Friday, January 12, 2024

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail A Baptist History Study - Lesson 01

Baptist History: Tracing the Church

Matthew 16:18 …upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It is our belief that the church was founded by Jesus during his earthly ministry and is still in the world today just as He promised. Satan, in order to prevent as many as possible from finding the "pillar and ground of the truth" has produced myriad counterfeits. His plan has been not to hide the church as a "needle in a haystack" but as a "needle in a needle-stack” by creating thousands of false “churches.” The only way to find the real church is to know the marks of distinction which characterized the first church Jesus founded during His earthly ministry and then compare it with the doctrines and distinctives of churches of today. Once these are understood they can be used to trace the true church through the centuries of persecution, hiding, obscurity and blood to today. Jesus’ promise has not and will not fail.

Listen to the words of John T. Christian, from “A History of the Baptists.”  "They (Baptists) are like the river Rhone, which sometimes flows as a river broad and deep, but at other times is hidden in the sands.  It, however, never loses its continuity or existence. It is simply hidden for a period. Baptist churches may disappear and reappear in the most unaccountable manner.  Persecuted everywhere by sword and by fire, their principles would appear to be almost extinct, when in a most wondrous way God would raise up some man, or some company of martyrs, to proclaim the truth. The footsteps of the Baptist of the ages can more easily be traced by blood than by baptism.  It is a lineage of suffering rather than a succession of bishops; a martyrdom of principle, rather than a dogmatic decree of councils; a golden chord of love, rather than an iron chain of succession, ...."  

Theilman J Van Brought, in Martyrs Mirror wrote, “We have chosen holy baptism in preference to any other article of the Christian and evangelical religion. Because it is the only sign and proof of incorporation into the visible Christian church, without which no one, whoever he be, or whatever he may profess, or how separated and pious a life he may lead, can be recognized as a true member of the Christian church. This is fully, yet without controversy, shown and confirmed in the following history.”

J. M. Carroll, in The Trail of Blood, “I want now to call your attention to some of the landmarks, or ear-marks of this religion — the Christian Religion. If you and I are to trace it down through 20 long centuries, and especially down through 1,200 years of midnight darkness, darkened by rivers and seas of martyr blood, then we will need to know well these marks. They will be many times terribly disfigured. But there will always be some indelible mark. But let us carefully and prayerfully beware. We will encounter many shams and make-believes. If possible, the very elect will be betrayed and deceived. We want, if possible, to trace it down through credible history, but more especially through the unerring, infallible, words and marks of Divine truth.

Character of the Church
Using the chart below, list the characteristics of the first church. These characteristics should still be seen in the Lord’s true church today.

1st Characteristic

Mark 3:13;

Matt. 16:18;

Col. 1:18;

Eph. 1:22, 4:15, 5:23;

Acts 5:26-29;

Luke 6:13;

Christ only is the head and founder of the church. The church is subject only to Him and therefore independent of all other authorities in spiritual matters.


2nd  Characteristic

Matt 3:13-17;

Mark 1:4;

John 3:26, 4:1-2; 

John the Baptist and the early church practiced baptism by immersion.


3rd  Characteristic

Acts 2:41, 8:36-37, 18:8

Only those who were saved and baptized could be members of the church.


4th  Characteristic

Matt 18:15-20;

Acts 1:21-26, 6:1-7; 

The early church was congregational in its government.


5th  Characteristic

Matt. 5:17-19; Rom 15:4;

2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb 4:12

The scriptures only as guide to proper conduct and life for the church.


6th  Characteristic

Matt. 7:7-8;

Luke 11:1-4; 

Rom 8:15-17;

Eph 2:18;

Heb. 4:14-16,

The early church believed that all could pray directly to God.

7th  Characteristic

1 Timothy 1:1, 8

The early had only two offices in the church, pastor (bishop) and deacon


8th  Characteristic

Matthew 26:26-29
Mark 14:22
Luke 22:19
1 Corinthians 11:23

The early church kept the Lord’s supper by His command as a symbolic memorial of His death.


