Baptist Distinctives: An Heritage Of the Truth
Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Introduction: As Baptists we are unique among denominations in both history and doctrine. We are a people shaped by our conviction and other's opposition. Only when you have a knowledge of what our forbearers have stood and died for will you be able to truly understand what it is to be Baptist. May we honor and preserve our heritage that has been passed on to us through the blood of those who have gone before.
The following study is both doctrinal and historical. It is meant to present the truth as taught in God's Word and then show Ana-Baptists of past centuries who believed that truth enough to suffer and die for it. The stories and illustrations are taken from Martyrs Mirror by Theilman J. Van Braught a Dutch AnaBaptist who wrote an account of the faithful martyrs from the time of Christ to 1660. It is one of the best and most moving accounts of our heritage ever written. May we look to those who have gone before us as the inspiration to remain faithful in this evil and wicked world.
John Walen, With Two Of His Fellow Brethren, 1527 Pg 424
In the year 1527, there was also a faithful brother named John Walen, residing in Waterlandt, on Crommenies Dijck, and with him two of his fellow brethren. These three were together brought prisoners, for the testimony of Jesus by the bloodthirsty papists, to Haarlem, and after a little while they were sent from there to Gravenhage, where they were examined very severely; yet, through the power of the Most High with which they were endued, they patiently endured it; thus valiantly overcoming by faith all their inquisitors and tormenters, together with the world and all visible things. I John 5:4. On this account the rulers of darkness at said place sentenced them to the following inhuman and tyrannous death: They were chained to stakes, and a fire built around, them, and thus they were slowly roasted, until the marrow was seen to trickle down from their thighbones; thus being burned and roasted till death came to their relief. After their death the garments on the upper part of their bodies were taken off piece by piece, the color of the cloth still being recognizable. And as they suffered all this for the name of Jesus and the Word of God, and not on account of any misdeed committed, but only in order to testify to and confess the firm foundation of the truth before this false and adulterous generation, the Son of God shall hereafter, when coming in His glory, not he ashamed of them, but confess them before His Father and His chosen angels, and crown them with everlasting glory in heaven.
Distinctives of The Baptist Faith
Baptist churches throughout the ages have been identified not by their name but by their beliefs. These beliefs separated them from others and often singled them our for persecution. These beliefs or distinctives mark us as Baptist. We will use an acrostic to help us remember our "BAPTIST Distinctives."
Autonomy of the Local Church
Priesthood of the Believer
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved, Baptized Church Membership
Separation of Church and State
The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is God's very word and carries the absolute authority of God Himself. Where the Bible speaks Baptist speak where it is silent we are silent. What it commands we do what it prohibits we avoid. There is no authority equal to the Bible and no person or group may change, add to, override or contradict it's authority. It was complete with the book of Revelation and is true in every word and thought.
2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Jude 3; Mat 5:17-19
Story of John Claees 1544, pg 471 in Martyrs Mirror
In court the bailiff said to John Claess, "You are rebaptized."
John Claess answered, "I was baptized upon my faith, as all Christians ought to be, according to the Scriptures.
They said to him again, "You belong to the accursed Anabaptists, who originate strange sects, opinions, errors and contention among the people."
John Class': "We are not such people; we, desire nothing else than the true Word of God.
He was then asked whether he did not confess that he was rebaptized four years ago or thereabouts.
John Claess replied, "Three years ago or thereabouts I was baptized as all Christians ought to be."
John Class: " Can I not obtain the full court? it is granted even to thieves and murderers, why should it not be granted to me?"
The four judges then went out to pronounce the sentence.
Lifting up his voice, John Claess wrung his hands, saying, "O merciful Father, grant them Thy Spirit, that Thou mayest not count this to them as wickedness."
The four judges now returned into the court, and sat down to declare the sentence, saying, "John Claess, a native of Alkmaar, who has taught the people false doctrines, errors and new opinions."
Upon this John Claess answered, "It is not so."
The lords of the court then forbade John Claess to speak, and good John Claess observed silence, that he might hear his sentence. They then proceeded with their sentence, and said to the clerk, "Read his crime." He read that he had caused to be printed at Antwerp six, hundred books, which he had concluded with Menno Simons, and scattered abroad in this country, containing strange opinions and sectarianism, and had kept school and held meetings, to introduce errors among the people which is contrary to the decree of the Emperor, and our mother the holy church, and which it is not proper for my lords of the court to tolerate, but to correct.
