I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and was always led to believe that John the Baptist founded the Baptist Church. Well, it made sense: John was a “Baptist;” we were “Baptists.” So John must have started the Baptist Church, right? Yes, optimistic thinking at its best. Perception is, as they say, reality. Sometimes our perception and Truth are in opposition. And, sometimes, we find out the hard way.
Reading the Bible in its entirety, rather than pulling out a convenient verse here and there, produces the Creator’s intended effect – illumination of Truth.
At the age of 21 I began to read the Bible. Not the common casual perusal through a few Psalms or Proverbs, but a deliberate, systematic study of the 66 books that make up the Bible. Reading the Bible caused me to evaluate the things we Baptists believed and practiced.
After a careful study, I realized that there were a host of practices that we Baptists advocated that didn’t align with the Bible. But one Baptist doctrine stood out above all others – that John the Baptist founded the Baptist Church.
Did John the Baptist start the Baptist Church? Do you want to find it for yourself, or would you like to me share what I found? If you’re reading this sentence, I can assume that you want me to share what I found. Alright, here is knowledge from the Word of God. I hope you will verify it for yourself.
We find King Herod, in the 14th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, spending his birthday at his winter palace. He’d been able to seize and imprison John at his palace. Why did Herod want John in shackles? Because John had said that Herod shouldn’t be sleeping with his sister-in-law, Herodias; therefore, John was incarcerated for his incendiary statement. Actually, Herod wanted to execute John, but feared the reaction of the crowds because the populous believed John to be a prophet of God.
Then, during the celebration of Herod’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter enticed Herod by dancing erotically before him. Evidently Herod was mesmerized by her seductive talents and promised to give her anything she wanted. She’d already been coached by her mother on what to request. “Give me John the Baptist’s head on a platter!” demanded Herodias’ daughter. Herod was now between a rock and the proverbial hard-spot. He didn’t want to incite the crowds, but he also had to demonstrate that he was a man of his word. Ultimately he chose to please Herodias’ daughter. Herod had John decapitated.
Why is this historical account of John’s death important? Because it uncovers the answer to the question, “Did John the Baptist start the Baptist Church?” How does it uncover the answer? John’s death at the hand of Herod was before the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made the first prophecy that any church would be built. Jesus said that He would build a church – not John. Jesus said that it would be His church – not John’s. John the Baptist founded no church. His name “John the Baptist” was simply a descriptive term of his mission and actions. John was a baptizer of men unto the baptism of repentance.
In the 16th chapter of the gospel of Matthew we find Jesus questioning His disciples. “Who are the crowds saying that I am?” His disciples responded, “Some are saying that you are John the Baptist. Some are saying that you are a prophet, such as Elias or Jeremiah.” But Jesus wanted to know what His own disciples thought. “But who do you think I am?” Jesus questioned. Peter responded and said, “You are the Christ (the Messiah; Savior), the Son of the living God!” Jesus exclaimed that Peter was blessed because his knowledge was given by God and not by flesh. Then Jesus makes an incredible prophecy to Peter and to the rest of His disciples, “You are Peter, and upon this rock (the rock of belief that Jesus was the Son of God, or what we would call the confession of faith in Christ) I will build my church.”
It was Jesus, not John, who stated that He would build a church. We find that the Lord’s prophecy came true in the last part of Acts chapter 2. That section of Scripture reveals that all who were saved were added to the Lord’s church by God. God adds the saved to the Lord’s church. There was no earthly council, no associations, and no conventions that voted on potential church member candidates.
Furthermore, Christ’s church was a “blood-bought” institution, as stated in the 28th chapter of the book of Acts. It was to be an essential, divine, blood-bought institution that the saved of God would be added to by God.
Consider this truth: John didn’t prophecy that he would build any church. John didn’t give his blood for a church. John was simply the fore-runner for the Christ.
History records that the Baptist Church was founded by a man named John Smyth, an Anglican priest ordained by the Church of England in 1594. Smyth became a “Separatist,” and formed the first “Baptist” church in Holland somewhere between 1607 and 1609 – some 1570 years after Christ established His church. Smyth “re-baptized” himself by pouring water over his head. Then he baptized (poured) his followers. 1609 is the unofficial beginning of the Baptist Church.
Prior to his death, Smyth abandoned his Baptist views and began trying to proselytize his followers into the teachings Menno Simons, and the Mennonite Church.
Today’s Baptist Church members are a group of good, sincere, moral, and zealous people. However, they belong to a man-made organization. They belong to a church that wasn’t bought with Christ’s blood, hood-winked in believing that John the Baptist founded their organization. How is this possible? Baptist people have not taken the time to investigate their own heritage. They haven’t taken the time to diligently study the Scriptures of God. They “assume” that what they’ve been told is the truth.
Why would so many good people align themselves with an organization that was clearly founded by a man, instead of simply obeying the instructions of Peter found in the second chapter of Acts and being added to the church of Jesus Christ by God Himself? The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. They just don’t know. They are ignorant of these biblical and historical facts.
Every Baptist need to know that Jesus Christ founded His church and gave His blood for it. Paul told the church at Ephesus that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Paul also said that Christ is the Head of His church, and the Savior of His body, the church.
So we boil it down to this: do you want to be a member of the church that Jesus Christ established, or do you want to be a member of a church founded by John Smyth? My choice is Jesus. Give me the opportunity to obey the instructions for salvation found in Acts 2, and God will add me to the church of Christ, Acts 2.
If you have the spiritual desire to be a “Christian ONLY,” and a willingness to find the one, true, New Testament church of the Bible, Michael challenges you to read the book Muscle and a Shovel. It’s not only a story that will grab you immediately and not let go, but it will challenge your existing beliefs beyond your imagination.