The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
D. B. Ray
From Baptist Succession: A Handbook of Baptist History, 1871
From the shores of America we have followed the footprints of the Baptist denomination back through England, Holland, Germany, the valleys of Piedmont, and Italy, up to the land of Judea, in the apostolic age. We have found our denominational chain of succession unbroken, though the same people were at different times called by different names.
We have now reached the fountainhead of that mighty stream of Scriptural churches flowing down from Jerusalem through the desert gloom of more than eighteen centuries, and watering the famishing world with the pure Gospel of the River of Life. Here may be found the establishment of the Church—the light-house of the world—erected upon the Rock of Eternal Ages, and casting its beams of heavenly light far over the stormy seas of moral darkness, while the multitudes of mankind were enveloped in darkness.
Notwithstanding we have traced our denominational line of succession directly up to the apostolic age, yet this would avail us nothing if we are found destitute of those peculiar characteristics which distinguished the early churches. In chapter first, we laid down seven Baptist peculiar characteristics which now distinguish them from all the parties of Christendom. We now proceed to examine these peculiarities, one by one, by the light of Inspiration, to see if they are sustained by the Word of God and examples of the apostolic churches.
It was remarked in the outset that no denomination, except the Baptist claims Jesus Christ, in person, as their founder and head. Other denominations look to uninspired men for their origin. Does the Bible sustain the Baptist doctrine that Jesus Christ himself established his own church? To the law and testimony: The Lord spoke by the mouth of Daniel the prophet, and said: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." (Dan. 2:44)
It is generally admitted that this prophecy points to Jesus Christ, who is the God of heaven who was manifested in the flesh. If this be correct, and it cannot be reasonably doubted, then it was declared by the prophet, that Jesus Christ, the God of heaven, should set up the everlasting kingdom. Does this mean that Abraham should set up the kingdom? That Moses should set it up? That John the Baptist should set it up? That Peter or all the apostles together should set it up? This work was delegated neither to angels nor men. It was peculiarly the work of the God of heaven.
Some assume the position that the God of heaven established his kingdom on earth by proxy—by human agents—as the God of heaven built the temple by Solomon, and wrote the Bible by inspired men.
But it must be remembered, that when God performed these great works through human agents, those agents were especially appointed by God himself to perform their several labors. No one but Solomon was divinely authorized to erect the first temple, which was a type of the Church of Christ. It would have been rebellion for anyone else to have assumed to himself the right to build the temple. Even David, the highly favored king of Israel, dared not enter upon this work without divine permission. He earnestly desired to build the house of the Lord, but he would not lay one stone toward this work without the heavenly commission.
Those who wrote the Scriptures were moved to this work by the Holy Spirit. And in the Gospel dispensation, when John the forerunner baptized the penitent Jews, he could point to his commission from heaven, and say: "He that sent me to baptize with water." (John 1:33) Neither did the apostles assume to themselves the apostleship without the divine appointment; they were chosen and ordained by Jesus Christ. But where is the commission authorizing either angels or men to set up the kingdom of God? It cannot be found. In the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom of God was symbolized by the stone which "was cut out without hands." (Dan. 2:34)
This could not have been the case if God had delegated human agents to set up the kingdom. It is true that men were appointed to perform certain duties in connection with the establishment of the kingdom, but they were not appointed to set it up. John the Baptist was sent "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17) John did not set up the kingdom. He simply prepared materials from which Jesus gathered the first members of the kingdom.
When was the kingdom set up? We answer, that the setting up of the kingdom, with its laws and ordinances, was not an instantaneous, but a gradual work. John preached the Gospel and prepared materials for the setting up of the kingdom, but Jesus Christ, soon after his own baptism in the river Jordan, chose the twelve apostles who were the first members of the organization known as the church or kingdom of God.
When John beheld the triumphant church as the bride, the Lamb's bride, under the symbol of the great city descending out of heaven from God, he saw "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb " (Rev. 21:14) in the twelve foundation stones. This shows clearly that the twelve apostles were the first or foundation members of the Church of God. A kingdom or church must, of necessity, have a king to rule over it, subjects to be ruled, and laws to be obeyed. Jesus Christ himself is the king, from everlasting to everlasting.
The absurd idea of the coronation of Jesus on the day of Pentecost is false and ridiculous. He possessed kingly glory with the Father before the world was; he was born King of the Jews; he was the "King of Israel" (John 1:49) when Nathaniel met him; and he declared himself to be a king at the bar of Pilate. (John 18:37) It is a settled point that Jesus Christ was king while on earth, before the day of Pentecost. And the king had subjects to be governed as soon as the apostles left all and followed him. The seventy disciples were soon added to the twelve, and the subjects of the king continued to increase during his ministry.
