by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Since Jesus started the New Testament church, there have always been New Testament churches. I am not talking about denominational succession. I do not believe in denominational succession. By succession I mean that one denomination started another denomination, and that one started another one, and that continued until you get to the church I pastor today.
I cannot prove local church succession. It may be that every church was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by Jesus. I do not know, but that is not the issue. The issue is that there has never been a time, since Jesus established the church in Matthew chapter ten, that there was not a church that was descended from that first local church started by the Lord.
In a sense Baptists have succeeded each other, but that does not include all Baptists. Baptists have existed ever since the New Testament, but that does not mean that all Baptists are descended from those in the New Testament. I know Baptist preachers who will take transfers from any Baptist church, yet there are hundreds of Baptist churches that are completely liberal. Just because they are Baptist does not mean that they are part of a New Testament church. I do not care about the denominational tag.
We have the idea of the perpetuity of a denomination, which is not true. There are some Baptist churches that are not Baptist at all. It is not the succession of a denomination that has caused the perpetuity of the church. It is the splitting of the denomination that has caused the perpetuity of the church. The trail of blood from the time Jesus started the church until now has not been perpetuated by denomination, but by people splitting those denominations to start new movements. So, it is not the major denomination that has perpetuated New Testament churches. It is the split off of that denomination which has done so..
There are four steps in every Baptist movement. I am referring to the Southwide Baptist Fellowship, the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Conservative Baptist Association, the Baptist Bible Fellowship, the Southern Baptist Convention, etc.. When one of these groups starts, the four steps in the decay of a Baptist movement begins.
Step 1. It starts with a man. Every Baptist movement is started from a man. The Baptist Bible Fellowship started with J. Frank Norris. The Southwide Baptist Fellowship was the baby of Dr. Lee Roberson. The General Association of Regular Baptists was the baby of Dr. Bob Ketchum. The Conservative Baptist Association was the baby of Dr. Myron Cedarholm. That is the first step in every great movement.
Step 2. It becomes a movement. That is the best day of a group. It is moving. It is virile. It is active. It is starting and building churches. It is getting the job done.
Step 3. It becomes a machine.
Step 4. It becomes a monument.
Let me show you where some of these groups are on this progression.
The American Baptist Convention is a monument.
The Southern Baptist Convention is a machine. It was a man. Then, for many years it was a movement. Now, it is a machine. The denomination runs the churches. Someday it will be a monument.
The Baptist Bible Fellowship is halfway between movement and a machine. It is just entering into the machine stage from being a movement.
If I started a denomination, it would go the same route. Why? Because a movement is not of God. Movements are not always bad, but Jesus never started a denomination or a movement. He started a local church. God is against denominations. No denomination ever starts off intending to be a denomination. A denomination is a result of decadence that was never intended. It was intended to be a fellowship of churches, but it evolves. Denominationalism is not of God. It is the decay of a movement. That is why God is not concerned about denominations. God is concerned about local churches.
A few years ago I was preaching in Erie, Pennsylvania. They had a breakfast for pastors, and about forty-five pastors came. Nobody was trying to boss anybody. Nobody was trying to blacklist anybody. Nobody was trying to politic with anybody. Everybody was on an equal level. It was not a denomination. It was just a group of churches getting together in fellowship. One day, somebody may suggest that they elect officers. Then somebody else may suggest that they have a charter. Somebody else will suggest that they adopt a statement of faith. Then, somebody is will try to pass some resolutions. It keeps on going and going until finally it has become a denomination. It starts off as a group of preachers getting together to fellowship with each other, and ends up with somebody wanting some authority. God is not for that.
Let me give you some facts about Baptist churches.
1. Baptist churches existed before the Reformation.
We were not always called Baptists. We did not name ourselves. Our enemies named us. We were originally called Anabaptists which means rebaptizers. One of the three great doctrines which caused us to be persecuted is that we do not believe in infant baptism. When these baptizers got people saved they baptized their converts again, even though they had been baptized as babies, so their enemies called them re-baptizers.
When I first went to Hammond, a large number of unsaved people in the church got saved. We baptized them even though most of them had already been baptized, so somebody started calling me the double-dip Baptist preacher. That is why the Baptists were called Anabaptists, or rebaptizers.
There were Baptist churches before the Reformation. The Reformation was the time when Martin Luther pulled out of the Catholic church and decided that the just shall live by faith. At that time the Protestant movement was started. I am not a Protestant. Protestants are those who came out of Catholicism. Baptists did not come out of Catholicism. When Martin Luther decided the just shall live by faith and started the Reformation, Baptist people were in hiding.
2. At the Reformation the Baptists had hope and decided that it was safe to come out of hiding. Martin Luther began preaching salvation like they had always been preaching it. They were in for a surprise. Even though the Catholics and Protestants were fighting each other, they were together on one issue, and one issue only. They hated the Baptists. The Baptists thought that Martin Luther's Reformation would bring them out of hiding, but it did not, because Martin Luther persecuted Baptists just like the Catholics persecuted Baptists. John Calvin persecuted Baptists just like the Catholics persecuted Baptists. I believe that Martin Luther was a great man like Henry Ford was a great man, but he was not a great Christian, or a great preacher. He was a great leader. Martin Luther would have put preachers like me in jail.
