Why We Are Baptist

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” (I Timothy 1:3)

For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” (I Timothy 1:10)

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.” (I Timothy 4:6)

“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (I Timothy 4:13)

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Timothy 4:16)

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (I Timothy 5:17)

Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” (I Timothy 6:1)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrinewhich is according to godliness.” (I Timothy 6:3)

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.” (II Timothy 3:10)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16)

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4:2)

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (II Timothy 4:3)

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrineshewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.” (Titus 2:7)

Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” (Titus 2:10)

Doctrineis defined as what we believe. * the difference between a Baptist and an atheist is “what we believe” * the difference between a Baptist and a cult is “what we believe” * the difference between a Baptist and a Catholic is “what we believe” * the difference between a Baptist and a Protestant is “what we believe”

Doctrine not only is defined as what we believe but it describes who we are. * our history is separate from that of Catholic, Protestant or any other denominational history

* Baptist church history is a very storied, persecuted but victorious history

We live in a time when many churches are dropping the name “Baptist” from their church. There are also many churches still called “Baptist” who have long ago departed from the doctrinal teachings of the Word of God that have defined Baptists.

The purpose of this study is to remind of what it means to be a Baptist and to encourage us to be thankful to be Baptists.

Acronym of BAPTISTS B– Biblical Authority A– Autonomy of the Local Church P– Priesthood of the Believer T –Two Ordinances: Baptism and the Lords Supper I –Individual Soul Liberty S –Saved, Baptized, Church Membership T –Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon S –Separation of Church and State


And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scriptureis given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:15-17)

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of Godwhich ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (II Peter 1:20-21)

Baptists believe that the Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice, because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree or any church group can override the Bible.

It would seem logical that all who call themselves Christian would believe in the absolute authority of the Bible. But such is not the case:

* Many have creeds or written confessions of faith which they hold equal to, or even above, biblical teaching.

* There are those who even put the traditions of their church over clear Bible truth. (see Mark 7:13) * Some place emotion or experience over the word of God. * Scholarship is sometimes placed over the Bible.

The Baptist position has always been that the Bible is our sole authority in all matters of belief and practice. Historically this position, and those who held to it, has been despised by both Catholic and Protestant alike. But it is the only position which is consistent with what the Bible says about itself.

* the phrase “it is written” occurs 80 times in the Bible * the phrase “thus saith the Lord” occurs 415 time in the Bible

* “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth; for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)


“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18)

As Baptists recognize no written authority other than the Word of God, so we recognize no head over the local congregation but Jesus Christ. The local church is a body of born-again, baptized believers meeting voluntarily for the proclaiming of the gospel, the strengthening of believers and the obeying of the Word of God. Autonomous means “independent in government; having the right of self-government”. The New Testament church was an autonomous church:

* It chose its own leadership (Acts 6:1-6)
* It sent its own missionaries (Acts 13:1-3)
* It exercised its own discipline (Acts 5:1-11; Matt 18:17)
* It rejected control by religious and governmental bodies (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29) Though we believe in voluntary cooperation between Bible-believing Baptist churches, no church is to exercise control over another. Nor does any council, synod, convention, fellowship, school or individual have any authority over the local church.

The local congregation (church) is responsible for its own self-government:
* It chooses its own pastor
* It chooses its own deacons
* It chooses which missionaries to support
* It manages its own finances
* It exercises its own discipline
* It manages its own affairs

The church’s government is a blend of Pastoral Leadership with Congregational activity which leads to unity. There is no organizational structure above the local church.


“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” (1 Peter 2:9)

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9,10)

In the Old Testament, priests were the designated religious representatives between God and man. To gain access to God one had to go through a priest. But now, in the New Testament, every born-again believer is a priest himself and can have direct access to God personally! There are no priests, sacraments, church rituals, ordinances, creeds or anything else between man and God.

You don’t need a priest…………

* to worship God
* to pray to God
* to understand the Bible
* to give to God
* to serve God
* to sacrifice to God

……………..you are a priest!!


An “ordinance” is an “observance commanded” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). As such, an ordinance is not a requirement for salvation but is an act of obedience. Others may refer to ordinances as “sacraments”, which is a non-biblical term, but “sacraments” are required for salvation.

