Baptist History

Baptist History

It is at an alarming rate that many churches today do not list their denominational ID. Church names are listed with innocuous names like: Sparrow Church – not Sparrow Baptist Church, etc.

But there is a lot in a name. There have been a lot of people who died for the name “Baptist”. It is so sad when I see and hear of churches that had Baptist in their name and now they go by Sparrow Church. According to their pastors, they feel that keeping the Baptist name in their church title unnecessarily turns people away. But I beg to differ with that opinion.

The name Baptist itself stands for “Saved Through Grace by Faith in Jesus Christ Alone – Once Saved Always Saved” Of course there are more Baptist Distinctives. There are a lot of good, sincere, moral people. They go to a lot of churches including the Baptist church. But unless you have personally received Jesus Christ as your Lord (Boss) and Savior (Redeemer), all the churches in the world cannot save you. Did you know that most churches today that are not Baptist believe that you can lose your salvation. One of the Baptist Distinctives is that Jesus’ blood atonement fully, completely, eternally met the requirement for salvation. How does your church stand?

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1. What is a Baptist? Who were the Original Christians? Why are you a Baptist?”

2. Does it matter what sign is in front of a church? Are labels important? What about the label on the outside of a can?

3. When was the church actually started or come into existence?

4. Who is the founder of the Baptist Church?

5. Are Baptists Protestants? Were the Catholics and Protestant groups around before the Baptists?

6. Were the Mormons before the Baptists? What about other groups that started within the last 200 years – should they be called a church?

7. So then, if no group started in the last 200 years fits the description of the word “Church” given in the Bible, where does the Roman Catholic church stand in all of this?

8. Is there any church in existence today that fits the description of the “Church” in the Bible? Let’s look at the Marks of a true biblical New Testament Church.

9. Which church(es) actually suffered persecution for having these Marks of a True New Testament Baptist Church?

10. Who persecuted the true New Testament Believers, the Christians, as they were called?

11. Despite all the persecution, Christianity grew. At the end of the first 300 years the religion of Jesus Christ was established all over the then known world. There were churches in every town and community. So who persecuted them next?

12. This hierarchy or body of church rulers, that Constantine formed was the definite beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. Was every one ‘saved’ or ‘born again’ who became a part of this Roman Catholic Church?

13. Although Constantine thought he was doing a great thing by forcing the church groups to come together into one, there was one group who would not go along with his ‘vision’ of a one world church. Who were they?

14. Who were these ‘masked men’? What were the names that the church groups went by who refused to be labeled Roman Catholic?

15. 426 A.D. to 1628 A.D. the “Dark Ages”

16. The Inquisition 1198-1700 (How many Baptists suffered death in the Netherlands?)

17. The Reformation: Protest came from with the Roman Catholic church by the men listed below. From that came the Protestantism church. All Protestant churches had their beginning in that period.

18. So, the Baptists existed before the Reformation. Baptist’s are NOT PROTESTANTS.

19. The Testimony of Others:

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1. What is a Baptist? Who were the Original Christians? Why are you a Baptist? Here are some of the answers people give: 1. Many don’t know. They think they are the same as Presbyterians, etc. 2. Most people think the Catholics were the first. 3. I grew up a Baptist. My parents are Baptists. My pastor says we should be Baptists. It’s all I know. Those are all wrong answers for being a Baptist. Please read on!

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2. Does it matter what sign is in front of a church? Are labels important? What about the label on the outside of a can? A label should tell you what you are getting on the inside. If you went to the store for a can of tomatoes, the most likely way you would find it is by the label. Consider a scientist doing an experiment. If he grabs the wrong container he could be in big trouble. Labels are important. A Baptist label on a church should stand for something. It should tell us that the people on the inside are committed to Biblical beliefs and principles. Without a label, you get what you get. Some people are okay with that. If you want to take a chance on buying cans without labels, you are taking a chance on what you will actually be getting. The label tells us what kind of food we are getting, and if it is still supposed to be good or not. What about non-denominational? How about First Church? Or how about the First NazerMethodist Bapticostal Seventh-Day Organized Luthertarian Non-Denominational Church of Our Lady of the Mind? What kind of food will you be getting?

