Baptist Church Perpetuity
Religions of the world hold loose and unscriptural views of the Lord’s church. Jesus founded a church during His personal ministry and promised continuity of existence (perpetuity) throughout all ages to that church. Careful study of the scriptures and history, together with a study of the origin and teachings of the different religious denominations, will show to an honest mind, that the first church that was ever organized was what we would today call a Baptist church, and that churches of the same form, characterized by the same doctrines and practices, have existed from the day that the first one was established to the present moment, and will continue to exist until the Lord comes again. This is important when you consider that the veracity of our Lord’s word and the validity of His promise is at stake. If the church that Jesus established has not been perpetuated, then His promise has failed. If His promise concerning the church has failed, then is it not possible that His promise concerning our salvation and destiny will in like manner fail? The same is true of his word (Ps. 12:6,7).
The church of Jesus Christ actually began to be built when Jesus called out His first two Apostles, Peter and Andrew (Matt. 4:18-20). Then others were added until in Acts 1 where we find the church gathered with 120 members. In Acts 2:41, 3000 were added, and in verse 47 more were added daily. In Acts 4:4 we find 5000 believers who were probably added to the church. In Acts 6:1,7 we see that God is not just adding, He is multiplying the membership.
Because of His promise, the church which Christ founded must have had a continuity of existence throughout the ages, and must be somewhere in the world today (just like bee-hives, one starts another one - and that one starts another one - and that one starts another one - and so on -). The doctrine of Baptist church perpetuity has ever been an offensive doctrine to those of other faiths. For if it can be shown that Baptist churches are the true churches of Christ, then the churches so called, of other faiths, immediately come to occupy the position of rivals to those having divine origin. Even some types of Baptists find this doctrine offensive. We have sufficient historical data to prove our case and also biblical reasons to believe Christ’s promise in Matt. 16:18 and Matt. 28:18-20. God made a staggering promise to Abraham once, one whose fulfillment seemed impossible (Rom. 4:20-22). Should we not have the faith of Abraham?
Let us try to define something of what Baptists mean and do not mean by the term perpetuity.
· Baptists do not mean by “Perpetuity” that they can trace an unbroken succession of bishops from the days of the apostles to the present. The Roman Catholic Church bases her claim to perpetuity upon alleged succession of bishops, or popes (see list of Popes and the Papacy - Halley’s Pocket Bible handbook). First off, there is not a shred of historical evidence to prove that Peter was ever so much as in Rome, much less the first pope.
· Baptists do not claim perpetuity on the basis of the name “Baptist.” Baptists (in doctrine) have existed all along, but they have often been called by other names (names given them by their enemies). We will cover this in a later lesson.
· Baptists do claim that there has never been a day since Jesus started the first church, when such churches have not existed to bear true witness to Him, and have met as a baptized congregation in covenant and fellowship where an opportunity permitted. Baptists therefore are the historical descendants of the New Testament churches and will continue to exist until the Lord comes for His own.
In the same passage where we have our Lord’s first mention of the church, we find the promise that “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Gate means a way of entrance or exit, also a frame-work to close up a way. The Roman Catholic Church - called the “beast” that John saw (Rev. 17) - is the great gate-way to Hell; and all Protestantism - man-made churches - which constitute the image of the “beast” are tributary gates of the same, and all lead down to hell. Whether these are the “Gates of Hell” that Jesus had in mind or not, we will say that these aforesaid agencies are and ever have been against the true Baptist churches, and they would literally wipe from the face of the whole earth every true Landmark Missionary Baptist Church of Christ in existence if it were possible.
The kingdom of God is to be perpetuated (Rev. 11:15; Lu. 1:33). How, let us ask, is the kingdom of God to be extended and advanced in the world? The answer is, by the church which Jesus founded. Men get into the kingdom of God by being born into it. It is the true church that preaches the message of salvation through Christ. Through the church’s message, men hear, believe, and are born into God’s kingdom. Thus the church stands in the position of a recruiting agency for the kingdom of God. Therefore if the kingdom is to be perpetuated and the church is Christ’s divinely purposed instrumentality for the advancement and perpetuation of the kingdom, then the church too, must be perpetuated. Daniel said in Dan. 2:44, “And the kingdom shall not be left to other people.” The preaching of the Gospel was left to the Baptist churches at the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:8).
The prophet knew what he was talking about when he said, “Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her” (Jer. 12:9). These are the “birds” that have swooped down upon the “speckled bird” for many centuries, and her feathers (martyrs graves) may be seen strewn through thirteen hundred bloody years of the vilest persecutions ever known to the annals of history. The old mother of harlots is one of the gates of hell that resorted to every known device to prevail against the Church of “The God of Heaven.” But the “gates of Hell” have not succeeded in diminishing the work or the glory of that church, be it the mother or one of her daughters. All the gates try to close up the way of Bible truth. The preachers of false churches (gates of hell) are the gate keepers and get the toll for leading souls astray (Rom. 16:17-18). They all resemble their mother in doctrine and practice (Ez. 16:44). They are all against the Lord and His church (Acts 4526). I admit that God has children in all the false churches of Christendom, even the Catholic church, but they must come out before they die to be blessed of God (Rev. 18:4). Surely you see by now that one church is not as good as another. The very existence of any false church set up by men since Christ, is a living monument of the fact that her members have rejected the bride of Christ, and thereby have rejected Christ and His Father. As “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel,” neither are all Baptists that are called Baptists!”
Again when Christ gave the Great Commission to His disciples, He addressed them not simply as individuals, but as individuals constituting His church. To the Commission He added the promise, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Manifestly, if the church at any time ceased to exist, Christ’s promise would become of none effect. Praise God for such a glorious victorious church.