricked in their heart (conviction), they repented, were baptized, and then in verse 41 were “added” to the church at Jerusalem. Unlike some denominations, they were not forced to join the church, but were willing and anxious to join. There is one question that remains and that is “What type of a church were they added to?” No doubt, it was a Baptist Church. Now, was it a Universal Visible Church, a Universal Invisible Church, or a Local Visible Church? According to Acts 2:41 and 2:47, it was a Local Visible Church (the church at Jerusalem). Roman Catholics teach the Universal Visible Church. Lutherans teach the Universal Invisible Church. Baptist teach the Local Visible Church.
With this settled, it leads us to our next thought. There are many heresies concerning baptism, church membership, and the Lord’s Supper. Where did the confusion begin? It started with Constantine’s professed vision of a cross. After his “vision”, he saw to it that his army was baptized into his state church, which was the Roman Catholic organization. This act created a doctrine that the way to become a member of the church was to be baptized first. According to the Scriptures, this new doctrine is not Biblically correct.
From this point, many other views of baptism arose. Infant baptism (Pedobaptism), baptismal regeneration, and proxy baptism (being baptized in the place of someone that is dead) began to immerge as “fundamental doctrines”. All of these practices are not Scriptural and are not found in the Bible. Keep in mind the typology of baptism. Baptism represents death, not life (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:3-4, Colossians 2:12). It is the burying of the old man that the new man might walk in newness of life. Those that believe that baptism is the “new life” distort the typological meaning of baptism.
This is one reason why a Baptist church should not accept the baptism of other “churches” that are not Baptist. Other baptisms are known as “alien baptisms” and should be rejected. Since baptism identifies an individual with Christ and the Church (performed as a complete immersion in water), it is useless if not performed correctly. Baptism performed by another denomination identifies that individual with the denomination’s doctrines.
The Lord gave the authority to baptize to the local church (the Baptist Church). Therefore, any baptism should not be performed apart from a local New Testament Church and its authority. Definitely, the pastor should be the person that administers baptism to one that repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. This right does not belong to a deacon, trustee, treasurer, or any other individual of the church.
4. Baptism by Immersion
Out of all the Baptist Distinctives, probably the distinctive that has caused more persecution of the Baptists is the doctrine of baptism. Because of an unwillingness to compromise the Biblical truth about baptism, millions of Baptists have faced martyrdom by the hands of Roman Catholics and Protestants (approximately 50 million during the Dark Ages). Certainly, those that are faithful unto death will wear a crown of life in heaven (Revelation 2:10). Because of their uncompromised stand, and their faithfulness in winning souls, they will shine as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
What was the uproar about baptism that brought tremendous slaughter to the Baptists? Unscriptural baptism started from Constantine’s erroneous teaching, and then it became doctrine for the Roman Catholic organization. Infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, and proxy baptism (being baptized in the place of someone that is dead) were the teachings about baptism that the Baptists would not accept under any condition. If infant baptism was the only way of salvation, why did not the Roman Catholic organization discover it until 370 A.D.? This was the first time recorded in history that an infant was baptized. This view grew so much that in 416 A.D. infant baptism was binding by law. It became a sacrament of the apostate organization and was a requirement for “salvation”.
Does the Bible teach infant baptism? Absolutely not! There is not one place in the Word of God that teaches the church to baptize babies. Contrary, the Scriptures inform us that there is no means of works that can offer salvation (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9). In every account of the conversion of a sinner, salvation came before baptism. Not one verse teaches a sinner to be baptized. Baptism is a requirement for a saint of God, not a sinner!
What is the Scriptural method of baptism? In every instance, baptism is representative of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:3-4, Colossians 2:12). Baptism is a picture of the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new man. When a believer submits to baptism, it is an outward profession of an inward possession.
Is sprinkling the proper way to perform baptism? If baptism is a type of burying the old man, then how many burials have taken place where the funeral directors sprinkled dirt on a casket and left it at that? Apparently, when a person is Scripturally baptized, then that person is placed entirely under water fulfilling the typology of a burial. This idea is depicted in the baptism of Jesus and the eunuch (Mark 1:10, Acts 8:38-39). Both times they came “up out of the water”.