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3. When was the church actually started or come into existence? There are differences of opinion today over when the church actually started. Some believe it was on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, some believe it was before that. I believe it was conceived, and began to be formed, and existed before Pentecost. I believe it was not until the Holy Spirit indwelt the church at Pentecost that you could say it was actually born.

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4. Who is the founder of the Baptist Church? God of course, but humanly speaking, ever hear of John the Baptist? They were first called Christians in Antioch, but because of John, the Christians became known as Baptists. John was the baptizer…so we were called followers of the baptizer…Baptists. Many Baptists today do not understand that the Baptist Church does not have some man they can point back to in a particular year as the founder of their church.

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5. Are Baptists Protestants? Were the Catholics and Protestant groups around before the Baptists?  Baptists are not Protestants, and they are not a man-made denomination. Baptists predate both the Roman Catholic System and the Protestant groups.

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6. Were the Mormons before the Baptists? What about other groups that started within the last 200 years – should they be called a church? In March of 2003 I was doing a creation seminar in a church in California. On Sunday afternoon the church provided a potluck dinner. After the meal, the pastor, a couple other men and myself were sitting at one of the tables talking when two men from the Mormon Church came in. They wanted to schedule a time when they could come back and share with the pastor their new timeline that they had developed.

After a few minutes of discussion I asked the leader when their church started. I think he said 1844, which was when they split. I said to the man, “Did you know the Bible says in Matthew 16:18 that Jesus would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it”? He said he knew that. I said, “He’s been building His church for about 2000 years now.” Then I said, “The Bible also says in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is the High Priest over His Church. He has been functioning as its High Priest for about 2000 years now.” They didn’t respond.

I asked the men, “Did you know in Ephesians 3:21 the Bible says that God would receive glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages? That means He has been getting glory in the church for about 2000 years now.” Then I asked, “When did you say your church started?” He said 1844. So I asked him, “Could your church be the one that the Bible talks about?” He said, “You have some good point,” then tried changing the subject. But I could sense that what I had said was really bothering him. Finally he said, “You don’t think the Baptist Church has been around for 2000 years do you?” I said, “Well, actually, yes!” Jesus guaranteed the continuance of His church when He said, “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

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7. So then, if no group started in the last 200 years fits the description of the word “Church” given in the Bible, where does the Roman Catholic church stand in all of this? No church that started in the last 200 years would fit the description of the church given in the Bible. That would eliminate most of the cults. No church that started in the last 1700 years would fit either. That would eliminate the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church was started by the Roman Emperor Constantine about 300 years too late to be Christ’s church. Protestant groups seeing the corruption of Romanism began to separate from it in the 1530’s. That’s 1,500 years too late to be the Lord’s Church. Even without the testimony of history, the Word of God alone proves that there has been a succession of like-minded churches from the time of Christ until now.

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8. Is there any church in existence today that fits the description of the “Church” in the Bible? Let’s look at the Marks of a true biblical New Testament Church.

The Marks of a New Testament Church:
Its Head and Founder is Christ (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22, 4:15, 5:23) Its Only Rule of Faith and Practice: the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Acts 2:41-42; 1 Timothy 3:15)
Its Form of Government: Congregational (John 20:23; Matt. 18:17, 20:25-27; Acts 1:24-26, 6:3; Revelation 2:6)
Its Members: Only Saved People (Eph. 2:21; 1 Peter 2:5; Acts 2:41; Eph. 2:8-9)
Its Ordinances: Believer’s Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42)
Its Officers: Pastors and Deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-16; Phil. 1:1)
Its Work: The Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20)
Its Financial Plan: Tithes and Offerings (1 Cor. 9:14; Mal. 3:8-10; Matt. 23:23; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:14)
Its Independence: Separation of Church and State (Matt. 22:21)
The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment clearly was written to guarantee the “freedom of religion,” not the “freedom from religion” as it is so often interpreted today.

