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


Who Is Baptist?

Norman H. Wells

From The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973  (Chapter 5)

Since publishing this paper we have received letter after letter asking, "What kind of a Baptist are you?" We assume they mean what affiliations we have with Conventions or Associations.


We are of the opinion that a person or church is either a Baptist or they are not! There are no different kinds!


If it is a fact that the lost world is bewildered by the conflicting claims of hundreds of churches and denomi­nations all calling themselves Christian; is it not equally true they would be confused by the conglomeration of beliefs that are covered by the name Baptist? There are American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Christian Unity Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Duck River & Kindred Associations of Baptists, Baptist Church of Christ, Freewill Baptists, General Baptists, General Six-Principle Baptists, Independent Baptist Church of America, National Baptist, Evangelical Life & Soul Saving Assembly of the U.S.A., Regular Baptists, Separate Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Two Seed in the Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, United American Freewill Baptists, United Baptists, Free Communion Baptists, Anti-mission Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Fundamental Baptists, and a host of others.


Are all these conflicting groups Baptist? Impossible! The tragedy is that Baptists have almost lost their identity in this maze of contradictory groups all using the name Baptist. Where can the line be drawn? How can a Baptist be identified?


We are not considering in this article the modernist who disguises under the name Baptist. Certainly no preacher or group could be considered Baptist who would deny the inspiration of God's Word, the Deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the blood atonement, the vicarious death of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the personal visible return of our Lord, etc. We eliminate this large group immediately from the right to the name Baptist.


Nor are we dealing in this chapter with those who have pursued some particular interpretation of Scripture until it has become their trademark. We mean those folks who have "gone to seed" on some pet theory. They have, by over­emphasis and exaggeration of one or another phase of God's truth, warped it into an untruth. To herald only part of the

Truth can be heralding falsehood.


We do not consider those as Baptist who run off on some tangent of emphasis and tack their trademark on the name Baptist. If they do not agree with Baptist why do they try to identify themselves as such? These off-brand, one-cylinder groups can be eliminated as Baptists.


In the United States the bulk of the Baptists are identified with either the Southern Baptist Convention or Ile American Baptist Convention (formerly Northern Baptist Convention). Over the years these two Baptist groups have developed into great ecclesiastical machines and have departed from the faith Baptists have always held. Although many of the individual preachers and churches in the American Convention and most of those in the Southern are strictly Baptist in their individual beliefs, yet they lose their identity in their support of that which is unscriptural. These individual preachers and churches that are truly Baptist get swallowed up by the unscriptural organization of the ecclesiastical machines.


However, this is not the issue we wish to discuss.


When these great ecclesiastical machines developed into bodies that were unbaptistic they left behind that great group who still remained true to the Baptist position of the ages. This is the group we have in mind. While Conventions, Associations, etc., were turning from the Baptist position this group remained loyal. All over the country there were men and churches that stood firm. With no connecting bond but their love for God and His truth these churches and preachers stood as one for the great truths Baptists have always held. God did abundantly bless these Baptists. The line was drawn! The fight was on! Thank God the old Baptist Banner was held high!


As time went on these individual churches and preachers began to unite their efforts. Schools, colleges, seminaries, etc. were started. Great missionary efforts were launched. Hundreds of new churches were started. The bless­ings of God were on these Baptists!


Now we come to the matter so close to our own hearts. The same thing that happened in the old Northern Convention and is happening in the Southern Convention, and it is rearing its ugly head in the ranks of these who have stood so firm. It is an astonishing thing to find churches and preachers receiving with open arms the same kind of error they once stood so valiantly against.


Let us be more specific. There are many sound, true Baptist churches throughout the land that protested vigorously against the hierarchy of the Conventions. Their voices were raised against any group or organization elevating themselves to a place of authority over the local churches. It is an amazing thing that these same churches will now organize themselves into the same kind of hierarchy. In a lot of cases the only thing about the new groups that have been formed that is different from the old is the name.


We find Baptist and Baptist groups who paid the price to stand for true Baptist beliefs are now compromising their position in order to maintain the plaudits of the public and the support of their institutions. Success can be intoxicating. It can demand a terrific price-compromise.


I do not believe it would be too difficult to find a doctrinal statement these Baptists would agree to concerning the Scriptures, the true God, the fall of man, the Virgin Birth, the atonement, grace, salvation, justification, repentance, faith, eternal security, hell, heaven, the resurrection, etc. Where is the wedge being driven? Where has the rot started? The answer is to be found in the doctrine of the church and its ordinances and in the doctrine of the second coming.


Concerning the second coming there are numerous theories. We are premillennial. We believe in the bodily, visible, return of our Lord Jesus Christ to this earth to set tip His kingdom. However we do not believe this issue is what is corrupting Baptist forces. Sometimes it is used as a smoke screen to cover up other issues.


We believe the destructive forces of Satan are attacking mid seeking to destroy Baptists by subduing our belief in the doctrine of the church. Among those standing as defenders of the faith always held by Baptists are those who adhere to the universal, invisible church theory, those who accept alien immersion and practice open communion. The sad thing is that those Baptists who are not guilty of these things will accept those that do as first-rate Baptists.


The Baptist churches have no greater danger than that presented by this unholy three, the universal, invisible church theory, alien immersion and open communion. The acceptance and practice of these three will eventually drown Baptists in the sea of interdenominationalism. God forbid!


May God help us to see how we need to hold fast on these lines! Jesus Christ established the first local New Testament church as recorded in Matthew 16.


The promise to that church was "the gates of hell shall not prevail"! It was never to be defeated, never to go out of business. It has existed in every second of history. It is with us now! If we Baptists are right, then our churches are the true New Testament churches — the one Jesus built. If this is not so, why be a Baptist?


Reliable historians trace the Baptist churches back to Christ; even if this were not possible, the church that Jesus built can be identified by doctrine. In our Baptist churches rest the same promise, privileges, commission and authority that the New Testament places there. We have the authority to baptize and to administer the Lord's Supper. No one else has this authority; no one else can baptize or administer the Lord's Supper. No other baptism is valid!


May God give us some backbone! This is the Baptist position and belief. Why tolerate compromisers in our midst? Will we too be destroyed from within?


If the universal, invisible church theory is to be received by Baptists, then we lose our identity. We lose our mission. We lose our purpose. We become one of many branches where chaotic confusion reigns. To accept this theory is to surrender every truth we hold dear. This theory places Baptists in the same pot with every church, cult, denomination, etc. that cares to call itself Christian! Will Baptists lose themselves in apostate Christianity or stand true to God's purpose?


The greatest single weapon that God gave the church to use to maintain its identity was baptism. To open the church doors and receive baptism from a source other than a Baptist is to deny all the historic Baptist doctrines.


The mark of distinction, then, between the church that Jesus built and others is scriptural baptism. The ordinance of baptism was given to the church. To drop the line here and accept so-called baptism from other so-called churches is to cease to be Baptist. To compromise the Bible position on baptism and receive into our churches "every variety" is to become interdenominational. The first line of departure of every great Baptist group from the historic Baptist position has been on baptism.


To throw open the Lord's Supper to everyone is to lose the identity God gave the church. How can standards and discipline be maintained if this sort of thing would be practiced?


May we repeat, an individual or church is either a Baptist or they are not; there are no different kinds. The only way the world will know the difference is as Baptist brethren and churches the world around stand forth and declare themselves and stop compromising the issue.