Why Be A Baptist?

Chapter 3: Baptist Beginnings


In J. R. Gravesí Introduction to "Orchardís History of Foreign Baptist," "The reader should distinctly bear in mind that our author does not profess to write the history of our people in detail, but to demonstrate by testimony of both Catholic and Protestant writers, our bitter enemies, that communities of Baptist have existed in all ages from the days of John the Baptist until now, maintaining essentially, the same faith and that "the faith once delivered to the saints."

It is a distinctive tenet believed and taught by Baptist alone, that John the Baptist prepared the material and the Lord Jesus Christ organized the first Baptist church during his personal ministry here upon the earth. Of this the Scriptures give abundant proof. Old Testament types and prophecy point clearly to this. New Testament apostles and historians acclaim their testimony true.

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:1-6), Paul invites careful consideration to the house Jesus built. These facts are clearly brought out in this passage. Jesus was appointed by His Heavenly Father to build His house and faithfully obeyed His Fatherís orders. He not only built His house, but was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, because He was greater than Moses and the builder is greater than the house He built. Moses was only a servant in his house; but Christ was the Son of God and Master of His own house.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). Paul speaks of the church at Corinth as the temple of God. "And are build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:20-21). Paul refers to the church at Ephesus as "an holy temple in the Lord." The resemblanceís between the temple of Solomon and the church Jesus built are very marked and striking. David prepared the material out of which Solomon built the temple. "O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own" (1 Chron. 29:16). John the Baptist prepared the material out of which Jesus built His own church. "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17); "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mark 1:2-3). Solomon built the temple out of the material David prepared. So Jesus built the church out of the material prepared by John. "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" (Matthew 16:18); "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22). After the temple was finished it was dedicated with sacrifices. "So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up. And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude" (1 Kings 7:51-8:1-5). After Jesus had finished the house His Father told Him to build, He dedicated it with the sacrifice of Himself. Jesus Christ "Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house" (Heb. 3:2); "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4); "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). After the temple was finished and dedicated, then the Holy Shekinah came and filled it with glory. "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD" (1 Kings 8:10-11). Even so after the Lord Jesus had finished His church and put into it all the gifts enumerated, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments" (1 Cor. 12:28), except the gift of tongues, then the Holy Spirit as the Divine Shekinah entered the church as the temple of God to make it His habitation forever. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:20-22).

Not only is the temple a type of the building of the church, but Zechariah foretells in his prophecy about Christ building His church. Note his words: "And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6:12-13).

Note the detailed fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus. He was the Branch. He grew up out of His place. His place was Bethlehem, but He grew up in Nazareth. "And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass" (Gen. 41:32). Joseph told Pharaoh that when God said a thing twice, He did it because it was established. Twice does Zechariah clearly foretell that Jesus was to build His own temple or church. If we interpret Scripture by Scripture, that means that God had settled it before Jesus ever came, that He was to build His own church. How hard do men labor to prove this prophecy false by their efforts to set up the church on Pentecost. But it cannot be done. Zechariah answered all that before Jesus came. Twice does He say that Jesus would build His own temple and adds then that He should sit upon His throne and be a priest upon His throne. The order of events as here laid down is first Christ building His temple, then His resurrection and ascension and then a priest upon His throne. That is Godís answer to the Pentecost theory. Paul tells us plainly that Jesus would not be a priest, "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" (Heb. 8:4). The order of prophecy was the order of fulfillment; for prophecy establishes things. His house was built here upon earth by Him. Then God gave Him after His resurrection and ascension all authority in heaven and on earth, fulfilling the scripture as to His sitting and ruling upon His throne. Then He became a priest upon His throne, ever living to make intercession for us. The Holy Spirit was not content however to prefigure the building of Christís church in type and shadow and foretell it in prophecy. The New Testament is clear and explicit as to the founding of this first Baptist church.

"A New Testament Church"

To be a New Testament church a church must have been organized at the right time, at the right place, by the right person, out of the right material, must have the right officers, the right polity, the right discipline, the right doctrine, right practices, the right gospel and the right mission. The first Missionary Baptist church complies with every one of these requirements.

