The name Independent Fundamental Baptist Church is used traditionally by churches which pattern themselves strictly after the example of the early church,
as found in the New Testament. Today the name Baptist is used by many
churches that are not following the teachings of the New Testament. Thus
the words "Independent" and "Fundamental" have been added by many
Baptist churches to further identify themselves as true Bible believing
churches and to show a distinction between themselves and Baptist
churches that were not following God's word. Most Baptist churches were
in the past founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New
Testament; however, many of them have in varying degrees have drifted
away from the teachings of the Scriptures. Some of these churches have
gone so far to even deny the fundamental teachings of the Bible, such as
the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and salvation by the Grace of God,
through faith. Others have to a lesser degree compromised the Word of
God by their teaching, practices, and church polity by trying to conform
to popular religious trends. These worldly churches still call
themselves "Baptists," but in fact they do not believe or practice what
true Baptists have historically believed and more importantly, what the
Word of God says. The true Independent Fundamental Baptists have no
association or fellowship with these churches because they teach or
practice things contrary to the New Testament.
Independent Fundamental Baptist is of recent origin and came into being
because many modern day Baptist churches have compromised the Word of
God and are teaching and practicing false doctrines. There are, however,
many Baptists who have loved the Word of God and held true to its
teachings. These churches have refused to abandon the teaching of the
New Testament and have found it necessary, to distinguish themselves
from the doctrinally unsound churches. To make this distinction, true
Baptists added the adjectives Independent and Fundamental their name.
This name change identified them as separate and distinct from unsound
"Independent" means the church is not a member of any council,
convention nor is a part of any hierarchy outside the local
congregation. A true Independent Baptist church governs itself apart
from any outside agency and would not be a part of a national or
international denomination that would exercise authority over the local
church. Thus, the name "independent" means the church patterns itself
after the New Testament example and stands alone under the authority of
the scriptures. Independent churches are autonomous assemblies having no
organization over them in authority. Free from outside interference,
they direct their own affairs under the authority of the New Testament
organization of a New Testament church is simple. Christ is the head of
the local church, (Eph. 5:23) and its Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). The
local pastor is the under-shepherd (bishop), overseer, or leader of the
congregation. (Heb. 13:17, Acts 20:28, Eph. 4:11) The Independent
Baptist church has a congregational form of government, with each member
equally having the right to vote on all the affairs of the church. The
pastor and members of the New Testament church direct and rule its
actions following the guidelines of the New Testament.
Independent Fundamental Baptist churches have fellowship one with the
other and often cooperate in such endeavors as evangelism. They will not
participate, as a church, in any outside function with churches which do
not also strictly base their faith and practice on the New Testament.
They will not engage in joint meetings, or evangelistic endeavors, with
Protestants, Catholics, or other doctrinally unsound church groups, who
do not hold to the fundamental teachings of the New Testament.
Fundamental Independent Baptists churches will remain separate from
unsound churches, as well as other Baptists groups who join in with the
unscriptural churches. They practice the biblical teachings of
separation as taught in Ephesians 5:11, which states, "Have no
fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
them." Independent Baptists believe that to join with churches that
teach and practice false doctrine is to tolerate and approve of errors.
True, New Testament churches strongly believe that all doctrinal error
is sin as the New Testament teaches.
church government of many Independent Baptist churches is to have
pastors and deacons as officers of the local church. (1 Tim. 3:1-16)
However, some Independent Baptist churches do not accept the word
"officer" as the proper biblical term to be applied to deacons. For an
article that discusses the proper role of "deacon" please go to http://bible-truth.org/deacon.html
pastor of the church is called by majority vote of the congregation. Men
meeting the biblical qualification of deacons (servants) are appointed
from the local congregation and approved by the majority vote (1 Tim.
3:8-13). Many Baptist churches have trustees, but their position was
established in order to have legal "signatories" to sign legal documents
of the church. Biblically, neither deacons nor trustees are a governing
body, or a "board," but titles of special appointed servants who serve
at the will of the pastor and congregation. In a biblical church the
pastor(s) is the "overseer" or leader of the congregation. (See Acts
20:28, Hebrews 13:7)
"Fundamental" means the Baptist church uses the New Testament strictly
as its authority for faith (doctrine) and practice. In recent years the
news media has called doctrinally unsound churches, such as the
Charismatics and Pentecostals, "fundamentalists." Even some TV
evangelists have referred to themselves as being "fundamentalist." But
they should not be confused with Fundamental Baptists. They are worlds
apart. Many of the TV evangelists and all the Charismatic and
Pentecostal churches promote teachings which are not biblical.
Fundamental Baptists use the name in its strictest sense, as meaning to
hold soundly the fundamentals of the New Testament teachings without
error. True Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches uphold the purest
teachings of the early church as revealed in the New Testament.
BAPTISTS ARE NOT PROTESTANTS
are not Protestants. The name Protestant was given to those churches
which came out of Roman Catholicism during the Reformation which began
in the 1500s. It originally applied in the 1700s to Lutherans in
Germany, the Presbyterians in Switzerland, and Anglicans or Church of
England. Later such groups as Congregationalists, Episcopalians and
Methodists were added to the lists of Protestants denominations. Though
many people, including Webster's Dictionary, refer to Baptists as being
Protestants, it is not historically correct to refer to them as such or
to lump all non-Catholic denominations in one group and label them
Protestant. Historically, Baptists were never a part of the Roman
Catholic Church or the Protestant Reformation. They cannot be correctly
called "protesters" or Protestants who left the Roman Church.
true that many who became Baptists left the ranks of apostate and
doctrinally unsound Protestant churches. They left these churches
because of their strong conviction that the Word of God should not be
compromised. Some formed new churches and called themselves Baptists to
make it clear that they believed and followed the New Testament. They
used the name Baptists because they followed the New Testament teaching
of immersion as the correct mode of baptism. A good example of this was
reported by Benedict, in which an elder named Cornell, in the early
1800s, was establishing a former Protestant church on Baptist
principles. He left for a short time on a trip to his farm and when he
returned found the church had put in a new minister who baptized
infants. He, along with the others in the church that rejected
pedobaptism, left and formed a new congregation of Baptists on Pine
Street, in Providence, RI.