But when were the laws delivered for the government of the kingdom? As Moses came down and delivered the laws to govern national Israel, after he had fasted forty days on the Mount, so Jesus Christ, after he had fasted forty days during his temptation in the wilderness, began to deliver the laws for the government of his kingdom. The Savior continued to deliver these laws till the night of his betrayal.
After the Lord's Supper was instituted, then Jesus delivered the kingdom, as a complete organization, to the disciples in the following words: "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:29, 30) While Jesus Christ the king was personally present with the church, he transacted the business of the kingdom; but he was now about to depart to the Father, and he delivered to his disciples the kingdom, or the authority to execute the laws of the kingdom in the absence of the King. In the same night, in his dedication prayer, the Savior said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17:4)
The setting up of the kingdom was the work assigned by the Father to Jesus Christ; and as he declared that his work was finished, we must conclude that he had completed the setting up of his kingdom. This position is fully illustrated in the building of Solomon's Temple, which was a type of the Church of Christ. Solomon's Temple was built of stones and timbers prepared in the quarry and forests of Lebanon. Solomon did not bring rough materials and place them in the building in order to prepare them, as is done by modern workmen, but each stone and timber was first prepared for its place, and then placed in the temple, and the building progressed to completion without the sound of a hammer.
The temple was complete, in all of its parts, before it was publicly dedicated to the service of God by prayer and the application of sacrificial blood; likewise the Church of Christ was a complete organization, all of its laws and ordinances had been delivered, before it was publicly dedicated by the prayer of Jesus, recorded in the 17th of John, and the application of his own blood which was shed upon the tree of the Cross.
The injunction requiring the apostles to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high, had no reference to the setting up of the kingdom, but to the power to speak with tongues and remember all the previous teaching of the Savior. The Baptist position, that Jesus Christ was the founder of his own church, is supported by the language of the Savior himself, as follows: "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." (Matt. 16:18)
Did the Savior mean that Peter would build his church? That Luther would build his church? That Calvin would build his church? That John Wesley would build his church, or that Alexander Campbell would build his church? No. He declared, “I will build my church,” and a church or kingdom built by anyone else is not the kingdom of Christ. As already remarked, the establishment of the church as a complete organization, was a gradual work from the calling of the apostles to the establishment of the Lord's Supper. This work had been begun before the Savior said, “upon this rock will I build my church,” and he went forward to complete and establish his church upon himself as the only foundation which is able to support his kingdom.
The Baptist position has been fully sustained, that Jesus Christ is the founder of his own church, and that it was set up during his personal ministry on earth. The Savior said: "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." (Luke 16: 16) This passage alone ought to silence every objector who denies that the kingdom was set up before Pentecost. The Savior began his work while John was living, and men pressed into the kingdom before the day of Pentecost.
Again, are the Baptists right in claiming Jesus Christ as the only head of the church? In ancient times the Baptists were called, by way of derision, the Acephali —the headless—because they acknowledged no human head. That Jesus Christ should be recognized as the head of his disciples, as their great teacher, was established by the voice of the Father when speaking in the hearing of the affrighted disciples on the mount of transfiguration, he said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matt. 17:5) Any society which appeals to any other authority than that of Jesus Christ, in cases of discipline, does not recognize him as its head and lawgiver.
The same position is affirmed by the apostle Paul, when he declares that God "hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness in him which filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22, 23)
And again, the same apostle says: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Eph. 4:15, 16) Once more, writing to the Colossians, Paul affirms that "Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." (Col. 1:18)
From the foregoing, and many similar passages, it is abundantly proved that Jesus Christ alone is to be regarded as the founder and head of his own kingdom. The idea of the body of Christ, his church, having a human head, is utterly preposterous. In fact, whenever any one presumes to occupy the place, either as the founder or head of the Church of Christ, he has partaken of the character and prerogative of Antichrist. We now reaffirm that the Baptist denomination is the only one on earth which claims Jesus Christ in person as its founder and head.
It is almost a work of supererogation to collect testimony on this point because, all who have even a slight acquaintance with Baptist doctrine, ought to know that it is a fundamental principle with Baptists to claim Jesus Christ as their only founder and head. But, as some are prone to pervert Baptist views, it may not be amiss to gather a few authorities on this important point.
In the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, it is said: "The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner." (Rel. Denom. U. S.G. B., p. 51) This is but the testimony of all the Baptists in the world.
The author of the Religious Encyclopedia, in this point testifies as follows: "They [Baptists] think that the Christian Church, properly so called, was not visibly organized in the family of Abraham, nor in the wilderness of Sinai, but by the ministry of Christ himself, and of his apostles; and that it was then constituted of such, and of such only, as made a credible profession of repentance from sin and faith in the Savior." (Religious Encyc., p. 188)
And on the same subject the Baptist Manual, published by the American Baptist Publication Society, remarks: "We acknowledge no founder but Christ." (Bapt. Man., p. 82)
Thus we find that the Baptists of the present day possess the Bible characteristic that Jesus Christ in person set up his own kingdom.