3. The Catholics and the Protestants united to exterminate the Baptists.
4. Henry the VIII banished Baptists and gave them twelve days to leave or die.
5. Baptists were slaughtered in the Netherlands just for being Baptists.
6. Baptists were banned in Germany.
7. Much of the blood shed by Bloody Mary came from Baptist veins.
8. Queen Elizabeth gave Baptists twenty days to leave the country.
9. Switzerland killed Baptists by drowning and burning them at the stake.
In our country we have the idea that the Pilgrims came to the new land looking for religious freedom. They came looking for it, but they also came denying it. They came looking for their religious freedom while at the same time choking Baptists' religious freedom.
* In 1669 William Wickendon preached the first Baptist sermon in New York state. He was jailed for 3 months.
* In North Carolina they passed a law prohibiting the building of Baptist church buildings.
* In 1676 the first Baptist church building was built in Boston, Massachusetts. It was confiscated, and the doors were nailed shut.
* In the colonies, Baptists were jailed and whipped.
So, why were Baptists hated? They were hated for three doctrines in which they believed:
1. Their doctrine opposed infant baptism.
2. They opposed the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
3. They believed in the separation of church and state.
When the Declaration of Independence was drawn up, England declared that it was an Anabaptist (Baptist) declaration. It was considered to be a doctrine of heresy when Baptists said that they were for the separation of church and state.
How has this perpetuity of the Baptist church been made possible? Not by denominations, but by churches splitting from the denominations. So, it is not a denominational perpetuity. It is a local church perpetuity. Most Baptist denominations are not Baptist at all. They deteriorated from being Baptist churches. In my opinion, the American Baptist Convention does not have churches that are true New Testament churches. Church history courses taught in most of our colleges teach the Baptist succession. Church history is the history of local congregations. Even the history of the Baptist denomination is not true church history. In fact, the history of the Baptist denomination is the history of decay. It is not the Baptist denomination that has kept the perpetuity of the churches. It is the individual local churches that have split off others which have decayed, that has caused the perpetuity of the church.
From the American Baptist Convention came the Southern Baptist Convention. From those two major denominations have come several other movements. For example, Dr. Myron Cedarholm and Dr. Lee Roberson did not come from the same denomination. Dr. Myron Cedarholm was at one time in the American Baptist Convention. His father was a well known American Baptist preacher, but when the American Baptists became too liberal, the Conservative Baptists split off from them.
There is a group of fundamentalists today who split off from the Conservative Baptist Convention. In the early 1960's the Conservative Baptist Association deteriorated and split. Dr. Myron Cedarholm, Archer Weniger and a crowd of older men, most of whom are now in Heaven, formed the Conservative Baptist Fellowship, which came from their Conservative Baptist Association, which came from the American Baptist Convention. They made a major mistake. They pulled out doctrinally, but they did not pull out in relationship to church government. They kept the old committee idea of running the church.
From the American Baptist Convention came another group called the General Association of American Baptists. Robert Ketchum was the leader of that group. They did the same thing. They pulled out doctrinally, but they did not pull out as far as church organization was concerned, and that has destroyed them.
The Baptist Bible Fellowship split from the Southern Baptist Convention. The World Baptist Fellowship split from the Baptist Bible Fellowship, and then recently split into something else. People sometimes wonder why there are so many Baptists. That is the way the church has been kept alive. It is not the main line denomination that has perpetuated the church. It is the split that has perpetuated the church.
Revelation chapters two and three deal with seven letters written by the Holy Spirit, dictated to John, and sent to seven different churches in Asia Minor. In the Scofield Bible above verse eight of chapter two it reads; The message to Smyrna. Period of the great persecutions, to A.D. 316. Above verse twelve it reads; The message to Pergamos. The church under imperial favour, settled in the world, A.D. 316 to the end. Mr. Scofield teaches that these seven churches represent seven periods of church history. Mr. Scofield is wrong. There is not one single place in the Bible that gives any inclination of this. These were seven churches which were located in Asia Minor. I believe God gave us these churches in this order because these churches are in different places on the line of decay. God used these seven churches, to show us the decay of every movement.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of this place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. Revelation 2:4-6
The word Nicolaitanes comes from two words Greek words -Nicao, which means to conquer. and Laitans which is the word laity. It means to conquer the laity. It is denominationalism. It is what happens when somebody outside of the local church starts to run the local church. It is nobody's business what a church does. When churches want to get together in fellowship, that is fine, but when they get together to rule each other, that is not fine. But, it is inevitable that when they get together to fellowship, they ultimately will organize and become a denomination, and begin to control each other.