There are TWO ORDINANCES taught in the Scriptures:


“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizingthem in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water; both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptizedhim.” (Acts 8:36-38)

Baptists hold to the Biblical teaching that water baptism is an act of obedience which follows conversion. In Scripture no one was baptized without first making a proclamation of faith.

Example: Acts 18:8 “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.”
* Therefore, obviously, infant baptism is unscriptural.
* The baptism of unconverted people is also unscriptural and purposeless.

This belief has been the cause of much animosity and even violence against the Baptists. Most of the denominations practice infant baptism and despise the Baptist practice of “re-baptizing” those who later are converted.

The only scriptural mode of baptism is immersion. No one in the Bible was baptized by any other method (pouring, sprinkling, etc.). Water baptism is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.


For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

The Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at his last meal with his disciples on the eve of his betrayal and crucifixion (Matthew 26:26-30). He took the two elements, the bread and the cup, and told his disciples to take them in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19).

The bread represents his body that was broken (beaten and crucified) for us. The cup represents his blood that was shed. The unleavened bread and the unfermented wine (grape juice, i.e. “the fruit of the vine”) show Christ’s sinlessness. These two elements are not literally changed into his body and blood [transubstantiation] but are symbols of his body and blood. The Lord’s Supper is not a “means to grace”. Like baptism, the Lord‘s Supper does not bestow upon the recipient eternal life. The traitor Judas Iscariot partook of the Lord’s Supper along with the other disciples (Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21) but died in a lost condition.

The Lords Supper is to be observed by faithful believers until He returns. The frequency of this observance is not determined in scripture, leaving the individual church congregation to determine the timing of its observance.

The Lord’s Supper is a time of reflection:

  • to remember His sacrifice for us
  • to be reminded of His presence with us
  • to remember His promise of soon return


“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

“…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” (Joshua 24:15b)

Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, will one day stand before God and give an account for the decisions he has made in this life. Because of this Biblical teaching, Baptists believe in the liberty of the soul or the conscience.

Individual responsibility is a key doctrine in the Word of God. Each individual makes his/her own decision to trust Christ, to be baptized (out with infant baptism), to love God, to live right and to walk in fellowship with Christ and with other believers. No pastor, nor church, nor government, nor family member or friend can make a decision for others on spiritual matters. That is not to say that counsel or guidance can’t be given but the ultimate decision (and its consequences) rests with the individual.

Though this truth has been stifled by denominations in the past and present, Baptists have never persecuted or forced others with opposing beliefs to accept Christ or Christianity. Baptists have never forced anyone to assent to or deny any doctrine. We do not coerce anyone to worship God against their will or to refrain from worshipping God as they believe (or don’t believe) they should. This is one reason Baptists are opposed to church-state unions.


“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)

Two things are necessary to become a member of a local Baptist assembly:

1. Salvation

In contrast to what many denomination and individual churches are doing today and have done in the past, Baptists have steadfastly held to the concept of a saved church membership. It is a distinctive practice of Baptists to require that a person must profess personal faith in Jesus Christ before he or she can be a candidate for local church membership.

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47)

When Paul greeted the New Testament churches in his epistles, his salutation indicated that he was addressing a membership made up of believers:

Those of the church at Rome he called,
“…beloved of God, called to be saints;” (Romans 1:7)

Those of the church at Corinth he called,
“sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints”
(I Corinthians 1:2)

Those in the churches of Ephesus, Phillipi and Colosse he called,
“saints” (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2)

Those of the church at Thessalonica he described as
“…in God the Father and in
the Lord Jesus Christ”(I Thessalonians 1:1)

Most denominations make no such requirement for membership in their churches. All are free to become members regardless of spiritual condition. Therefore salvation is not preached from the pulpit because it has not been experienced by the membership of the church (and many times it hasn’t been experienced by the pastor either!)

2. Baptism

Though baptism has no connection to salvation, it is the first step of obedience taken by the new believer. Therefore baptism comes before church membership (not the other way around).

Because Baptists believe the Scriptural mode of baptism to be immersion, those who have professed faith in Christ must also have been baptized accordingly (by immersion) to be admitted as members of the local assembly.

