Why Join A Baptist Church?
By Roy Mason (1894 - 1978)
Occasionally one comes across a person who says, “I believe in churches, I think that every Christian should be a church member, and I should like to join a church, if I could only settle the question as to which is the right one to join. With so many churches and denominations in existence, each one advancing their own peculiar claims, I have become confused so that I do not really know what to do.” It is for such persons who are in honest doubt about this matter that his chapter is written, although it ishoped that it may prove helpful to those who are already members of Baptist churches, but are little more than Baptists in name only.
Assuming that you, my reader, are in earnest, and have an open mind, I wish to show you why that you, a Christian, should be a Baptist and should unite with a Baptist church. Understand me, I do not believe that you should unite with a Baptist church unless you become thoroughly convinced that Baptist churches of all others are the true and the only New Testament churches. Often mere sentiment determines the church to join, for many people. Many join a certain church because grandmother or grandfather or some other relative or friend once belonged to that church. Many times I have known a husband or wife to change their church affiliation just so the family would not be divided on the church question. I cannot but feel that it is a sin against God and against one’s own soul to do this. No one ought to join a certain church, when their choice of that church is dictated by mere sentiment, whim, or caprice. No one ought to join a certain church just to please some relative or friend, or to keep peace in the family. This matter is too important, and one might add, sacred, to settle on any such basis. When one unites with a certain church it ought to be because of an intense personal conviction that that church is right, and that it adheres to Christ’s teachings, and that God approves of the making of that the church of their choice. If more people felt that way about the matter of their church affiliation, we wouldn’t have so many weak and “wobbly” church members who seem to love other churches about as much as they do their own.
In looking out over the religious world today, divided into numerous sects, parties, and denominations, one thing ought to stand out as very apparent, and that is, that the Founder of Christianity did not start all of these sects and divisions. He cannot be said to be the author of any such confusion. The New Testament makes it very clear that He founded a church - not many institutions of different names and creeds calling themselves churches - but one institution. That this church was the local assembly should be very clear to any one who studies Christ’s use of the word “church” (ecclesia) as given in the New Testament. His use of the word prohibits us from believing that other than the local assembly was meant. Moreover He promised the continued existence of this church throughout the ages. So in searching for the right church to join, the question for you to determine is, which church of all the institutions calling themselves churches today, is the one that Jesus founded and promised to perpetuate? If Jesus knew what He was talking about, and meant what He said, we are forced to believe that the church which he started has been perpetuated and is still in existence. I am quite sure that you would prefer to unite with the church that Jesus founded in preference to any counterfeit church that may have come into existence since His time. This brings me to a statement of the first reason that I wish to offer you as to why you should join a Baptist church:
You should join a Baptist church BECAUSE JESUS FOUNDED THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, AND HAS PRESERVED CHURCHES OF LIKE FAITH THROUGHOUT ALL THE CENTURIES UNTO THE PRESENT MOMENT.
Now of course you will require at my hands some reasons for believing that the statement just made is true. Space does not permit of a lengthy discussion of this here, (for a full discussion of the perpetuity question, see the author’s book, The Church That Jesus Built,) but I shall give very briefly a few reasons that ought to prove conclusive.
1. All churches, with the single exception of Baptist churches began hundreds of years after Christ, and had human founders. This of course utterly precludes the possibility of any of them being the church that Jesus founded. Below there follows a table giving the date of the founding of each of the great churches of the world, and the name of the founder. This table is from Denominationalism Put to the Test, By Dr. S. E. Tull.
DENOMINATIONAL CHARTDenominational Founder’s Date of Present age
Name. Name. origin. 1924.
Catholic Gregory I A.D. 590 1334 yrs.
Lutheran Martin Luther A.D. 1520 404 yrs.
Episcopalian Henry VIII A.D. 1534 390 yrs.
Presbyterian John Calvin A.D. 1536 388 yrs.
Congregational Robert Brown A.D. 1580 344 yrs.
Methodist John Wesley A.D. 1740 184 yrs.
Campbellite Alex. Campbell A.D. 1827 97 yrs.
Mormon Joe Smith A.D. 1839 94 yrs.
Christian Science Mary Eddy A.D. 1884 40 yrs.
