Many will criticize both this tract and its author. Protestant "evangelicals" will cry that such a view is narrow and bigoted. Others will protest that the author lacks love. Students of history who have not delved deeper than the claims of Romanists and Protestants will disparage this view as lacking in "scholarship." All these criticisms are mere trifles if the Head of the Church is pleased with this effort!
The idea that among those people called Baptists are to be found the true churches of Jesus Christ was once the prevalent view of Baptists. However, in the end of the 20th century the old Baptist view has fallen into disrepute. Those who still maintain the ancient view are scorned, chided and slandered, often by those who have not investigated the matter. The popular idea is that many churches are Christ's churches and that they can and do have doctrines and practices which differ from one another and from the Bible.
That this idea is contrary to the claims of our old Baptist fathers is evident to all who will investigate the facts of history. Three brief quotations from one of the most famous of Baptist preachers are offered as evidence that Baptists have historically viewed themselves as being the original Christian churches and as having had a perpetual existence since the days of Christ and His apostles. Charles H. Spurgeon is quoted since no knowledgeable person can attribute to him the scornful terms reserved for those who adhere to this old view today. No claims are made that Mr. Spurgeon saw clearly all the ramifications of his view. What is clear is that Spurgeon held to the historic view of the nature and origin of Baptist churches. In 1860 he said:
Why do Baptists insist that it is among them that the true churches of Jesus Christ are to be found? Because only among those churches called Baptist are New Testament principles followed! Sound Baptists are people of the Bible, requiring "chapter and verse" for all they believe and practice on the one hand, and seeking to follow all the precepts and patterns of the New Testament on the other.
First of all, Baptists understand that John had direct authority from God to institute baptism. He was sent from God (John 1:6) to baptize with water (John 1:33). He was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). His ministry was a legitimate one in which he was to go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins . . ." (Luke 1:76, 77). John had authority to baptize!
Second, Baptists understand that Jesus and the apostles had no other baptism than that of John. Some modern Protestants have taught that John's baptism was superseded by some later "Christian baptism," but the Bible knows nothing about such a newer baptism. If there is a newer "Christian baptism," neither Jesus nor any of His apostles had it! All will admit that Jesus was baptized by John. That all the apostles were first disciples of John and baptized by him is admitted by most commentators (See John 1:37, 40-42; and Acts 1:21-22).
Third, Baptists understand that all those about whom we know whose baptizing was recorded in the New Testament met certain qualifications. (1) They were men. (2) They had been baptized. (3) They were God-called preachers who had been ordained by a previously existing church. (4) They were members in good standing of such a previously existing church. No unbaptized man, with the exception of John (who had direct authority from God) ever administered Scriptural baptism. It is by holding to this New Testament four-fold pattern that Baptist churches continue their existence to this day.
Scriptural baptism requires that there must be one who immerses the candidate. The four qualifications listed previously are those of a gospel minister. That ministers are to be ordained in connection with a church is a teaching of the New Testament (Titus 1:5). Paul claimed to have been "ordained a preacher, and an apostle . . . a teacher of the Gentiles" (1 Tim. 2:7). A careful study of Acts 13:1-4 will satisfy the Bible-believer that (1) the Holy Ghost calls men to gospel work: and (2) that when a church ordains such men, giving them authority and sending them out: (3) such men are sent forth by the Holy Ghost. Some may be pleased to do things another way, but this is the Bible way! So then, where there is a gospel preacher, there must have been a church in connection with which he was ordained. But where did the church come from which ordained him? Scriptural churches do not come into existence by "spontaneous combustion"! It must of necessity be that some ordained man sent out by still another previously existing church gathered that church by preaching and baptizing. And so it goes on back to the first church. This must be so if the New Testament way of doing things--the Bible way--is to be followed. There is no foundation in the Bible for "free-lance" baptizing!
If those four New Testament qualifications for administrators of baptism are met, Baptist churches will continue to exist. This method of gospel work has gone on perpetually from one church to another from the days of Christ's apostles. Beginning with that first "Baptist" church which Jesus built and continuing until He comes for His own, God has ordained that it is in this manner that churches come into being.
Today, most Christians have not carefully considered the four requirements for baptism. They have assumed that they have Scriptural baptism, but an assumption will not do! Sound Baptists maintain that for the rite to be Scriptural there must be: (1) A Scriptural candidate--a repentant sinner trusting in Christ alone for salvation: (2) A Scriptural mode --total immersion in water: (3) A Scriptural motive--not to wash away sins,- but to fulfil all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), that is, in obedience and as a picture of the believer's identification with Christ: (4) A Scriptural administrator--one acting with the authority of a previously existing church--one who meets the four requirements of a gospel minister.
That the authority to baptize rests in the (local) church is not in question here. Of course it does. It was His (local) church which Christ commissioned to do the whole of the gospel ministry (Matt. 28:16-20). But the whole congregation does not enter into the water and administer baptism to a candidate. Men appointed, that is, ordained do the actual immersing, upon the authority which has been delegated to the (local) church. (I insert the word local in these sentences lest some reader be mislead into thinking I mean some other kind of church other than a local one.)
Protestants are clearly without Scriptural baptism. The founders of the Protestant Reformation were "baptized" as Roman Catholics in order to wash away their sins. This violates the requirement of a Scriptural motive. Their churches "baptize" infants. This violates the requirement of a Scriptural candidate. The historic Protestant churches now accept sprinkling as "baptism." This violates the requirement of a Scriptural mode-- immersion. Their churches, founded as they were by some man, cannot be Scriptural churches of Christ. Their clergy being themselves unbaptized, cannot administer Scriptural baptism to anyone.
If Rome and her Protestant daughters wish to continue with their rituals, they are perfectly at liberty to do so. Baptists have and will continue to defend to the death that liberty. But to maintain that their rites follow the Biblical pattern is false. That is why sound Baptists require the only baptism which follows the New Testament in precept and pattern! Surely those who persist in perpetuating an imitation baptism shall one day give an answer for their deeds. So shall those Baptists who know better, but who remain silent on this important subject.
While we rejoice to know that there are hundreds of sound Baptist churches around the world who insist on Scriptural baptism, humanly speaking, truth is always just one generation from extinction. Christ's churches are the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). May God give His churches grace to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).