People say that Independent Baptists have no weights and balances, and no way to check on their ministers. That is exactly right. Jesus established the church and the church is to take care of its own business.
This church at Ephesus hated the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes. It was an independent church. It hated denominational control. But, even though it was independent, it left its first love and quit doing its first works. Here we have an independent Baptist church that is not soul winning anymore. That is the first step to decay. In the majority of independent Baptist churches in America, soul winning is unpopular.
Many years ago I preached at Southern Baptist Convention meetings. I have preached for many years at the Southwide Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings. It is harder now to preach at the Independent Baptist Conventions than it was thirty-five years ago at the Southern Baptist Conventions. There is as much politics going on in some of these groups as there is in the American Baptist Convention. They are independent, but they are on their way down because they have quit their first love of soul winning.
Give me a church that keeps on soul winning and I will give you a church that will stay fairly straight on everything else. As long as you do what you are supposed to do, you will believe what you are supposed to believe. So, in the church at Ephesus we see the condition of independent Baptists today.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Revelation 2:8, 10
The church at Smyrna shows us the second step of deterioration. The church quits soul winning, and trials start to come. Satan tries to get us wrapped up in those trials and quit soul winning. Independent Baptists have become so enchanted with their trials and fighting their battles that the main job is not being done. We have become issueoriented. Several years ago, one of the biggest and best soul-winning churches in America got on a "kick" concerning freedom for churches. I am for that, but you do not need to have freedom for churches to win souls if you are not winning souls. There is no reason for fighting something to exist that does not exist anyway. This church got off of soul winning and is only a shadow of the church it once was.
We must not get so wrapped up in battles that we become issue-oriented. We must not enjoy these trials, because if we enjoy them, we will not want them to end. We ought to enjoy most the obeying of the Great Commission.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; ...I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, and even where Satan's seat is. Revelation 2:12a, 13a
That word Satan in the Greek is the word meaning throne. Where is Satan's throne? He is the god of this world, soit is in the world. The church at Pergamos was dwelling in the world. When you quit soul winning and get wrapped up in other things, before you know it, you will lose your standards and convictions.
John 15 says that God will purge those who bear fruit that they may bring forth more fruit. Soul winners will become separated. Now, we have in this nation the church at Pergamos.
Notice something else about the church at Pergamos in Revelation 2:15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. They embraced the doctrine of conquering the laity from without, or denominationalism. Churches that quit soul winning get bound in denominationalism. Churches that get issue-oriented become worldly. If you are not a soul winner, you will have to get a denomination to help you grow and prop you up. That is how denominationalism gets such a strangle-hold on churches.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel. . . . Revelation 2:20a
A bad woman in the Bible is a symbol of false religion. A good woman is a symbol of the true bride of Christ. Jezebel represented ecumenicalism, or a union of bad churches. The church at Thyatira represents the stage of a movement when it turns to ecumenicalism. That is the next step in the progression.
I saw a denomination deteriorate. The Southern Baptist Convention deteriorated from being an evangelistic and separated group to being almost totally ecumenical. Just because they elect a man to moderate who is a fundamentalist does not mean that they are fundamental. Go to Southern Seminary and see how fundamental they are. Go to Baylor University and see how fundamental they are. Southern Baptist churches are now ordaining women preachers. Many are just like the church at Thyatira.
The church at Ephesus quit soul winning. Smyrna became issueoriented because of suffering. Pergamos became worldly. Thyatira became a false church through ecumenicalism.
Next was Sardis which had a reputation of being alive but was actually dead. We see that in the Charismatic movement in this country. They seem to have life, but spiritually their people are dead.
The next church was at Philadelphia. Why was that church put between the fifth and the seventh churches? Because the church at Philadelphia was the good New Testament church. It was a small church. Why? Because it represented the church that split off from the church that was one step from becoming the Laodicean church. Before Laodicea comes is the time to get out. That is why God did not put the church at Laodicea as the sixth church. God placed the church at Philadelphia between numbers five and six to show us that it was getting out time. Why getting-out time? Because my family ought to go to a good church. But, it is more than that. It is so we can have the perpetuity of New Testament churches.
If New Testament churches continue to exist on the face of the earth, they will exist because something chips off as denominations deteriorate. That is what has and will continue to happen.
If you do not take the first step down, you will never get to the bottom step. Soul winning is the best preventive for decay you can have because soul winning guarantees that you will remain separated.
There are some things going on in Baptist circles ,that most people do not understand. There are things going on because God is purging in order for the New Testament churches to be perpetuated. That happens in every generation. Every generation has to define itself, and every generation of Baptists has to be willing to stand alone.
The life of true churches is wrapped up in this willingness to split when decay comes. Life is that way. As the human body begins to decay, new babies are born, who come from the bodies of the adults. When the adults decay and die, there is new life perpetuated on the earth. If no new life comes from the old life, society will die. If no new life comes from the old denomination, it will die.
Every movement that is perpetuated has to give life before that which is decaying has completely decayed. Because of that, we have Independent Baptists.
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