BAPTIST JESUS CHRIST Mark 3:13-19; Matt. 16:18
2. A comparison of the doctrines held by Baptists with those taught in the New Testament, shows them to be strictly apostolic in this regard. A similar comparison of the doctrines held by other denominations with those of the New Testament, will show that such is not true in their case. Practices have been added for which there is no scriptural warrant, or else a meaning is placed upon the ordinances that is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament.
3. Historians, many of them not Baptists, have conceded the apostolicity of Baptist churches. Moreover they have traced the Baptists under various names back to the days of the apostles, and have established their identity with the church founded by Jesus. Let us take the time to note a few quotations from some reliable historians on this point: Among Baptist historians, it is generally conceded that John T. Christian, stands at the head. Indeed, there are some who rate him as being the greatest historian in the world today. In his monumental work, A History of the Baptists, (Bapt. S. S. Board, 1922), we find him saying, (page 5), “I have no question in my mind that there has been a historical succession of Baptists from the days of Christ to the present time.”
Johann Mosheim: (Lutheran historian) “The origin of the. . . Anabaptists. . . is hid in the remote depths of antiquity” (Institutes of Eccles. History III, P. 200). John Clark Ridpath, (Methodist historian, author of Ridpath’s History of the World), in a letter to Dr. W. A. Jarrel (Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 59), wrote: “I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A. D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists.”
A. Ypeij and J. J. Dermout, (Reformed Church, Holland), in their History of the Dutch Reformed Church, (Vol. I p. 148), have this to say: “. . .the Baptists may be considered as the only all ages.”
Quotations might be multiplied, but space does not permit further historical references on this point. Any one who wishes to read further along this line, and to see the indisputable historical evidence of the perpetuity of the Baptists, can do so by obtaining the author’s book, The Church that Jesus Built, or J. T. Christian’s A History of the Baptists.
Since other churches and denominations were not started by Jesus but by some man, hundreds of years after Jesus founded the first Baptist church, and since they all depart radically from the New Testament doctrines, it seems to me that a Baptist church would be the logical preference of any devout Christian who is anxious to please his Lord.
The second reason that I wish for you to consider as to why you should be a Baptist is: BECAUSE BAPTIST CHURCHES ARE THE ONLY CHURCHES THAT ADHERE STRICTLY TO THE SCRIPTURES IN REGARD TO ALL OF THE DOCTRINES THEY TEACH OR PRACTICE. Other churches deviate from the Scriptures. Have you ever observed when attending other churches, that the minister often lays aside his Bible and reads from a Discipline or some man devised book, his authority for his mode of procedure? Would you not rather belong to a church that does not have to go outside the Bible for the justification of any of its actions?
Other denominations have doctrines and practices that have to be constantly excused and explained. Some of these practices involve them in inconsistencies that are very embarrassing. For instance, compare the way of salvation as held among Baptists with others. Baptists teach only one way of salvation. They teach that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, and they only receive as candidates for baptism those who claim to have already been saved. Some other denominations hold to more than one way of salvation. They profess to believe in salvation by grace through faith, and at the same time baptize infants to make them children of God. Some of the members of these denominations, to be sure, claim that they baptize infants because they are already children of God, but the catechisms, rituals, disciplines, etc., of these denominations indicate on this point that baptism has to do with making them children of God. Further than this dome of the other denominations teach that unless one “holds out faithful to the end” they will be lost. In other words they hold that man must add his words in order to be saved. This practically amounts to three ways of salvation: by grace, by baptism, and by grace plus works. Still other denominations hold that immersion is essential to Salvation (Cf. Campbellites and Mormons). This leads me to the statement which you will do well to ponder: “BAPTIST CHURCHES ARE THE ONLY CHURCHES ON EARTH THAT REQUIRE A PERSON TO PROFESS TO BE SAVED BEFORE THE PERSON UNITES WITH THE CHURCH OR IS BAPTIZED.”
You believe that a person should be saved before they unite with the church don’t you? If you believe that you belong with the Baptists, for they alone hold to this requirement. Other denominations either baptize infants, who cannot be believers, or else baptize with the idea that baptism helps to save.