The only way to administer the correct baptism is, first, a sinner must be convicted and drawn by the Holy Ghost (John 6:44, Acts 2:37, Acts 9:5). Secondly, that sinner must repent and then believe (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21). Thirdly, the new saint must express a desire to be baptized and join the local New Testament Church (Acts 2:41, 47, Acts 8:36-39, Acts 18:8). Then, the church gives their pastor the authority to completely immerse the new convert in water, which will identify the new believer with Christ, and then the church (Matthew 16:18-19, Matthew 18:16-18, Mark 1:10, Acts 8:38-39). Finally, that person is a member of the church and is to win others to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20). This is the correct method of salvation and baptism.
5. The Biblical Interpretation of the Lord’s Supper
According to the Bible, there are only two church ordinances, which are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is another Scriptural doctrine in which the Roman Catholic and Protestant organizations have corrupted. A careful study of the Word of God will reveal that unless a person is converted, baptized, and a member of a local New Testament (Baptist) Church, then they are not qualified to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Sinners are dead in their sins, and how can a dead man eat?
The Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:7-20) is a picture, or type, held in remembrance of the Lord’s death until He comes back for His church in the rapture. It consists of only two items. In Matthew 26:17 it is unleavened bread (a type of the body of Christ- Mark 14:22) and in Matthew 26:29 it is the fruit of the vine (a type of the blood of Christ- Mark 14:23-24). Since leaven is a type of sin in the Word of God, then only unleavened bread can be used. The bread is a type of the body of Jesus Christ. Jesus knew no sin (II Corinthians 5:21), did no sin (I Peter 2:22), was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and in Him was no sin (I John 3:5, Hebrews 7:26). This is the reason that it is important to use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Then, the second element used is a drink known as the fruit of the vine. Not one passage referring to the Lord’s Supper uses the word “wine”. A corruption process takes place in order to produce fermented wine. Using fermented wine, in typology, depicts that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was corrupt. According to I Peter 1:19, the blood of Christ is “precious” and “without blemish and without spot”. This is the Scriptural interpretation of the Lord’s Supper.
Roman Catholics and Protestants have changed the original intention of the Lord’s Supper and construed a false interpretation of it. Catholics teach an erroneous theory known as transubstantiation. William Cooke Boone defines transubstantiation as, “The substances of the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.” This idea led to it being the official doctrine of the Catholics in 1215 A.D. Then, the Lutherans and other Protestants teach another counterfeit theory known as consubstantiation. According to Dr. Simpson, it teaches, “there is a union between the wine and the bread and the actual body and blood of Jesus. Instead of it completely becoming the body and blood of Jesus totally, it is a mixture.” Both of these fictitious ideas are not found in the Word of God. Certainly, the Baptists have the right interpretation and have been tortured for it.
Another factor that brought attention to them is that they refuse to serve others that are not saved and a part of the local New Testament Baptist Church. There are three views as to the provision of the Lord’s Supper. Open communion teaches that anyone from any denomination or “church” can freely take the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, close communion implies that anyone that has been baptized and is a member of a “church” can partake. Thirdly, closed communion instructs that the Lord’s Supper is a restricted observance and is only to be administered within the local New Testament Baptist Church.
Baptist believes that not every individual present can partake of the Lord’s Supper. There are some qualifications before one is served in the Baptist church. A person must be saved, baptized, and a member of that local church before they can partake. Paul gives five more prerequisites in I Corinthians 11:18-29. First, only those in one accord can participate. He stated in verse 18, “I hear that there be divisions among you”. Those “dividers” of the church were not allowed to join in the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, heretics were refrained from practicing this communion as found in verse 19 (“there must be also heresies among you”). Thirdly, those that were drunken and excessive gluttons could not play a part as seen in verse 21 (“another is drunken”). Fourthly, those that were unworthy (not serious or reverential) could not partake as described in verse 29 (“he that eateth and drinketh unworthily”). Finally, those that did not search their heart and were ignorant of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper were forbidden in verse 29 (“not discerning the Lord’s body”). The judgment of God on those believers that partook unworthily was sickness and death as seen in verse 30.
How often is the church supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper? It seems as if the early church performed it weekly since they met weekly (Acts 20:7). Although this may be true, there is not one passage that commands us to observe it weekly. Certainly, it is up to the local church to decide how often they partake. This decision should be under the pastor’s discretion since he is the leader of that church.
