The True New Testament Church Identified
It is important that one be identified with the true church, the one that Jesus founded. It is unfortunate for any one to belong to a church that was started by some man when they can have membership in the church that Jesus started. This of course does not relate to salvation. I recognize that there are many truly saved people in the various denominations. Likewise there are many saved people who have never taken membership with any church. When Baptists make legitimate claims concerning the origin of their church, the sneering remark is often made, "Oh those narrow Baptists; they don't believe that anybody is saved except a Baptist." This charge is either made in gross ignorance of what Baptists believe, or else it is intentionally prejudicial. Baptists don't believe anything of the kind!
Baptists believe that born-again believers in Jesus Christ for salvation are saved regardless of their church affiliation or no affiliation. But while it does not affect salvation, Baptists believe that those who affiliate with a man founded church, teaching doctrines contrary to the Scriptures, will have to answer for their actions before the Judgment Seat of Christ. They believe likewise that to go off after the unscriptural Universal theory, is dishonoring to Christ and dishonoring to the church He founded, and will have to be answered for in the judgment, with consequent loss of reward.
BUT HOW CAN ONE KNOW WHICH CHURCH IS THE TRUE CHURCH - THE ONE JESUS FOUNDED? One way to arrive at the truth is through the PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. Let us think about this for a few minutes.
1 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. While the heresies of the Catholic church originated - many of them - earlier, the full-fledged Catholic Church did not come to exist until the advent of Gregory the Great, the first of the "proper popes." The pontificate of Gregory lasted from A.D. 590 to 604. This is the testimony of Schaff's "History of The Christian Church;" Dr. J. T. Christian's "History of the Baptists" and plenty of others.
Further, even a casual examination of the doctrines, organization and policies of the Roman Church, enables us to know that nothing could be further from what Jesus started.
Yet further, as already pointed out, the book of Revelation calls the Catholic Church in its final form a "whore" and the "mother of harlots." That in itself should eliminate the Catholic Church as relating to the church that Jesus started.
2 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE PROTESTANT DENOMINATIONS. The Protestant groups (and keep in mind that Baptists are positively and historically NOT Protestants) came out of the Catholic Church about fifteen hundred years after Christ started His church. They are thus too late on the scene to identify with the church that Jesus built. Besides, as previously pointed out, they are daughters of Rome and since the Roman Church is called the "mother of harlots," they are necessarily the harlot churches of Revelation 17. This utterly disqualifies the Protestant Churches.
3 - WE CAN EASILY ELIMINATE THE MANY MODERN SECTS AND GROUPS. These have sprung up in recent times, and cannot in any sense qualify as belonging to what Jesus started. They have come on the scene too late, and besides this Jesus didn't start them - they were started by a man, or in some cases by a woman. (As in the case of Christian Science.) These various groups know perfectly well that they can't claim identity with what Jesus started, unless they can slip over the idea that what He started was a Universal Invisible Church, composed of all the saved everywhere. They have done a pretty thorough job of putting over this idea too, such that even deceived and deluded Baptists join in the chatter about the "Choorch."
JESUS ALWAYS TOLD THE TRUTH. He said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." Our salvation and our eternal destiny depends upon the truthfulness of Christ. He said that He would rise from the dead, and He kept His word. He said that He would be three days and three nights in the tomb. (Good Friday observance and the Easter fiasco would make a liar out of Jesus for if He was crucified on Friday and arose on Sunday He could not have been three days and nights in the tomb.) Good Friday is the lie, and Jesus told the truth and was actually in the grave three days and three nights. Jesus said, "If I go away, I WILL come again." We believe that He will keep His word - that He is coming! Listen: The same Jesus who kept His word about other things, said that HIS CHURCH WOULD NEVER GO OUT OF EXISTENCE. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
IT'S BAPTISTS OR NOBODY!
The Catholic Church and the Protestant groups that sprung from that Church are too recent to qualify as fulfilling Christ's promise. All of the various modern church groups cannot qualify for they are centuries and centuries too young. Let us face a startling fact? The only church group that can't be traced to a human founder this side of Christ, are the BAPTISTS. Men have tried to date the Baptists this side of Christ, but the effort has resulted in utterly conflicting testimonies. We all know what happens in court when every witness gives a story that conflicts with every other witness. It doesn't take long for the judge to say, "Somebody's lying! It sounds like all of you are lying!" When those who try to date the origin of Baptists in recent centuries disagree and tell divergent stories, we soon come to the same conclusion voiced by the judge!
Since no other group can qualify as dating back to Christ, then we are faced with the proposition that Baptists are to be identified with the church Jesus started, or else He told a falsehood and made a promise that He failed to keep. Both of these are unthinkable.
We Baptists do not make the claim that we are to be identified all down through the centuries BY THE BAPTIST NAME. Our claim is that assemblies holding to the doctrines that characterized those of New Testament times, have continued all down through the centuries since Jesus was here.
These were the groups that were hounded and persecuted and driven from place to place. They were given different names by their enemies - nicknames - but there was one name that was more often applied to them than any other. That was the name ANABAPTIST. The term signifies re-baptizer. These New Testament groups would not receive those who came to them from unscriptural groups, without their being baptized over again - hence the term Anabaptists. This name persisted for centuries. I recall reading a history of Baptists in Kentucky, and it was recorded that even as late as that, they were some times called Anabaptists. Eventually however the "ana" was dropped and the name Baptist came to be currently used.
The persecuting Catholic Church knew exactly who they were persecuting as dissenters against their doctrines and practices. One of their cardinals - Cardinal Hosius, wrote back in A.D. 1554. He was the president of the Council of Trent, and he is quoted in J. T. Christian's History of the Baptists as follows:
"If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the ANABAPTISTS, since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past that have been more generally punished - than these people."
Get that will you! The Catholic president of the Council of Trent, who wrote in 1554, dates the Anabaptists back twelve hundred years beyond the time he wrote. That is a startling admission.
I could go ahead and mention some of the names other than Anabaptist, that were applied to these groups who suffered for their faith, but I am not giving a detailed history of the Baptists. Attempt has often been made to discredit some of these people by saying that some of them sometimes practiced things not believed in by Baptists today. Let us remember that their churches were independent and self governing, and no doubt some of them sometimes veered from the truth. Baptists sometimes do that today, but those who do are not representing the great body of Baptist churches. In my book, "The Church That Jesus Built," I go into detail as I trace Baptist churches back through the centuries to apostolic days. More over, I prove the continuity of Baptist churches through the centuries, using the statements of historians who were not Baptists.
When the beginning of all other religious groups can be historically traced to human founders, far this side of Christ; when it becomes evident that Baptist churches only are left through which Christ's promise can be fulfilled, and when we find evidence of their continued existence all through the centuries, we need be in no further doubt that they are to be identified with the "church that Jesus built."