There are two common approaches to the receiving of members who have been previously baptized :

1) If they have been baptized by immersion, not associating their baptism with salvation in any way, they can join a local Baptist assembly. In this approach, the saved individual could have been baptized by a non-Baptist.

2) If they have been baptized by immersion by a Baptist preacher they can join the local Baptist assembly. In this approach, if the saved individual was baptized by any other than a Baptist preacher they would have to be re-baptized.

In both cases, infant baptism, sprinkling, pouring or even baptism by immersion with the wrong motive (contributing to salvation) is not recognized as Scriptural baptism.


“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (I Timothy 3:1)

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 3:13)

The Bible gives only two offices in the church – pastor and deacon. There are no popes, cardinals, archbishops or priests.


This office is described by three interchangeable words:

Bishop– this term refers to the office of the leader of the church. The term bishop” means “overseer“ and the qualifications for this position are given in I Timothy 3:1-7. In his role as bishop, the pastor oversees the ministries of the church. It his responsibility to oversee the doctrine, the preaching, the music, the outreach, the finances, and the teaching of the church.

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly…” I Peter 5:2

Pastor– the word “pastor” means “shepherd“. The shepherd is to “Feed the flockof God” (I Peter 5:2). According to Ephesians 4:12 it is his responsibility to perfect the saints, do the work of the ministry and edify the body of Christ.

“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Elder – “Elder” is another term for “pastor”. It is not a separate office. The term “elder” emphasizes the spiritual oversight of the pastor.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)


The second office identified in the Bible is that of the deacon. The word “deacon” means “servant”. The office of deacon is not a ruling office. He is not in charge of church affairs but assists the pastor in the secular things of the church.

Deacons are first introduced in the church in Acts chapter 6 when the church grew to such a size that the apostles were no longer able to keep up with the “business” of the church. The deacons responsibility is to relieve the pastor of the daily “business” of the church so that he can commit himself “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

The nine qualifications for a deacon (and the four for deacons wives) are given in I Timothy 3:8-12. They also include being of honest report and being full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom (Acts 6:3). The deacon is a spiritual man assisting the pastor with the secular things of the church.


And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)

“…We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

Throughout history almost every nation has had a predominant religion. These nations have therefore put the authority of their government behind their particular religion. Whether the Catholicism of Italy, Spain or France; Protestantism in England, Germany or Scotland; or Atheism in the former Soviet Union: all have closely tied their state to their religion. In all cases, Baptists have been the outcasts and a despised group.

In the early history of the United States, Baptists were the leading champions of separation of church and state. While the Congregationalists in Massachusetts and the Anglicans in Virginia and the Carolinas were active in setting up state churches (nine of the thirteen colonies set up state churches), the Baptists were being persecuted for their faith.

The influence of Baptists like John Leland (on James Madison) and Andrew Tribble (on Thomas Jefferson) helped to produced the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

[Unfortunately in our modern era this “separation of church and state” has come to mean freedom fromreligion instead of freedom of religion. The attempted removal of anything Christian from public places was not the intent of the Founding Fathers.]

Baptist have always held that faith is a personal issue and that the freedom of conscience allows one to worship God in any way that does not cause harm to others.


New Testament Christians

And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)

The believers in the New Testament were identified by their doctrine. They were labeled “Christians” because they were followers of Christ.

The first group of believers to appear, maintaining the doctrines of the NT Christians, were a group who took the name of their spiritual leader, Montanus, as their moniker. This group began around 150 ADwhen they felt that professing Christians were becoming too worldly (in 150 AD!). The Montanists were known by their doctrines of baptism (opposition to infant baptism), church government, and pre-millenialism.

With the term “Christian” taking a hit due to worldliness, further damage was done when the Emperor Constantine (in 312 AD) hijacked it by “baptizing” (sprinkling) his entire army and forming the Roman Catholic church, dubbing it “Christian”. This also began the unity of State and church.

With the term “Christian” compromised, the New Testament Christians adopted a new title, taking the name of a popular preacher of their time, Novation. This group began in the early 4th centuryin Italy. They were identified by the doctrines of the NT Christians and their strong opposition to unity of the church with the State.

As the gospel went into Asia, Africa and the European continent, the believers were labeled “Donatists” due to their leading proponent, Donatus. The Donatists began in the middle of the 4th centuryand kept this title until the 6th century. They were known for their doctrines, emphasizing that church membership was for converted people only and the independence of each local church.

