True New Testament Church Identified
It is important that one be identified with the true church, the one that
Jesus founded. It is unfortunate for any one to belong to a church that
was started by some man when they can have membership in the church that
Jesus started. This of course does not relate to salvation. I recognize
that there are many truly saved people in the various denominations. Likewise
there are many saved people who have never taken membership with any church.
When Baptists make legitimate claims concerning the origin of their church,
the sneering remark is often made, "Oh those narrow Baptists; they don't
believe that anybody is saved except a Baptist." This charge is either
made in gross ignorance of what Baptists believe, or else it is intentionally
Baptists don't believe anything of the kind!
Baptists believe that born-again believers in Jesus Christ for salvation
are saved regardless of their church affiliation or no affiliation. But
while it does not affect salvation, Baptists believe that those who affiliate
with a man founded church, teaching doctrines contrary to the Scriptures,
will have to answer for their actions before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
They believe likewise that to go off after the unscriptural Universal theory,
is dishonoring to Christ and dishonoring to the church He founded, and
will have to be answered for in the judgment, with consequent loss of reward.
BUT HOW CAN ONE KNOW WHICH CHURCH IS THE TRUE CHURCH - THE ONE JESUS FOUNDED?
One way to arrive at the truth is through the PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. Let
us think about this for a few minutes.
1 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. While the heresies
of the Catholic church originated - many of them - earlier, the full-fledged
Catholic Church did not come to exist until the advent of Gregory the Great,
the first of the "proper popes." The pontificate of Gregory lasted from
A.D. 590 to 604. This is the testimony of Schaff's "History of The Christian
Church;" Dr. J. T. Christian's "History of the Baptists" and plenty of
Further, even a casual examination of the doctrines, organization and policies
of the Roman Church, enables us to know that nothing could be further from
what Jesus started.
Yet further, as already pointed out, the book of Revelation calls the Catholic
Church in its final form a "whore" and the "mother
of harlots." That in itself should eliminate the Catholic Church
as relating to the church that Jesus started.
2 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE PROTESTANT DENOMINATIONS. The Protestant
groups (and keep in mind that Baptists are positively and historically
NOT Protestants) came out of the Catholic Church about fifteen hundred
years after Christ started His church. They are thus too late on the scene
to identify with the church that Jesus built. Besides, as previously pointed
out, they are daughters of Rome and since the Roman Church is called the
"mother of harlots," they are necessarily the harlot churches
of Revelation 17. This utterly disqualifies the Protestant Churches.
3 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE MANY MODERN SECTS AND GROUPS. These have
sprung up in recent times, and cannot in any sense qualify as belonging
to what Jesus started. They have come on the scene too late, and besides
this Jesus didn't start them - they were started by a man, or in some cases
by a woman. (As in the case of Christian Science.) These various groups
know perfectly well that they can't claim identity with what Jesus started,
unless they can slip over the idea that what He started was a Universal
Invisible Church, composed of all the saved everywhere. They have done
a pretty thorough job of putting over this idea too, such that even deceived
and deluded Baptists join in the chatter about the "Choorch."
JESUS ALWAYS TOLD THE TRUTH. He said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and
the life." Our salvation and our eternal destiny depends upon the
truthfulness of Christ. He said that He would rise from the dead, and He
kept His word. He said that He would be three days and three nights in
the tomb. (Good Friday observance and the Easter fiasco would make a liar
out of Jesus for if He was crucified on Friday and arose on Sunday He could
not have been three days and nights in the tomb.) Good Friday is the lie,
and Jesus told the truth and was actually in the grave three days and three
nights. Jesus said, "If I go away, I WILL come again." We
believe that He will keep His word - that He is coming! Listen: The same
Jesus who kept His word about other things, said that HIS CHURCH WOULD
NEVER GO OUT OF EXISTENCE. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against
it." (Matthew 16:18)
BAPTISTS OR NOBODY!
