“The Origin and Perpetuity of Churches”

By Larry Ray Hafley

Our title is that of an article written by a Missionary Baptist preacher, L. R. Riley. It appeared in the Baptist Herald, May 3, 1978. The arguments advanced are not new. They have been advocated and answered scores of times. A few may think that no such teaching must be considered today. Some think that what appears below is not being taught, but it is as the article proves. Now, the article by Mr. Riley.

“The study of churches is a very live and interesting subject today. I offer you the following scriptures that have to do with the church built by Jesus and that has been on the earth since He built it. The scriptures in Zechariah 6:12, 13; Matthew 16:18; Luke 1:17, 6:12, 13; and John 17:4 show that Jesus built his church while he was on the earth and finished his work.

“His churches were sufficient for all man’s needs and had not men begun to establish imitation churches all of the saved would be together in work and worship to the glory and praise of our God.

“In studying the churches of today I find that Baptists are the only ones without a human head, who put blood before water in salvation, and who say that a man is saved without belonging to any kind of a church. ‘If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“It is my conviction that Baptist churches are true New Testament Churches. How can I be sure? What are the tests by which we can know whether a church is New Testament or not?

“Four things must be true concerning a church if it is to be considered New Testament in origin. They are:

“(1) It must be built by Jesus Christ. Matthew 16:18.

“(2) It must be built on Jesus Christ. Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20.

“(3) It must have been built when Jesus was upon the earth. John 17:4.

“(4) Since Jesus was in Palestine, it must of necessity, have been built in Palestine.

“Many people tell me that there is no difference in churches. In one sense that may be true, but I suggest to you that a church is a product of Jesus and not man. The organizations built by men can never rise any higher than that of a society. You do not have to belong to a Baptist church to be saved, but may I suggest the name “Baptist’ is the only scriptural name for a baptized believer. The name was given to the world by the Lord Himself, Matthew 3:1, before John had ever baptized anyone. In this study, if you find any fault of mine, please give me the information and I will correct it.”

Answer To First Paragraph

Note the scriptures given to “show that Jesus built his church while he was on the earth.”

(1) Zechariah 6:12, 13: “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Christ shall come from God; He shall build the temple, bear the glory, sit and rule on his throne and shall be a priest on his throne. Yes, but not “while he was upon the earth.” Jesus did not enter into His glory until after His death (Lk. 24:26; Isa. 53:10-12). The glory He was to bear was “the glory that should follow” His sufferings (1 Pet. 1:11). Further, Christ could not sit and rule and be a priest upon His throne while “he was on the earth,” as Riley says. Why not? “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there be priests that offer gifts according to the law” (Heb. 8:4). Zechariah stresses where the Christ shall rule as King and serve as priest “upon his throne.” Jesus did not ascent to the throne until after His resurrection (Acts 2:29-36). Therefore, He did not build the temple while “he was on the earth.”

(2) Matthew 16:18: “. . . And upon this rock I will build my church . . . .” Jesus said He would build His church, but He did not say when. He certainly did not say, “I will do it `while’ I am `on the earth.’ “

(3) Luke 1:17: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This speaks of the preparatory work of John the Baptist, but does not say the church would be built “while” Jesus was “on the earth.”

(4) Luke 6:12, 13: “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” According to Baptist doctrine, this represents the establishment of the church. It is simply what it says, i.e., a calling of His disciples and the choosing of the apostles. No mention is made of the church being established in this text. This creates a “very live and interesting” dilemma for Mr. Riley. If Luke 6:12, 13 proves the church was then established, why did Jesus say, nearly a full year later, “I will build my church?” Matthew 16:18 was spoken a year after the calling of the twelve. Also, in Luke 10:9, the Lord said the kingdom was “come nigh” or “at hand.” Why say that if it was in existence as early as Luke 6:12,13?

Mr. Riley gives his texts a definite order: Zechariah 6:12, 13,’prophecy of the church; Matthew 16:18, promise of the church; Luke 1:17, preparation of the church; Lk. 6:12, 13; John 17:4, creation and completion of the church. But he fails to notice that Matthew was spoken afer Luke 6:12, 13.

Answer To Second Paragraph

True. Agreed.

Answer To Third Paragraph

So, Jesus is the head of the Baptist church only. He is not the head -of the Methodist Church or of any other church. Talk about those narrow-minded Campbellites!

Mr. Riley puts them all to shame since “Baptists are the only ones without a human head.” Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Lutherans, are you listening? You have never heard a gospel preacher make a bolder claim than Mr. Riley has made, yet you will “brother” him and bother us. Why?

“Blood before water in salvation” — I suppose if one teaches that baptism in water is an essential condition of pardon that he is guilty of putting “water before blood in salvation.” That is undoubtedly Mr. Riley’s point. The Baptist Herald might tell us whether or not Baptists “put repentance and faith before blood in salvation.” If baptism is accepted as one of the terms of pardon, then one is charged with putting water before blood in salvation. Well, if repentance and faith are taught as terms of pardon, are not the Baptists convicted of putting repentance and faith “before blood in salvation?”

Baptists “say that a man can be saved without belonging to any kind of a church.” That knocks out a Baptist Church, too. Being in Christ is the same thing as being in his body, the church (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13).

“Three Things Must Be True”

(1) There is no proof that Jesus built a Baptist Church. He built His church. It is “New Testament in origin,” but that does not mean it is a Baptist Church.

(2) Again, true; but this does not establish that Baptist churches are built on Jesus. We have shown that the Lord’s church could not have been built while Jesus was upon the earth. Jesus’ work was finished in that He had concluded His teaching and was committed to go to the cross. It was now in the hands of the Father to raise and glorify His Son. However, even if the church was established while Jesus was on earth, this would not prove it was a Baptist Church.

(3) Isaiah 28:16 gives us information as to the beginning of the church as does Isaiah 2:2-4 and Luke 24:46-49. But regardless of that, if the church had been built in Rome, it would not prove it was a Baptist Church.

“The Only Scriptural Name”

Mr. Riley becomes even more bold when he suggesteth, “May I suggest the name ‘Baptist’ is the only scriptural name for a baptized believer.” What? The name “Methodist” is not scriptural? No, nor neither Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Pentecostal-they are all unscriptural. But so is the name “Christian!” For, if “the name `Baptist’ is the only scriptural name for a baptized believer,” then the name “Christian” is as unscriptural as the name “Episcopalian.” Evidently the New Testament writers did not know that “Baptist” is the only scriptural name. They never called a single baptized believer a Baptist. No, not one. Peter said, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf;” or “in this name” (1 Pet. 4:16-ASV). The name Baptist was not given to the world in Matthew 3:1 or anywhere else. It was given to John. He was “the Baptist,” not a Baptist. He was “the baptizer” simply because he baptized people (Mk. 6:24-ASV). Where did Mr. Riley learn that the name “Baptist” is the only scriptural name? Where did he learn that God gave it “to the world?” Where?

We have found fault with Mr. Riley’s article and supplied the information he requested. Now, will the Baptist Herald see that his study is corrected as promised?

Truth Magazine XXII: 31, pp. 503-505
August 10, 1978