The Origin and Perpetuity of the Baptists
The Baptist Examiner
The Origin Of The Church
The church had a beginning. When it began is a matter of much dispute. This is chiefly because of false concepts as to what the church is. When you have a false concept of what the church is you will most likely have a false concept as to when the church had its beginning. When you understand what the church is (on assembly) you will have very little difficulty in spotting its beginning. It is true that the Bible nowhere says, "The church started on this spot on this day." But when we know what the church is, we are able to closely examine the Scriptural record and see when that church began.
Let us approach this matter from the negative side; let us first notice when, the church did not begin.
FALSE THEORIES AS TO THE CHURCH’S ORIGIN
1. The church did not begin with the first man ever saved.
The Bible nowhere teaches such and nowhere hints it. The only reason this theory is taught is because of the universal, invisible church theorists who contend that all the saved of all time compose the church.
2. The church did not begin with Abraham.Pedobaptists like to think that it did, for they think they here have some ground upon which to base infant "baptism." That idea has repeatedly been exploded by the truth. Pedobaptists point to Acts 7:38 and say that Israel is called "the church." Yes, but the word there is "ekklesia" (assembly) and this word itself does not denote the kind of assembly. If this word alone will make Israel and the church of Christ one and the some, then the "ekklesia" of Acts 19 is one and the some with Israel and Christ’s church. So what do you then have? Israel, Christ’s church, and the heathen of Ephesus—all the same "church!"
No, the word "ekklesia" itself does not signify the kind of assembly.
Furthermore, if the church began with Abraham, why did the Jews of New Testament times have to become members of the church referred to in the New Testament? Were not they already in the church? Why must they be baptized, then? They were not members of the New Testament church until they were baptized; if they were already in the church, why be baptized to become members of the New Testament church?
Pedobaptists also argue that the covenant of grace was made with Abraham and thus this marked the beginning of the church. Not so, for the covenant of grace is eternal and since the very first man God’s grace has saved sinners. The covenant of grace was not made with Abraham, but confirmed to him. The covenant of circumcision was made with him, yes, but the two covenants are not the some. Furthermore, grace and the church are not the same, So the argument fails completely.
3. The church did not begin with John the Baptist.John came as the forerunner of Christ "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). He made them ready by calling them to repentance and baptizing those who gave evidence of having repented. He never did organize an "ekklesia." Many of his converts were among those who did form the first "ekklesia," but John did not start it.
There is one thing which did begin with John, however. That is baptism. God commissioned this man to preach and to baptize those who heeded his message. John baptized those who composed the first church and John baptized the Founder and Head of the church, Jesus Christ. Baptism is thus of divine origin and is not "minor," "human," or "non-essential." No one could tell John that it doesn’t matter how one is baptized. None could tell him that it doesn’t matter who does the baptizing. He knew because he had gotten his orders from God.
No, John didn’t start a church, but he did have something to do with "preparing" those folk whom Christ called out for His "ekklesia." John stands to Christ as David stands to Solomon: as Solomon built the temple with the material furnished by David, so Christ called His church and formed it of the people "made ready" by John the Baptist.
4. The church did not begin on Pentecost.This is the theory of Scofield, the Campbellites, Holy Rollers and many Protestants. Something unusual happened, very, very unusual, on Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, yes. But the book of Acts does not tell us that the church originated on that day.
To say that the church originated on Pentecost ruins the typology of the church as being God’s temple filled with His glory. Notice: when the Tabernacle was completed, the glory of God filled it (Exodus 40:34).When the Temple was completed, the glory of God filled it (1 Kings 8:10, 11). When Christ left this earth He left behind Him an "ekklesia" that had been following Him for over three years. He had taught it, set Apostles in it, given it the Lord’s supper, met with it after His resurrection, commissioned it, and commanded it to wait in Jerusalem for an enduement of power. On Pentecost the church was immersed in the Holy Spirit. The glory of God filled His new "tabernacle," His "temple," the "house of God"—the church.It wasn’t built on Pentecost, it was filled with divine glory on Pentecost.
How do we know there was an "ekklesia" before Pentecost?
Because the word "ekklesia" means a called out assembly and Christ had that long before Pentecost.
Because before Pentecost the disciples were assembled in the upper room praying and conducting a business meeting (Acts 1:12-26) , electing an apostle. They were 120 in number (v. 15), and who will deny that they were an "ekklesia" (assembly) of baptized, professing Christians? Who can show one thing that reveals that they were not a Christian "ekklesia" (assembly)?