Protestant churches which followed the teachings of the Roman Catholic
Church practiced infant baptism, sprinkling instead of immersion and
they baptized people into their church who had not made a public
profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Although these issues were in the
forefront, there were many other matters that caused true believers to
separate themselves from these unscriptural churches.
recorded church history there is not one incident of a Baptist church
being founded out of Roman Catholicism. Protestants, for centuries, saw
the Baptists as their "enemies" and murdered them by the thousands in
the name of Protestantism. It is surely an affront to any historically
informed Baptist identify to himself by the name of a group that has so
hated and persecuted Baptists down throughout history. It is revealing
that the reason the Protestants hated the Baptists was because the
Baptists would not compromise God's word or accept the Protestant false
teachings and traditions.
have always existed congregations, from the time of Christ, that were
not a part of the Roman Church. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church can
only historically trace its history back to 313 AD, when the Roman
Emperor Constantine made Christianity a legal religion. In 395 AD,
Emperor Constantine "Christianized" Rome and made the worship of idols
punishable by death. By 400 AD, the Emperor Theodosius had declared
Christianity the only state religion of the Roman Empire. There was no
Roman Catholic Church prior to that time in history.
churches gradually began to accept the authority one of one bishop in
the larger cities. Some even appealed to Rome for finances coming under
the domination of the Roman government. In doing so they ceased from
being New Testament churches. When the Roman Emperor declared
Christianity the religion of Rome, he "converted" hordes of pagans that
made up the Empire. Pagan temples became the meeting houses for
"Christians." Rome then hired unregenerate pagan priests to minister in
"Christian" ministers. The influx of these falsely converted pagans is
one reason Roman Catholicism came to have so many idolatrous and pagan
amid all this apostasy associated with the Roman Catholic Church, there
were groups of Christians who were never a part of the
"Christianization" of the Roman Empire. These New Testament believers
rejected every attempt to include them with the other churches that
compromised and accepted the Roman government's money, rule and
authority. Over the years the growth of so many false and idolatrous
practices caused some within the Catholic Church, such as Martin Luther,
to rebel and to try to "reform" the Roman Church. This was the birth of
Protestants have never accepted the principle of separation of church
and state. In Europe, Protestant churches are "state" churches and
supported to some degree by government imposed taxes. For example, in
Germany, the state church is Lutheran. In England, the Anglican or
Church of England is the state church. France, Spain, and Italy, all
have the Roman Catholic Church is their state church.
many Protestants returned in part to a belief in the Bible as their
authority for their faith and practice, yet not one of them EVER
completely left all the doctrinal errors and false teachings of the
apostate Roman Catholic Church. There has never been even one Protestant
church that is doctrinally pure following the example and polity of the
New Testament. Protestant churches continue the unbiblical practice of
infant baptism and grace plus works salvation. Protestants have never
accepted the principle of separation of church and state. In Europe,
Protestant churches have always been "state" churches and supported to
some degree by government imposed taxes. For example, in Germany, the
state church is Lutheran. In England, the Anglican or Church of England
is the state church. France, Spain, Italy, all have the Roman Catholic
Church is their state church. In Switzerland there is not a state
religion. However, the state officially recognizes the Roman Catholic
and the Swiss Reformed Church and these churches are financed officially
by government taxation of their members.
that the Lord's Supper is a sacrament and the bread and wine (biblically
grape juice) literally becomes the physical body of Christ, when it is
taken is a false Roman Catholic teaching. Protestants, although becoming
separate from the Roman Church, only slightly changed this false
practice. Martin Luther until his death held to this false sentiment and
disputed with the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), over the
matter. Still today, many Protestants see the Lord's Supper as a
sacrament, having to some degree saving properties which takes away sin
or giving some spiritual benefit. True New Testament Christians have
always rejected such unbiblical ideas. New Testament churches follow the
teaching of the New Testament that the Lord's Supper is a memorial or
ordinance given to the local church to remember and show the Lord's
death till he returns.(1 Cor. 11:23-26)
Protestants still practice some form of infant or pedobaptism.
Protestant denominations also hold to the writings of their church
fathers and their traditions as their source of church doctrine and
polity. Following their Roman Catholic roots, and have never accepted
the Bible as their sole source of teachings for their faith and
practice, which is a foundational teaching of a New Testament
congregation. All Protestants hold to a system of hierarchy in church
government and do not accept the autonomy the local church. The New
Testament teaches the absolute autonomy of each individual local church
and Baptists have never established a church hierarchy. True Baptists
follow the New Testament example that each church is to govern itself as
the Word of God teaches free from outside authority and control.
basing their beliefs solely on the Bible, and the New Testament, have
never held to these teachings and correctly identify them as false
doctrine. Thus, history and the doctrines of Protestantism clearly show
that Baptists are not Protestants. The Baptist churches which identify
themselves as Protestants are sadly misinformed. Both the Roman Catholic
and Protestants churches, for centuries, persecuted individuals and
congregations that held to Baptist principles. Although the Baptists
have never persecuted anyone, they were fair game for other unscriptural
WHO WERE THE FIRST BAPTISTS?
discovering who the first Baptists were, you must first identify to whom
you are referring. You could mean those people or churches which held to
the Baptists beliefs although they may not have called themselves
Baptists. Or second, you could be referring to those who held to Baptist
beliefs and were called by the name Baptist. There are historians and
even one Baptist denomination that claims an unbroken line of churches
from the time of Christ and John the Baptist. However, these historians
have included groups which were clearly not doctrinally sound. The name
Baptist refers to a local assembly strictly held to the teachings of the
New Testament. Being unsound, these churches cannot honestly be called
Baptists. Further, none of them produced a linage of Baptist churches
that followed them.
difficult to trace churches that held to Baptist principles down through
history. Some Baptist historians have made attempts at doing this, but
in many cases they referred to groups as early Baptists, who did not
hold to pure New Testament beliefs held by Baptists today.
simplest of terms a true Baptist assembly is one which follows the New
Testament as their sole authority for their faith and practice. Whether
these groups of believers called themselves Baptists or not, if they
were doctrinally pure, following the New Testament for their faith and
practice they were New Testament churches and thus they can be called
"baptistic." The point is, the name Baptist historically was used to
designate a true New Testament assembly that was biblically sound. These
biblically sound churches were called by various names before the name
Baptist came into popular use. The crucial point is not that they called
themselves Baptists, but that they followed the Bible as their sole
authority for faith and practice. The connection with churches back in
history is not the name they used, but was rather their doctrine and
practice was scripturally sound.