In 660 AD a man named Contantine (of Mananalis, not the Roman Emperor) was converted by reading a New Testament that was given to him. He took the New Testament writers name as his church identity and these believers spread throughout Armenia, Syria, Bulgaria and Bosnia. They held to the doctrines of baptizing believers only (by immersion) and teaching that salvation did not come through taking the Lord’s Supper. The Paulicians were well know from the 7th to 12th century.

The believers from the 12th to 16thcenturies were known as “Waldenses“. Beginning in 1160 AD they were known by the name of their spiritual founder, Peter Waldo. This movement went through Italy, France and the European Continent. They were known by their doctrines which stood in stark contrast to the doctines of the Catholic church which had become so prominent. They stood firmly against pedo-baptism (infant baptism) and the teaching of transubstantiation (that Christ is physically present in the wafer at the Lord‘s Supper).

We will note that at this point in history the Reformation takes place. Beginning with Martin Luther’s “95 Thesis” on October 31, 1517.

Beginning around the time of the Protestant Reformation, the groups who were previously identified by the names Montanists, Donatists, etc., began to be referred to as “Anabaptists”.

The word Anabaptist means rebaptizer, and was given by foes to those who baptized a second time, persons who came to them from other sects. Baptists never admitted that they were rebaptizers. The name was applied, at this time, in derision to those christians, who, taking the Scriptures as their guide, contended for a converted church membership, and for the baptism of believers only, consequently, rejecting infant baptism, which was the common practice of the Reformed, as well as of the Catholic churches. They therefore held aloof from those churches and formed societies of their own, and regarding Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists as being unbaptized, baptized all who came to them upon profession of their faith in Christ.” The Story of Baptists in All Ages and Countries, Richard B. Cook, 1885)

The Anabaptist of the Sixteenth Century were characterized by the following principles:
“1. That the Scriptures are the only authority in matters of faith and practice.
 2. That personal faith in Jesus Christ only secures salvation; therefore infant baptism is to be rejected.
 3. That a church is composed of believers who have been baptized upon a personal confession of their faith in Jesus Christ.
 4. That each church has entire control of its affairs, without interference on the part of any external power.
 5. That the outward life must be in accordance with such a confession of faith, and to the end it is essential that church discipline should be maintained.
 6. That while the State may properly demand obedience in all things not contrary to the law of God, it has no right to set aside the dictates of conscience, and compel the humblest individual to set aside his views, or to inflict punishment in case such surrender is refused. Every human soul is directly responsible to God.”
(Baptist Church Perpetuity, W. A. Jarrel, D.D., 1894 )

The doctrines of the Montanists, Donatist, etc. in the early centuries were the doctrines of the Anabaptists of the 16th Century, and are the doctrines of today’s Baptists.


Although doctrine is the main link between the ancient groups (Montanists, Donatists, etc.) and the Anabaptists, they were also linked by their suffering persecution. While the earlier groups had to contend only with the Catholic church, the Anabaptists were persecuted not only by the Catholic church but also by the Reformed (Protestant) churches (those who began during the reformation).

By the Catholic church

The hatred of the Anabaptist practice of re-baptizing adult converts so infuriated the Catholic King Ferdinand that he decreed that “the third baptism” (drowning) was the best remedy for them. However, although many believers were martyred in this fashion, imprisonment, torture, beheading, burning and other gruesome forms of murder were also used in an attempt to force “recantings” from these faithful believers.

The Medieval Inquisition, the Papal Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition and the English Inquisition are all historically documented examples of the “purging” of the Catholic church from “heretics”. Those who would not accept the “Mother Church” and the Pope were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands during these times.

One of the decrees of the Catholic church was that “every Anabaptist and rebaptized person of either sex should be put to death by fire, sword, or some other way” (Diet of Spires, 1529). Another decree was issued ordering that judges and jurors who had scruples against pronouncing the death sentences of Anabaptists be removed from office and punished by heavy fines and imprisonment (Diet of Augsburg, 1551).