Here John, Claess reproved them as before, saying, "They are not sectarianisms, but it is the Word of God."
Then the lords of the court said, "We sentence you to death, to be executed with the sword, the body to be placed on the wheel, and the head upon a stake; we do not sentence you, but the court does."
As John Claess went out of the court, he said, "You citizens bear witness that we die for no other reason than for the true Word of God." Having ascended the scaffold, John Claess audibly addressed the people with these words,"Hear, ye citizens of Amsterdam; lie it known unto you, that I suffer not as a thief or murderer, or because we have sought the property or life of others. However, do not understand me as justifying or exalting myself; but I come with the prodigal son, and depend only on the pure Word of God."
Upon this the executioner struck him on his breast. John Claess turned around, and exclaimed with a loud voice, "O Lord, forsake me not, now or in eternity. Lord, Thou Son of David, receive my soul."
Thus the dear brother John Claess confirmed the Word of God with his crimson blood, his head then being placed upon a stake, and his body on the wheel, as food for the birds and wild beasts.
Autonomy of the Local Church
The local church is an independent body accountable only to the Lord Jesus Christ, who founded it and is its head. All authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. The church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious power or hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests, but a Baptist church cannot be a "member" of any other body nor under authority outside the church.
Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23
Priesthood of the Believer
Every true believer is a priest of God and may enter into His presence directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and His people. As priests, we can study God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God because each of us is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10; Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 8:26-27
GOVERT, GILLIS, MARIKEN, AND ANNEKEN, 1550 pg 495
On the last of January, 1550, there were offered up for the faith four pious Christians, named Govert, Gillis, Mariken and Anneken, who, as sheep for the slaughter, had been apprehended without violence. When they were brought before the council, and questioned concerning their faith, they made a frank and unfeigned confession of it. The bailiff then said, "You stand here to defend yourselves?"
Govert replied, "As regards my faith, I have freely confessed it, and shall turn to no other; though it cost my life, I will adhere to it."
Forthwith the imperial edict was read to them, and the bailiff asked them whether they understood its contents.
Govert said, "God has commanded , us through Christ, as is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Mark, that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved, and that those who do not believe shall be damned; but the emperor, in his blind judgment, has commanded that whoever is baptized upon his faith, shall be put to death without mercy. These two commands militate against each other; one of the two we must forsake; but everyone ought to know that we must keep the command of God; for though Satan teaches that we are heretics, yet we do not act contrary to the Word of God."
Mariken, an old woman of seventy-five years, was asked whether she would confess her sins to the priest.
She replied, "I am sorry that I ever confessed my sins to the mortal ears of the priests."
They were led back to prison, where they rejoiced together, and sang the forty-first psalm. The bailiff then came into prison, and asked Govert, whether he had considered the matter; to which be replied, "Unless you repent, the punishment of God shall come upon you." The bailiff looked out of the window, and said, "Will God damn all this multitude of people?"
Govert replied, "I have spoken the Word of God to you; but I hope there are still people here who fear God?"
The bailiff then turned to Anneken, and asked her what she had to say to it.
She replied, "Lord bailiff, twice I have been greatly honored in this city, namely, when I was married, and when my husband became mayor; but I never had a joy that did not perish, as I now have."
On his way to death, Govert delivered an excellent admonition, reproving the wicked railing, and said, "Be it known to you, that we do not die for theft, murder or heresy, but because we seek an inheritance with God, and live according to His Word."
The executioner commanded him silence, but he said, "Let God be with me for a little while; repent, for your life is short."
The monk attempted to speak to Mariken, but Govert said, "Get you hence, deceiver, to your own people; for we have no need of you."
Entering the ring, they then knelt down together, and prayed; whereupon they kissed each other. Anneken immediately commenced to sing, "In thee, O Lord; do I put my trust." Ps. 71:1. The servants told her to be still; but Govert said, "No, sister, sing on," and helped her sing. Enraged at this, the bailiff called to him a servant, and whispered something in his ear. The latter went to the assistant of the executioner, who, upon receiving the order, immediately put a gag on Govert; but the latter held his teeth so firmly closed, that the gag did not hinder him much, and he laughingly said, "I could easily sing with the gag on for Paul says: 'Sing in your heart to God."
