Continuity of the Church
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That
thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto
the end of the world. Amen.
Ephesians 3:21 Unto him be glory in the
church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
this year’s theme, I have read to you three texts that are widely used to
substantiate the truth of the continuity, succession, or perpetuity
of the Lord’s church that he has built, is building, and shall build until the
Lord returns to receive His bride unto Himself. It may be that I have bitten off
on more than I can chew and may run the risk of receiving a mark. This subject
has been disputable among Baptists for ages and I have my doubts that the little
I say may resolve the issue. I do not believe that any of us present deny this
blessed promise of our Lord, but there are certain issues relating to this
subject that can brood up a spirit of divisiveness and I surely do not desire to
be the author of such a spirit.
Concerning the three words above, all three may not reveal the whole
picture and may be used in erroneous ways, but I am in agreement with them. Continuity
is uninterrupted connection. I believe that the LMBC of Greenfield is a
continuation of the first church. We did not just pop up on a whim! There were
fathers of the faith laboring under the authority of Christ’s commission who
looked out on the fields and saw that there was a harvest in
We should not need a strong analysis of Matthew
16:18. Peter is Pe/tro$, a stone or a
detachment of a massive ledge. “This rock” is Pe/tra|,
a cliff of massive rock. And so it is,
Christ is that Rock. He is a sure Foundation upon which He will build His church
and He is the Architect. He is the chief cornerstone and places living stones
upon that Rock which constitute His ecclesia, a called out assembly of elect,
regenerated, and baptized saints. “I will build” is oi#kodomh/sw, a
future active meaning He will build, embellish, and amplify His church. And now,
the perpetuity of the church is
guaranteed. The “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The gates of
Hades signifies death; hence all the powers of evil and darkness shall not katisxu/w overpower,
predominate, or get the upper hand of her. Christ overcame death, hell, and the
grave, and those living stones in the house He is building have been given the
gift of eternal life. There is no grave that is going to hold me down and so it
is with all in His church.
This does not mean that any particular local church may have a
continuance everlasting as we know that many churches have disbanded, but this
secures the continuity of the aggregate (Formed by a collection of particulars
into a whole mass or sum) of the Lord’s churches which is (I shudder to say
this as my fathers did) the mystical body of Christ. I will use the aggregate of
the Lord’s churches as the “institution” of Christ’s church. There are
some who do not want to believe this is a local church that Christ refers to,
but rather it is a future eschatological church. Sounds to me that this makes it
invisible, but since when did Christ have two kinds of churches? It is local and
visible ecclesia. Yes, Christ loved
His church and gave Himself for her and the day is coming when He shall present
it to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle. And where is this
church now? It has been on this earth since the Lord uttered those words in
local visible churches.
Commission. I am with you unto the end of the age. Why can’t we leave it
as the Lord has spoken it? Evangelize, Baptize, and Catechize. Some say this is
not a church commission but rather a ministerial commission since Christ is
addressing the 11 disciples or apostles. Amazingly, the apostles were the first
souls placed in the church – 1 Corinthians 12:28. Let’s do a shindig on the
authority. All power (e#cousi/a) is given unto ME,
have heard it preached time without number, as well as, I myself have preached
that if you are going to have a proper succession of churches, it must be
through the proper authority of a scriptural New Testament church. After reading
numerous histories through the years, I must admit that my mindset has been
changed and I was fearful of exposing the conviction lest I be cast out. This
does not mean that I reject continuity, succession, or perpetuity. I do adhere
to it and things must be in its proper order. But now, let us look
our Fathers have Spoken.
W. A. Jarrel: (Baptist Church
Perpetuity) quotes S. H. Ford, page 1 – Succession among Baptists is not a linked chain of churches or
ministers, uninterrupted and traceable at this distant day… the true and
defensible doctrine is, that baptized believers have existed in every age since
John baptized in Jordan, and have met as baptized congregations in covenant and
fellowship where an opportunity permitted.
W. A. Jarrel himself says, page 3
– All that Baptists mean by church
succession or Church Perpetuity is: There has never been a day since the
organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine
church of the New Testament existing on earth.
G. H. Orchard: ( History of
Baptists) quotes Dr. S. Miller, page iv introduction essay – This
promise (shall not prevail) seems to secure to His people that there shall be,
in all ages, in the worst of times, a substantially pure church; that is, there
shall always be a body of people more or less in numbers, who shall hold just
the doctrines and order of Christ’s house, in some good degree, in conformity
with the model of the primitive church.
John T. Christian: (A History of
the Baptists) referring to Ellicot, page 21 – The
author believes that in every age since Jesus and the apostles, there have been
companies of believers, churches, who have substantially held to the principles
of the New Testament as now proclaimed by the Baptists. No attempt is made in
these pages to trace a succession of bishops, as the Roman Catholics attempt to
do, back to the apostles. Such an attempt is “laboring in the fire for mere
vanity,” and proceeds on a mistaken view of the nature of the
Thomas Armitage: A History of the Baptists
– page 1, And many who are not
Catholics think that if they fail to unroll a continuous succession of regularly
organized churches, they lose their genealogy by a break in the chain, and so
fail to prove that they are legitimate Apostolic churches. Page 3 – That
Christ never established a law of Christian “primogeniture” by which He
endowed local churches with the exclusive power of moral regeneration, making it
necessary for one church to be the mother of another, in regular succession, and
without which they could not be legitimate churches. Those who organized
churches in apostolic times went forth simply with the lines of doctrine and
order in their hands, and formed new churches without the authority or even the
knowledge of other churches.
Note: I have
heard it said that Armitage has been slam-dunked for his views on perpetuity.