I. The Right Time

It was instituted at the right time during the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:28, "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Holy Writ says the apostles were the first set in the church. "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor" (Luke 6:12-16). "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:14). He was the head and founder: they were the first members. No other church can qualify as to time except the Missionary Baptist churches. It is the only institution on this earth that was instituted during the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus.

II. The Right Place

It was instituted at the right place. The church Jesus built and which He called "My church" must have been organized in Palestine, Godís country. It was as impossible for the church Jesus built to be organized out of Palestine as it was for Jesus to have been born out of Palestine. The only church on this earth which began in Palestine was the Missionary Baptist churches. All others we know of were born either in Europe or America. They are not only too young to be any kin to the church which Jesus called "My church," but they fit neither prophecy nor history as to the place of their beginning. Jesusí church was founded by a Jew and its constituent members were all Jews. That is not true of any other church in the world except a Missionary Baptist church. The founder and all the constituent members of this church were baptized by the first Baptist preacher in the River Jordan. "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22). No other church in Christendom can qualify as the church Jesus built, except a Missionary Baptist church, because the founder and constituent members of no other church were baptized by the first Baptist preacher in the River Jordan. The first Missionary Baptist church was founded in the right place, Palestine.

III. The Right Person

The first Baptist Church was founded by the right person, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have before proven, He was the Head, Founder, Builder, Master, Lord and sole Owner and Proprietor of His own church. He called it "My church." The glory of building His own church He did not and will not share with any other. It is His betrothed at present and will some day be His bride. "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). He is very jealous over her and will not give up the honor of founding His own church to another.

IV. The Right Material

The church Jesus built was constituted out of right material. His fore runner made and baptized disciples as a preparation for the organization of the church Jesus built. John the Baptist, true to his God given name, was very careful as to whom he baptized. He not only demanded that those whom he baptized, should profess conversion before their baptism, but he demanded fruit worthy of repentance as the evidence of their salvation. He not only preached Jesus as the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of those who trusted in Him; but he magnified death to the old life in repentance and demanded that the tree should be made good by the new birth as a prerequisite to baptism. The Master Himself said "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11). Out of this divinely chosen and well prepared material Jesus organized His own church. John made and baptized disciples. "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)" (John 4:1-2). When the Lord Jesus was going back to heaven He commanded His church: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20). The Oxford Bible in the margin says: "Go make disciples or Christians of all nations." It is significant that Alexander Campbell in his debate with Mr. Rice twice translated Acts 2:47: "And the Lord added to the church daily the saved." H. T. Anderson a disciple of Mr. Campbell translated the same passage: "And the Lord daily added the saved to the church." And J. W. McGarvey, probably the most scholarly of the disciples of Mr. Campbell in this century, translates the same passage this way: "The Lord added to them day by day those that were saved."

Not only did John the Baptist and the Master and the apostles on and after Pentecost emphasize that only the saved should be added to the church; "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomonís porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord multitudes both of men and women" (Acts 5:12-14).

When men and women are added to the Lord they are saved. These believers were saved in large numbers but because the Lord killed Ananias and Sapphira, they were afraid to join the church. Not only is the proof abundant that in New Testament days all these preachers put salvation before baptism and added only the saved to the church: but Luke actually tells us that a great multitude were saved and did not join the church because the standard of church membership was so high that they were afraid to join the church.

V. The Right Officers

New Testament church officers were bishops and deacons. They were both ordained. Jesus ordained the twelve, "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:14). "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). Men elected to be pastors of churches were ordained. When Paul gave Titus instructions about setting things in order in Crete, he told him to ordain elders in every city. These elders were the bishops or pastors of the churches in those cities. "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:1-7). They elected and ordained deacons.

VI. The Right Discipline

The polity of this first church was given it by the Master. "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:16-18). "Tell it to the church" was His command. The doctrines and teachings of the church were given by the Master. They are included in the "all things He commanded."

The New Testament is the law that governs Baptist churches in all things. "Nothing beyond what is written" is the Baptist shibboleth. Baptist churches make no laws. Their laws were handed down to them by the Master. In all matters of discipline and government the authority is in the church. Their action is final. The government of a Baptist church is a pure democracy. It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people under the headship of Christ, who is the head of each local church. There is no appeal from the decision of a Baptist church. The head of each Baptist church has said: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The only appeal from the decision of a Baptist church is to the Lord Jesus in heaven.

