Outside Interference, the Enemy of the Church
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. I Peter 5:1-3
The New Testament churches grew to be extremely large. They started off with 120 and added 3,000. Then they added 5,000 which brought the total to 8,120. The Bible says that they multiplied. The smallest number you can multiply by is two, so they had to have a minimum of 16,240 church members in the one church in Jerusalem.
When Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, he was writing to an extremely large church. The church at Jerusalem is estimated to have had somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 church members. The same is true with the churches at Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth, and other churches.
These churches had many pastors just as we have many pastors at First Baptist Church. The larger churches began to assume authority over and interfere with the smaller churches, because there were so many things the larger churches could do. For example, today a larger church can provide literature for smaller churches.
Several things came into the church that brought opposition.
1. Salvation was attacked. They became very ceremonial, and the preaching of salvation by grace through faith was attacked.
2. Baptismal regeneration became very popular.
3. Infant baptism became popular. In those days infant baptism was by immersion. That is really where sprinkling originated. They thought it was too dangerous to immerse these infants, so they began to pour water on them and then, to sprinkle them.
4. Baptism was done by sprinkling rather than by immersion. After they began sprinkling babies, they extended it to adults, and began sprinkling them as well.
Opposition grew as the churches grew. That is always what happens. The Devil is not concerned if we are not reaching anybody. He is concerned only if we are reaching the lost. Persecution came to these churches because they were reaching the lost.
* John the Baptist was beheaded.
* Steven was stoned.
* Matthew was killed in Ethiopia.
* Mark was dragged through the streets until dead.
* Luke was hanged.
* Peter was crucified upside down.
* Andrew was tied to a cross.
* James was beheaded.
* Philip was crucified and stoned.
* Thomas was pierced with lances.
* James the Less was thrown from the temple and beaten to death.
* Jude was shot with arrows.
* Matthias was stoned.
* Paul was beheaded.
This was happening to the churches because they were growing so rapidly.
At that point these churches were independent churches. They had some influence on each other, but they had no organization whatsoever. As these churches grew, they not only grew in number, but they spread to other parts of the world. In fact, they covered the entire Roman Empire. As they grew, they wanted to get together. A desire to unite is always caused by a lack of faith. People organize because they do not think God can take care of them.
In the year 313 a new emperor came to the Roman Empire, whose name was Constantine. He had a vision of a fiery cross in the sky and the words, By this thou shall conquer. Constantine saw that as a sign that he was supposed to conquer for the cause of Christianity, so Constantine was supposedly converted. Maybe he had a genuine conversion experience, but Constantine got the idea that he was supposed to conquer Christianity by that vision of the cross.
He foresaw a marriage of the Roman Empire and the church. He desired to cover the entire Roman Empire with Christianity, so he brought the church and the state together. This was an attempt by Constantine to have a world religion and a world political system. This concept was started by Nimrod back in Genesis, but it never had been organized in the New Testament church until Constantine did it in 313. Constantine basically got all these churches together and started a Christian state religion.
There were some churches that would not get involved. These were Baptist churches. They refused to get involved in this new world council, or Roman council of churches.
It has always been the desire of the Devil to get all of us under one canopy. Union is not God's idea. It is the devil's idea. The union and organization of churches or nations is never of God. The United Nations is not of God. It is of the Devil. The World Council of Churches is not of God. It is of the Devil. The first world council of churches since the New Testament church was Catholicism. Constantine wanted universal government and a universal church. From that came the doctrine of the invisible or the universal church.
Most Baptists were a part of this union movement, but there were a few who refused and remained independent. That is normally the way things happen. Let me quote from a newspaper article. Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics, the nation's two largest denominations generally have been regarded as doctrinally far apart, but their scholars find they basically agree. Despite their terminology and some real differences we do share a basic understanding of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ by the grace of God, says their joint report.
After ten years of periodic discussions, the Baptist-Catholic Dialogue group quoting Ephesians 4:5 concludes we not only confess, but experience one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Those Southern Baptist churches are not New Testament churches. Baptist perpetuity has always been in the independent Baptist churches.
In 869 Constantine's hierarchy divided. The Greek Catholic church separated from the Roman Catholic church. The Greek Catholic church left for many reasons. One of the major reasons was that they did not want to be governed by Rome. They wanted their freedom; yet, they turned around and would not give people freedom under them. Most people do not want freedom; they want their freedom. People who fight for freedom will often turn around and enslave others if they can get away with it.
In the sixteenth century we had what is called the Reformation. In the Reformation, Protestants came out. For example, in 1541 the Presbyterians came out, in 1530 the Lutherans came out, and in 1531 the church of England came out.
When the Lutherans came out, they fought for their own freedom and then enslaved others. The Presbyterians did the same thing. In every case, there were still Baptists who refused to be thwarted. While others were building cathedrals, they were in store front buildings. While others were building coliseums, they were being killed in those coliseums, but they kept on going. They were the only ones who were preaching the Gospel and getting people saved, so they kept on growing.
