Memory Verse: 1Peter 4:12-13
Prayer: That we as Baptists might become more familiar with our glorious blood bought history, from the days of Christ.
Key Verses: Matt. 4:17-22, 10:1-5, 16:18, 28:18-20; Acts 2:41-42, 8:1-4
It is sometimes asked: “When and where did Baptists originate? Who were their founders? What is their history?” If we are to accept the Bible as the standard for all matters of faith, then we are to believe that there are seven main periods of church history. Rev. 2-3 gives the account of 7 actual churches in Asia Minor, but these 7 churches are also the 7 periods of church history prior to the rapture (Rev. 4:1).
1. Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7) the apostolic period from Matt. 10 to around 90 A.D.
2. Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) from 90 A.D. to 325 A.D.
3. Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17) from 525 A.D. to 500 A.D.
4. Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29) from 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. (Leo the Great to the Crusades)
5. Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6 ) from 1000 A.D. to 1500 A.D. (dark ages)
6. Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) from 1500 A.D. to 1880 A.D. (reformation)
7. Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) from 1880 A.D. to the rapture (apostasy)
There are a few creeds and sects which boast a venerable antiquity, while the word of God utterly condemns them. Most Protestant denominations are many years younger than the Lutheran church which began in 1530. Any organization that cannot reasonably claim Christ for it’s founder (29-31 A.D.) has small right to the name of a Christian church, no matter how old it may be. Baptists claim to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself the chief Corner-Stone. Baptists don’t have much written history because their enemies have destroyed as much of the truth as they could. Yet many of the enemies (both Catholic and Protestant) of true Baptists have been compelled to acknowledge that they can find no human founder for the Baptist churches this side of Jesus Christ. (The Baptist Challenge March 1995)
Of course there is no way that we can give a complete history of Baptists in our limited time available. Just a few of the historians that you might consider are histories by: Mosheim, Crosby, Danvers, Benedict, Ridpath, John T. Christian, Hiscox, J. B. Moody, J. M. Carroll, W. A. Jerrell, P. Schaff and Orchard. The Edinburg Cyclopedia has this to say about Baptist Antiquity, “It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described as Anabaptists. Indeed this seems to have been their leading principles from the time of Tertullian to the present time.” Tertullian was a Montanist. He was born about fifty years after the death of John the Apostle.
“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father and he will show thee, thy elders and they will tell thee” Deut. 32:7. What we know today as Christianity or the Christian Religion, began with Christ - in the days and within the bounds of the Roman Empire. The religion of Christ being a religion not of this world, it’s founder gave it no earthly head and no temporal power. It sought no establishment, no state or government support. Being a spiritual religion it was the rival of no earthly government.
During the Apostolic age even, the doctrines of the gospel became corrupted, and it’s ordinances soon after. Both Jewish and Gentile converts brought into the churches many of their old religious notions, and incorporated them with the faith of Christ. These, together with the many philosophical ideas of the times and the perversions to which the truth is always exposed from the ignorance and selfishness of men, very early turned the churches aside from the faith once delivered to the saints. Still there were many groups who maintained the doctrines and customs in their original purity. These are the churches from which Twinbrook Hills Baptist Church traces its ancestry.
The first period of Baptist history started with John the Baptist, Christ Himself and His apostles. Judaism and Paganism bitterly contested every forward movement. Following their Saviour in rapid succession fell the apostles and many other martyred heroes. As the churches grew in number and size of membership, pastors began to assert greater and greater authority (3John 9) which was the beginning of different orders in the ministry. This eventually ended in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The next error was the change in the doctrine of salvation itself. The idea of “Baptismal Regeneration” and “infant baptism, “ which started in the first few centuries, were the cause of the shedding of more Christian blood, than all other errors combined. Over 60 million Christians (Anabaptists) died martyr deaths, mainly because of their rejection of these two errors during the next 1000 years.
The first five centuries saw the beginning of groups known by their leaders as: Christians, then Montanists, Novations, Puritans, Paterins, Donatists and other names. Much error was developed during this period. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church had its beginnings here. The Roman Emperor Constantine in A.D. 515, called a council (beware of councils, Matt. 10:17; Acts 5:21,27, 6:12), in which the church married the state. Of course the Anabaptists did not attend this council. From this point on Christians (in name) began to persecute Christians (in deed). Therefore these loyal, true believers (Anabaptists or re-baptizers) were hunted and hounded to the utmost limit of the new Catholic power. Remnants scattered all over the world, finding uncertain hiding places in forests, mountains, valleys, dens and caves of the earth.
The time from 600 to 1300 A.D. is known in history as “The Dark Ages,” primarily because of the awful persecutions by the state established Roman Catholic church. A trail of Baptist blood is nearly everywhere, especially throughout England, Wales, Africa, Armenia and Bulgaria. In the 7th century appeared the Paulicians, attracting much attention, and calling down upon themselves the wrath of the Roman church. About the close of the tenth century appeared the Paterines, substantially the same people (Anabaptists) as had previously existed under other names. In the eleventh century, and the ages following, were the Waldenses, Albigenses, Vaudois, Cathari, Arnoldists, Henricians and others. It is not pretended that these ancient sects were known by name as Baptists; but in general they held the more prominent and distinctive principles which have always characterized the Baptists; thus:
1. They declared and defended the rights of faith and conscience and the freedom of worship
2. They denied the authority of popes and kings to interfere in matters of faith
3. They rejected infant baptism
4. They baptized by immersion
5. They held the Bible (Syrian or Byzantine text, Acts 2) to be the only rule and authority in faith and practice
6. They admitted to the church only saved godly people.
Few denominations have a better claim to antiquity than the Welsh Baptists. They trace their descent directly from the apostles.
When Austin, the Roman monk and missionary, visited Wales at the close of the sixth century, he found a community of more than 2000 Christians, quietly living in their mountain homes. Austin labored hard to convert them - that is, to bring them under the Papal yoke, but miserably failed. (See 7 Questions and Answers as to Church Authority reprinted from The Baptist Examiner in March 1966.)
The Baptists of Holland, also have a history that reaches back to a very remote period. Baptists in England also had a very early beginning. From there we have some very important editions of the Bible by: Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthews and finally the King of them all the great “King James A.V. 1611” Bible which has remained the standard for all bibles until the present. American Baptists came from England, Wales, Holland and other places. The first Baptist church in America was started by John Clarke in Newport, Rhode Island in 1658.