Consider a hypothetical situation: We have several New Testament churches
in different states. Our government overturns and tries to stamp out
Christianity. Severe persecution sets in and saints from these churches take to
running. Haphazardly, in a distant region, they meet and discover they are
brothers and sisters in Christ having the same faith and baptism. They covenant
together to meet in secret for prayer and bible study. Are we going to declare
that they are not a church? The bottom line: With no baptism, there can be no
visible churches. That is the LINK!
Edward Hiscox: (Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches) –
Baptists have been courageous enough to assert that an unbroken succession of
visible organized congregations of believers similar to their own, and therefore
substantially like the primitive churches, can be proven to have existed from
the apostles until now. Such claims may well be left to papal audacity. For
those who learn from that storehouse of sacred truth, the New Testament, what
are the spirit, doctrine, ordinances, and polity of the church of Christ, and
practice the same, it matters nothing whether the chain of organic perpetuity
may never have been broken, or broken a thousand times. 52, Churches
are constituted by voluntary covenant on the part of those who wish to become
Ben Bogard (The Baptist Way Book) – 43 The
Master has not changed His method of work. If He has, it is certain that He has
not notified His servants of it, and until He gives notice of change of methods
Baptists should continue to work by the methods revealed in the Scriptures. The
first step necessary in the organization of a new congregation or church is for
as many as three baptized disciples to agree to meet statedly for worship, for
mutual edification and united effort for the evangelization of the world.
J. E. Cobb (Baptist Church Manual) – 20 Christ
gave the church the quality of perpetuation. We cannot truthfully say that He
gave her the quality of “self”-preservation, for the quality to perpetuate
herself is a divinely given one.
Waldensian Confession 1655 (Churches of the Piemont) Samuel
Morland – 25, – That the church is the
company of the Faithful, who having been elected before the foundation of the
world, and called with a holy calling, come to unite themselves to follow the
word of God, believing whatsoever He teaches them, and living in His fear. 26
– That the church cannot err, nor be
annihilated, but must endure forever, and that all the elect are upheld and
preserved by the power of God in such sort, that they all persevere in the faith
unto the end, and remain united in the holy church, as so many living members
letter was written by Prince Palatine to the Duke of Savoy in 1566 where a
Proverb had been begotten among the Christians : The
ashes of the martyrs are the seed of the Christian Church.
There are many other authors having similar thoughts on perpetuity. I know that
I could have taken many quotes from a recent contemporary book, but these quotes
came from my library, the books that I have purchased through the years and that
which I have read, studied, and compared to the Scriptures. I used to want to
believe that these authors were not Landmarkers and did not know what they were
talking about, but after making some “date” comparisons, my thoughts
changed. How can so many historians, writing at different times, and almost
harmoniously saying the same thing, be wrong?
is it that gives the church its Continuity?
First and foremost, it is the Lord as He
Secondly, it is through the commission
He has given His church to carry out. They were to be witnesses unto Him in
The Lord saved Paul on the road to
A most important factor for the
continuity of any scripturally organized church – Acts
2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and
in breaking of bread, and in prayers. If any other Gospel is proclaimed, let
them be accursed. There is only one way of salvation. Works for salvation, or
baptismal regeneration is not the apostles’ doctrine. I realize that this
verse speaks of the one
Notable Sign of Continuity.
At this point, some may say that I am departing
from the theme, but let me assure you that there is much more involved
concerning the continuity of the church. The everlasting Gospel perpetuated
through the church. There is only one way of salvation and that is by the grace
of God alone. . There is only one baptism and when any of these have been
departed from, I would not acknowledge them as a New Testament church. There is
a lot of religion in the world, and some of them look good but can bring strong
delusion. Jeroboam built himself up a false religious system but God didn’t
accept that no more than He did the strange fire offered up by Nadab and Abihu.
The church is not a building here and there,
but it is the people of the Lord who have been saved, baptized by the authority
of the Lord’s church, who have covenanted together to carry out the commission
of the Lord. When you walk in the truth of God’s word and doctrine, that
people is very distinct from the people of the world that they have been called
out of. They are new creations of God’s grace. All things have become new and
they can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. As Barnabas saw
God’s grace at
But what is the distinction wherein others
would state, “There have been Baptists throughout all ages going back to
Christ”? What had been seen by others to where they recognized a continuous
succession of Baptists? Surely a prominent answer would be the doctrine they
embraced. They believed in a regenerate membership and would not receive alien
baptism and so were called “Anabaptists”. But there is more than believing
the truth – there is also the living and practicing
that truth. Hence, Baptist perpetuity is not only recognized by their
doctrine, but also by their practice.
Such a one we can observe was Novatian. He was
a presbyter of the church of Rome. Decius had succeeded the Roman throne and
wanted all people in the empire to conform to pagan worship. This resulted in
many being martyred in the churches. Many turned tail like the stony ground
professors. Tribulation or persecution came and they were offended. But when
peace came, they wanted to return to the church. Cornelius was ready to receive
the apostates, but Novatian opposed it. More pastors were concerned about
numbers than the purity of communion.
Novatian departed from the church of Rome and
was accused of giving birth to an innumerable multitude of congregations of
puritans in every part of the
am going to notate a few things in closing, but let me be right up front to say
that I certainly am not slam-dunking any person or church. Let me assure you
that the Greenfield LMBC has experienced or is experiencing some the problems
that I present to you.
Where is the continuity of the sanctity
Where is the continuity of abstinence
from sexual activity outside of wedlock?
Where is the continuity of temperance,
or should I say the abstinence of alcoholic beverages.
Where is the continuity of modest
the Lord’s blessings be upon His word. May we all continue in the faith.
Hebrews 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.