Baptists, such as the Landmark Baptist are often referred to as
"Baptists Briders," and claim they can trace their history back to John
the Baptist who they claim was the first Baptist. The modern Landmark
churches purport that no church which is not in their line of succession
back to the early church has any true authority and is not part of the
Bride of Christ. However, John the Baptist the last Old Testament
prophet (Matt. 3:3). John died before the Lord instituted the "ekklesia"
or local church as Acts 2 records. John's ministry was in the Old
Testament dispensation. He did not belong to, nor was part of the any
"ekklesia" or New Testament church. Yes, he baptized, but His baptism
was the baptism of repentance (Matt. 3:2) for Jews who were preparing
for the coming Messiah and Kingdom God had promised them.
for John the Baptist not being the "founder" of the Baptist movement is
strengthened by the fact that John's baptism was not recognized as a
valid New Testament baptism. In Acts 19:1-5, when Paul discovered that
those at Ephesus were John's disciples and had received only John's
baptism they were rebaptized in the name of Christ. Only then did John's
disciples become New Testaments saints receiving the indwelling of the
Holy Spirit and become part of our present dispensation of the Church
Age. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of
women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:
notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater
than he.” (Matthew 11:11) The Lord’s statement referred to the
coming Church Age when Christians, indwelled by the Holy Spirit would
have the privilege of doing much greater works that John did. John was
the last in the Old Testament dispensation, and born again Christians
are a part of the new dispensation.
the forerunner, called by God to announce that Jesus of Nazareth was the
Messiah promised to the Jews. John was beheaded by Herod (Matt. 14)
before the Lord Jesus announced the coming establishment of the
"ekklesia." (Matt 16:18). John was God's true prophet and the forerunner
of Jesus the Messiah, but he was not a part of the dispensation of the
institution of the local church. John the Baptist did not found any
churches and was never a member of one.
earlier, in examining many so-called early "Baptist" churches you find
many doctrinal errors and false teaching. Surely, no church that
practiced false doctrine, as many of these groups did, is a true Baptist
church. It is my conviction from years of research, that it is not
possible to "trace" an unbroken line of Baptist churches from Christ
until today. However, let me strongly say there has always been an
unbroken line of churches that have not erred from the faith, and been
true to the Bible, God's Word. In fact Jesus emphatically stated in
Matthew 16:18, concerning the perpetuity the institution of the local
church that even "the gates of hell shall not prevail against
it." Doctrinally sound New Testament churches have always existed
from the time of Christ and the Apostles until today. To call these
people Baptists or baptistic, in the sense they believed the Bible and
followed it as their sole authority for faith and practice is
acceptable, although it serves no purpose. To say there is an unbroken
line or succession of New Testament churches from the time of Christ
until today it historically true.
cannot be stated too often that the importance of these churches was not
in their name, or their succession, but in what they believed and
practiced. These churches patterned themselves strictly after the New
Testament example, and this made them valid churches, approved of God.
This is the true heritage Fundamental Independent Baptists hold dear,
that is there have always been assemblies which submitted themselves
only to the sole authority of the Word of God. However, it is difficult
to document these congregations because they were rarely in the
spotlight of history.
example, there is Patrick of Ireland. Patrick was born in Scotland in
360 AD and sold into slavery at age sixteen and carried to Ireland.
Later, he escaped and became a Christian missionary. Although the Roman
Catholic Church claims him as one of their "saints," there is no
evidence he even knew the Catholic Church existed. In his writings he
appears ignorant of the practices of the Roman Church and never refers
to church councils, creeds, traditions or even to the existence of a
pope. There was no hierarchy in the churches he founded, which were
patterned after the simple New Testament example. These churches were
missions minded and formed schools to train preachers and missionaries.
Later in history, around 600 AD, Austin, a Catholic monk, was sent to
Britain by Pope Gregory the Great. King Ethelbert and his court, and
many Britons were won over by the successful monk. Under the Roman
Catholic influence these missionary centers diverged into monasticism.
However, history is clear that in the beginning and into the 9th Century
there were churches in Britain that rejected pedobaptism, popery and
other false doctrines of the Catholics. These churches remained sound in
doctrine and practiced the faith of the New Testament. These churches
are good examples of Bible believing churches that existed independent
of the Roman Catholic Church, and were for some time not corrupted by
its influences. They were, in fact, churches founded on the same New
Testament principles that modern day Baptists have founded their
have pointed to the Anabaptists as the examples of early modern Baptist
churches. This, again, cannot be proven from history. The Anabaptists
were mostly a God-fearing group of people. They loved the Lord and many
of them gave their lives and fortunes for the sake of Christ. In their
beginnings, most were doctrinally sound. However, history does not
record even one Anabaptist group or church becoming or founding a
Baptist church. Most of the Anabaptists successors became the
Mennonites, Amish and Quakers. The historical record shows that not one
modern Baptist church can trace its history as coming from the
Anabaptists. Many Anabaptists churches were strong New Testament
churches believing and following the Word of God. Other Anabaptists
groups were in gross error and corrupted. As with any true New Testament
church, its validity as a true church approved of God, does not, nor or
has ever rested on its name or on a succession of churches. A true New
Testament church must be solely discerned based on its adherence to the
principles of God's Word.