As regards the ordinances, the Baptists are happily situated. In holding to believer’s baptism, baptism by immersion only, and baptism as a simple, symbolical ordinance, possessing no saving power, they are both scriptural and consistent. Other denominations are greatly embarrassed to explain their position on this ordinance. Most of the great denominations practice infant baptism. Many who belong to these denominations do not believe in it, but let the reader bear in mind the fact that when one unites with an organization that practices infant baptism, they set the seal of their approval upon it.
Since the question of infant baptism is so often involved when one comes to consider what church to join, let me just give you, in the briefest way, two or three reasons why it should not be practiced and why one should not sanction such a practice by belonging to a church that administers it:
1. There is nowhere in the New Testament a single command to baptize babies, nor a single example of one having ever been baptized. If there was a single passage to warrant the practice it would have been found long ago. On the other hand New Testament baptism always presupposes belief in Christ. Of course no infant is capable of belief.
2. Historians have fixed the date of the beginning of the practice of infant baptism, many decades after the death of Christ, and the beginning of the first church. (For full historical discussion of infant baptism see Infant Baptism by Dr. W. J. McGlothlin, S. S. Board 1916). Thus they have shown that it was no part of the practice of apostolic churches.
3. Infant baptism has no place in an evangelical system of religion. Denominations that practice it today get the practice from the Catholics, who are not evangelical. One can readily see that if all babies were baptized, believer’s baptism would soon perish from the earth. So utterly out of place is infant baptism in an evangelical system that the very churches that practice it have been able to keep from taking note of the inconsistency involved in it. This explains the dropping off in recent years in the number of infants baptized among the denominations that hold to this practice.
In regard to the other ordinance, the Lord’s Supper, Baptists alone hold the logical, consistent, and scriptural position. Now you have probably heard more people object to Baptist churches on the ground of their attitude on this question, than any other thing. It is very common for people of other faiths to call Baptists “narrow” in regard to this matter. But there is really nothing in which Baptists are more right or scriptural than in this. We cannot go into this question exhaustively, but let us just think for a moment, and we can easily see the correctness of the Baptist position.
The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance isn’t it? All denominations that I know anything about admit that it is. Baptists believe that immersion must precede church membership. Hence those not immersed are considered by them as unbaptized and thus unqualified to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, as I have sought to show, Jesus founded the Baptist church, and gave to it this ordinance. If this is true, then no other so-called church has the right to administer this ordinance. No other church is a scriptural, New Testament church, hence Baptists cannot invite members of other churches to partake of the Lord’s Supper with them any more than they could invite the members of the Masonic Lodge or the Carpenters’ Union.
Summing up the argument on this point, Baptists do not partake of the Lord’s Supper with the members of other denominations, because: (1) They are not properly baptized, and baptism must always precede the Lord’s Supper. (2) Because Jesus gave the ordinance to His church to be observed and administered by His church. Since other denominations cannot be identified with the church that Jesus founded; since they are man-originated institutions, they are not true churches and have no authority to administer the Lord’s Supper, and have no more right to partake of it with New Testament churches than have those who claim no church affiliation at all.
Further, they are prohibited by Scripture from partaking of the Lord’s supper with people of other faiths. Let me ask, is there division between denominations? Certainly, else they would not exist. All are divided on one or more doctrinal questions, as well as other things. Now, the New Testament teaches us very clearly that people who are in a state of division cannot really partake of the Lord’s Supper. Let us notice this passage: I Corinthians 11:18-20 R.V., “For first of all when ye come together in the church I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it. . . when therefore ye assemble yourselves together it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.” What could be plainer than the meaning of this passage? It declares plainly that there can be no real observance of the Lord’s Supper where there is division and where there is “Open Communion” there is always division.
Again, whose Supper is it and whose table is it around which we assemble? Is it not the Lord’s? If it is, what right have we to be so “broad” as to remove the restrictions that He placed upon it? All those who gathered with Christ at the first “Lord’s Supper” were baptized persons. He did not even invite the good man who owned the house in which they gathered. We have no right to invite the unbaptized when He did not invite them. Suppose that you should invite a few of your close relatives and very intimate friends to supper. You specify exactly whom you wish to attend, and you tell those invited to come at six o’clock. At six o’clock you look out and lo, and behold! people are gathered by the score before your door. You inquire and you find that one of your friends decided that you were too “narrow” in your choice of guests. He thought that you should have included others in your invitation so he assumed the privilege of broadening your invitation and invited dozens of others not included by you. The question is, what would you think of your friend’s action? Would it not seem the height of presumption? What right had he to change your invitation and invite to your supper, those whom you did not invite?