The Catholic Church and the Protestant groups that sprung from that Church
are too recent to qualify as fulfilling Christ's promise. All of the various
modern church groups cannot qualify for they are centuries and centuries
too young. Let us face a startling fact? The only church group that can't
be traced to a human founder this side of Christ, are the BAPTISTS. Men
have tried to date the Baptists this side of Christ, but the effort has
resulted in utterly conflicting testimonies. We all know what happens in
court when every witness gives a story that conflicts with every other
witness. It doesn't take long for the judge to say, "Somebody's lying!
It sounds like all of you are lying!" When those who try to date the origin
of Baptists in recent centuries disagree and tell divergent stories, we
soon come to the same conclusion voiced by the judge!
Since no other group can qualify as dating back to Christ, then we are
faced with the proposition that Baptists are to be identified with the
church Jesus started, or else He told a falsehood and made a promise that
He failed to keep. Both of these are unthinkable.
We Baptists do not make the claim that we are to be identified all down
through the centuries BY THE BAPTIST NAME. Our claim is that assemblies
holding to the doctrines that characterized those of New Testament times,
have continued all down through the centuries since Jesus was here.
These were the groups that were hounded and persecuted and driven from
place to place. They were given different names by their enemies - nicknames
- but there was one name that was more often applied to them than any other.
That was the name ANABAPTIST. The term signifies re-baptizer. These New
Testament groups would not receive those who came to them from unscriptural
groups, without their being baptized over again - hence the term Anabaptists.
This name persisted for centuries. I recall reading a history of Baptists
in Kentucky, and it was recorded that even as late as that, they were some
times called Anabaptists. Eventually however the "ana" was dropped and
the name Baptist came to be currently used.
The persecuting Catholic Church knew exactly who they were persecuting
as dissenters against their doctrines and practices. One of their cardinals
- Cardinal Hosius, wrote back in A.D. 1554. He was the president of the
Council of Trent, and he is quoted in J. T. Christian's History of the
Baptists as follows:
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 - than these people."
Get that will you! The Catholic president of the Council of Trent, who
wrote in 1554, dates the Anabaptists back twelve hundred years beyond the
time he wrote. That is a startling admission.
I could go ahead and mention some of the names other than Anabaptist, that
were applied to these groups who suffered for their faith, but I am not
giving a detailed history of the Baptists. Attempt has often been made
to discredit some of these people by saying that some of them sometimes
practiced things not believed in by Baptists today. Let us remember that
their churches were independent and self governing, and no doubt some of
them sometimes veered from the truth. Baptists sometimes do that today,
but those who do are not representing the great body of Baptist churches.
In my book, "The Church That Jesus Built," I go into detail as I trace
Baptist churches back through the centuries to apostolic days. More over,
I prove the continuity of Baptist churches through the centuries, using
the statements of historians who were not Baptists.
When the beginning of all other religious groups can be historically traced
to human founders, far this side of Christ; when it becomes evident that
Baptist churches only are left through which Christ's promise can be fulfilled,
and when we find evidence of their continued existence all through the
centuries, we need be in no further doubt that they are to be identified
with the "church that Jesus built."
There are some who insist that in order to adequately substantiate the
continuity of Baptist churches through the centuries we would have to be
able to establish a linked chain of such churches, without a break, from
the very first one started by Jesus. I cannot agree with those who hold
such a view, and indeed I consider it foolish. Let us remember what those
dissenting groups were up against through the days of their awful persecution.
Often they had to go into hiding, and if they wrote and published anything
after printing came into vogue, it was usually seized and destroyed. Under
the circumstances, it is remarkable that we have as much information about
these groups as we have.
"Linked Chain" Bugaboo
Do I believe that there has been a linked chain of true churches through
the centuries? I certainly do, but my belief in the continuity of Baptist
churches does not depend upon being able to trace this unbroken chain.
Rather IT DEPENDS UPON THE SACRED WORD OF PROMISE SPOKEN BY CHRIST OUR
LORD. Since I have trusted my very soul to Christ, I can surely trust Him
to keep His word to preserve His church. It is a pretty sorry Christian
who says, "I can't take the mere promise of Jesus - I must have some actual
links hooked up in an unbroken chain from Christ until now, if I'm to believe
in Baptist church continuity."