Under the Roman Emperor Philip II (1556) the previous decrees were reconfirmed plus more additions were made:

1. The publication of Baptist books was prohibited.
2. Every settler was required to furnish proof that his children had been baptized according to the rites of Rome. (Midwives were to be sworn to assure the baptizing of every infant at who’s birth they were present and in case of any neglect report it to the magistrates.)

3. Booksellers houses and peddlers packs were to be searched for heretical publications.

Wherever the Catholic church was the state church (Rome, Spain, England, etc.), persecution of Anabaptists was vicious. This union of the Catholic church with government and the subsequent persecution of non-Catholics was one of the main reasons the American Colonies feared allowing Catholicism in America.

By the Protestants

While appreciating the truths that were so boldly proclaimed by Luther, Calvin and others which produced the Reformation, they never renounced the doctrine of infant baptism (among others). This made the Anabaptists their enemies as much as the enemy of Rome. Thus the churches of the Reformation persecuted the Anabaptists as vigorously as the Catholic church.

The three most well-known of the Reformers were Zwingli, Martin Luther and John Calvin. All three of these Protestants gave their voices against the Baptists, even unto death.

In Zwingli’s town of Zurich the council had decreed, “He who immerses shall be immersed”. Three Baptists, Felix Manz, Jacob Falk and Henry Reiman were put to death by drowning. They were delivered to the executioner, who bound their hands, placed them in a boat and threw them into the water.

Balthasar Hubmaier was a friend of Zwingli but rejected infant baptism and became a Baptist. He was thrown into prison for 4 months. He appealed to his old friend but got no response. He was tortured on the rack until he agreed to recant his beliefs. At his public recantation, Zwingli first preached a sermon against the “heretics”. When Hubmaier was then summoned to read his recantation, he instead declared, “Infant baptism is not of God, and men must be baptized by faith in Christ!” He was immediately led back to his cell and eventually allowed to leave Zurich. After a very fruitful life of service to the Lord he was burned to death at the stake for his faith. His wife was drowned eight days later.

In the early days of the Reformation, Martin Lutherthought that banishment was the proper punishment for the Anabaptists. He later on adopted a harsher attitude – favoring a policy of extermination. Luther’s Germany thus began its vicious assault against those who rejected infant baptism: * Many were banished Those who would attempt to return would lose a finger, be branded in the cheek, or put in neck-iron. If they returned again they would be drowned. * Many were thrown into prison, some dying there. * Many were tortured. One had his tongue cut out for speaking against infant baptism. * Many were put to death.

John Calvinwrote a letter to Lord Protector Somerset and urged him to put Anabaptists to death: “These altogether deserve to be well punished by the sword”. Historian John Christian observes that Calvin “was responsible in a large measure for the demon of hate and hostility which the Baptists of England had to encounter”.

As the Anabaptists went from country to country seeking a land where they could worship God freely, many of them left the European continent and settled in England.

When the English King Henry VIIIbroke with Rome he set himself up as the head of the new Church of England. His hatred of the Anabaptists was no less than that toward the Catholic church. He issued a decree that gave those who held “pestilent heresies” ten days to leave the country. Those who held these heresies were those “who had been baptized in infancy but had condemned that holy sacrament, and had presumptuously re-baptized themselves”. Those who did not leave would “suffer the pains of death” if they were caught. The following year ten were put to death while fourteen others were burnt for holding “damnable errors drawn from and indiscreet use of the Scriptures”. In November 1538 believers were burnt in Smithfield. On January 7, 1539 fifteen women were drowned and sixteen men were beheaded.

This persecution of Anabaptists in England continued throughout the reins of Edward VI, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II, and James II .

* Burning alive, drowning, torture, banishment and confiscation of goods were commonplace during the reign of these Protestant monarchs.
* Under James I the last burning of an Anabaptist took place. Not out of mercy or kindness but because the public spectacle of these who were dying confidently in their faith was causing their cause to grow. Torture and long imprisonment became the normal sentence.

Example: the Baptist preacher, John Bunyan, wrote “Pilgrims Progress” while languishing in prison for 12 years.

The Baptists had been persecuted on the continent; they were persecuted in England; would they ever find a land with true religious freedom?


