What is the origin of the Baptist church?

In answer to this question, one should examine the words of our Savior concerning His church: And I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). In this passage the word translated church (Greek ekklesia) means literally, a chosen or called-out assembly. Thus, the use of the word as a technical term for an assembly or group of believers in Christ was quite natural. … The New Testament Church, therefore, is a local, autonomous congregation or assembly of believers which is a church in and of itself. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. 2, pp. 60, 61)

From the words of Christ we understand that His church (type of church) has been promised since the days of Jesus, and will continue to stand until the end of the world. We believe that the Baptist churches, or churches like Baptist but called by some other name than Baptist, have been in existence all the way from the days of Jesus until this present time.

It is impossible to detect Baptists historically, simply by their name. They most often called themselves “brethren.” The name “Baptists,” … was a nickname (or criticism) given by their opponents, who noticed that their baptism was unlike the practice of other denominations. They were first called “Anabaptists” (again-baptizers), because their converts were baptized again as adult believers, even though they had been sprinkled as infants.

Where did Baptists come from?

There are many views concerning the historical origin of Baptists. Baptists claim no one founder as does Lutheranism (Martin Luther), Anglicanism (Henry VIII), or Presbyterianism (John Calvin), but have always been a movement of lay people. Historians have noticed a recurring phenomenon: Baptist distinctives appeared repeatedly throughout religious history whenever some group sought to follow the New Testament pattern. Although historians cannot always demonstrate continuity between these groups, it is not necessary to do so. Baptists are a people whose authority does not rest upon their relationship to an apostolic or church succession, but upon their commitment to New Testament practice.

Baptists can best be identified historically by their distinctives.

Foundations of the Baptist Christian Faith

  • The authority of the Scriptures “sola Scriptura”
  • The deity of Christ
  • The efficacy of the atonement
  • Salvation by faith “sola fida” (faith alone–Ephesians 2:8-3)

The priesthood of the believer (refute priestism–I Timothy 2:5)

  • Rejection of a church hierarchy system
  • No spiritual differentiation between clergy and laity)

Believers’ baptism (rejection of infant baptism)

  • Only a saved person may be baptized
  • Baptism by immersion only

Separation — “Christ-like” lifestyle (II Corinthians 6:17)

Congregational form of church government

  • Authority resides in the laity membership (Acts 6:2,5)
  • Autonomy of the local church
  • Separation of church and state (Roger Williams’ religious liberty)
  • Worldwide missions and evangelism (fulfilling the Great Commission — Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Informality in worship services (reject formal creeds)
  • Non-sacramentalism (Reject idea of grace bestowed by “sacraments”)

Two ordinances

  • Baptism
  • Lord’s Supper

Church officers: Pastors and Deacons

(From “Baptist History” by Dr. Carl J. Diemer, as published in PROGRAM FOR THE FUNDAMENTALISM 184, pp. 15-18)

For further study of the origins of the Baptists I suggest that you secure a copy of the book entitled THE ORIGIN OF THE BAPTISTS by S. H. Ford. Another book that may be of interest to you on this subject is entitled A CONCISE HISTORY OF BAPTISTS by G. H. Orchard.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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