6. Two Offices of the Church: Pastor and Deacon
According to Philippians 1:1, the three positions in the local church are saints (“saints”), shepherds (“bishops”), and servants (“deacons”). The word “saint” is a New Testament term applying to a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a title, but a description of a convert’s new standing in Christ. Pastors, or shepherds, are to perfect the saints, perform the work of the ministry, and edify the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). He is to guide the flock faithfully (I Corinthians 11:1 I Thessalonians 1:6, II Thessalonians 3:7), give the flock food fervently (I Peter 5:1-4), guard the flock forcefully (John 10:10-15), and govern the flock foundationally (Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17). Then, the deacons are to be servants of the church attending to the daily ministration of the Scriptural widows and poor (Acts 6:1-3, James 1:27). According to the Word of God, which is the foundation for the Baptists, pastors and deacons, are the only two offices of the church. The Bible has much to say about the pastor and somewhat to say about the deacon.
The New Testament applies six titles to the position of the pastor. These names are pastor, elder, bishop, preacher, man of God, and minister. Pastor is only found once in the New Testament in the form “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11. However, the interpretation is found in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 23:2 (“Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people”). As a pastor, the preacher is to watch over the flock of God and make sure they are fed spiritually. The term elder refers to the spiritual maturity of the pastor and his obligation to perfect the saints. Bishop applies to the oversight of the flock and the importance to oversee all of the ministries and practices of the church. Preacher applies to the pastor’s ability to herald the gospel. The phrase “man of God” distinguishes the pastor from any other man and his obligation to be separated from the world. Finally, minister relates to the servitude of the pastor in the Word and prayer.
Not everyone is qualified to be a pastor of a church. These qualifications are found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Since everything rises and falls on leadership, it is imperative that the church have qualified men filling the pulpit.
Deacons are given to serve the church and assist the pastor in the ministry (Acts 6:1-3, I Timothy 3:13). He also has qualifications that he must meet before he is placed in the office of deacon (I Timothy 3:8-13). They must have an honest report, be full of the Holy Ghost, and have wisdom. There is not one instance in the Bible where there was a board of deacons or chairman of the deacons established. This is a misconception about the office of the deacon. In many churches, the deacon is the authority instead of the pastor. Once again, deacons are for service, not the final authority (or any authority) in a church.
7. The Priesthood of the Believer
Another Baptist distinctive that separates the Baptist Church from any other organization is a firm conviction of the priesthood of the believer. The believer is a holy priesthood that is to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God (I Peter 2:5). When the Lord washed our sins away in His own blood, He made us “kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Revelation 1:5-6). One day, as kings and priests, we shall reign with Christ on the earth during the millennial reign (Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6). The king represented God to the people and the priest represented the people to God. As a priest, we have access to God. We do not have to go through anyone else when we pray or offer our spiritual sacrifices.
The Roman Catholic organization has robbed this Bible doctrine from its members. They have established Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests to be a “mediator” between man and God. This is the doctrine of the “Nicolaitans” discussed in Revelation 2:6 and 2:15. Strong’s defines “Nicolaitans” as “victor of the people” or “destruction of the people”. It divides the “church” into the “priests” and the “laity”. Therefore, it places the “priests” on a higher level than the “laity” making them “more important” than the people within the assembly (Are we not all equal in the body of Christ? Galatians 3:28). Seemingly, it makes them “lords over God’s heritage” (I Peter 5:3). Apparently, doing so would create a division in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:25, I Corinthians 12:12-27). God is not the author of confusion or division (I Corinthians 14:33).
8. The Great Command: Evangelize, Baptize, and Stabilize
Evangelizing the world with the gospel was the major thrust of the Baptist forefathers. Their desire to fulfill Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16 kept them from hiding when persecution fires were ablaze. Evidently, their goal was to reach the world with the good news from glory, the gospel. Establishing other local New Testament Baptist churches around the globe was a compelling force that motivated them to continue when nothing else would. They understood that they were debtors (Romans 1:14), so they made themselves ready (Romans 1:15) to not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Although this meant martyrdom, they would not deny their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Mark 8:38). Their only comfort while facing maltreatment was the promise of the Saviour in Matthew 28:20 (“and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”). Baptists walked through the doors of death and found the deliverance that God promised to believers in Psalm 22:4 (“Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.”). Therefore, without any fear, they committed themselves to God as seen in Hebrews 13:6 (“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”).