Because Christ "set" the apostles in the "ekklesia" and that was done before Pentecost (Mark 3:13-19; 1 Cor. 12:32) .
Because Jesus told them how to exclude members from the "ekklesia" (Matthew 18:15-17), and that was before Pentecost. Scofield, in order to get around this passage, says that this is instruction for the "future" church. Mason answers: "But it still remains unreasonable to believe that Jesus referred to something that the disciples did not understand, or that He indicated a rule of discipline relating, to a church that did not exist"(The Church That Jesus Built, page 18) .
Because the "ekklesia" had both ordinances given to it before Pentecost.
Because the only singing Christ ever did was before Pentecost (Mark 14:26) and Hebrews 2:12 says that it was in the "ekklesia." Hence there was a church before Pentecost.
Because the commission was given before Pentecost and if there were no church then, then the church does not have the commission of Matthew 28:19,20.
Because those saved on the day of Pentecost were "added to" the "ekklesia" (Acts 2:41, 47). You couldn’t add the 3,000 souls to nothing, so there must have been an "ekklesia" already in existence.
Because Judas was an apostle in the "ekklesia" and he died before Pentecost. Hence there was a church before Pentecost.
WHEN, THEN, DID THE CHURCH BEGIN?
"Ekklesia" means assembly, a called out assembly, an assembly called out for a specific purpose.
What is Christ’s "ekklesia"? It is on assembly called out for a specific purpose, namely, to fulfill His will, to keep and teach His ordinances and commandments.
When did Jesus begin His "ekklesia"? When did He begin to call it out and assemble it? The answer: when He called out the very first persons who because the first members of the "ekklesia."When was that? We read of it in John 1:35-51.
35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples:
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, what seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou?
39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They come and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two which heard John, speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him. We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me
44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Here was the beginning of Christ’s calling out His assembly. Those called out had been baptized by John the Baptist one were thus "prepared" for composing the Lord’s "ekklesia."
The church did not begin on the occasion mentioned in Mark 3:13-19; that was an ordination service. This was when the twelve disciples were "set" in the church as apostles.
Neither does Matthew 16:18 indicate the time of the church’s beginning. The Greek word for "build" means "build up" and does not refer to the initial beginning of the church.
Before Mark 3 and Matthew 16 Christ had an assembly of baptized disciples. He was their Head and they were following Him and serving Him. What else is necessary before a group is an "ekklesia"? It is true that He was not through with the church in. teaching it and commissioning it; but He had an "ekklesia," and had had one from the day. He called those first disciples and they began to follow Him. John had "prepared" them, the Master assembled them as His "ekklesia." God wanted it that way, John wanted it that way, Christ wanted it that way, the disciples wanted it that way, and that is the way it was. God said,"Hear ye Him;" John said,"Behold the Lamb of God:" Christ said,"Follow me:" the disciples "followed Him"That is how and when the assembly of Jesus Christ had its beginning.
It is clear, very clear.
Yet some tell us that the Bible doesn’t indicate when the church began. The trouble with their thinking is their false concept as to what the church is. Let them get straight on what a church is and the whole thing opens up as when light dispels darkness. Let them once see the truth that the church is an assembly and it is easy to see when Christ began assembling His assembly.
Was it a Baptist Church? If you mean in name—that it wore the title "Baptist"—no; but if you mean in doctrine and practice, yes. If you mean that sound churches today known as Baptists are its descendants and its present-day expression, yes.
If you were to set that first century (A.D.) church over here into the twentieth century, that church would be recognized by everyone as a Baptist Church. The Campbellites and Pedobaptists would say it is an unscriptural Baptist church. Why? Because it had baptism from John the Baptist and according to them that wasn’t "Christian" baptism. They would deny that it is a church because it was not organized on Pentecost. Yes, set those early disciples and their Head over into the twentieth century and the only people who would even RECOGNIZE them as a church would be Baptists because most everyone else says that the church began on Pentecost. The only churches that would receive their baptism would be Baptist Churches because they are the only ones who accept John’s baptism as being "Christian."
So we say, Yes, it was definitely a Baptist church. What else could it have been?
We like the name, "Baptist," but we do not base this conviction upon it. Rather, we base our conviction on three things: (1 ) the church’s doctrine, (2) the promise of God to perpetuate His church, and (3) the testimony of history. On these three things we base our conviction that the church Christ built was a Baptist Church. In the next chapter we shall discuss these things, showing that Christ promised perpetuity to His church and that history testifies to this perpetuity.
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