The executioner, in order to put her to shame, made Anneken stand in her under garments.
Govert said, "You think that by killing us you can suppress the Word of God; but of those that hear and see this, hundreds shall yet come forth." Standing at the stake, he said, "Amend your ways and repent; for after this there will be no more time for repentance."
A servant who had a bottle of wine, asked them whether they wished to drink. Govert said, "We have no desire for your insipid wine; for our Father shall give us new wine in His eternal kingdom."
When it was thought that the old woman had been strangled at the stake, she began to sing a hymn in honor of her Bridegroom, which when Anneken heard it, she, from ardent love, sang with her. When they all stood at their stakes, each with a strap around the neck, they smiled at and nodded to one another, thus affectionately saluting and comforting each other,. and commending their souls into the hands of God, they fell asleep in the Lord, and were burned.
The local church should practice two ordinances: Baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and The Lord's Supper, a memorial of His death upon the cross for us. These ordinances are purely symbolic and have no saving or sustaining merit in themselves.
Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32
Individual Soul Liberty
Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the his own heart as regards spiritual truth. No one should be forced to profess a belief in any belief against his own convictions or will. Baptists throughout the centuries have been persecuted for their beliefs but even when a majority have never persecuted others.
Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9
Saved, Baptized Church Membership
Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer's baptism. Salvation is by grace through faith and is once for all. Salvation cannot be earned but only received as a gift of God through faith. Once a person truly believes they can never be lost again, they are eternally secure by the power of God. Membership in the church is based upon baptism of an individual old enough to understand the consequences of sin and the choice they must make in Christ.
Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3; Matthew 3:13-16; Acts 8:36-37; Psalms 37:23,28; Romans 8:33, 38-39
BALTHASAR HUBMOR, AND HIS WIFE 1542, pg. 465
At the time of Zwinglius there was also one Balthasar Hubmor of Friedberg, whom the papists called a doctor of the Holy Scriptures, a learned and eloquent man. He was first a teacher and preacher at Ingolstadt, and subsequently came to Reinsburg, where he preached mightily against the Jews and their usury. Through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the abomination of popery was made manifest to him, in consequence of which he, according to the counsel of God, separated therefrom. Subsequently he rejected, together with other errors, the self-invented infant baptism, and taught with all his might the baptism of believers, as commanded by Christ. But as the eyes of this dark world can not bear the clear light of the holy Gospel, and since in this way their false faith and evil works are testified against, the above-mentioned Balthasar Hubmor, together with many others, was hated and persecuted by the world.
After many temptations, expulsions and imprisonments, he came to Moravia. Afterwards they apprehended him and his wife, and brought them to Vienna, in Austria, where, after manifold trials and long imprisonment, he was burned to ashes, suffering it with great steadfastness, and his wife drowned; and thus both steadfastly confirmed with their death the faith which they had received from God.
Balthasar Hubmor published a small book, in which he complains of Zwinglius and his followers. He writes that they brought about, that at one time twenty persons, men, pregnant women, widows, and young girls were miserably cast into a dark tower, and this sentence passed upon them, that they should never more, in their lifetime, see either sun or moon, and conclude their last days on bread and water; so that they all, dead and alive, should remain and decay together in the dark tower, until none should be left alive.
Thus some did not taste a morsel of bread for three days in order that the others might have something wherewith to sustain their lives., "O God," he further writes, "what a terrible, severe, and rigorous sentence against pious Christian people, of whom none could say any evil thing, only that they, according to the command of Christ, had received water baptism!"
O, sad deformation, we say, of the so-called Reformed! May the Lord forgive them and be gracious to their blindly zealous souls.
The Bible mandates only two offices in the church: pastor and deacon. The three terms: "pastor," "elder," and "bishop," or "overseer,” all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor and deacon exist within the local church, and are elected or removed by the authority of the local church.
1 Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 20:17-38; Philippians 1:1
Separation of Church and State
God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christian influence should be exerted through opinion and the election of moral leaders by involved Christians as well as praying for our leaders but the line between influence and control must be clearly understood. Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29
What Heritage Will I Leave?