9. The Separation of the Church and the State
One of the greatest infringements in history on the Baptist church was by the state. This is one of the reasons that the Baptists believed in the separation of church and state. Separation of the church and state means that the state should stay out of the church affairs, not the church out of the state affairs. Certainly, the church is a spiritual organism and should be governed spiritually. The state is a secular organization and should hold no ties to the church. God has ordained both and intends for both to be separate.
This is not to say that the state is not Scriptural. According to the Word of God, God has ordained the state and intends humanity to adhere to the laws (Romans 13:1-10). Without the state and its laws there would be complete anarchy. The state is important and God intended it to be for the good of the land. Therefore, the state and its leaders are to be prayed for, paid attention to, and paid. Even Jesus paid His taxes when the time came (Matthew 22:17-21, Mark 12:14-17, Matthew 17:24-27).
The separation point is when the state interferes with the church affairs. God’s children are to obey the laws of the land until they contradict what God has commanded in His Word (Acts 5:29). When a state makes a certain denomination the mandatory religion, and persecutes anyone that does not adhere to the state church, then it strips the freedom to worship God according to man’s dictates. Many times, when this is the case, wicked men are placed in positions of leadership, and sin is prevalent in the government. This is one reason why the church should not take money from the state because it gives them the right to dictate the affairs of the church, since they are sponsoring the church. The trouble is in placing fallible men in a position of sinlessness and letting them govern the church according to their own corrupted reasoning.
Absolutely, the church and state cannot walk “hand in hand”. Even the Bible declares, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” If the state desires to go contrary to the Scriptures, how can the church endorse them? Contrary to Roman Catholic beliefs, the church should be regulated from within the assembly. God intends for the church to solve their own problems, elect their own officers, and maintain the finances without the interference of the state. Therefore, we must conclude, that both the church and the state should have complete liberty and freedom.
10. The Toleration of the Baptists Toward Other Denominations
According to history and Baptist beliefs, the Baptists are the only group that has never persecuted anyone. Apart from the American Revolutionary War, Baptists has never picked up arms to defend them (and keep their freedom to worship God as the Bible directs). This is another Baptist distinctive that deserves accreditation.
Jesus warned His disciples that they would face persecution because they were not of the world (John 15:19, Mark 10:29-30, Matthew 10:16, I Peter 4:12, John 16:33, Matthew 10:39). It seems as if, the only thing that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants could agree on is the persecution of the Baptists. This was their uniting factor against the Baptists.
Why did the Baptists not retaliate? They had an understanding that they were in a spiritual warfare, not a carnal one. Apparently, they tried to fulfill what Paul stated in Romans 12:18 (“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”) Therefore, instead of vengeance (Romans 12:19), the Baptists allowed the fiery trials of persecution to cause their candles to burn brighter.
11. The Local Church
Local church autonomy and local church governance is another distinctive of the Baptist Church that the Baptists have (always) historically and Scripturally believed. The Bible teaches the local church idea, which other organizations reject. When a sinner is converted and then baptized, he or she is then added to a local congregation. Throughout the New Testament, the Lord is constantly referring to a local assembly.
There is a difference between the Kingdom of God and the Church of God. Those that are born again belong to the Kingdom of God (invisible). Then, those who are Scripturally baptized are added to the membership of the Church of God (visible). There is not one place in the Bible (during the present church dispensation) that teaches a “universal church”. Some might ask, “What about Ephesians 5:27 and Hebrews 12:23?” Both of these passages refer to the future “universal visible church”. The only problem is that, now, the members of the church are not perfect and have spots and blemishes. Evidently, these passages do not apply to the church presently. Even the word “church” refers to a local visible assembly.
Local church autonomy gives the church the right to govern itself according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (independent from any other church, denomination, or organization). This authority gives them the right to accept its members according to the Bible, make its own decisions, discipline its own members, and govern their own finances.
Where the Roman Catholic and Protestant organizations have erred is accepting the “universal church” theory. The basis for their argument is in I Corinthians 12:13 (“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”). This passage teaches that both Jew and Gentile are baptized into one local church “body”.
