Here comes a disclaimer of sorts. None of this is written out of meanness. And it is not about people only about what has been done. It is a brief statement of plain facts which may be investigated, taken or flatly rejected as it pleases any reader. And as such it is not going to be filled with very much detail. You can supply those things on your own. I will always suggest that readers should rely upon the scriptures and see what you can find there on apostasies before taking a look into any history. But if you have an interest in the history of these things you can easily find the information. Many of those sources will be from the pens of adherents to a particular doctrine selling a point of view or from members of a denomination – and guess what? They may not tell it completely straight. And thus, caveat emptor. Remember: Jesus told us that he was “the head of all things to the church” and that his authority extended over everything, whether heavenly or earthly – for the rest of time. We don’t need any options beyond believing and doing what the scriptures tell us to do where eternal life is concerned.
Let’s start this way. There were two major divisions between the reformers: with the monk Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon (German) on one side and Huldrych Zwingli (Swiss) and Jean Calvin (French) on the other. Luther, the best known of the reformers, fought the Catholic Church over indulgences and other false doctrines. His 95 Thesis was posted in 1517 at Wittenberg Cathedral. Flatly put, the Catholics were fleecing people. They taught that commoners could buy their way out of Purgatory (whatever that is) by giving heartily to the church. That is how they paid for St. Peters. Their chief collector, John Tetzel wrote, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul into heaven springs.” Luther’s mission as he perceived it, was to stop those things and to reform the Roman Catholic Church. He later wrote that no one should ever name a church after him. Brent Kercheville has ably reported and quoted these things in his posts here. What Luther wrote did not seem to have mattered much. The Lutheran Church was one of the earliest of the Protestant churches. They date to the sixteenth century. Even so, they are more Catholic than Protestant. And you will not find either it or their doctrines mentioned in the NT.
Episcopalians are nothing more than an Americanized version of the Anglican Church, modelled on the Catholic pattern and as established by England’s King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547), with the Archbishop of Canterbury propped up at the helm in place of the pope. Henry was angry because the pope would not allow him to divorce his barren, or only female and stillborn producing wives and concubines. Henry Tudor eventually resorted to murder as the “Vicar of Christ” never relented. He proved adept at it. He wanted to do as he pleased with or without the blessing of the “head” of the Catholic Church. You may recall that all of the popes were pretty powerful in their own right. You will not find the Anglicans or Episcopalians or their doctrines anywhere within the covers of the NT. And so, why would anyone in their right mind pay attention to anything they say, teach or do? It is all about history, pageant and legacy, not about God’s Word and salvation.
The Presbyterians and the Reformed Churches, generally identifies several denominations established under a multitude of names and banners, between the late sixteenth and to the early eighteenth century. Most of these still teach the disciplines of Calvin (1506 – 1564) and less so of Zwingli (1484 – 1531).
Jean Calvin was the head of the Consistory Council and Court in Geneva and a student of the principles of Aurelius Augustinus, one of the fathers of Catholicism: wrongly called saint Augustine. These churches were as with the rest, formed in reaction to the various teachings of Rome, where its fathers disagreed with Catholic doctrine and later in response to persecution of anyone who rejected anything Catholic inspired. The persecutions came through some of the temporal authorities as agents of Rome, but also directly through the Roman Catholic Church. Calvin is responsible for the larger part of extra Biblical doctrines that have been wholly adopted by many churches under the banner of Presbyterians and Reformed Churches. The inquisitions were a large part of this. “Good” King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were on the throne during the worst of the Spanish Inquisitions. And though appealed as the basis of Protestant reform doctrines, Jean Calvin, just like the Catholics and their inquisitors, indulged in the exact same behaviors and activities toward anyone with whom he disagreed. So pick your poison. Or better yet, avoid this spiritual poison and read and do only what the Bible teaches.
This is a history all to itself and is the starting point of the Quakers, Puritans, Pilgrims, the United Church of Christ (which dare I say, has nothing at all to do with the assembly founded by Christ), plus many, many more. Rest assured you will not find a single one of these Protestant groups mentioned anywhere in the NT. There are not any Presbyterians (Presbuteros is the Greek word for “the group or council of elders” or simply, “the elders” – in a clear reaction to Catholicism), Reformed Churches, or any of these other churches and what they teach, or as they are configured. And while several of them teach some of what Christ taught, none of them teaches it all. And none of them patterns themselves after the pattern for the assemblies found within the pages of your Bible. So, again why bother? Let’s go fishing or sleep in.