Baptist churches believe in a succession of Baptist churches that passed
down the authority to baptize and give the Lord's Supper. It is my
conviction that this is contrary to the very foundation of what is a
true New Testament church. A true New Testament church bases its faith,
practice and authority solely in the Word of God. To hold to the
"secessionist" position takes the authority away from the New Testament
and places it in the hands of man.
Secessionism is a gross error of Catholicism. God said He would preserve
His church and that task was not left in the hands of fallible men or
groups. God deliberately used isolated groups in many different places
though out history to preserve His word. He did not entrust His word
just one church or an unbroken line of churches to pass His Word to the
next generation. He preserved His word and the true Gospel during every
moment of history since Pentecost though many different believers. What
possible value is there in appealing to a supposed unbroken line of
Baptist churches as a church's authority? However, there is every value
in appealing to the adherence to the New Testament as one's sole
authority for faith and practice.
illustration of this point can be made this way. Suppose an airplane
flew over some isolated country that had no past or present contact with
anyone else in the world. Further, suppose that a Bible somehow was to
fall from the plane and the inhabitants of this isolated land were to be
able to pick up that Bible and read the text for themselves. Suppose,
too, that some of them on reading that Bible, were to believe and repent
of their sins and place their trust in God's Son and His redemption for
personal sin. These new believers would then, following the New
Testament example, submit to believer's baptism by immersion, and
organize a local church. That local body of baptized believers would be
as valid as any true New Testament church Christ ever founded. Why?
Because it was founded on God's Word and there is no necessity that it
have contact with some other church which belongs to a succession of
churches to give it legitimacy or authority.
the founding of the first Baptist church in America is widely attested
to Roger Williams, in 1639 at Providence, Rhode Island it can be shown
that Dr. John Clarke founded the first Baptist church in America in
March 1638 at Newport. This was a year before Roger Williams began the
Providence church in 1639 as the plaque on the wall of the meeting hall
of the Providence church states. When a congregation results from the
preaching of the Gospel and that congregation solely believes and
practices the doctrine of the New Testament it is authenticated and not
in its affiliation or succession.
WHEN AND WHERE WAS THE FIRST RECORDED BAPTIST
CHURCH IN HISTORY
historian David Benedict states the Gospel was preached in Britain
within sixty years of the Lord's return to heaven. These churches appear
to have been baptistic and remained sound until Austin, the Catholic
monk brought Catholicism to the Isles in 597 A.D. He states there were
Baptists in England 1400 A.D., and mentions William Sawtre, who was
identified as a Lollard and Baptist. He was the first person burned at
the stake after Henry IV's 1400 A.D. decree to burn heretics. His
"crime" was refuting infant baptism and rejecting the Anglican church as
being biblical. Benedict states that the English Roman Catholics in 1535
put to death twenty-two Baptists for heresies. In 1539 thirty-one more
that had fled to Holland were apprehended and martyred there. He records
that five hundred others who were identified as Anabaptists were also
killed in England during this period. After Henry VII separated England
from the Roman Catholic Church the Baptists fared no better. Many
Baptists were executed by the newly formed Church of England during what
is called the "Protestant inquisition."
of English churches that can be traced, who called themselves Baptists,
began in 1610 in Holland. This is not to say there were no Baptists in
Britain earlier, but that this began a line of churches whose history
can be traced. It began with a man named John Smyth, who was an ordained
bishop in the Church of England. In 1606, after nine months of
soul-searching and study of the New Testament, he was convinced the
doctrines and practices of the Church of England were not biblical, and
thus he resigned as priest and left the church.
of persecution by the Anglican Church of all who disagreed with it and
who refused to agree to its authority, John Smyth had to flee England.
In Amsterdam, he, with Thomas Helwys and thirty six others, formed the
first Baptist church of English people known to have stood for baptism
of believers only.
believed the only real apostolic succession is a succession of biblical
New Testament truth, and not of outward ordinances and visible
organization such as the Church of England or the Roman Church. He
believed the only way to recover was to form a new church based on the
Bible. He then baptized himself (which is not biblical) and others of
his congregation. In only a few years however, the church had lost all
but ten members to the Mennonites and other groups in Holland. Smyth
died in 1612, and the church ended in Holland shortly after that with
Helwys, Thomas and John Murton returned to England as persecution there
lessened. History records the members of this Baptist church went back
to England. Those who remained in Holland joined the Mennonites.
Therefore, the Baptist church in Holland did not produce a succession of
other churches, but those who founded it went on to set up other Baptist
churches in England.
England, these men formed the first recorded Baptist church on English
soil. By 1626, the churches had grown from one to five churches and by
1644 there were forty congregations. Through preaching the New
Testament, the Gospel went forth in power and the Baptist movement grew
first Baptist churches formed in England were Armenian in theology,
which taught that all men could be saved. Another group of Baptists were
the Calvinistic or Particular Baptists and they believed in limited
atonement, in which only the elect could be saved. Particular Baptists
had their beginnings around 1616, when some "dissenters" left the Church
of England and were led by the Rev. Henry Jacob. By 1644, these
congregations grew to seven churches.
this time, the Puritans were also becoming strong in England. The
Puritans were dissenters from the Church of England. They wanted to
bring reform to the Church of England. Although they were a great deal
more pious than the Church of England, they still practiced most of its
beliefs, including infant baptism. Anyone who differed from the
practices of the State church was subject to great persecution. Puritans
and Baptists alike, to escape persecution, migrated to the New World.
Hanserd Knowles, is an example of dissenters of the Church of England
who had to flee to America. He was a presbyter and former deacon in the
Anglican Church. Knolleys was under deep conviction of the need to
preach the New Testament and follow its example as one's rule of faith.