VII. The Right Gospel

This church was not only founded at the right time, the right place, by the right person, out of the right material, with right officers, right discipline, right government, right doctrine, and right practice: but it had the right gospel. Its gospel was the gospel of the Son of God and it began with the ministry of John the Baptist. Mark says so in the very first verse of his gospel. This gospel was not only preached by John and Jesus and the twelve and seventy during the personal ministry of Christ here on earth: but the Lord was very careful in Matthew 24:14 to tell them: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."

No change in the gospel of the Son of God. John the Baptist preached it in his ministry. Jesus and His apostles preached it in theirs. Peter preached exactly the same gospel on Pentecost that he preached when the Master sent them out two by two. "And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). He said himself that God put no difference between "us," Peter and the other Jews saved before Pentecost and on Pentecost and "them," the Gentiles saved down at the household of Cornelius. The Gospel of the Son of God has always been the same. He never had but one gospel. In the Gospel of John, John tells us very plainly about that gospel because he was writing to sinners and wanted to make it plain: "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31). The gospel of the Son of God, which began with the ministry of John the Baptist, and was preached by Jesus Himself, was good news of salvation through Christ. He is the only Savior and satisfies every need of the sinnerís heart. When the sinner receives Jesus Christ he has eternal life. The believer has everlasting life right here and now as a present possession. When he gets it he canít lose it. That was the gospel the Son of God preached while here on earth.

That is the gospel He left for His disciples to preach, when He ascended on high and went home to heaven. Three things are magnified in the gospel of the Son of God. Remember them and tell them wherever you go. Eternal life is a present possession: the believer has it the moment he believes: when he gets it he canít lose it. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36), "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). That is the Baptist gospel, because it is the gospel of the Son of God.

VIII. The Right Mission

And last of all this church founded by Jesus was a Missionary Baptist Church because its mission from its very incipiency was to go and make disciples (get folk saved). From the day it was founded it was started a-going and a-preaching and a-giving: "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat" (Matthew 10:1-10). First they were to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and preach the gospel of the Son of God to the Jews. That is Home Missions. Then after the resurrection of our Lord and just before His ascension He includes "all nations," "every creature" and "the uttermost part of the earth" in the commission, which He gave His church. As soon as He founded the institution, which He called "My church," He thrust them forth as missionaries, to go, to preach, to give until every creature shall hear the gospel of the Son of God.

We have now shown that the first Missionary Baptist church began at the right time, during the personal ministry of Christ: at the right placeóin Palestine: that it was founded by the right person, the Lord Jesus: that it was built of the right material-saved people, baptized by John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus: that it had the right officers-bishops and deacons: that it was Democratic in government and discipline: that its doctrines and practices are biblical and according to the New Testament: that its gospel was the gospel of the Son of God: and that its mission until Jesus comes again is missions to every creature.

"Before Pentecost"

In conclusion, we sum up some facts to show that this church was in existence before Pentecost.

1. The apostles were in it before Pentecost. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues " (1 Cor. 12:28).

2. The prophets and teachers were in it before Pentecost. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues " (1 Cor. 12:28).

3. It had an ordained ministry before Pentecost. "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach" (Mark 3:14).

4. It had the same gospel before Pentecost that it did afterwards. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).

5. It had a commission to preach before Pentecost and did it "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7).

6. It had authority to baptize before Pentecost. "(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)" (John 4:2).

7. It had the Lordís Supper before Pentecost. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:23-25): "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (Heb. 2:12), "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives" (Matthew 26:30), "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2),

8. It had a rule of discipline before Pentecost. "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:16-18).

9. The keys of the kingdom were given to it before Pentecost. "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:9).

10. It had a church roll before Pentecost with an hundred and twenty names on that roll. "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)" (Acts 1:15).

11. It had a church treasurer before Pentecost. "For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor" (John 13:29).

12. It held an election before Pentecost. "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; in so much as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:15-26).

13. To this church there were about 3,000 additions on Pentecost. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:41-42).