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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Challenge, July 2015
Question: In a recent article, you made it appear that Baptists can trace their history back to the New Testament. Many Baptists do not agree with this position.
Answer: True Baptists, as individuals and as churches, do not have a single voice or hierarchy to speak for them in matters of doctrine and practice as do some religious groups. There-fore, I cannot speak for all Baptists. I can only speak for myself, and the church to which I am privileged to pastor, and for many true Baptists who agree with my position that the people known today as Baptists can trace their origin and existence “back to the New Testament.”
Woe be unto the church that cannot trace its existence, doctrines and practices back to the New Testament, thereby admitting that their church is not a true New Testament church. I believe Baptists can trace their origin back to Christ as their Founder and Head.
In Matthew 16:18 Christ stated that He would “build his church” and that “the gates of hell would not prevail against it.” I take this to mean that His church would always be in existence and is in the world today. His enemies, His foes, described here as “the gates of hell,” would “not prevail against it.” I take this to mean that His church would always be in existence and is in the world today. His enemies, His foes, described here as “the gates of hell,” would “not prevail against it” (His church).
Therefore, down through the centuries, there have always been New Testament churches. Either Christ meant what He said, or He didn’t mean it. There is no middle ground. Bible believers believe He meant what He said. His promise has not failed. He that promised is able to perform. New Testament churches have not passed off the scene, and then later re-appeared or re-discovered at various times under the supposed inspired leadership of some men or women who lived hundreds of years too late to be the founder of New Testament churches.
It so happened, and is a matter of divine record that Christ founded His own church during His personal ministry, and as Head, He promised that “the gates of hell would not prevail against it,” and that He would be with it “until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).
There have been many Johnny-come-lately denominations and cults that have sprung up the last few hundred years all claiming to be New Testament churches whose human founders can be identified as well as the very year and place their denominations and organizations began.
Within our limited space, I want us to now see what historians and men of non-Baptist faith have to say about Baptist church origin:
(1) Cardinal Hosius, the president of the Council of Trent, dates the history of Baptists back to at least 154 A.D. He wrote this in 1554 A.D.
(2) Mosheim, noted great Lutheran historian, places Baptists before the rise of Luther and Calvin.
(3) Zwingli, the Swiss reformer and co-worker with Luther and Calvin in 1525, admits the existence of Baptists back to the year 225 A.D.
(4) Robert Barclay, Quaker, places “small hidden Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the time of the Apostles.”
(5) John Clark Ridpath, Methodist, says, “I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A.D. 100, though with-out doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then
(6) Alexander Camp-bell, founder of the “Christian” church says, “From the apostolic age to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced.”
There are others, but these must suffice for now. We do not seek to establish our claims as to our first century origin by the Baptist name. Churches of those early days were simply called “churches” for they were all of one faith, and thus needed no distinguishing name, except to identify a church at a certain place, for example, “the church at Ephesus,” “the church at Corinth,” etc.
But as time went by, false organizations sprang up calling themselves churches, and it became necessary to use distinguishing names. As for Baptists, they have been called by different names down through the centuries like Montanists, Waldenses, etc., but all were called by one name, Anabaptists (“Re-Baptisers” of those that came from unscriptural organizations, or who were not scripturally baptized). These names were usually given by their enemies. The “Ana” in the name “Anabaptists” was dropped in the days of Martin Luther, and the name Baptist has been retained unto this day.
[Editor: For more information on Baptist lineage, check out our sister website: www.baptistlineage.org]