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9. Which church(es) actually suffered persecution for having these Marks of a True New Testament Baptist Church? On the pages of the New Testament we find the record of the growth of Christianity and the founding of many New Testament churches. Editor Note: This growth many times took place only when there was severe persecution which caused the Christians to scatter to all parts of the known world and thus the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spread and new New Testament Churches sprang up out of a terrible time of persecution.

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10. Who persecuted the true New Testament Believers, the Christians, as they were called? Nero, the Roman Emperor, blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome in 64 A.D. and began the first of ten persecutions the Christians were to receive at the hands of the Romans. (if you read Foxes Book of The Martyrs (newer translation) you will find that he blamed them for a fire that he himself started. The persecutions under his realm ended with using the Christians (they would not deny their faith in Christ under severe torture)…he would place them on a high stake that lined the walkway to his complex and light them on fire…so they would have light to see by. He also literally threw them into the arena in Rome to watch the wild beasts tear them apart. He spared no child, woman, man – all who professed to believe in Jesus Christ and The Lord God.

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11. Despite all the persecution, Christianity grew. At the end of the first 300 years the religion of Jesus Christ was established all over the then known world. There were churches in every town and community. So who persecuted them next?
Constantine ruled as Emperor of the Roman Empire from 306 to 337A.D. and his reign was to mark one of the great turning points in church history.
During a battle in 312 A.D. Emperor Constantine believed he had a vision of a flaming cross and above it the words “by this sign thou shalt conquer.” He decided to fight under the banner of Christ and Christianity came into favor in the Roman Government.
In 313 A.D. Constantine gave a call for all the churches to come together and pronounced himself as the head of the churches. Many, but not all, of the churches came. The true churches would have no part in this error.

Editor Note:  ‘All churches come together’….My sisters and brothers, this would be similar to the ecumenical movement we see today even in churches who claim to be true New Testament Churches.
If a church doesn’t believe in the death atonement of our Lord (among the others mentioned already) then they are not of like faith. They may talk about God. And even Jesus. But my friend they are not Christians. Some say they do miracles. Please look at Matthew 7:21-23 again.

Matt 7:21-23 21 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” kjv

Even if they appear to be so spiritual because they talk in tongues…which is not biblical in the way they do it at all.Most every one of the denominations you can think of today do NOT go by the fact that you are saved BY GRACE AND FAITH IN CHRIST ALONE….they almost all…believe it’s works plus God’s grace…which unfortunately negates God’s grace.

You see, He doesn’t need any help from you or I and is quite capable of keeping you saved. The biggest difference we have from all is that: if you are saved, you will live like it; your life will change; your desires will change, etc. If you decide not to live for Christ, and you had truly previously received Him as your Lord(Boss)and Savior before, then you will find the loving but firm and sometimes final chastening from a loving Father.

Hebrews 12:8 8  “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” kjv

If no chastening…then no child. Illegitimate. You tried to get in some other way. There is no other way to become a true child of God apart from the grace of God to receive His free gift of salvation…found only in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “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! kjv

The only time we as a group of people should ‘get together’ if you would like to call it that, is when there is a serious need that needs attending to, like charitable work, or when we are working in the political scene to try to elect men and women who hold some or most of our faith and family values…to work together in that sense for the ‘common good’. But not to come together and worship together.

As I said previously, a true Baptist is worshiping because God is God and has done what He said He would do by giving us eternal life when we prayed and asked forgiveness. We have something to worship about!!! But the other groups are worshiping themselves (for their wonderful effort (they think) in having a part of their marvelous salvation by helping God out. I guess Jesus could have stayed in the portals of glory, never soiling his feet.