Christ gave the Memorial Supper to church members - baptized persons. What right has any one to invite to this Supper those who are not scripturally baptized, and who do not belong to His church?
To do so is to act with arrogant presumption!
Another reason why you should be a Baptist is BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE ONLY FORM OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT THAT IS RECOGNIZED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. Being a rational, sensible being you had rather live in the United States where you have a voice in the government, than to live under monarchical rule where you would have no “say so” whatever, wouldn’t you? Would you not also rather be a member of a church with a democratic form of government where you are privileged to vote in all matters pertaining to the church and its work? If you should become a member of some churches you would have very little to say about the way that affairs should be conducted in that church. You would be expected to pay and keep your mouth shut. You would not even have the right to help choose a pastor for your church. He would be sent to you by a higher-up ecclesiastic, and you would have to put up with him whether you liked him or not. On the other hand if you should get a pastor that greatly pleased, and whose work should prove to be exactly suited to your church, and if he should want to remain, and every person in the church should want him to remain, the same higher-up could remove him just the same.
Now as a member of a Baptist church you would have just as many rights and privileges as any other member, regardless of their wealth, age, or social position. When it came to the call of a pastor, you would have a voice in the matter. In any other matter concerning the welfare of the church you would have a vote equal to that of any other member. Perhaps the purest democracies in the world are Baptist churches. Read the book of Acts, and see if the “whole multitude” of church members did not exercise a voice in matters concerning the church. Read all of the Epistles and see if believers were not on a strict equality as regards the church. The Catholic Church was the first to take from church members their rights and vest them in the clergy. Other denominations that withhold from their members their privileges in the government and affairs of the church, brought their unscriptural practice over from Catholicism.
If you believe in democracy rather than kaiserism and autocracy, then you are on this point a Baptist!
One last reason I will take time to give as to why you should be a Baptist: YOU SHOULD BE A BAPTIST BECAUSE A STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT WILL PRECLUDE YOUR BEING ANYTHING ELSE. You cannot study the New Testament for yourself, with an unbiased, unprejudiced mind, willing to obey the Lord whatever the cost, and finish that study with other than Baptist convictions. Numerous instances are on record where a Bible has fallen into the hands of people totally unacquainted with the beliefs of the different denominations, indeed, unaware of their existence, and they became Baptists in belief. Baptist missionaries in Brazil have had such persons to come to them for baptism upon numerous occasions. I know of no people save Baptists who are willing to turn a new convert loose with a New Testament and say to him, “Here, take this New Testament, study it yourself, and join the church to which it leads you!”
Let not the reader be careless about the church question, and just push the whole matter aside with the thought, “Oh well, it doesn’t matter much which church I unite with anyhow!” Too many deal with the church question in this trivial way. It is quite common to hear people say, “There are good in all churches. The church doesn’t save anyone. We are all trying to get to the same place.” These things may be very true, but that doesn’t warrant one in being careless about the matter of church membership. It is a sad thing to see a new born soul start out on a career of life long disobedience to Christ. This is exactly what happens when a new convert unites with a church that has unscriptural doctrines and practices. Besides I think that we may take exception to the statement made above, and state that after all one church is not as good as another. No church founded by a fallible man could be as good as the one founded by Jesus Christ Himself. No church that practices unscriptural things can equal the church that is sound and scriptural in all of its beliefs and practices. These two great claims, that Jesus founded the Baptist church, and that it adheres rigidly to apostolic doctrine and teaching, are well authenticated claims that demand your consideration in settling the question as to what church you should join.
Ponder carefully the things said in the foregoing paragraphs, investigate their truth, read and study the New Testament for yourself, with the determination to do what is right at any cost. If you will do this, I have no fear but that you will become a Baptist!
[From Milburn Cockrell, editor, The Berea Baptist Banner, December, 1998. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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