He refused to wear the robes of his church office, and refused to let
unsaved people take the Lord's Supper. Further, he ignored the reading
of the "order of service" and simply preached instead the Scriptures. To
preach the Bible without the rituals of the Church of England was
against the civil law. Knolleys joined with other dissenters and left
England. In 1638, he landed in Boston and settled for a short time in
Piscataway (now Dover) in New Hampshire. There he became the pastor of
the Puritan church. The Puritans were in control of the colonies and, in
fact, had set up an unbiblical theocracy in which the Puritan church
governed both secular and religious affairs. Because Knolleys refused to
baptize infants and preached against it, he was banned from the colony
by the famous Puritan governor Cotton Mather. Knolleys after two years,
returned to England at the request of his father. He became an outspoken
"Separatist" or dissenter of the Anglican or state church. In 1645, he
formed a Baptist church in London. Shortly after, the Church of England
fell from grace when the English monarch was overthrown and the
Presbyterians became the favored church of the state. The Presbyterians,
who are Calvinists, then took up the persecution of biblical believers
and forbade Knolleys from preaching in parish churches. He, however,
continued to preach by holding services in his own home. One of the last
acts of the Presbyterians, before the Long Parliament in England fell,
was to pass a law imposing the death penalty on anyone who was caught
holding to what they called "Eight Errors in Doctrine." These
"doctrines" included infant baptism. Knolleys was imprisoned many times
and suffered at the hands of the "State Church." He is only one of many
such godly men who would not compromise God's truth. The "crime" of
these men was that they believed the Bible was God's Truth, and rejected
dictates of false churches and men. It is revealing that the Calvinistic
Protestant Presbyterians persecuted those who followed the Bible and
rejected hierarchy and false teachings which included Calvinism.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BAPTISTS IN
well to note the Pilgrims were also Puritans, and Puritans were
dissenting Protestants who had left the Church of England. These people
were called "Separatists." They were not seeking doctrinal purity or
adherence to the teachings of the New Testament, but rather wanted to
"reform" the English church. They were never the friends of Baptists.
The Puritans should not be confused with true Bible believing churches,
because their beliefs and practices were much like the Church of
England. Although they were not as corrupt as the Church of England,
they still practiced a strict ritual of church service, a state church,
sprinkling, and among other things, infant baptism. They were intolerant
of anyone who did not agree to the authority of the Puritan church,
which was supported by a governmental church tax of all the people. One
may admire their piety, but a true believer in the New Testament would
have a great problem with their doctrines, church polity, and especially
their persecution of Baptists and driving them from their colonies. The
Puritans practiced a grace plus works salvation. One must correctly
understand that when they preached piety, they were preaching salvation
by works. Everyone in the colony was automatically a member of the state
church and was taxed to support it. Failure to pay the tax brought the
wrath of the civic and church leaders. People were publicly beaten,
placed in stocks, fined, imprisoned, and banished from the colony by the
civil authorities under the direction of the Puritan church officials.
Puritan churches persecuted the Baptists in America until the U. S.
Constitution was made law 1787. The first Baptist church on American
soil was a direct result of the Puritan persecution of true New
Williams is credited with founding the first Baptist church on American
soil, however as stated earlier the evidence shows that John Clarke
began the first Baptist church in America in March of 1638 a year before
Roger Williams 1 Williams actually founded the second
Baptist church in America. He is an example of those who rejected the
scriptural errors of the Anglican Church, and the Puritans who were
rooted in America.
Clarke, was a Non-Conformist, and received his university training among
the Pilgrims of Plymouth, England from 1607-1620. Bicknell it was
reasonable to assume that member or in fellowship with the Baptist of
Holland, as early as 1611.2 He traveled to America in 1637 arriving in
Boston. It is believed he left England to escape religious persecution.
Immediately, upon arrival he observed the division with the colony and
both civil and religious matters. During the course of the next few
years Dr. Clarke preached and stood strongly for soul liberty and
freedom of religion. He found himself continually at odds with the
colony magistrates. He along with John Crandall, Obadiah Holmes came to
the town of Lynn, Massachusetts on a pastoral visit. They were visiting
the home of a blind man named Witter who have run afoul of the
magistrates by speaking out again infant baptism. The colony authorities
learned of the visit and issued a warrant to search Witter’s home. While
Clarke was preaching the constables arrived and arrested them. After
being taken to a tavern and being fed they were ushered to a church
service being held the pedobaptists. They warned the constables that they
were Baptists and if made to attend the service they would have to
testify because they were dissenters. Later they were taken to the
Boston jail and charged with hold an unlawful church service and
disturbing the service they were forced to attend. They were then tried
by the governor of the colony, John Endicott and without accuser,
witness, jury, or rule of law were found guilty of holding an illegal
worship service. They were fined twenty pounds each or sentenced “to be
well whipped.” Clarke and Crandall paid their fines, but Holmes refused
and was publicly whipped with thirty lashes.3 These men continued to preach God’s word
refusing to compromise or let the Puritan government intimidate them.
graduated from Cambridge University in 1627, and was apparently ordained
in the Church of England. He soon embraced "Separatists" ideas and
decided to leave England. In 1631, he arrived in Boston. He was much
displeased with the Puritan theocracy. He strongly believed in
separation of church and state and upheld the principles of soul
liberty. "Soul liberty" is a belief that everyone is responsible to God
individually. It bases its belief in the New Testament teaching that
every believer is a priest to himself, having full access to God without
the need to go through a church, church leader or priest. (Hebrews
4:15-16; 10:19-22) Despite his views, he was made the pastor of the
church in Salem. Shortly after that, because of his doctrinal preaching,
he was forced to leave Salem and went for a short time to Plymouth. He
returned to Salem where he was summoned before the court in Boston
because of his outspoken beliefs and was banished from the colony. The
charge recorded against him was that "he broached and divulged new and
dangerous opinions against the authority of the magistrates." Clearly,
he was banished because he believed in religious freedom and believed
and taught the New Testament was a believer's sole source for his faith
and practice. His "crime" was that he rejected the unbiblical ideas of
the state church such as infant baptism and other false teachings of the
Puritans. The Puritans drove him from their colony in the dead of
Williams made his way to what is now Providence, Rhode Island, and there
bought some land from the Indians. Some of his former congregation in
Salem joined him and they set up a colony. Its beginning charter reads
whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit ourselves
in active and passive obedience to all such orders or agencies as
shall be made for the public good of the body in an orderly way, by
the major consent of the present inhabitants, masters of families,
incorporated together into the same, only in civil things."