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12. This hierarchy or body of church rulers, that Constantine formed was the definite beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. Was every one ‘saved’ or ‘born again’ who became a part of this Roman Catholic Church? No. Many of the errors of Catholicism had already had their beginning but now they were organized into a definite system. Constantine had multitudes baptized into his state church, without them even being saved first. Later, some of his unsaved church members heard the gospel and were saved. As a first step of obedience these converts were baptized by IMMERSION…

Editor Note: (sprinkling was used in the Old Testament…and symbolic of the Priest’s sprinkling blood on the corners of the altar…and by the way, this symbolic act was an act of cleansing or purifying for the person who offered the sacrifice and it was only good for one year!!! It was not a permanent, eternal sacrifice. When Jesus died on the cross, according to the book of Hebrews, He died Once for ALL. The word immersion comes from the Greek work “baptizo” which means to place under/put under, signifying a NEW symbolic type of purifying/cleaning the person who accepted Jesus as the final sacrifice and his cleansing was permanent and eternal. Praise God.

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13. Although Constantine thought he was doing a great thing by forcing the church groups to come together into one, there was one group who would not go along with his ‘vision’ of a one world church. Who were they? This angered Constantine because they had already been baptized in his state church. He called this group of believers “Anabaptists” or “re-baptizers.” Constantine made “Christianity” the “State Religion.” Up until this point the persecution of the Christians had been done either by Judaism or Paganism. Now came a change. Christians (in name) began using the law to compel all Christians to join the organization. The true churches that refused were persecuted. The division was now complete. The true churches refused to line up with the errors of the “state church.” The church of Constantine became what we know as Roman Catholicism. Baptists were never part of Roman Catholicism. They remained true to the Scriptures and rejected the error. After the organization of the churches into a hierarchy and their acceptance as a “State Religion” the true, loyal churches that rejected this error were identified by various names.

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14. Who were these ‘masked men’? What were the names that the church groups went by who refused to be labeled Roman Catholic? They were called: Montanist … Paulician … Novationist … Paterines … Donatist … Albigenses … Anabaptists … these were some of the names used to identify those who refused to identify with Rome. It is not to be understood that each of these groups was entirely free from error or entirely embraced the truth. Through these groups can be traced the people called Baptists.

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15. 426 A.D. to 1628 A.D. the “Dark Ages” With the establishment of the new Catholic temporal power a bloody persecution began. Loyal, New Testament churches, by whatever name they were called, were hunted and hounded to the utmost limit by this new Catholic power. The now established Catholic Church began a war of extermination upon all who opposed her. It is reliably reported that 50 million died of persecution during the Dark Ages. During the bloody times of persecution, as Catholicism tried to exterminate the true churches, many of the false doctrines of the Catholic church of today began to take place.

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16. The Inquisition 1198-1700 (How many Baptists suffered death in the Netherlands?) The Inquisition was instituted by Pope Innocent III and perfected under Pope Gregory IX. It was a “Church Court” established by the popes for the trying and punishing of “heretics” … a heretic being anyone who did not agree with Roman Catholicism. The Inquisition lasted for 500 years and was a time of indescribable horror. During all this persecution Baptist churches continued to exist. More than ten thousand Baptists suffered death in the Netherlands alone, from 1566 to 1573, under the ferocious Duke of Alva. (Ency. Americana, Art. Anabaptists.)

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17. The Reformation: Protest came from with the Roman Catholic church by the men listed below. From that came the Protestantism church. All Protestant churches had their beginning in that period. The conditions within the Catholic Church had become so corrupt that many voices were raised within the church in protest.

Among these voices was that of John Wycliffe (1320- 1384), John Huss (1373-1415), Savonarola (1452-1498), Zwingli (1484-1531), John Knox (1505-1572), John Calvin (1509-1564), and Martin Luther.

The combined effort of these men, along with many others, brought about the Reformation. All these Reformers started new churches. This was the beginning of Protestantism. All Protestant churches had their beginning in the period of the Reformation or since that time.

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18. So, the Baptists existed before the Reformation. Baptist’s are NOT PROTESTANTS. Baptists continued to exist through the Reformation as they had since the time of Christ. Since the Reformation the Baptists have had a glorious history. There are over 23 million Baptists in the United States and they are also found in over 100 different countries.