Roman Catholic’s (“catholic” meaning “universal”) falsely teach the “universal visible church” idea and the Lutherans train their members to erroneously accept the “universal invisible church” theory. Even among their own congregations, these doctrines were not accepted for several years. Why then do they not receive invisible tithes from their invisible congregation to pay their invisible preacher while having purchased their invisible property? This is Ecumenicalism at its best.
These views (distinctives) lead to the massive persecution of the Baptists. They faced many hardships and afflictions because they were not willing to compromise the fundamentals of the faith. We owe many thanks to the determination and consistency of our forefathers in the faith! Remove not the ancient landmarks! Notice what our Baptist forefathers faced as they stood for these distinctives.
The Bloody Theatre
By Thieleman J. Van Braght
OF THE UNHEARD-OF CRUELTIES OF NERO
PRACTICED IN SLAYING THE PIOUS
CHRISTIANS…IN A.D. 66
“Touching the manner in which the Christians were tortured and killed at the time of Nero. A. Mellinus gives the following account from Tacitus and other Roman writers: namely, that four extremely cruel and unnatural kinds of torture were employed against the Christians:
Firstly, that they dressed them in the skins of tame and wild beasts, that they might be torn to pieces by dogs or other wild animals.
Secondly, that they, according to the example of their Saviour, were fastened alive on crosses, and that in many different ways.
Thirdly, that the innocent Christians were burned and smoked by the Romans, with torches and lamps, under the shoulders and on other tender parts of their naked bodies, after these had been cruelly lacerated with scourges or rods.
Fourthly, that these miserable, accused Christian martyrs were used as candles, torches, or lanterns, to see by them at night.
Of those who were burned, some were tied or nailed to stakes, and held still by a hook driven through the throat, so that they could not move the head when the pitch, wax, tallow, and other inflammable substances were poured boiling over their heads, and set on fire, so that all the unctuous matter of the human body flowing down made long, wide furrows in the sand of the theatre… And thus human beings were lighted as torches, and burned as light for the wicked Romans at night.
Juvenal and Martial, both Roman poets, and Tertullian, state this in a different manner, namely, that the Romans wrapped them in a painful burning mantle, which they wound around their hands and feet, in order to melt the very marrow in their bones…those mantles, that they made were made of paper or linen, and having been thickly coated with oil, pitch, wax, rosin, tallow, and sulphur, were wrapped around their whole body, and then set on fire.
For this spectacle Nero gave the use of his gardens, and appeared himself among the people in the garb of a charioteer, taking an active part in the Circusian games…”
One final thought will be taken from James R. Beller in his book, The Baptist History Workbook (page 8). This reveals the great persecution on the early church and their stand for the gospel. There is a trail of blood that we need not forget!
“The first martyr for the cause of Christ was John the Baptist. Then our lovely Saviour laid down His life for us. Quickly the device of death by the devil closed in. Stephen was stoned outside Jerusalem in AD 34. James the son of Zebedee and pastor of the church at Jerusalem was beheaded there by order of Herod Agrippa in AD 45. Philip was stoned in Phrygia in AD 54. James, the brother of Jesus, was beaten to death on the steps of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 63. Barnabas, the companion of Paul was burned on Cyprus in AD 64. John Mark, was dragged through the streets of Alexandria and died AD 64. Simon Peter was crucified under Nero in AD 69. The Apostle Paul, was beheaded under the authority of Nero in AD 69. Aristarchus, companion with Paul, murdered at Rome AD 70. Epaphras, Priscilla, Aquila, Andronmicus, Juna all friends of the Apostle Paul were martyred under Nero. Silas was beaten to death in Macedonia in AD 70. Onesiphorus and Porphyrius were torn and dragged to death by horses at Hellespontus in AD 70. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Achaia also in AD 70. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Armenia around AD 70. Thomas, tormented with red-hot plates was stabbed to death by spears at Calamina about AD 70. Also in or about AD 70: Matthew was nailed to the ground and beheaded at Nad-davar, Simon Zelotes and his brother Judas Thaddeus were crucified and beaten with sticks, Matthias was crucified and beheaded, Luke was hanged in Greece in AD 93, and Antipas, the faithful witness, mentioned by Jesus himself to John when he gave John the Revelation, was roasted alive at Pergamos in AD 95.”