The fabricated English word baptize in its several forms was transliterated out of the conjugations of the Greek root word Bapto. In a compromise reached by prior to its publication in 1609, the translators of the King James Bible avoided a clash with the king and his state religion by adding the word baptize to the English language, as the James the First and the Anglicans, had already accepted sprinkling (or effusion) in place of immersion. As noted previously, the Anglicans were and are nothing more than a clone of Catholicism, with the English monarch in place of the Pope. The translators wished to not incite their patron and thereby perhaps manage to get paid for their labors. “The love of money is the root of all evil;” and cash trumps everything but the truth.
One form of those transliterated words is Baptist. The root word for it and the rest of its forms, is the already mentioned Bapto. And it is always translated to whelm, to sink, bury or to immerse. This remains true whether you read Modern Greek, the Bible, or any of the well-known ancient Greek penned and translated classics. The word Baptist gave rise through titles (again) since the fifteenth century, first to Dunkers and Anabaptists and then to the various forms leading up to the modern Baptist denominations and associations found today. There are at least twenty-five Baptist churches or organizations around now. And guess what, like all splinter groups, most don’t fellowship one another. The generic modern form is the Baptist Church, whether Freewill, First, Primitive, Modern or last.
However, you will never find Baptists (plural), mentioned anywhere in the NT. It seems that there was only one Baptist prior to the seventeenth century. And, as I have written in posts previously, the prophet John, who was called “the messenger,” was known as “The Baptist”– the Immerser. While he was alive he was quoted as saying that he would soon be going out of business (“I must decrease, that he may increase…” John 3:30). And both Jesus and the Apostle Paul stated that things happened exactly as John predicted. Further, John’s death was one of those events recorded in all four Gospels. That can only mean that the one and only Baptist found in the Bible is long dead and gone to his reward. Furthermore, you cannot find where John ever established a single thing – assembly or mission. Twenty years or more after John was murdered Paul ran into some men in Ephesus who had been falsely immersed under “John’s baptism” and… “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). If you read this and are “a Baptist” you need to stop what you are doing, and read your Bible.
If you were not a follower or disciple of John, why in “heaven’s name” would you call your assemblies after an ordinance that you believe is only good for adding you to a local church, and not in any way purposeful to salvation? And why would you distinguish yourselves by a word in the singular form that appears in history as a nickname for just that one person: John? Has anyone else dared to call themselves “the Baptist” since? Is there a “Joe” or perhaps a “Dave the Baptist” around today or anywhere in history? And last but not least, these words are only found in English Bibles published after 1609. They did not exist in any language prior to that time.
Most Baptist Pastors used to teach that their church had been founded by John. They were challenged often and dropped that argument by the mid nineteenth century. Now they have nothing at all to say about it. They teach and rely upon Jean Calvin and the notion of “once saved always saved.” I say, once burned twice wise. You will find Baptists in the same location as the rest of the denominations, but never in the scriptures, look though you may.
As I said at the outset: I am not interested in selling a product or maligning anyone: dead or alive. But, I do not apologize for these notes. I am only interested in teaching the truth and following the pattern found in the NT for worship and service, whether it is convenient or not. That is the only way either you or I can be saved. The Gospel Plan is incredibly simple: hear the Lord’s Word, believe it, repent where you have erred, confess Jesus as Savior and Lord, and be immersed as his servant,” to rise in newness of life.” Then seek out Christians of like mind.
The only names listed for Christ’s followers in the NT are Christians, disciples, believers, and saints. The only Lord is the Lord God Almighty, and the only Savior is the Christ who said that upon his death and resurrection… “All power is given unto me in both heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). So, who else was given any authority to modify things and start “new” churches? The Apostle Peter soon stated, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
That’s good enough for me. How about you?
I am thankful that some of these mentioned folks took a stand, and some of them even to death, in order to try to set a path to serving God – and this whether they were accurate in every detail or not. Some got it near to right; but most appear to have let their ignorance or their egos take over. Yet, I will leave the judgment of all things to Christ. And, I will attempt each day to follow the patterns that were left by the Savior, his Apostles and prophets and the Holy Spirit, whether or not my brethren or anyone else chooses to do so. The Word of God is the only book on earth in history, which offers and answers the question: “What must I do to be saved.” No other religion and no other religious treatise or book takes any of it up. And, that is the point.
There will be one additional post following this thread. I think you can easily see where I am going with this. The angel said “Serve God.” Let decide to do that and that alone. That is where there is safe ground – as one old hymn posed: “all other ground is sinking sand.”