Though the early Pilgrims that came to America in the 1600’s were not Baptists, several of them became Baptists while in America and became the first Baptists in the colonies. Those who did convert to Baptist doctrine usually were converted churchmen who found fault with the Congregational church’s unity of church and state and the unscriptural practice of infant baptism. Other issues sprung from these two but these were the foundational issues.

Hansard Knollys (1598-1691)He arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in early 1638 with his wife (his child died on the passage). He became an able minister and organized the first Congregationalist church in New Hampshire (Dover). While at that church he became an “Anabaptist”. Sometime in 1640 the First Church at Dover became a Baptist Church and the disaffected members left and formed a separate church (Congregational). Slander, accusation and lawsuits followed because of his firmness of faith and leaving the Established Church. He returned to London in 1641 with his wife and 3 year-old child to take care of his aged father. He preached the gospel faithfully in England for the next 50 years until his death.

Roger Williams (1599-1683)He arrived in Boston with his wife on February 5, 1631. In April of that year he became Co-pastor of the Congregational Church in Salem (MA). He was forced to leave that church in August due to the pressure of the local magistrates who did not like his views on religious liberty. However, after almost two years as pastor of the church at Plymouth he returned to Salem by request of the church members there to become their pastor again (1633). The opposition of the civil authorities continued and then grew as he wrote and published pamphlets questioning the right to take Indian land and the requiring of every man to attend public worship and to contribute to its support. He was called to court and then sentenced to banishment from the Massachusetts Colony on November 3, 1635. After months of living among the Indians whom he befriended he eventually settled in Providence (RI) on a parcel of land he purchased from the Sachem Indians. He established the Rhode Island Colony (1638) and shortly after embraced the views of the Baptists. He was baptized in March 1639 along with ten others and commenced the first Baptist Church in America.

Footnote: After only four months as pastor Williams resigned due to personal confusion concerning the doctrine of baptism. He did not give in to the belief of infant baptism but got even more restrictive on who could be baptized and became a “Seeker”. He did however, continue to preach the gospel, especially to the Indians. The First Baptist Church he founded is still active today.

John Clarke (1609-1676)He and his wife immigrated from England in 1637 and set up his practice as a physician in Boston. He soon left for Rhode Island as he was is strong disagreement with the intolerance of the civil authorities toward those who disagreed with the Established Church. In Providence he met up with Roger Williams, then founded Portsmouth, and in May 1639 he was one of nine who founded Newport (Rhode Island). He was Founder and first Pastor of the Baptist Church in Newport which dates back to 1644. It was the second Baptist Church in America. In July 1651 he was arrested while holding a service by request in a home in Lynn, MA. In the middle of his discourse two constables interrupted by coming in and arresting him, along with Obadiah Holmes and John Crandall. Though Obadiah Holmes was beaten severely, Crandall was released without paying his fine and John Clarke had his fine paid (unknown to him) by friends and was released. Later in 1651 he returned to England to pursue the charter for Rhode Island and returned to America in 1664. He resumed his preaching and practice as a physician until his death in April 1676 at the age of sixty-six.

Obadiah Holmes (1606-1682)He and his wife, Catherine, came to America in 1639 and were faithful in the Congregational Church until he began struggling with the Church’s teaching on infant baptism. In 1649 he attended a meeting where John Clarke was preaching, was baptized by him and joined the church in Newport. In June 1650 he was accused of holding irregular church meetings and in July 1651 he was arrested and kept in prison until September when he received 30 lashes (40 lashes was the death sentence). Though he survived the lashes, they so damaged his body that he had great difficulty throughout his remaining years. When John Clarke returned to England later in 1651 he (Holmes) took over as Pastor of the church in Newport and served there until his death in 1682 at the age of seventy-six.

Shubal Stearns (1706-1771)He was born in Boston on January 28, 1706 and was converted in 1745 when George Whitefield preached in Connecticut. He became a preacher in the branch of the Congregationalist church called “Separates”. However, through reading of the Scriptures he was convinced of the truth of believers baptism by immersion and in March of 1751 he (along with his wife, his parents, his sisters and brothers) was immersed by Wait Palmer in Stonington, Connecticut and became a Baptist. In 1754 he felt led of the Lord to venture south from New England and, after a year in Virginia, settled in Sandy Creek, NC. A great revival took place there and membership rose from 16 to 606. By 1772 the church at Sandy Creek had started 42 other churches not only in North Carolina, but also in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. One hundred twenty-five preachers were sent out by the church at Sandy Creek and its founded churches. Shubal Stearns died on November 20, 1771 and is buried near the church at Sandy Creek.

