Did John the Baptist Start the Baptist Church?
I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and was always led to believe that John the Baptist founded the Baptist christian mysticism churches. Well, it made sense: John was a “Baptist;” we were “Baptists.” So John must have started the Baptist Church, right? Yes, optimistic thinking at its best. Perception is, as they say, reality. Sometimes our perception and Truth are in opposition. And, sometimes, we find out the hard way.
Reading the Bible in its entirety, rather than pulling out a convenient verse here and there, produces the Creator’s intended effect – illumination of Truth.
At the age of 21 I began to read the Bible. Not the common casual perusal through a few Psalms or Proverbs, but a deliberate, systematic study of the 66 books that make up the Bible. Reading the Bible caused me to evaluate the things we Baptists believed and practiced.
After a careful study, I realized that there were a host of practices that we Baptists advocated that didn’t align with the Bible. But one Baptist doctrine stood out above all others – that John the Baptist founded the Baptist Church.
Did John the Baptist start the Baptist Church? Do you want to find it for yourself, or would you like to me share what I found? If you’re reading this sentence, I can assume that you want me to share what I found. Alright, here is knowledge from the Word of God. I hope you will verify it for yourself.
We find King Herod, in the 14th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, spending his birthday at his winter palace. He’d been able to seize and imprison John at his palace. Why did Herod want John in shackles? Because John had said that Herod shouldn’t be sleeping with his sister-in-law, Herodias; therefore, John was incarcerated for his incendiary statement. Actually, Herod wanted to execute John, but feared the reaction of the crowds because the populous believed John to be a prophet of God.
Then, during the celebration of Herod’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter enticed Herod by dancing erotically before him. Evidently Herod was mesmerized by her seductive talents and promised to give her anything she wanted. She’d already been coached by her mother on what to request. “Give me John the Baptist’s head on a platter!” demanded Herodias’ daughter. Herod was now between a rock and the proverbial hard-spot. He didn’t want to incite the crowds, but he also had to demonstrate that he was a man of his word. Ultimately he chose to please Herodias’ daughter. Herod had John decapitated.
Why is this historical account of John’s death important? Because it uncovers the answer to the question, “Did John the Baptist start the Baptist Church?” How does it uncover the answer? John’s death at the hand of Herod was before the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made the first prophecy that any church would be built. Jesus said that He would build a church – not John. Jesus said that it would be His church – not John’s. John the Baptist founded no church. His name “John the Baptist” was simply a descriptive term of his mission and actions. John was a baptizer of men unto the baptism of repentance.
In the 16th chapter of the gospel of Matthew we find Jesus questioning His disciples. “Who are the crowds saying that I am?” His disciples responded, “Some are saying that you are John the Baptist. Some are saying that you are a prophet, such as Elias or Jeremiah.” But Jesus wanted to know what His own disciples thought. “But who do you think I am?” Jesus questioned. Peter responded and said, “You are the Christ (the Messiah; Savior), the Son of the living God!” Jesus exclaimed that Peter was blessed because his knowledge was given by God and not by flesh. Then Jesus makes an incredible prophecy to Peter and to the rest of His disciples, “You are Peter, and upon this rock (the rock of belief that Jesus was the Son of God, or what we would call the confession of faith in Christ) I will build my church.”
It was Jesus, not John, who stated that He would build a church. We find that the Lord’s prophecy came true in the last part of Acts chapter 2. That section of Scripture reveals that all who were saved were added to the Lord’s church by God. God adds the saved to the Lord’s church. There was no earthly council, no associations, and no conventions that voted on potential church member candidates.