The Perpetuity of The Church of Jesus Christ
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not REVEALED it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon THIS ROCK I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Throughout theological history, theologians have strained at this text to justify any one of the “seven women who shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by Thy name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1)
All so-called “Christiandom” wish to have His name, yet also to eat the bread of carnal doctrines, and be clothed in the self-righteousness of freewill works. To claim this name, they all must find some means to declare themselves the “Church of Christ.”
Usually, it is by this text. Thus, they either lay stress upon the word “Peter”, and claim him to be the foundation of the church; or else upon the word “rock,” and the durability of the institution.
The historical position of Old School Baptists has been that the Church is founded upon the REVELATION of Jesus Christ. This revelation is not by flesh and blood, but by the teaching of God. Thus, none can “see” nor “enter” the kingdom of God except they be first born from above. (John 3:3-6)
It is our Firm belief that the Church of Jesus Christ has been in the world since Christ set it up during His personal ministry. The gates of hell have not prevailed against it, nor ever shall. Whether the dragon sends a flood of heresies against her, thus driving her into the wilderness; or by overt persecution to try to put her to death; the gates of hell shall not triumph against her. Indeed, the forces of Hell cannot recognize her, — “…he cannot SEE the kingdom of God …” (John 3:3) — much less deceive her! Hence, we believe in the perpetuity of the church of Jesus Christ.
But, we do not, we cannot, believe in papal succession nor serial succession as argued by Modern Baptists.
We fear “Baptist perpetuity” along the lines of papal succession as much as we fear that of Rome, for it issues forth from the anti-Christ and is intended to deceive the multitudes.
Specifically, among many free grace Baptists, perpetuity is based upon “baptism by ordained ministers of the Baptist faith” throughout all ages.
Our quotations from Crosby, the English Baptist historian; the “Memorial” in John Gill’s “Body of Divinity” relative to the origin of that church in London; and Isaac Backus, the American “Separate” Baptist, showed the English Baptists coming out of the Puritan Seceders. Many readers took issue with that position, yet the documents are conclusive.
That is not the route of perpetuity, as we will attempt to demonstrate.
Perpetuity can not be by “immersion by ordained ministers” throughout the ages.
That is, baptism by immersion is NOT the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Before presenting the reasons, we will first quote from “The Church That Jesus Built” by Elder Roy Mason, an independent sovereign grace Missionary Baptist.
“S.H. Ford, a widely known Baptist historian says: ‘Succession among Baptists is NOT a linked chain of churches or ministers, uninterrupted and traceable at this distant day…The true and defensible doctrine is that BAPTIZED believers have existed in every age since John baptized in Jordan, and have met as a baptized congregation in covenant and fellowship where an OPPORTUNITY permitted.’
Again from W.A. Jarrell, D.D., author of a most convincing book on church perpetuity, I quote the following:
‘All that Baptists mean by ‘church succession’, or church perpetuity is: there has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth.’ Again, ‘Baptists do NOT claim perpetuity on the basis of the NAME baptist. (Author’s emphasis) They do not make the claim that churches “called by the name Baptists” have existed through all the ages.”
(Church That Jesus Built, Roy Mason, page 10.)
To say that there have always been (since New Testament days) congregations that baptize by immersion is not to say, necessarily, that all congregations who baptize thus are descended from them. It is far too much to claim, and also not necessary.
The church at Rome baptized by immersion (Romans 6:3-5); and if that body in perpetuity still baptized accordingly, and if all other things as now embraced therein were still practiced and believed, then perpetuity could NOT be had from Rome.
In the statements quoted above, it appears that baptism by immersion is the single criterion set forth as the grounds of perpetuity of Baptists. Modern Baptists must claim that position, but Old School Baptists will not have it.
PERPETUITY CANNOT BE FOUNDED UPON BAPTISM BY IMMERSION.
Our reasons are as follows:
1. If this were to be so, then the various Orthodox religions, such as the Greek, Russian, Armenian, and Serbian Orthodox groups have valid claims equal to anyone today; for they have always, and yet still, baptize by immersion. If a Baptist objects, saying, “But they baptize infants, and infants are not believers, and thus not proper subjects for the ordinance,” then…
2. That argument negates Modern Baptists’ baptism upon the same grounds. For who among free grace believers will deny that Modern Baptists baptize wholesale any and every one whom they can, and employ any means to invite “the world” of unbelievers into Baptist churches? We all are aware that the overwhelming majority of the Modern Baptist churches are nearly filled with immersed unbelievers. Thus, if perpetuity is based upon “believers’ immersion only,” then Baptists, in general, have long departed from the line of perpetuity of the true church. Indeed, we believe this to be so, and therefore hold no fellowship with them.