1663, John Clarke traveled to England received from Charles II a royal
charter for the colony. Clarke was the author and inspirer of this Royal
Charter that it read:4
royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at
any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished
disquieted, or called in question, for any differences of opinion in
matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of
the said colony."
the first time in the history of the world that a government was
established which granted religious freedom! This charter was the very
cornerstone of American religious freedom and it was Baptists who first
established religious and civil freedom in America!
should be noted that at first Williams did not identify himself as a
Baptist. However, he continued to read the New Testament and became
fully aware that infant baptism, sprinkling for baptism, and allowing
unsaved people to be members of the church was not scriptural. Thus,
resolving to follow the Lord's commands in truth, in March, 1639 he
formed the Baptist church in Providence, R.I.. He began by baptizing
himself which is not biblical baptism. He then baptized ten others who
became the members of this church.
afterward, Williams withdrew from the church and became what he called a
"seeker." History does not record why he would not identify himself as a
Baptist although he set up a Baptist church. Please note that this
presents no problem for this first Baptist church in America. This
church was not founded on a man, but on the Bible. It was not founded on
a line of Baptist churches down through history. It was founded because
saved men believed the Bible and wanted to follow the New Testament's
teachings and the example of what a true church should be. Even after
Williams left, this Baptist church continued to follow the New Testament
and was not adversely affected. It was not the man who founded the
church that was important, but the New Testament principles on which was
established. They called themselves Baptists because that was the best
name they could choose to describe what they believed and a name that
identified them as Bible believing people. This church had no ties to
anyone or any other church, yet this was a Baptist church as much as any
Baptist church ever was. They were a New Testament church, not because
of a succession of churches or men, but because they formed their
assembly on the principles of the New Testament. That made them in the
eyes of God as legitimate a church as any Paul founded. The sole
authority for any true church is God's Word and not its human founder,
or its heritage. Not once in the New Testament do you find even a hint
that a church was legitimate because it was founded by Paul, was
established by the church at Jerusalem or Antioch, or called itself by a
no one should think little of the name of Baptist, for it is the name
that most has identified those individuals and churches that have
uncompromisingly stood on the Word of God. Historically, Baptists are
the only group in modern times whose churches were founded on the
Scriptures alone and not on the traditions or works of some man.
Baptists have always been the champions of the Word of God and preaching
of the Gospel. History is clear: there is no other denomination that has
so loved and been faithful to God's Word as have the Baptists. Even the
enemies of the Baptists openly recognize their zeal for the Word of God.
Roger Williams stepped down, Thomas Olney took over as the pastor of the
church in Rhode Island. There is no recorded offspring from this church
and modern American Baptist churches cannot trace their history directly
to it. Other churches founded in New England and in the Middle colonies
were the actual mother churches of modern Baptist churches as these
churches were responsible for starting other churches.
28, 1665, a Baptist church was founded in Boston, by Thomas Gould, who
refused to accept infant baptism. There were nine original members of
the church, which included two women. A storm of persecution broke out
because these Baptists preached what the Puritans called "damnable
errors." The “damnable errors” was preaching the Gospel, and refuting
pedobaptism, soul liberty, and a state church. Most of the members of
this Baptist church, at one time or another, were fined or imprisoned or
both. Thomas Gould died in 1675 an untimely death, partly because of his
having his health broken by Puritans persecutions which included several
shortly after the church erected a new building, the Puritan controlled
government nailed its doors shut and forbade anyone under penalty of the
law to enter or worship there. This lasted only one Sunday however, and
the following Sunday the doors were opened and services held in defiance
of the order. The magistrates found their order was becoming unpopular
and impossible to enforce, so the church in the future was left
unmolested. In 1684, a Baptist church in Maine, seeking greater
religious liberty was relocated to Charleston, South Carolina.
Dutch colony of New York for a time persecuted Baptists within its
territories. The first Baptist church in New York was started by William
Winchendon, in 1656. He was heavily fined and then imprisoned. Being to
poor to pay the fines he was banished from the colony. Later, the Dutch
issued new orders and allowed religious liberty.
a Baptist minister, William Rhodes began to hold meetings on Long Island
and in 1724 organized the first Baptist church there. The most important
center of early Baptist churches was around Philadelphia, "the city of
brotherly love." In 1684, Thomas Dungan started a church at Cold
Springs, New York which lasted until 1702. In 1688 a Baptist church was
organized at Pennepeck, Pennsylvania with twelve members. It helped
start the first Baptist church in Philadelphia the following year. It
became an independent church in 1746. Offers of religious liberty drew
many Baptists to settle in New Jersey. The first church was founded
there in 1688, in Middletown and was made up of many who had fled
persecution in the other colonies. Many churches were organized in the
areas Baptist churches were being formed about this same time. In North
Carolina the first Baptist church was started in the northeastern
coastal region at Perquimans, in Chowan County in 1727.
Virginia, Baptists were not welcome. Before America won its independence
and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights became law, the Episcopal
Church, which was the American branch of the Church of England, was the
only legal church in Virginia. There was a fine of 2000 pounds of
tobacco for failure to have one's infant children baptized. One Baptist
church, however, did begin after 1714, in Surry County, and another at
Burleigh, Virginia. Virginia was especially harsh in religious
persecutions and anyone not holding Episcopal ordination was forbidden
to preach or hold services. Baptists, along with other citizens, were
taxed to support the Episcopal Church. It is well to note that not all
Virginians felt this way. Two champions of religious liberty were Thomas
Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Thomas Jefferson is believed to have been
deeply influenced to press for religious freedom in America, by the
plight of several Baptist preachers he knew. For example, in Isle of
Wight county in southeastern Virginia, Baptist preachers were taken to
Nansamond River, and nearly drowned by Episcopalians to show their
contempt for Baptist's beliefs in immersion and their rejection of
infant Baptism. They were then tarred and feathered and run out of the
center of Baptist activity in the colonies was in the Philadelphia area,
and Baptists held regular "general meetings" of the churches for
devotional and evangelistic purposes there. It can be historically
determined that forty-seven Baptist churches were in existence before
the Great Awakening. All but seven were above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Baptists continued to grow in numbers through the period of the Great
Awakening and up to the time of the Revolutionary War. Baptists as a
whole were patriots and many Baptist pastors served as chaplains in the
Revolutionary Army. Baptist churches and pastors contributed large sums
of money to support George Washington and the army. The Great Awakening
stirred religious interests in the colonies and a reported great revival
took place. The Revolutionary War for some time slowed the growth of
Baptist churches. However, after independence was won and the
Constitution and Bill of Rights was written which gave all Americans
religious freedom, the Baptists again began to grow until today they are
the largest denominational group in the United States.
