Thursday, January 24, 2008


BAPTISTS Distinctively Revolutionary Reformers

The Anabaptists

The Baptists number over 110 million worldwide in nearly 300,000 congregations, and considered the largest world communion of evangelical Protestants, with an estimated 38.8 million members in the USA.

According to Baptist historian H. Leon McBeth, Baptists, as a distinct denomination, originated in England in a time of intense religious reform. McBeth writes, “Our best historical evidence says that Baptists came into existence in England in the early seventeenth century. They apparently emerged out of the Puritan-Separatist movement in the Church of England.”

Some see the Baptists as the descendants of the 16th century Anabaptists (which some view as a product of the Protestant Reformation and others view as a continuation of the older pre-Reformation non-Catholic churches) and others see them as a separation from the Church of England in the 1600s.

Viewpoint: Baptist perpetuity

The Baptist perpetuity view (also known as Baptist succession) holds that the church founded by Christ in Jerusalem was Baptist in character and that like churches have had perpetual existence from the days of Christ to the present. Groups such as the Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigensians, Catharists, Waldenses, and Anabaptists, as predecessors to contemporary Baptists.

‘The Anabaptistst were not wrong, therefore, when they said that anabaptism was no new thing. The Waldensians had practiced it before them" (Ibid, II. 166). No one can certainly say whether they appeared first in the Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland, and their Ieaders were not confined to any one country, and seem to have had no especial connection with each other.

The Radical Reformation

Drowning of Anneken Jans, Rotterdam, 1539 (etchings by Jan Luiken 1649-1712 Martyrs Mirror, (1685)

Capture of Hans Smit, Hendrik Adamsz, Hans Bek, Matthijs Smit, Dileman Snijder, and 7 others, Aachen, 1558

Execution of about 350 persons, Alzey, 1529

Anabaptists: Mennonites, Amish,

Revolutionary Anabaptists: Münster,

Contemplative Anabaptists: Hans Denck, 1500-1525

Evangelical Anabaptists: Conrad Grebel, 1498-1526, Swiss Brethren, The Schleitheim Confession, Hutterites, Mennonites

Swiss Anabaptists Anabaptist movement developed in Northern Switzerland first.

Zurich was the early center. Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, is more specific than Luther. From the beginning of his work he was under the necessity of dealing with the Anabaptist movement. He says: The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for three hundred years has caused great disturbance in the church, and has acquired such strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appears futile for a time.

Conrad Grebel (1498-1526)

Grebel was born of a wealthy patrician family.

He worked with Zwingli until 1523.

Grebel gathered other “radicals” around himself.

The Swiss Brethren

On January 17, 1525, G. debated Zwingli on the subject of infant baptism.

On Jan. 21, Grebel & Felix Manz baptized (sprinkled) several adults.


Sola scriptura

Free church concept

Believer’s baptism

Earnest obedience

Against civil oaths


Suffering the key mark of the church

Plain worship

Infants and children without baptism are saved

In 1526, the Zurich council authorized drowning for Anabaptists. Grebel and Manz escaped. Grebel died in exile, of the plague, in 1526. Manz was recaptured and drowned in 1527.

By 1535, the Anabaptist movement was nearly nonexistent in Zurich.

German Anabaptists

Balthasar Hubmaier (1481-1528)

Hubmaier was educated at the University of Ingolstadt, under Catholic scholar and Luther debater, John Eck.

Hubmaier served as priest at Waldshut, near the northern Swiss border.

In 1523, Zwingli converted Hubmaier.

Balthasar Hubmaier

In 1525, Hubmaier and 300 followers were sprinkled. At Augsburg, in 1525, was a Baptist church of eleven hundred members. Hans Denck was the pastor, and he was of Waldensian origin.

In 1526, Hubmaier went to Augsburg to preach reformation.

Catholic authorities chased him to Zurich, where he was imprisoned, then banished to Moravia.

Hubmaier made 1000s of converts.

Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria had him arrested and burned in Vienna, March 10, 1528.

Dutch Anabaptists Menno Simons (1496-1561)

In the Netherlands (Holland), Anabaptism survived because of Menno Simons.

Simons was a Catholic priest who became an Anabaptist in 1536.

He refused to align himself with the Munster radicals. His followers were called “Brethren.”

After his death, they became known as “Mennonites.”

Anabaptist Doctrines

The Bible is the supreme authority.

Only adult believers should be baptized.

Separation of church and state

The church is the “company of the committed.”

Many were pacifists (esp. Mennonites).

Extreme millennial views, leading to socialism

Used small group Bible study extensively.


A brief survey of Church history reveals that Baptists have existed throughout the years, though for many centuries that existence bore the character of an underground movement. We might for instance quote the example of one Peter de Bruys living in the South of France at the close of the 11th century. He preached the evangelical doctrine of repentance and faith, and maintained that personal faith was a necessary prerequisite for valid baptism. His followers were known as Petrobrusians. Likewise in the Eleventh and Twelfth centuries many Waldensians were of Baptist persuasion. Their contemporaries the Cathari in Germany, clearly taught, that, baptism should be delayed until individuals come to years of discretion and that even then, only those who profess personal faith in Christ ought to be baptised.. It is by no means improbable that in our own country some of the Lollards of the 14th and 15th centuries held Baptist views. Dr Evans, in his' History of Early English Baptists', cites the following evidence for this-
'I have now before me a manuscript register of Gray, Bishop of Ely[ 1454 - 1479 ] , which proves that in the year 1457, there was a congregation of this sort[ Baptist] in this village, Chesterton... who privately assembled for divine worship, and had preachers of their own, who taught them the very doctrines which we now preach. Six of them were accused of heresy... and condemned to do penance, half naked with a faggot at their backs and a taper in their hands, in the public market place of Ely and Cambridge, and in the churchyard of Great Swaffam'.