If our time or country were different and it was now as it was then and you were brought before a court to stand for your faith, would you? Would your accusers find in your words or deeds the same heritage of truth the accusers of old found in those who died to bring the truth to us? The martyrs and many others left a heritage of truth for us, without that heritage we would not have the blessing of God for our families or our country. What heritage then will I leave for those who will follow me? Will they still have the truth because I was willing to stand and defend it? Or will the future generations of my family and nation miss the truth because I was not willing to stand for it?
Last Letter Of Jerome To His Wife, Written The Night When He Was Sentenced; He Was Put To Death On The 2d Of September, A. D. 1551 Pg 521
Grace and peace from God the Father, the unfathomable mercy of the Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and the loving kindness and communion of the Holy Ghost be unto you, for an everlasting consolation, joy, gladness, and strength in your bonds, tribulation, sufferings, and vexation in your labor, and for strength in your faith, love and tribulation. To Him be praise for ever and ever. Amen.
I wish unto you, my dearly beloved, chosen wife in the Lord, the true, genuine, penitent faith, which works by love, and a very firm, immovable, steadfast mind in my and your most holy faith. I further wish you the crucified Christ for a bridegroom, who has chosen you for a daughter, bride and queen. To this King of the Most High, to the everlasting Father and jealous, loving God, I have now commended you, my beloved in the Lord, that He will now be your Comforter and Bridegroom, since He has called and taken me first, with which I am well content, seeing that it was the will of the Lord.
Therefore, my most beloved in the Lord, do not complain, or grieve much, because He has taken me first; for He has done all for our best, that I should be an example unto you, and that you may follow me through the grace of the Lord, who has made us both worthy to suffer for His name. Oh, my dear lamb, I humbly entreat you, not to listen to the papists or other sophists, but steadfastly to follow your Bridegroom, your immovable Bridegroom. Follow His footsteps, and fear not their threats, nor let their tortures terrify you; for they can do no more than the Lord permits them; they cannot hurt a hair of your head without the will of the Father which is in heaven.
Hence, fear not, but continue firmly and steadfastly in the doctrine of Christ, and in the right truth; for the Lord will not forsake you, but will preserve you as the apple of His eye; yea; as His daughter and child, since it is impossible for God's elect to be deceived; for His sheep hear His voice, and follow Him; but they hear not the voice of strangers. Hence, no man shall pluck them out of His hand; for He is their Shepherd and Protector. Hence, fight valiantly, my chosen lamb, for the glory of the Lord, even as He fought so valiantly, for the salvation of our souls. Be therefore of good cheer, even though you have to lie yet a little longer in this den of lions. Your deliverance is nigh; it tarries not, but comes.
Therefore, my dear wife in the Lord, fight valiantly now, and fear not man. Go to meet the Lord with ardent love as you have done hitherto by the grace of the Lord, who works in you; and fight valiantly, for the crown of life is prepared for you, since to those that overcome all things are promised, and they shall also inherit all things; for Christ says, "Blessed are ye, when all men speak evil of you; for great is your reward in heaven.” Therefore, trust firmly in Christ alone, and the Lord will not forsake you, and the crown of life is prepared for you.
Herewith I will commend you to the Lord, and to the Word of His grace, and take leave of you, here in this world; for I do not expect to see your face any more; but I hope to see you under the altar of Christ before many days. Therefore, my beloved wife in the Lord, though the world counts us liars, and separates us bodily, yet the merciful Father will soon bring us together again under His altar; for I do not doubt it, but am firmly trusting in Him; for I have commended us into His hands, to do His divine will with us, whereby His name may be most praised and thanked, to the salvation of our souls, and to the consolation and strengthening of, all those that fear the Lord, and serve and love His name; this He will also do, I doubt not; for He does not forsake His own who trust in Him; hence I go with a glad heart, to offer up my sacrifice to the praise of the Lord. If I could yet have come to you, I would have done so; but they would not have it. But Christ will soon bring us together again; this men will not be able to prevent. Herewith I bid you adieu, till we meet under the altar. I commend you to the Lord. See, my dear wife in the Lord, the hour is now come that we must part; and thus I go before, with great joy and gladness, to my and your heavenly Father and I most humbly entreat you, not to grieve on this account, but to rejoice with me. However, I am sad in one respect, because I leave you among these wolves; but I have commended you and the babe to the Lord, and know assuredly, that He will preserve you unto the end, and herein I rest content. Be valiant in the Lord.