be noted that the American Revolution is directly responsible for
establishing the first nation on earth to grant religious freedom. The
Revolution ended the Protestant civil rule in the colonies, which
stopped the persecution of Bible believing Baptists.
WHAT MAKES A TRUE BAPTIST?
there are at least a hundred different groups which call themselves
"Baptist." Many of these churches have conflicting beliefs and
practices. The natural question then to ask is, "What makes a person a
true Baptist?" In examining the history of Baptists and determining what
makes a genuine Baptist, five distinctives should be noted. These five
distinctive beliefs separate the true Baptists from other groups who
have mistakenly taken the name Baptist, and from all Protestants.
Examine any church in light of these five distinctive it will be shown
if they are a true historic Baptist congregation.
well also to note that these five distinctives are traits of the true
New Testament church! These are the distinctives taught in the Bible
which form a true New Testament church. The one thing that makes one a
Baptist is that they historically have followed the New Testament alone
as their sole rule for faith and practice. Baptists strongly insist that
God's Word is not up for arbitration or subject to the individual's,
group's, denomination's or church's "private interpretation." (2 Peter
1:20) Baptists believe that you do not have to be a Baptist in order to
be saved and have eternal life, but a person must believe the Gospel and
follow the teachings revealed in the New Testament. (1 Corinthians
15:1-4) Further, if a person is truly saved and strictly follows the
principles of the New Testament, he will in a true sense, be a Baptist
whether he uses the name or not. Baptists interpret the Bible literally
within its historic, cultural and grammatical context. True Baptists
believe, as the New Testament teaches, that Christ is the only head of
Fundamental Independent Baptists are strict in interpreting the Bible in
a "literal" sense. In other words, when the Bible speaks, the words have
a literal meaning and that is the meaning God intended. To interpret
God's word one must apply sound hermeneutical principles of
interpretation which consider the grammatical use of the words, and the
culture and historical situation in which they were written.
Baptists reject the Apocryphal Books as being inspired of God and use
them only for historical reference. Further, they reject the efforts of
the many who "spiritually" interpret the Scriptures, using allegory and
placing hidden or specially revealed meanings to the words of the Bible.
Baptists refuse to accept the so-called "scriptures" or revelation of
modern day prophets. They believe that when the Book of Revelation was
completed by the Apostle John about 90-95 AD, the Word of God was
complete and He has given no further revelation. It is believed that God
meant what He said in Revelation 22:18, that the Scriptures were not to
be added to or taken from. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states the scriptures
are the inspired word of God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 explains that the Bible is
the very word of God written under the direction of the Holy Spirit and
is not of any private interpretation. The Bible is the inerrant,
infallible word of God and no man has the right to add or remove
anything from God’s inspired word.
following five distinctives are the beliefs of a church, then you will
have a true Baptist church. If a church cannot answer in the positive to
each of these distinctives, then you do not have a New Testament or
Baptist church. If they identify themselves as Baptists they are
misusing the name.
THE FIVE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES
1. WE ACCEPT ONLY THE NEW TESTAMENT AS OUR AUTHORITY IN ALL
MATTERS OF FAITH AND PRACTICE.
means that Baptists do not accept any authority except the New
Testament Scriptures in regard to church polity, practice and doctrine.
The institution of the local church (ekklesia - assembly) is not found
in the Old Testament. The institution of the local "ekklesia" was not
instituted until Pentecost after the Lord ascended into heaven. Christ
is head of the local church, and it is His bride. We believe the Word of
God, the Bible is complete and it solely, ". . . Is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God many
be perfect, throughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works." (2
Timothy 3:16-17) We reject that God is giving supposed "new" Revelation,
believing that God forbids any adding to or taking away of the canon of
Scriptures. (Rev. 22:18-19) We do not accept any authority over the New
Testament Church, but Christ Himself, including any hierarchy to include
popes, modern day prophets, or councils of churches. We believe the
sixty six books of the Bible are the inspired, inerrant and infallible
word of God.
2. WE BELIEVE THE CHURCH IS TO BE MADE UP OF SAVED BAPTIZED
3. WE BELIEVE IN STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
Baptists reject the baptism of infants (pedobaptism) and baptismal
regeneration. A local church is made up only of those who have by
faith, trusting in Jesus Christ's shed blood alone for their
salvation, and who have made a public profession of faith and have
been scripturally baptized. (Acts 2:41-42) An infant is not capable of
believing, and is protected by the Grace of God until the age of
accountability and baptism is not necessary for salvation and has no
saving properties. Further, only those who have believed and trusted
in Jesus Christ as their Savior are members of the body of Christ.
Therefore, a true New Testament church only accepts those who have
been saved and who have publicly professed salvation as members of a
local New Testament Baptist church. (Acts 2:41)
4. WE BELIEVE IN THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER.
power on earth is higher than God's Word, and a church should not be
in any way yoked or controlled by the state, or any civil authority in
religious matters. We support the rightly appointed civil authority of
government over us and pray for them so that we live our lives in
peace. (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-15; Titus 3:1) Jesus said to
"render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the
things that are God's." (Mark 12:17) Further the Scripture says (2
Cor. 6:14) "what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? And what communion that light with darkness?"
we do not believe that the state should restrict or interfere in the
normal practices of a Christian in following the principles of God's
word in his daily life. That means we do not accept that the state has
the right to forbid public prayer, Bible reading, Bible study class,
or any other biblical activity. Separation of church and state does
not mean the abolishment of religious practices in public and
recognizes that each person should have the right to exercise his
religious beliefs without interference by any civil authority.
