The Baptist church (or churches) is a human denomination. The church revealed in the New Testament is not a denomination. The word church is used 110 times in the New Testament. Eighteen times it is used in the general or comprehensive sense—including all the saved, all Christians; 92 times it is used in the local sense—a congregation, Christians worshiping at a given place. A denomination does not include more than a local church or congregation. It is too big at one end of the line, and it is too little at the other end of the line! There is no place in the New Testament for a denomination. It is a plant the Father has not planted, and will be “rooted up” (Matt. 15:13).
The Baptist church is not mentioned in the New Testament, and we have to come 1,600 years this side of the Bible to find it even mentioned by men. Dr. George A. Loften, one of the greatest Baptist scholars the denomination ever produced, declared it was not until the seventeenth century that the general denominational name “Baptist” was adopted (Smith-Lofton Debate, p. 10). Henry C. Vedder the great Baptist historian, said,
With the first decade of the seventeenth century, we reach solid ground in Baptist history. Before that we must proceed by conjecture from one isolated fact to another, and many of our conclusions are open to doubt; but after 1610 we have an unbroken succession of Baptist churches, established in indubitable documentary evidence.
In the introduction to his Short History of the Baptists, Vedder says, “The history of Baptist churches cannot be carried by the scientific method farther back than the year 1611.”
Some Baptists a few years ago made great claims for “Baptist church succession.” In the year 1885, the Christian Review, the leading Baptist quarterly, raised its voice in the following protest against such childish claims:
We know of no assumption more arrogant, and more destitute of proper historic support, than that which claims to be able to trace the distinct and unbroken existence of a church substantially Baptist from the time of the apostles down to our own.
In debates with various Baptist preachers, I have offered a liberal reward for any book written prior to the seventh century that says anything about a Baptist church. However, some Baptist preachers continue to argue for the idea of “succession,” and according to their theology, one must be baptized by an “ordained Baptist minister,” who administers the rite by the authority of an orthodox Baptist church, in order for the baptism to be scriptural. If this is necessary for valid baptism, it follows that none of the Baptists is scripturally baptized, for the first Baptist church in America was founded by Roger Williams who, in 1639, was immersed by Ezekiel Holliman. Thus Mr. Williams, the founder of American Baptists, was immersed by an alien—his “baptism” therefore was invalid, not being administered by an “ordained Baptist minister,” nor yet by the authority of a Baptist church! This fact alone destroys the idea of Baptist “succession.”
Foreign Baptists were derived from the Anabaptists, the first distinct church being formed in Holland about 1608. In 1611 this church issued a “declaration of faith.” No distinct Baptist church organization can be found prior to 1608. Baptist debaters have often been put to the test on this point, and embarrassment to them is the only result.
Finally, the impossible part of the task for Baptists in seeking to trace a “succession of Baptist churches” back to the apostles would be to find a Baptist church at the end of the line. No such thing as a Baptist church is mentioned in all the New Testament, and if all ecclesiastical history did exhibit an unbroken line of Baptist churches back to the death of John, the last apostle, it would lack one vital link of uniting such a church with the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles, because all was completed before John died. This is abundant proof that such a thing as a “Baptist church” is unscriptural.
John The Baptist
The usual Baptist arguments run about like this: John was a Baptist, and for that reason, all that he baptized were also Baptists. John baptized Christ, and that made Christ a Baptist. Christ, a Baptist, organized the church with the material (Baptists) prepared by John, and therefore the church was a Baptist church!! Such presumption in thus sectarianizing the work of John and Christ is typical Baptist doctrine. It must be an unscrupulous method by which such an unscriptural organization should be exhibited to seem to have a connection with Christ. The argument (?) assumes the thing to be proven. It is the same argument that would prove (?) that Peter was the first Pope! and it is the way denominations prove (?) that they are Christian institutions. To contend that Christ was a “Baptist” because John the Baptist baptized him is silly. One might as well say that because a blacksmith shoes your horse, the horse becomes a blacksmith!
John was never called a Baptist, but always “the Baptist,” and his disciples were never called “Baptists,” nor were the disciples of Christ ever so denominated. In the New Testament only one was ever called “the Baptist.” He was thus called because he baptized, and for no other reason. “Baptist” was his official title—it signified the office of a baptizer. The title “Baptist” cannot be scripturally applied to any one who does not baptize. Christ never baptized any one (John 4:2), and He was therefore not a Baptist. Since a Baptist is one who baptizes, by what rule of logic did Christ become a Baptist? And why are the “lay members” of the Baptist church called “Baptists” when they never baptize anyone?
The Baptist church is purely a sect of human origin, using the term Baptist in an unscriptural and sectarian sense. It has come to mean invariably one who has joined the Baptist denomination.
Not only are the Baptists unscriptural in name, but they are unscriptural in their doctrines. They claim to accept no creed but the Bible. The claim is untrue. In 1724 the Baptists adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which is the commonly accepted creed of most Southern Baptists; while in the north the New Hampshire Confession of Faith is generally adopted. The Baptist use of a creed differs somewhat from the use made of creeds by Methodists and Presbyterians. Baptists do not place a creed in the hands of their members, but they are disciplined strictly under the hidden rules and significance of Baptist doctrines as set forth in the above mentioned creeds.
The name, the tenets, and the practices peculiar to Baptists are unknown to the Bible. In debates with Baptist preachers, it is difficult to get them to come out and state clearly their peculiar doctrines, but here are the fundamental points accepted by most Baptists:
1. Hereditary total depravity.
2. Ante-Pentecost establishment of church.
3. Salvation before baptism.
4. Salvation by faith alone.
5. Impossibility of apostasy.
6. Voting on reception of members.
7. Baptist church succession.
8. Democratic form of church government.
The Baptist church is at variance with the Bible on all these points. There is not one peculiar Baptist doctrine that is truth. And there is not one good thing a person can receive in the Baptist church that he cannot have out of it. The Baptist church is exalted above heaven, according to their teaching, for one can be saved and go to heaven without baptism, but he cannot be a member of the Baptist church without it!