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Tuesday
Sep262017

October 2017

Over the course of this school semester, I (along with Ed Tharp) am teaching a seminary class in Baptist History.  I have taught this class before, so I’m getting pretty well versed in the traceable origins of Baptist denominations, their seasons of growth and seasons of decline.  In all of these things, there is one glaring constant.  This is that the Scripture is central in our history and vital to our successes.

The very roots of the Protestant Reformation are found in a rediscovery of the Bible.  Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest, and therefore quite well educated.  He was a bit of a rough character, but his devotion to God was absolute.  Because he could read the Bible (something rather rare at the time) he found that there were common practices of the Church that were not biblical.  He further determined that these practices were inappropriate, causing him to rise up in an attempt to reform the Church.  Failing that, he ultimately broke from the Roman Catholic Church spurring forth the Protestant Reformation.

In England, Henry VIII, rebelled against the Roman Church for his own reasons (no Bible involved) and established the Church of England with himself as the head of the Church.  Ecclesiastical practices did not change very much, but the head of the Church was no longer in Rome.  Now it was found in the British monarchy.

In short order, the common people in Europe and Brittan became more and more literate.  When the printing press was invented and brought into common practice the availability of Scripture was dramatically increased.  As people read the Bible, they found that the Bible often taught one thing and the Church (Roman, Anglican, and Protestant) often practiced something else.  So what ensued was a series of attempts to reform, then eventual separations.  Out of this (English Separatism) came a group who became known as Baptist.  First called this by their detractors, because they refused to baptize infants and insisted that true baptism can only be administered to a person expressing his/her faith. 

Now do not think these separations came easily or without cost.  Persecutions of the most extreme fell upon Baptists, Anabaptists, Quakers, and other nonconforming groups.  People were burned, hanged, imprisoned, banished, flogged, and more because they sought to worship God in a more biblical manner.  Understand, these were Christians (Catholic, Anglican, Congregational, and others) who were persecuting the dissenters.  This took place in Europe, England, and the American colonies.

So, why would someone go through all of this?  The answer is simple.  These people believed the Bible.  It is no more complex than this.  As they came to understand what the Bible taught about God and how to relate to Him, they would rather suffer and die than to live in a less than authentic relationship.  This is the power of the Scripture.

Church and denomination growth and decline can be traced along the very same lines.  Baptist numbers increased exponentially when churches and their leaders embraced the truths of the Bible and lived according to its instruction.  But decline and decay quickly fell upon those churches and groups that embraced a lesser truth.  They would interpret the Scripture according to their own logic and reason, rather than having the Scripture lead them in how they should think and live.

Since the pattern of rise and fall is directly linked to how believers view and apply biblical truth, it is incumbent upon us to learn from history.  The power of the Bible is as strong today as it has ever been.  If we love the Bible, learn the Bible, and live according to its teachings, then our lives will grow and our church will grow as well.  We may or may not be popular, but we will be living according to how God has told us to live.  This is the recipe for success in life.  So let us remain committed to not only knowing the Word of God, but also following the path it lays out for us.  If history teaches us nothing else, let us find this truth, it will make all the difference.

 

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