Baptist Distinctives

These characteristics have been labeled as the Baptist Distinctives. They are listed below.

1.    The Bible as the only rule of faith and practice.

2.    A regenerated church membership.

3.    Baptism of the saved by immersion.

4.    Congregational form of government.

5.    Priesthood of the believer.

6.     Two Offices, (Pastor, Deacon) Two Ordinances (Baptism, Lord’s Supper)

7.    Eternal security of the believer.

8.    Ordinances are symbolic not sacramental.

9.    The church is independent from all authority except Christ's.

Distinctives Acrostic

 Biblical Authority

 Autonomy of the Local Church

Priesthood of the Believer

 Two Ordinances

 Individual Soul Liberty

 Saved, baptized church membership

 Two Offices

 Separation of Church and State

Defining the Church

The general definition of the church is, “A company of baptized believers voluntarily associated together for the maintenance of the ordinances and the spread of the gospel." , -John Christian pg. 13, A History of the Baptist Church

The Independent Baptist definition of a church is "a local, called-out, visible, assembly of baptized believers covenanted together for the carrying out of the Great Commission."


Characteristics of the New Testament Faith from History of the Churches by David W. Cloud

1. The Scriptures are the sole authority for faith and practice 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

2.    Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone by the work of Christ alone. Acts 16:30-31; Romans  4:1-6; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-10.

3.    A born again church membership. Acts 2:41; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus1:16; 1 John 2:3-5

4.    The eternal security of the believer.

The term "eternal security" is not used in Scripture, but the terms "eternal life" Joh. 3:16 and "everlasting consolation" 2 Thessalonians 2:16 are used. The believer has eternal life, which means it has no end.

The doctrine of gift Ephesians. 2:8-10. Salvation is a free gift that was purchased in its entirety by the Son of God on Calvary. By its very nature, a gift is free and without obligation. To lose one's salvation would mean that it was partly earned.

The doctrine of evidence John 10:27-28; 1 Jo. 3:1-3. The doctrine of evidence teaches us that eternal security is for the true believer, for the one who is born again, the one who gives evidence of his salvation.

The doctrine of chastisement (Heb. 12:4-10). The true believer is the one who is chastened when he sins. Christ keeps His own and chastens them when they go astray. The one who professes Christ and turns away and is not chastened is not a true believer.

5.    The church has two ordinances: believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Scriptural baptism is for believers and is by immersion in water because it depicts the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Romans 6:3-4.

The Lord's Supper is a simple memorial meal 1 Corinthians. 11:24-26.

6.    The independence and autonomy of the church. The apostles established autonomous churches that fellowshipped with likeminded churches but were not under the authority of other churches or of some ecclesiastical headquarters. Acts 13-14; Revelation 2-3.

7.    The priesthood of the believers. The New Testament knows of only one priesthood and that is the general priesthood of all believers 1 Pe. 2:5, 9 and Jesus Christ as the great High Priest, Hebrew 3:1.

8.    Separation of church and state. God has given different spheres of authority to the government and to the church.  The government is the keeper of law and order in society Romans 3:1-7. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth I Timothy 3:15.

9. Liberty of conscience. The first churches did not persecute  anyone or try to force anyone to submit to their teaching Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:54-56.

10. Separation from false teaching and apostasy. One of the themes of the New Testament epistles is the danger of false teaching and the necessity of separating from it Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:5; 2 John 7-9.


Paul called the church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” yet many today regard faithful attendance, membership, giving or submitting to the local church as optional and even in many cases wrong. This is not only show apathy, it also dishonors and distances the Lord Jesus Christ because the church is His body.

The lack of teaching upon the church and the truth it protects has led to a terrible backsliding among Christians today. Heresy, doctrinal error, immorality and apathy are all connected to the truth of the Lord’s church and to our close relationship with it.

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