3. If church perpetuity is based upon baptism by immersion of believers by ordained ministers, then the link of such perpetuity was broken by God’s own authority in the New Testament Church.
“And Saul was consenting unto his death (Stephen’s). And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was AT Jerusalem; and they were ALL scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, EXCEPT THE APOSTLES.”
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the DISCIPLES of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to DAMASCUS to the SYNAGOGUES, that if he found any of this way…he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Notice the following points: (a) The apostles were still at Jerusalem, (b) Damascus was in SYRIA — not in Judea — and thus Saul’s AUTHORITY was limited to the JEWISH SYNAGOGUES, (c) No “church” is mentioned there (as later in Antioch), but only “disciples.”
Now read: “And there was a CERTAIN DISCIPLE at DAMASCUS, named Ananias…and immediately there fell from his (Paul’s) eyes as it had been scales: and he received his sight forthwith, and arose and WAS BAPTIZED.”
(Acts 9:13, 18 and Acts 22:16)
“And straightway he PREACHED CHRIST IN THE SYNAGOGUES, that He is the Son of God.”
Thus, the Scriptures prove: (a) Paul was NOT baptized by an apostle, but only a “disciple”; (b) in a city without a church formed apart from the Jewish synagogues; and (c) he immediately began preaching!
What then does this do to the argument of perpetuity as argued by Lankmarkism?
4. If succession, or perpetuity, is to be had through immersion as the form of
baptism (which it is), then the Christian Restoration Movement (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Christian) the Pentacostals, Church of God, Southern Baptists, Mormons, and all other Arminians excluded from the Church have as valid a claim to perpetuity as any other. And yet, Baptists do not recognize others not called by the name “Baptists” even though they went out from them. Thus, they accept Southern “Baptists” but not Church of Christ,… both Arminian and both baptistic.
Because as Baptist successionists claim, these have “departed the Baptist faith.”
But so have ALL ARMINIANS, Baptists or otherwise, for Arminian freewillism is NOT the “faith once delivered to the saints.”
Arminianism is outside the true church of Jesus Christ, and within the anti-Christian synagogue of Satan — or “Mystery Babylon.” Thus, we conclude, that perpetuity cannot be had through baptism by immersion only.
It is certain that in the beginning the saints at Rome received the gospel as expressed in Paul’s epistle to them.
Yet would any dare assert that apostate Rome is the same as the Rome to which Paul’s epistle was addressed?
If perpetuity is not to be of Rome, then under what condition can it be from modern Arminian Baptists?
If it is argued that Baptists’confessions of faith are sound, and that they ONCE had New Testament church authority, can it not also be said that this WAS so of Rome?
Finally, in answer to many questions following the articles on “Three Branches of Seceders” as to how perpetuity can be had from Congregationalists and Puritans, the answer is: in the same manner it can be had from Arminian Baptists!
In fact, it can safely be affirmed that English Baptists were of the SAME predestinarian faith as the Congregationalists and Puritans; which CANNOT be said of Free Grace Baptists coming out of Free Will, or Arminian Baptists today.
However, perpetuity as viewed by us is not to be had outside the truth of free grace.
Of all things which might invalidate a gospel assembly, falling into freewill natural religion is the most severe, for such is the basic foundation of all Biblical departures and heresies. Certainly, disorder may from time to time be found in true gospel churches, yet they remain as churches even as “the church of God at Corinth.” Yet, surely one would not suppose that apostacy from the gospel of free grace could take place and yet gospel ordinances and a gospel church could still exist!
Brethren, if you love and rejoice in the gospel of free grace, do you not have a witness within that says freewillism is no part of that truth you love?
The cardinal question, we believe, is whether freewillism or free grace is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If free grace is, then church perpetuity MUST be through the truth of the gospel, NOT through Arminian immersion or church “authority.”
“Freewillism” is the best evidence a child of God can have that an institution embracing such is NOT a gospel church. Thus, an institution without the gospel cannot perpetuate the “gospel” church, nor its ordinances.
Conversely, a gospel church MUST and WILL perpetuate the gospel ordinances.
The foundation of Christ’ church is upon the revelation of Christ by the Spirit to quickened and believing children of God. In a word, it is the gospel of free grace which perpetuates the true gospel church, and its ordinances. To say that an ordinance, or an institutional “authority” perpetuates the church is like saying that the tail wags the dog.
By Stanley C. Phillips