5. WE BELIEVE IN THE AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH.
Scriptures teaches that every believer can, without the aid of priests
or churchmen go, "boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain
mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need". (Hebrews 4:16) The
Scripture states further in Hebrews 10:19, "Having therefore,
brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of
Jesus." The believer does not need a priest or a church to
intercede on their behalf to God. The believer can boldly, by the fact
of being washed in the blood of Christ, instantly be in contact with
God by simple prayer, and furthermore, can bring his petitions or
requests for forgiveness of sins directly to God himself. (1 John 1:9)
God says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that
ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) No church or individual
has the authority to forgive sins or grant intercession to God.
stated, the Scriptures gives no higher authority than the local
congregation of born again, baptized believers. We believe the local
church is to be governed by the Word of God, and the local church does
not need, or nor to the Scriptures teach that the local body rests
under the authority of any earthy group. It is a group unto itself,
under the authority of God, and solely responsible unto Him for its
conduct, direction and affairs. Jesus in Revelation 2:6, 15, stated
that He "hated" the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. This group of
heretics in the early church, along with other doctrinal errors,
promoted a clerical hierarchy in the church. Thus, there is no
universal "church" and no universal earthly head over a local
congregation. It is by Jesus Christ, constituted to be autonomous and
not a historic distinctive of a Baptist church, one other characteristic
is necessary for an assembly to call its self a true New Testament
church. This distinctive is based on the truth that God will not, nor
can He bless or be a party to doctrinal error. A true New Testament
church will believe and follow the correct and proper instructions of
God's word. There are many churches that believe and practice false
doctrines, such as modern tongues speaking, do not practice biblical
separation from worldliness and hold to other unbiblical views. A true
New Testament church's doctrine and practice will correctly follow the
word of God. The New Testament stresses purity in faith and practice as
Revelation 2-3 clearly teach. Jesus strongly warned five of the seven
churches of Asia saying he had things against them. He warned them
believe the Word of God and to correct their failures or He would take
action against them or have not part with them. A true church that has
the blessings of the Lord will diligently seek purity in faith and
practice. Those who refuse to repent of their errors will not have the
approval or the blessings of God.
which cannot answer yes to all of these questions cannot historically
call itself a Baptist church, nor can it legitimately call itself a New
Testament church. These are the distinctives that separate true Baptists
and from all Protestants, any organized church, doctrinally unsound
church, or "Christian" cults.
can rightly take godly pride in truthfully bearing the name Baptist.
Many men have suffered and given their fortunes and their lives to hold
the name in truth. It stands for devotion and a strict obedience to God
and his commandments. It holds high the saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus
Christ, as revealed in the New Testament and an unwavering commitment to
carrying out the Great Commission, that is, to teach everywhere the
truth of God's Word.
validity of a church as being a true biblical New Testament church does
not rest in its ability to show an unbroken line of succession from the
time of Christ. In fact, no church on earth can make that claim. Even
the Roman Catholic Church, which boasts of his unbroken history cannot
prove an unbroken line of churches any earlier than the Fourth Century,
and what Catholicism teaches today in no way resembles New Testament
faith or practice, or what the early churches believed and practiced.
agree with John Smyth: the true New Testament church is founded on its
belief and practice of the Scriptures, and not on any outward succession
of a visible or invisible organization. In this sense, any church which
bases it faith and practice strictly on the teaching of the New
Testament is a true and Biblical church, even if it existed in time,
only yesterday. It is not the name or the organization that makes a
biblical church, but its practice of the faith as revealed in the New
It is the
Word of God, the Bible, and in particular the New Testament, that tells
us what is a real and true church! The Bible and only the Bible reveals
to men how to have their sins forgiven and have everlasting life and
heaven. That is what saved believers have always believed, because that
is what the New Testament, which is what God's Word says.
Baptist bases his authority solely on the Bible itself. They do not
accept that authority was given to any particular man, pope, prophet,
group, or church on earth to be the means of the salvation of men. A
church is not God's instrument of salvation, but an institution of
believers joined together to preach and teach God's word and present the
Gospel to a lost and dying world. God has not entrusted that authority
to impart salvation to any man or church. God alone has that authority
and He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, brings conviction and
salvation to those who in simple faith believe.
that is a true biblical assembly, patterns itself after the example in
the New Testament. It is one made up of baptized believers organized in
a local congregation for fellowship, teaching and evangelism. Every
system of hierarchy set up by man over the authority of the local church
is unbiblical and has led to doctrinal errors and corruption without
exception and God has no party with them.
1 Graves, J.R. and Adlam, S., The First Baptist Church in
American Not Started by Roger Williams, 1887.Baptist Sunday School
Board, 1928, P15-36. Reprinted by Calvary Publications, 2010.
2 Bicknell, Thomas. W., The Story of John Clarke,
Founder of the First Free Commonwealth of the World, Providence,
RI., 1915. P74.
3 Durso, Keith E., No Armor for
the Back: Baptist Prison Writings, 1600s-1700s, 199-216, Mercer
Univ. Press, Macon, GA. 2007, pp199-216
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Nashville: Convention Press.
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and Adlam, S., The First Baptist Church in American Not Started by
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19. Bicknell, Thomas. W.,
The Story of John Clarke, Founder of the First Free Commonwealth of
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©Cooper P. Abrams, III - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED:
This article may be copied and used freely, but must not be sold in
whole or in part. It is requested that if you make multiple
copies of the material and distribute it that you contact the author as
an encouragement to him.
Second Revision, September, 2007; Third Revision January 2013.
For an excellent article on the matter of Baptist Successionism read
HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS" HAVE WE A VISIBLE SUCCESSION OF BAPTIST
CHURCHES DOWN FROM THE APOSTLES? By Thomas Armitage, 1890. CLICK