Walter Lollard, a Dutchman, of remarkable eloquence, came into England, in the reign of Edward III., "from among the Waldenses, among whom he was a great bard or pastor." His followers rapidly increased so that Abelard declared "our age is imperiled by heretics, that there seems to be no footing left for the true faith." Knighton, the English chronicler, says: "More than one-half of the people of England, in a few years, became Lollards" (Knighton, col. 2664). Hallam says in his History of the Middle Ages: "An inundation of heresy broke in the twelfth century over the church, which no persecution was able to repress, till it finally overspread half the surface of Europe."

It is possible that the two forerunners of the English reformation were both Baptists. Wycliffe refuted the idea of infant baptism, believing that unbaptised children dieing in infancy were saved. William Tyndale the first translator/publisher of the Bible in English (A. D. 1484-1536) may have been a Baptist. He was born near the line between England and Wales, but lived most of the time in Gloustershire. "Llewellyn Tyndale and Hezekiah Tyndale were members of the Baptist church at Abergaverney, South Wales." There is much mystery around the life of Tyndale. Bale calls him "the apostle of the English." "He was learned, a godly, and a good-natured man" (Fuller, Church History of Britain, II. 91). It is certain he shared many views held by the Baptists; but that he was a member of a Baptist church is nowhere proved. He always translated the word eccleesia by the word congregation, and held to a local conception of a church (Tyndale, Works II. 13. London, 1831). There were only two offices in the church, pastor and deacons (1.400). The elders or bishops should be married men (I. 265). Upon the subject of baptism he is very full. He is confident that baptism does not wash away sin. "It is impossible," says he, "that the waters of the river should wash our hearts" (Ibid, 30).Baptism was a plunging into the water (Ibid, 287). Baptism to avail must include repentance, faith and confession (III. 179). The church must, therefore, consist of believers (Ibid, 25). His book in a wonderful manner states accurately the position of the Baptists.

The Anabaptists in England were called Baptists as early as 1569. Some hold that the first Baptist church in England met in London at Spitalfields in Southwark, from 1611.

There was a congregation of Protestant Dissenters of the Independent persuasion in London, gathered in the year 1616, whereof Mr. Henry Jacob was the first pastor; and after him succeeded Mr. John Lathrop, who was their minister at this time. In this society several persons, finding that the congregation kept nor to their first principles of separation, and being also convinced that baptism was not to be administered to infants, but such only as professed faith in Christ, desired that they might he dismissed from that communion, and allowed to form a distinct congregation, in such order as was agreeable to their own sentiments. By 1650, there were a number of Particular Baptist churches in and around London. In 1644, seven of them had drafted a confession of faith which showed some of their distinctive views.

John Smyth, England, 1570-1612
(14) That baptism is the external sign of the remission of sins, of dying and of being made alive, and therefore does not belong to infants.

(15) That the Lord's Supper is the external sign of the communion of Christ, and of the faithful amongst themselves by faith and love.

(16) That the ministers of the church are, not only bishops ("Episcopos"), to whom the power is given of dispensing both the word and the sacraments, but also deacons, men and widows, who attend to the affairs of the poor and sick brethren. [

(17) That brethren who persevere in sins known to themselves, after the third admonition, are to be excluded from the fellowship of the saints by excommunication.

(18) That those who are excommunicated are not to be avoided in what pertains to worldly business (civile commercium)

Do you notice that there are some beliefs that are held by the different groups that identify them as Baptists?

These are called Baptist distictives. They are distinctive beliefs that are different from other denominations.

Baptists arrived at these distinctives through careful study of the Bible. These teachings emerged as Baptist distinctives because individual Baptist churches have consistently and independently held to them, not because some group of Baptist leaders composed the list and then imposed the distinctives on local churches.    Church groups other than Baptists have held some of the Baptist distinctives, and one may even find churches that hold all of the distinctives but do not call themselves Baptist. On the other hand, some churches naming themselves "Baptist" are not truly Baptist because they no longer hold the historic Baptist beliefs or even the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

What Are the Eight Baptist Distinctives?

These teachings may be remembered by associating them with the letters that form the word "BAPTISTS."


Biblical authority

The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture's inherent authority.
2 Timothy 3:15-1715 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


Autonomy of the local church.

The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in an associational tie, but a Baptist church cannot be a "member" of any other body.    Colossians 1:18; And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23 1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: 23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.

Priesthood of all believers    

"Priest" is defined as "one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God." Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God--whether we are a preacher or not.
1 Peter 2:5, 9 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Revelation 5:9, 10 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed [people] for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.


Two ordinances

(believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper) The local church should practice two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and (2) the Lord's Supper, or communion, commemorating His death for our sins. Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32


Individual soul liberty

Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. However, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself.

5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:22 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Titus 1:9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.


Saved church membership    

Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer's baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, a oneness in Christ exists, and the members can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Acts 2:41-47 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon)   

The Bible mandates only two offices in the church--pastor and deacon. The three terms--"pastor," "elder," and "bishop," or "overseer"--all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor (or elder or overseer) and deacon exist within the local church, not as a hierarchy outside or over the local church.1 Timothy 3:1-13 This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” 2 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money,

Acts 20:17-38 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: the • overseers and deacons.


Separation of Church and State

God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government.

Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29

What sets one church apart from all the others? We have seen that it is the church's distinctive beliefs that set it apart from all others and that Baptists in general hold to some convictions that make them different from all other groups. Baptist churches will continue to hold to the Baptist distinctives because these distinctives are historically Biblical. They are relevant to the issues facing contemporary society and the church. So when "shopping" for a church, look for the name "Baptist" and then take a closer look to make sure that church is upholding the Biblical Baptist distinctives.

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