I have seen the pedigree of a Tennessee Baptist church that traces it's
history back through the centuries to the days of Christ, giving historical
references to substantiate the claim. That's very interesting, and it presents
one case of a chain link history back to New Testament times. Cardinal
Hosius previously quoted, an enemy of those early dissenting assemblies,
dates Baptists back to 354 A.D. That's quite an admission, and it
certainly favors the idea of a chain link line of succession. John Clark
Ridpath, Methodist author of "Ridpath's History of the World," in a letter
to Baptist historian W. A. Jarrell, said that there were Baptists existing
in the year A.D. 100. Other writers of different denominations, have readily
admitted the existence of Baptists back in the very early centuries. There
is every indication that Baptist churches existed in unbroken historical
continuity from apostolic days, but the point I am insisting on is this:
WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO HAVE EXAMPLES OF CHAIN LINK PEDIGREES HISTORICALLY
VERIFIED AND WITHOUT THE ABSENCE OF A SINGLE LINK, TO ENABLE US TO FULLY
BELIEVE IN THE PERPETUITY OF BAPTIST CHURCHES. We know, as previously set
forth, that no other religious group dates back to the days of Jesus. We
know that since Baptists alone cannot be traced to a human founder and
cannot be dated as starting this side of Christ, they must be the people
to whom Jesus promised continued existence. His word is good enough for
me, and it should be for anybody else. The linked chain bugaboo is but
another device of Satan to discredit the promise of Christ.
Suppose we find a people believing and practicing the same doctrines as
Baptists, back in an early century. Persecution is rife, and we lose sight
of them for a period. Then we catch sight of them again. Is it not natural
to assume that they have continued during the time that they were in obscurity?
Let me give some illustrations to show the reasonableness of this.
Some years ago in visiting in California, I sat one day on a mountainside.
Far down below me there was a highway. The highway passed through a tunnel,
and I could see on both sides of the tunnel. I could see cars enter the
tunnel where they passed completely out of sight. At the other end of the
tunnel I could see cars emerge. They looked in size and color and other
characteristics, just like the cars that I had seen go into the tunnel.
I had lost sight of them for a few minutes and could not track them through
the dark tunnel, but that didn't keep me from believing that the cars which
I saw emerging were not the ones that I had previously seen enter the tunnel.
Apply this please to the case of churches with New Testament characteristics
entering the gloom of the Dark Ages of persecution, and coming out later
bearing the same characteristics.
One writer puts it this way: "Churches come from churches somewhat as horses
come from horses. History cannot trace every detail of the pedigree showing
how a certain drove of mild mustangs in western Texas are descendants of
the Spanish barbs, brought here by the discoverers 400 years ago. The fact
that the mustangs are here proves the succession, since only like begets
like." This illustration has its exact application to Baptist church succession.
To use another and somewhat similar illustration: On the coast of North
Carolina, in the region of Cape Hatteras, are what they call "the outer
banks" These are island formations stretching down the coast for the better
part of a hundred miles. Back during the early years of Spanish exploration
of that region, horses got loose on those "outer banks." Just how this
happened I do not know, but it happened. The horses reproduced such that
quite numerous herds roamed the "banks." I have read of these horses many
times. No one doubted that these horses were the descendants of those that
were left by the Spanish long ago. No one could say that they could furnish
a linked chain evidence that they were horses of the same variety left
by the Spanish. No one had watched them over that period of several hundred
years, but it was accepted without question that the horses of recent times
were the descendants of those that were loosed in that area long ago.
Why should not people be as ready to believe concerning the church as concerning
the horses? New Testament churches bearing distinct characteristics existed
in apostolic times and following. Every once in a while we get sight of
these, and they still bear the same characteristics. Today we have a great
host of churches bearing these same characteristics. There is every reason
to believe that there has been a continuity of these people all through
the centuries - just as Jesus promised when He said, "the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it."
To go back to the previous illustration, when we see Christ's churches
pass into the tunnel of the Dark Ages, then later see churches looking,
acting and believing just like the ones we saw go into the tunnel, can't
we take Christ's word that they are the same without quibbling about seeing
a linked chain? Surely we can take the Savior's words to that extent! If
we can't - then what kind of faith in Him do we have? Remember again that
He said His church would continue to exist despite all hell. "The
gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
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