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19. The Testimony of Others: In 1524 the Roman Catholic Cardinal Hosius, who became the President of the Council of Trent (1560), said: “Were it not that the Baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past 1200 years, … they would swarm in greater number than all the Reformers.”

Hosius, Letters Apud Opera, pp.112,113 as quoted in Trail of Blood, p. 3, Ashland Av. Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, 1933) Zwingli, the first Protestant Reformed theologian said: “The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for 1300 years has caused great disturbance in the church, and has acquired such strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appears futile for a time.”

Mosheim, the Lutheran historian states: “. . . I believe the Mennonites are not altogether in the wrong, when they boast of a descent from these Waldenses, Petrobrusians, and others,…” (Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, III. 200).

We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born;…we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves.” CHARLES H. SPURGEON

“The American Baptists deny that they owe their origin to Roger Williams. The English Baptists will not grant that John Smyth or Thomas Helwysse was their founder…The Welsh Baptists strenuously contend that they received their creed in the first century, from those who obtained it, direct, from the apostles themselves…

The Dutch Baptists trace their spiritual pedigree up to the same source. German Baptists maintained that they were older than the reformation, older than the corrupt hierarchy which it sought to reform. …

The Waldensian Baptists boasted an ancestry far older than Waldo, older than the most ancient of their predecessors in the Vales of Piedmont…

All these maintain that it ultimately reappears, and reveals their source in Christ and His apostles.” pp. 34-35 – The Testimony of the Baptists, by Curtis A. Pugh quoting William Cathcart, the Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881, pp. 620-621.) American Tendency To Baptist Principles: “The number of Baptists in this country, with their relative progress, and rapidly growing power, is one of the most singular facts of the age. As such it may challenge the attention of the philosophical historian and statesman, no less than that of the thoughtful Christian.”

…If we go back to the settlement of this country, it is not explained by ordinary principles. Not one of all the colonies, not even Rhode Island, was originally planted by Baptists; as Virginia was by Episcopalians,…Maryland by Catholics, Delaware by Lutherans, Pennsylvania by Quakers, New Jersey and New York by Presbyterians, and all New England by Congregationalists.

Nor was their original introduction and spread the result of any energetic missionary system, like that of the Methodists…No other body of Christians owes so little as the Baptists to emigration from Europe. And then they alone have religiously refuted the entrapping policy of infant baptism–on which all other sects rely for the perpetuity of religion.” Baptist Principles and History Taken from the Baptist Reporter, October, 1851)

“It is amazing how many names were applied, in the period of the Reformation, to the Baptists…Their enemies called them Anabaptists because they repeated baptism when converts came from other parties…They were called Catabaptists because they denied infant baptism and practiced immersion.

The name Baptist dates from the earliest days of the Reformation. In contemporary literature they are generally called Baptists (Frank, Chronik, III. 198).

It is an old and honored name.” “How cruel was the persecution of the Anabaptists, who by no means were only revolutionary fanatics but for the most part simple, honest Christians and suffered and died for liberty of conscience and the separation of church and state.”(Schaff, The Life of Philip Schaff, 462).

“It is certain, as impartial historians and critics allow, that the early churches, including the first century after the New Testament period, were organized as Baptist churches are now organized, and professed the faith that Baptist churches now profess.”

PROF. VEDDER Dr. W. P. Harvey says: “History points to the origin of the various denominations, and in regard to their respective founders there is no controversy, but strange there is no recognized historic account of the origin of Baptists this side of the apostolic age.”

Sir Isaac Newton: “The Baptists are the only body of known Christians that have never symbolized with Rome.”

Edinburg Cyclopedia (Presbyterian): “It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described as Ana-Baptists. Indeed this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time.” Tertullian was born just fifty years after the death of the Apostle John.

Sources of Information: A History of the Baptists Volume I, Chapter VII John T. Christian, A.M., D.D., LL.D. 1922, 1926 the Baptist Reporter, October, 1851 A Brief History of the Baptists by the late Norman H. Wells Landmark Independent Baptist Church P.O. Box 847 Archer, FL 32618-0847

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Dr. George Ragsdale, Pastor