Isaac Backus (1724-1806)Born in Norwich, Connecticut on January 9, 1724 he was converted during the Great Awakening under the preaching of George Whitefield (in 1741) and joined the Congregational church in his hometown. In 1745 he started a Separate church due to disagreement over admission of (unconverted) church members. By 1749 baptism became a doctrine of interest among his church members and in August of 1751 he was baptized by immersion. On January 16, 1756 the members of the church who had become Baptists formed themselves into a distinct church with Isaac Backus as their pastor. He served in this position until his death on November 20, 1806. He had been the Baptist representative to the Continental Congress in 1774 and also published three volumes of Baptist history drawn from thousands of pages of his own diaries, journals and reports. His record of the persecutions faced by the early American Baptists are a great testimony to the perseverance of the faithful.

John Gano (1727-1804)He was born July 22, 1727 in Hopewell, NJ and was converted at an early age. Though his maternal grandmother and his mother were Baptists, his father was a Presbyterian. After much study and counsel (including with the Presbyterian minister) concerning infant baptism, and with his fathers permission, he was baptized by immersion and joined the Baptist church in Hopewell. He was pastor of Scotch Plains Baptist Church in NJ (1754-1757), Jersey Baptist in NC (1757-1760), First Baptist Church in NY City (1762-1787), and Town Fork Baptist Church in KY (1788-1798). In 1776 he was a chaplain in the Revolutionary War and at its conclusion baptized his friend, George Washington (by immersion) on April 19, 1783. His son, Stephen, was Pastor of the church founded by Roger Williams in Providence, RI from 1792-1828.

Samuel Harriss (1724-1795)He was born January 12, 1724 in Hanover County, VA. He held many high ranking offices including being a Colonel in the militia. It wasn’t until he was 34 years old that his conversion to Christ took place. Two brothers, (William and Joseph Murphy, who had been converted and baptized under the ministry of Shubal Stearns), were holding a Baptist meeting nearby and as the crowd grew Colonel Harriss rode up in full military dress. He asked, What is to be done here, Gentlemen?” “Preaching, Colonel.” “Who is to preach?” “The Murphy boys, Sir.” “I believe I will stop and hear them.” He was saved shortly following this and was baptized by Daniel Marshall (1758). Although he immediately began preaching with great effect (throughout VA and NC) he was not ordained as a Baptist preacher until October 11, 1769 at the Sandy Creek meeting house. In his preaching he was favorably compared to George Whitefield and baptized hundreds of converts during his ministry (including James Ireland). He gave all his former wealth to the cause of the gospel and was threatened, assaulted and even jailed (in 1768) for the Lord.

John Waller (1741-1802)He was born in Spottsylvania County, VA on December 23, 1741. His intention was to study law but the financial support was from an uncle who died prematurely. This led to a life of sinfullness and profanity to such an extent that he was identified as “Swearing Jack Waller”. He was called upon for the Grand Jury in the trial of a Baptist preacher, Lewis Craig (for unlawful preaching), which eventually led to his conversion. He was baptized by immersion in 1767 and started a Baptist congregation in his home town, of which he was ordained its Pastor on June 20, 1770. He preached everywhere an opportunity presented itself and, due to the intolerance of the established church, during the time of his ministry he spent a combined total of 113 days in four different jails. But under his ministry in Virginia he baptized more than two thousand persons, assisted in the ordination of twenty-seven ministers and had part in the establishing of eighteen churches. His son Absalom, who was saved at age 19 and ordained at 21, succeeded him as Pastor and himself baptized more than 1500 persons. John Waller died on July 4, 1802 at age sixty.