The more they were persecuted, the more they grew. The Presbyterians tried to put them down, but they could not do it. The church of England tried to suppress them and could not. The Lutherans tried to suppress them and failed. What kept these Baptist alive? A promise that Jesus made in Matthew 16:18, upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The gates of hell were the Roman Catholic church and the churches that came out of the Roman Catholic church. Constantine did the world a great disservice when he decided to unite the church and the state.
Most people believe that our founding fathers came for religious freedom. No, they did not. They came for their religious freedom. For example, in the northern colonies two religions basically started there:
Congregationalists and Presbyterians. In the southern colonies you basically had Episcopalians, or the church of England. Our founding fathers came to America trying to find freedom, but when they got here they established freedom only for themselves. They fought and died for their freedom of religion.
In the northern colonies, the Congregationalists and Presbyterians made it against the law for Baptists to exist. In the southern colonies, the Episcopalians made it against the law for the Baptists to exist. But, just as Constantine had trouble with the Baptists, so did those founding fathers. In fact, throughout history, every group that tried to promote the idea of a state-church has had no success in snuffing out the light of the independent Baptists. These Baptist people were always causing trouble, splitting off of somebody, preaching the Gospel, getting people saved, and baptizing them after they got saved.
Nothing has changed. Throughout history, we have been the unpopular group because we have refused to unite with the other acceptable religions of the day. The Ministerial Association of Hammond, Indiana, does not know what to do with me. When I first came to Hammond, it was amazing how many resolutions they passed against us. I would get a letter every month informing me that the local Ministerial Association had passed another resolution telling us something we could not do. We went ahead and did it anyway.
Our crowd has always caused trouble because our crowd is for freedom for everybody. The Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians in the colonies declared that it was against the law for anybody to refuse infant baptism, or to preach the Gospel. The penalty was imprisonment, being fined, being whipped, having your property taken, or being banished. Banishment meant that you were turned over to the Indians. That happened in America.
Two men who were banished were Roger Williams and John Clark. Both of these men made friends with the Indians and saved their colony, because the Indians were going to destroy them. Instead, the Indians did what they said.
Roger Williams and John Clark had no place to have freedom of worship. They found a little piece of land and started their own colony, but they could not get permission from England to be recognized as a colony. John Clark went and stayed in England for many years, lobbying to try to get their little colony recognized as a colony. That little colony is now the state of Rhode Island. The state of Rhode Island was finally recognized as a colony. It was started by a couple of Baptist preachers.
They were finally recognized and drew up their Constitution. The Constitution of the State of Rhode Island included religious freedom for everybody. It was the world's first governmental declaration of religious liberty. A little group of born-again, blood-washed Baptists who were preaching the Gospel, baptizing their converts, and refusing to baptize their babies were the ones preaching and teaching separation of church and state, and religious freedom for everybody.
Today the only religious group in the world that is actively fighting for freedom for everybody is independent Baptists. Yet, today we have Baptist fellowship groups that are just as ruthless to those who refuse to join them as the Catholics ever were. They do not kill those who refuse to be a part of their group.
From the days of Constantine, to this very day, there have been independent Baptist churches all over this country, who are fighting in the courts for their right to exist, for the freedom of their schools, and for the freedom not to be licensed with State Educational Departments.
1. Every generation must fight for its own freedom and for the freedom of others. Every generation must declare its own independence. Every generation of local churches must decide to be free.
2. We often fight for our freedom and at the same time enslave others.
3. We start the new structure with the same seeds of death that caused the last generation to die. You can go to
the so-called independent Baptist annual meetings, and it is just like it used to be in the Southern Baptist meetings. We pull out of that which enslaved us and then start building the exact same machinery that caused them to die. It is not just being enslaved to bad people that is bad. It is being enslaved that is bad. It is not losing your freedom to tyrants that is bad. It is losing your freedom that is bad.
Here is what happens. Here is an old preacher who has been enslaved. He has been called a nut and a screwball all of his life. He decides that he is not going to put up with the slavery anymore. He is going to be free. A group of those little guys get together and become independent. Suddenly they see stars in their eyes. They have a chance to be somebody after all. They get to be the president of the Independent Baptist Fellowship of their county. It has started all over again.
Totally independent churches are the answer. It is the philosophy of interference outside the local church that is wrong. It is not whether it is good or bad interference. Our churches are dying because we are letting somebody off in some office somewhere write the literature that our people teach on Sunday. The answer is cooperation only, but not to be enslaved, and not to enslave. That is the difference between independent Baptist churches and every other religious movement the world has ever seen since the New Testament church was started. The difference is, we will not be enslaved and we will not enslave!
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