John Leland (1754-1841)He was born May 14, 1754 in Grafton, MA and was so much prone to learning that his father’s minister desired that he would be a minister and the town physician desired him to be a physician. He himself desired to study law but that desire was soon to change. He was converted at age 19 and baptized by immersion on June 1, 1774, by Noah Alden (who had been baptized 25 years earlier by Shubal Stearns). He moved to Virginia, labored with John Waller, and several years later was ordained by him (in 1787; a previous ordination being discounted). In fifteen years in VA he preached 3009 sermons, baptized 700 people and formed two churches. He was a staunch enemy of slavery and promoted the principles of religious liberty. His influence and involvement with James Madison lead to Madison’s election to Congress and the Bill of Rights. He left VA in 1791, and after some time in Connecticut returned to MA. In 1801 he took an infamous journey to see President Thomas Jefferson in Washington and while there preached to the House of Representatives with the President in attendance. Near the end of his life Leland himself gave the following statistics: “The number of sermons I have preached is not far from eight thousand. The number of persons whom I have baptized is one thousand, two hundred and seventy-eight.” He died during the night of January 14, 1841.

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) He was born August 9, 1788 in Malden, MA as the oldest son of a Congregational minister. At age 3 he was able to read the Bible and at age 16 he joined the Sophomore class at Brown University. After rejecting the religious teachings of his youth he was brought under great conviction at the passing of one of his irreligious friends. The question of where that friend would spend eternity brought Judson to faith in Christ on May 28, 1809. After hearing a sermon on the subject of missions he sought to serve the Lord in that capacity. On February 19, 1812 he and his wife, Ann (whom he married February 5th), sailed for Burma. Though they left the United States as missionaries for the Congregational church, Judson’s study of the Scriptures during the voyage brought him to adopt the views of the Baptists and he and his wife were baptized by immersion on September 6, 1812. It took six years before they had their first convert, and two more 4 months later. After nine years their church numbered 18. Judson’s wife, Ann, died in 1826 and after marrying again (to Sarah Boardman, the widow of a fellow missionary) in 1834 his second wife died in 1845. He also buried two children while in Burma. In all, Judson spent 37 years in Burma (minus 10 months on furlough after his first 33 years). He was also imprisoned for twenty-one months as a spy during the English-Burmese war where he suffered horribly and only the grace of God spared him from the pronounced death sentence. It is recorded that after 20 years in India over 1,000 souls had come to Christ and that by the end of his life the number was 210,000 with twenty-six churches he had started. He died on a voyage to the Isle of France and was buried at sea on April 12, 1850. Adoniram Judson is credited with being the first American Baptist missionary.


William Carey (1761-1834)He was born August 17, 1761 in Paulerspury, England. At the age of 14 he began working as an apprentice to a shoemaker, was led to Christ by a fellow worker at age 17 and baptized on October 5, 1783, at the age of 22 by the Baptist preacher J.R. Ryland. After pastoring two churches from 1786 to 1792 he felt the call to missions and arrived in India in November 1793 along with his (reluctant) wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1781 and their four young children. Carey was shocked by the heathenism of the people, which included throwing babies into the Ganges river in worship to false gods and the burning of widows (called “suttee” and successfully outlawed in 1829 due to Carey’s influence). Carey labored for 7 years before seeing his first Indian convert, Krishna Pal, who was baptized by Carey on Dec. 28, 1800. During his 41 years in India, without ever returning to England, Carey lost two wives (his first wife died in 1807; his second wife, Charlotte Rumohr, whom he married in 1808, died in 1821), and a son (Peter, age 5). Carey translated the Bible into 34 different tongues while in India and is known as “the father of modern missions”. He died on June 9, 1834 and his third wife, Grace Hughes, whom he’d married in 1823 died one year later.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)Born on June 19, 1834 he was converted to Christ on January 6, 1850 at the age of fifteen. He was baptized that May and at the age of 19 he was called to pastor the New Park Street Chapel (Baptist), where he would remain for thirty-eight years. The congregation quickly outgrew its building and while the new one (the Metropolitan Tabernacle) was being built, he preached in both Exeter Hall and Surrey Music Hall to crowds of 10,000. On October 7, 1857 he preached to 23,654 at the Crystal Palace in London. The Tabernacle was completed in 1861 and would seat 6,000 (he preached there 10 times a week). Though popular among the people, he was a constant target of the press. He married Susannah Thompson on January 8, 1856 and had two twin sons. Spurgeon is referred to as “the Prince of Preachers” and his sermons and books are still widely available. He died on January 31, 1892 at the age of 57. His son, Thomas, succeeded him as Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle.