Tag Archives: local autonomous church

3. A Church Is a Mystery, an Assembly, a Spiritual Body


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


If you miss one part of the puzzle that is being put together in these studies, you will never see and understand the whole picture.


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2. Christ Ordained the Church and Builds It upon the Rock

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4. The Holy Spirit Forms a Church which Is a Temple, a Spiritual Body, the Body of Christ

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Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 1, 2018


Note. For more on this, see Stewards of the Mystery of the Church Found Lacking, Except for a Remnant (033020)

Members of a New Testament Church under Christ alone are stewards of the mysteries of God; therefore, stewards of the mystery of the church. God requires that His stewards be found faithful. (1 Co. 4.1-2).

The institution of the New Testament church, made  up of local assemblies, is a mystery hidden in past ages and, therefore, not revealed in the Old Testament; but now “made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ep. 3.5). Believers in a local church may understand this mystery of Christ, when they read the words of God penned by the Apostle Paul (Ep. 3:4).

That the Gentiles were to be saved was no mystery (Ro. 9.24-33; 10.19-21).[i] The mystery was the divine purpose to make of Jew and Gentile a wholly new thing—the church made up of local autonomous New Testament bodies in this age—and in which the earthly distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears. (Ep. 2.14, 15; Co. 3.10, 11). Jesus Christ established His local assembly while he walked as the God Man on earth and appointed His local assembly as executor of His Will or Testament. For more on this, see, e.g., The New Testament of Jesus Christ:  His Executor Named and Empowered. The revelation of this mystery which was foretold but not explained by Christ (Mt. 16.18) was committed to Paul.

Just as the church in the wilderness was an assembly called out by God, an ecclesia (see Ac. 7.38), so a New Testament church is an assembly of called-out ones. Israel, in the wilderness, was a church or assembly, but in striking contrast with the New Testament ecclesia. Israel in the land is never called a church; they were not all assembled after they entered the land. Born-again believers are admonished not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, not to forsake the local church, the only assembly of believers on earth (He. 10.25).

The institution of the New Testament church is solely made up of local spiritual bodies, made up of an assembly of believers (See, e.g., Ep. 4). Christ will gather all members of his earthly family together in a general or universal assembly in the heavenly Jerusalem (He. 12.22-24) at the marriage of the Lamb (Re. 19.7-10). Before that, there will be no universal assembly.

All Bible references to a church here on the earth refer to an local body of Jewish and/or Gentile believers and not to a universal or catholic church. Nowhere in the New Testament is a church here on the earth ever referred to as anything other than a local spiritual body and nowhere does Scripture teach that a church is to have any type authority above it other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some examples of references to churches as they existed in the New Testament are listed and quoted in endnote [ii].

Adherents can do no more than quote Matthew 16.18 or 1 Corinthians 12.12-13 out of context in support of the universal church doctrine. 1 Corinthians was written to a local autonomous church, with principles to be applied by all churches. One must analyze the verse in context of all immediate verses as well as all New Testament doctrine to ascertain its meaning; such an examination gives absolutely no support to a universal church doctrine for this age. See [iii] for links to more resources, a webpage with teachings and links to more sermons, and an article on C. I. Schofield’s “True Church” doctrine.

In his seven letters to seven local autonomous Gentile churches (in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica), the church, the “mystery from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,” (Ep. 3.9) is fully revealed, and fully instructed as to her unique place in the counsels and purposes of God. Through Paul alone, we know that a church is not an organization, but an organism instinct with His life, and heavenly in calling promise and destiny. Through him alone, we know the nature, purpose, and form of organization of local churches, the right conduct of such assemblies, and the commandments for the earthly walk of the members.

A church is a spiritual body made up individual believing members (Ep. 4, 1 Co. 12). Each member is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has a proper place in the local body. Christ sets some in the body as apostles,[iv] prophets,[v] evangelists, pastors, and teachers; “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ep. 4.12). The members of the local body are to speak the truth in love, that they “may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ep. 4.15-16).


Click here to go to Bible Study of Ephesians. Ephesians reveals the local church as God’s masterpiece. It is more wonderful that any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1 presents the local church as a body.

Articles, Essays, and Other Resources Related to the Doctrine of the Church, Incorporation, 501c3, Etc.

The Local Church: A Building or What?

Bible Studies of various Books on the Doctrine of the Church.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Church


Endnotes

[i] A mystery in Scripture is a previously hidden truth, now divinely revealed, but in which a supernatural element still remains despite the revelation.

[ii] New Testament verses:

  • “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Ac. 9.31).
  • Paul said, “Likewise greet the church that is in their house. (Ro. 16.5)” Notice that the church refers to the local body of baptized believers. The house was just the place where they met; it was not a church.
  • Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Paul … Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Co. 1.1-2).
  • “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place….” (1 Co. 14.23).
  • “The churches [Not “the church of Asia”] of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (1 Co. 16.19).
  • “Paul … unto Philemon … and to the church in thy house” (Phil. 1-2).
  • “… [T]hat thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Ti. 3.15).
  • The Bible defines “house of God”: “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house; as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken of after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (He. 3.4-6).
  • In Revelation, the Lord speaks to “the church of Ephesus” (Re. 2.1) “the church in Smyrna” (Re. 2.8), “the church in Pergamos” (Re. 2.12), “the church in Thyatira” (Re. 2.18), “the church in Sardis” (3.18), “the church in Philadelphia” (Re. 3.7), and “the church of the Laodiceans” (Re. 3.14).

[iii] Defining the word Church: Local, Visible, Institutional, never Universal; Origin of the Universal Church Exposed: Constantine, Augustine & Scofield; Rightly Dividing Baptisms: Is 1 Corinthians 12:13 Spirit baptism or water baptism?. For more in depth teachings and sermons on the church, go to the following webpage and scroll down: The Biblical Doctrine of the Church. See also, the article, Scofield’s headnote to “Ephesians” and margin notes on his false “true church” doctrine.

[iv] The word apostle, means “one sent forth,” and is is used of our Lord He. 3:1. Elsewhere it is used for the twelve who were called to that office by our Lord during His earth ministry; of Paul, called to the apostleship by the risen and ascended Lord, and of Barnabas Ac. 14:14 specially designated by the Holy Spirit Ac. 13:2. Of Matthias, chosen by lot by the eleven to take the place of Judas Iscariot, Ac .1:16-26: “And he was numbered with the eleven.” Ac. 1:26
The “signs” of an apostle were (1) They were chosen directly by the Lord Himself, or, as in the case of Barnabas, by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 10:1-2; Mk. 3:13-14; Lk. 6:13; Ac. 9:6; 13:2; 22:10,14-15; Ro. 1:1). (2) They were endued with sign gifts, miraculous powers which were the divine credentials of their office (Mt. 10:1; Ac 5:15; 16:16-18; Mt 28:8-9). (3) Their relation to the kingdom was that of heralds, announcing to Israel only Mt. 10:5-6 the kingdom as at hand and manifesting kingdom powers Mt. 10:7-8. (4) To one of them, Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, viewed as the sphere of Christian profession, as in Mt. 13, were given Mt 16:19. (5) Their future relation to the king will be that of judges over the twelve tribes Mt 19:28. (6) Consequent upon the rejection of the kingdom, and the revelation of the mystery hid in God (Mt .16:18; Ep. 3:1-12), the Church, the apostolic office was invested with a new enduement, the baptism with the Holy Spirit Ac. 2:1-4; a new power, that of imparting the Spirit to Jewish-Christian believers; a new relation, that of foundation stones of the new temple (Ep. 2:20-22) and a new function, that of preaching the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified and risen Lord to Jew and Gentile alike. (7) The indispensable qualification of an apostle was that he should have been an eye-witness of the resurrection (Ac. 1:22; 1 Co. 9:1).

[v] The church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ep. 2.20). These “prophets” were New Testament prophets; to the Old Testament prophets, the church remained a mystery.

  • The mystery of the church, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ep. 3.5).
  • “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Pe. 2.4-6).

1. Introduction to New Testament Church Doctrine


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


If you miss one part of the puzzle that is being put together in these studies, you will never see and understand the whole picture.


Previous Chapter:
A. Bible Doctrine of Government

Next Lesson:
2. Christ Ordained the Church and Builds It upon the Rock

Click here to go to all lessons on the Bible Doctrine of the Church.

Click here to go to links to all written lessons.

Click here to go to the 5 minute video lectures.


Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 1, 2018


These short lessons will reveal the truth about Christ’s true church and churches and in the process of doing so will also shatter myths fostered by religio-political lawyers, pastors, establishments, politicians, and theologians. “The house of God, which is the church of the living God,” is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and not a bastion of the lies of Satan.[i]

Untold damage to the cause of Christ has been caused by unbridled allegorization or spiritualization of Scripture by Catholics and Protestants. Some of those religions, due to their heinous theologies (false interpretations of Scripture) have, since the early fourth century:

  1. prostituted religion by joining hands with the state and continuing to call the resultant religious organizations “churches;”
  2. violently persecuted and murdered others, including true believers who stood on God’s Word in spite of persecutions and martyrdom, down through the last 2,000 years;
  3. lied about the history of true believers and churches whom they tried to stamp out and obliterate using every conceivable means, including barbaric torture, murders of horrific proportions, imprisonment, conficscation of property, and banishment.
  4. destroyed or confiscated and held the writings and documents of those persecuted ones in their libraries;
  5. continued their tactics as far as possible, absent the persecutions, against God’s true churches.

Satan and his demons never give up. They continue to attack on all fronts. Because of great religious victories by true believers in America, the efforts of true believers and churches can no longer be thwarted by the atrocious persecutions of the past. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding provisions in the constitutions of every state protect freedom of religion, conscious, press, association, and speech from persecution.[ii]

But Satan never ceases to fight. He unceasingly uses any and all tactics to hide the truth about establishmentarian[iii] theology, history, persecution, and goals.[iv] Perhaps Satan’s greatest tool of warfare is lies, as always. He keeps people in the dark through lies. Most of mankind hate the light (truth, Jesus Christ[v]) and come not to the truth lies because their deeds are evil.

On the other hand, even most believers do not come to the truth. They have not taken the time to study the credentials, motives and teachings of “Christian” revisionists. The father of those revisionists is the devil, the god of this world. He controls the institutions of the world—civil government, secular media, and secular education. Most believers do not continue in the Word of God and studies of the Word of God, much less legal, earthly, historical facts. They have become easy prey for that old serpent and his army.

Let us never join, through ignorance of the Word of God, history, and law with those religions who have prostituted God’s church. God wants His children, and especially pastors, to take the time to study preeminent Bible issues (1 Ti. 2.15) and relevant historical and legal facts concerning the doctrine of the church.

These lessons will provide a good starting point for those who wish to step out of the dark into the light of Christ. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Ro. 13.12). “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3.21).


Click here to go to Bible Study of Ephesians. Ephesians reveals the institution of the church as God’s masterpiece. It is more wonderful that any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1 presents the church as a body.

Articles, Essays, and Other Resources Related to the Doctrine of the Church, Incorporation, 501c3, Etc.

The Local Church: A Building or What?

Bible Studies of various Books on the Doctrine of the Church.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Church


Endnotes

[i] John 8:39-45: “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”

[ii] See, ESSAYS, ARTICLES, AND OTHER RESOURCES RELATED TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, INCORPORATION, 501C3, ETC.

[iii] Establishmentarian definition: “Adhering to, advocating, or relating to the principle of an established church; a person adhering to or advocating this.”

[iv] The history of religious freedom in America and the past, present, and future of the efforts of the religious Calvinists, Catholics, and Charismatics to return America to the days of Old World establishment and persecutions are chronicled in The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/A Case of Premeditated Murder/Christian Revisionists on Trial/The History of the First Amendment.

[v] John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Lesson 4: A Church Is a Spiritual Body (Ephesians)

The Church Is a Temple and the Method and Materials of Construction – Ephesians 2
(17 questions with answers following)
Click here to go to the “Bible Studies on the Doctrine of the Church” (Has links to all lessons)
Click here to go to Lesson 5
Added on March 23, 2017

Answers at the end, following the questions
Those who disagree with anything please see the note at the end. Reasoned dialogue is encouraged and any Bible or fact based comments, if made in a Christian manner in an attempt to get to the truth will be considered.

  1. To whom was Ephesians written?
  2. What is the theme of Ephesians 2?
  3. Paul said to the church at Ephesus:

    “19 Now therefore ye are no more _________ and _________, but _________ with the saints, and of the _________ of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the _________ and__________________, Jesus Christ himself being the chief _________ _________; 21 In whom all the _________ fitly framed together groweth unto an holy _________ in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are _________ together for an _________ of God through the _________.” (Ep. 2:19-22).

    Verses 19-22 tell us that the “saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” are identified three distinct ways: (1) As ___________________ (of heaven-see verses 6-7) (2) who are of the household (_________) of God along with all the saints no matter which local church they are members of. They are also identified as (3) a ________ or spiritual ___________ or _______ made up of the _________ of the ________ at Ephesus who are united together by the ________ to be an habitation of ________. All believers, individually, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are an individual temple of God (See 1 Co. 3.16-17, 6.19. Ep. 2.1-10). Paul says, “ye also are _________ together.” Who is the ye he is speaking to? They are, in context, the saints which are at _________ and the faithful in Christ Jesus to whom he is writing (Ep. 1.1); and, in applicability, to all individual believers and all New Testament churches from that day until the marriage of the lamb.
  4. Thus, the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus are builded ________ for an ___________ of God through the _______. (Ep. 2.22). They are built upon the foundation of the ________ and _______, _______ _______ himself being the chief corner stone. Every local New Testament ________ fits this model.
  5. Paul’s epistles were always written to a________ assembly, a local _______, but the principles he spoke were and are applicable to every New Testament ______ body and the saints in each _________.
  6. Thus, as to the local “habitation of God,” “the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” were builded _________ for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ep. 2.22). They are “_________ _________” All parts of a building must be connected—they must be “_________—that is, __________  __________, each being a part of the same _________ organism (See also, Ep. 2.21, Ep. 4, and 1 Co. 12). Every local New Testament ________ fits this model. If they are not “________,” they are not a ________, they are not a ________. A believer in China may or may not be a member of a church. He definitely is not a member of a church such as Old Paths Baptist Church in Minnesota, a church he has never heard of.
  7. Paul’s epistles were always to a local church whose members were connected. The members came together spiritually for _________, _________, _________, and ___________. Every member attended _________ meetings unless sick or for some other acceptable absence. They were members of a particular local _______ (such as the Church at Ephesus).
  8. The principles Paul spoke were and are ___________ to every New Testament ___________ body and the saints in each ___________.
  9. All Bible references to a church here on the earth refer to an local autonomous ________ of Jewish and/or Gentile believers and not to a ___________or catholic church. Nowhere in the New Testament is a ___________ here on the ________ever referred to as anything other than a local spiritual body and nowhere does Scripture teach that a church is to have any type __________ above it other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some examples of references to churches as they existed in the New Testament follow:

    “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Ac. 9.31).

    Paul said, “Likewise greet the church that is in their house. (Ro. 16.5)” Notice that the church refers to the local body of baptized believers. The house was just the place where they met; it was not a church.

    Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Paul … Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Co. 1.1-2).”

    “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…” (1 Co. 14.23).

    “The churches [Not “the church of Asia”] of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (1 Co. 16.19).

    “Paul … unto Philemon … and to the church in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).

    In Revelation, the Lord speaks to “the church of Ephesus” (Re. 2.1), “the church in Smyrna” (Re. 2.8), “the church in Pergamos” (Re. 2.12), “the church in Thyatira” (Re. 2.18), “the church in Sardis” (Re. 3.1), “the church in Philadelphia” (Re. 3.7), and “the church of the Laodiceans” (Re. 3.14).
  10. Those believers who spiritually unite together in a local body are a ________. A body must be __________; without unification and connection to the other parts, a ________ cannot exist.
  11. The building which Paul is speaking of is___________, ___________, and ___________, not ___________, ___________, and ___________.“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ep. 2:2-3)”“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ep. 2:4-7)

    “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.22).
  12. The material for the construction of a church does not include those:

    “who were ______ in trespasses and ______; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this ________, according to the ________ of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of ______________: Among whom also we all had our _______________ in times ______ in the lusts of our _______, fulfilling the desires of the ________ and of the ________; and were by nature the children of _________, even as others” (Ep. 2.1-3).
  13. The material for the construction of a church is:

    Those (speaking in context to the members of the Church at Ephesus, but also in applicability to all believers) whom He hath _______________. See Ep. 2.1, 5 et seq.
  14. Thus, a church is a __________ organism, since it is built by bringing together __________beings. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a ___________ house, an holy priesthood, to offer up __________ sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pe. 2:5).
  15. The first step in the construction of a church is the combining of believers, Jew and _________, into a ______ ______ (See Ep. 2.11-16).
  16. The new man has a new citizenship and family. All believers, including the “saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Jesus Christ” are, along with all believers, no matter their local church affiliation, “________________ with the _________, and of the ______________of God,” who sit in “___________ places in Christ Jesus.” Ep. 2.1, 5, 19. Being a _______________ and “of the household of God,” speaks of _______________ and _________, not of local _________ body. All believers are therefore citizens of heaven and members of the family or household of God.
  17. Those believers in the church at Ephesus are (1) ________________ with the saints, (2) members of a new _________, the household of God, and (3) a local New Testament church assembly, an holy _________ of the Lord.

    “19 Now therefore ye are no more ___________ and _________, but _______________ with the saints, and of the _______________ of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief ________ ________; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together ___________ unto an holy ________ in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are _________ together for an___________ of God through the ___________” (Ep. 2:19-22).

Answers

  1. Ephesians was written to “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ep. 2.1.)
  2. The theme of Ephesians 2 is that “A church is an holy temple in the Lord.” (The answers below which examine Ephesians 2 will make this clear.)
  3. Paul said to the church at Ephesus:

    “19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ep. 2:19-22).

    Verses 19-22 tell us that the “saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” are identified three distinct ways: (1) As fellowcitizens (of heaven-see verses 6-7) (2) who are of the household (family) of God along with all the saints no matter which local church they are members of. They are also identified as (3) a temple or spiritual building or body made up of the members of the church at Ephesus who are united together by the Spirit to be an habitation of God. All believers, individually, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are an individual temple of God (See 1 Co. 3.16-17, 6.19. Ep. 2.1-10). Paul says, “ye also are builded together.” Who is the ye he is speaking to? They are, in context, the saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus to whom he is writing (Ep. 1.1); and, in applicability, to all individual believers and all New Testament churches from that day until the marriage of the lamb.
  4. Thus, the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ep. 2.22). They are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Every local New Testament church fits this model.
  5. Paul’s epistles were always written to a local assembly, a local church, but the principles he spoke were and are applicable to every New Testament church body and the saints in each church.
  6. Thus, as to the local “habitation of God,” “the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” were builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ep. 2.22). They were “builded together.” All parts of a building must be connected—they must be “together”—that is, connected spiritually, each being a part of the same spiritual organism (See also, Ep. 2.21, Ep. 4, and 1 Co. 12). Every local New Testament church fits this model. If they are not “together,” they are not a body, they are not a church. A believer in China may or may not be a member of a church. He definitely is not a member of a church such as Old Paths Baptist Church in Minnesota, a church he has never heard of.
  7. Paul’s epistles were always to a local church whose members were connected. The members came together spiritually for worship, preaching, teaching, and fellowship. Every member attended church meetings unless sick or for some other acceptable absence. They were members of a particular local church (such as the Church at Ephesus).
  8. The principles Paul spoke were and are applicable to every New Testament church body and the saints in each church.
  9. All Bible references to a church here on the earth refer to an local autonomous body of Jewish and/or Gentile believers and not to a universal or catholic church. Nowhere in the New Testament is a church here on the earth ever referred to as anything other than a local spiritual body and nowhere does Scripture teach that a church is to have any type authority above it other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some examples of references to churches as they existed in the New Testament follow:

    “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Ac. 9.31).

    Paul said, “Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Ro. 16.5). Notice that the church refers to the local body of baptized believers. The house was just the place where they met; it was not a church.

    Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Paul … Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Co. 1.1-2).

    “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…” (1 Co. 14.23).

    “The churches [Not “the church of Asia”] of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (1 Co. 16.19).

    “Paul … unto Philemon … and to the church in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).

    In Revelation, the Lord speaks to “the church of Ephesus” (Re. 2.1), “the church in Smyrna” (Re. 2.8), “the church in Pergamos” (Re. 2.12), “the church in Thyatira” (Re. 2.18), “the church in Sardis” (Re. 3.1), “the church in Philadelphia” (Re. 3.7), and “the church of the Laodiceans” (Re. 3.14).
  10. Those believers who spiritually unite together in a local body are a church. A body must be united; without unification and connection to the other parts, a body cannot exist.
  11. The building which Paul is speaking of is spiritual, heavenly, and eternal, not fleshly, earthly, and temporal.“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ep. 2:2-3)”“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ep. 2:4-7)

    “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.22).

    The Testament temple (the church) will be contrasted with the Old Testament temple in Lesson 6.
  12. The material for the construction of a church does not include those:

    “who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ep. 2.1-3).
  13. The material for the construction of a church are:

    Those [speaking in context to the members of the Church at Ephesus, but also in applicability to all believers] whom He hath quickened. See Ep. 2.1, 5 et seq.
  14. Thus, a church is a spiritual organism, since it is built by bringing together spiritual beings. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pe. 2:5).
  15. The first step in the construction of a church is the combining of believers, Jew and Gentile, into a new man (See Ep. 2.11-16).
  16. The new man has a new citizenship and family. All believers, including the “saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Jesus Christ” are, along with all believers, no matter their local church affiliation, “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” who sit in “heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ep. 2.1, 5, 19. Being a fellowcitizen and “of the household of God,” speaks of citizenship and family, not of local church. All believers are citizens of heaven and members of the family or household of God. All believers are not members of a church.
  17. Those believers in the church at Ephesus were (1) fellowcitizens with the saints, (2) members of a new family, the household of God, and (3) a local New Testament church assembly, an holy temple of the Lord.

    “19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ep. 2:19-22).

For more on the universal church doctrine, see
C.I. Scofield’s “true church” doctrine

Should you disagree with an answer given, please explain why you disagree in the comment section below the article. All reasoned comments will be published, perhaps with reply. The purpose of this website is the Glory of God. God cannot be glorified by shutting out honest disagreement in the search for truth. The author would be interested in your explanation. The comments are required by the website to be approved or disapproved. The author is very busy with many matters and may or may not immediately notice your comment. He will address it as soon as he notices it. He almost always approves comments presented with a godly spirit. He never alters comments. Sometimes, he replies to comments.

Book Review: [The first Baptist church in America: Two recent books reviewed] Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory and Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance

Book Review:

Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory?
By Jim Fellure

Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance
By Pastor Joshua S. Davenport

For information on other books click: Books page of “Church and State Law”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © July 30, 2012

Preface

After this “Preface,” Finney will review (1) Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory by Jim Fellure; and (2) Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance by Joshua S. Davenport. This preface will explain the importance of writing this review including important issues which are raised by Jim Fellure’s booklet and Finney’s belief as to which was the first Baptist church in America.

Jim Fellure wrote in Did Roger Williams Start the First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory: “Now brethren, please believe me when I say that it is not our intention to create contention and strife…. I will, however, as have historical Baptists, fight for one’s right to freedom of conscious, but I will also ‘earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’”  Jerald Finney, the reviewer, seconds that by writing this review because the truth and the Glory of God are preeminent. Our Lord has instructed believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Jim Fellure’s booklet started a debate in that it summarily deals with issues at the very heart of the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Joshua Davenport entered the debate and countered Brother Fellure with the publication of Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance.

The reviewer, Jerald Finney, attended the April 17-20, 2012 Baptist Heritage Revival Tour which was planned and executed by Evangelist Ted Alexander. A few days before he left for the tour, he came across a book he had in his library entitled Did Roger Williams Start the First Baptist Church In America? by Jim Fellure. Finney did not ask for or buy the book. Brother Fellure handed him a copy of the book in April, 2011 at a camp meeting, explaining that he did not realize that the publication of the book would start a firestorm. Perhaps reading the book just before attending the tour was a coincidence, or perhaps God wanted Finney to read it at that very time. At any rate, after reading the book, further study of relevant historical facts and consideration of biblical principles surrounding issues raised in the book was placed on his agenda. Fortunately, others, as he was to discover very soon, had already done and published such studies concerning, especially, Brother Fellure’s historical conclusions and the facts upon which he based those conclusions.

On the tour, Finney bought several books, two of which addressed the issue of which was the first Baptist church in America: Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance by Joshua S. Davenport and The First Baptist Church in America: Not Started by Roger Williams by J. R. Graves, first published in 1887. Finney read Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated on the tour bus. He later read The First Baptist Church in America: Not Started by Roger Williams. Brother Ted Alexander, the tour organizer and leader, did not ever address or discuss Brother Jim Fellure or his booklet, either to the entire group or to Finney individually.

Finney is always seeking truth on important issues relevant to the topic of separation of church and state. The subject of this book review is one which God has impressed upon him as a result of the above-mentioned events. In earnestly contending for the faith, Finney was compelled to write this review. As will become apparent as one reads this review, the issues raised by the search to find out which was the first Baptist church started in America are extremely important both doctrinally and historically. An open-minded honest search for truth in the matter should be the goal. Finney has based his conclusions on the Bible and historical facts, nothing more. He knows both Jim Fellure and Joshua Davenport and loves them both. Brother Fellure has been a friend for many years. Finney has known Brother Davenport only a short time, but has grown to love him as well.

The first Baptist church in America was started by either Roger Williams at Providence, Rhode Island, or Dr. John Clarke at Newport, Rhode Island. Searching for the answer to the question as to which of these churches was first is of immense significance because Roger Williams, when he arrived in Rhode Island, was immersed by a man who was not only himself unbaptized, unordained, and a member of no church; and then Williams, after being thus baptized and also being unordained except by the Anglican Church in England, baptized others and started what he temporarily called a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. John Clarke was baptized and ordained a Baptist and started a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island.

Brother Fellure concludes, among other things, that Roger Williams started the first Baptist church in America at Providence, Rhode Island. Brother Davenport concludes that Dr. John Clarke started the first Baptist church in America at Newport, Rhode Island. Two questions are inherent in the debate: (1) Was the church Roger Williams started a Baptist church in name only? (2) Which church was started first?

In answering the question of whether the church Roger Williams started was a Baptist church, other very important questions are implicated:

(1) Have the gates of hell prevailed against Christ’s church such that there was no continual succession of true churches? In other words, were there time periods in history since the beginning of New Testament churches during which no true churches existed?
(2) Are all so-called churches valid and biblically ordered, according to God and the Bible? If not, which churches are biblically valid and ordered? Is there a biblical order for the planting of a local church? If so, what is that order?
(3) Does the Bible teach an order for the ordination of pastors? For example, is it within God’s perfect will for a man to ordain himself? Is it within God’s perfect will for an unbaptized, unordained person to baptize and/or ordain another man? Is mail order ordination valid and/or within God’s perfect will?
(4) Is an ordination valid if administered by a man who believes that there is no biblical order for ordination?
(5) Is an ordination valid if conducted by some who were biblically ordained and baptized and some who were not (if there is a biblical order for ordination and baptism)?
(6) Did God set up a biblical order for baptism? Can a man who was unordained and unbaptized be baptized by an unordained, unbaptized man then administer valid baptism to others and form a biblically ordered church?  Quoting from The First Baptist Church in America: Not started by Roger Williams by J. R. Graves:

“Suppose a person, baptized by a man, who takes upon himself to preach the gospel, and proceeds to administer the ordinances without a regular call or ordination from any church, whether the person so baptized may be admitted into any orderly church—yea or nay?”

Can a person get saved, have a friend baptize him, baptize that person and others, and from that group form and pastor a biblically ordered church? Can an unsaved person have a friend baptize him, baptize that person and others, and from that group form and pastor a biblically ordered church?

(7) Can orderly ordinances come from disorderly ones (if there is a biblical order for ordinances)?
(8) Can orderly churches be planted by a disorderly church (if there is a biblical order for churches)?
(9) Does the Bible teach that God established both a universal invisible church and local autonomous churches (assemblies), or does the Bible teach the concept of the institution of the church and local autonomous churches?
(10) What are the true historical facts concerning the formation of the church in Providence by Roger Williams, Roger Williams’ view of the validity of that church, and the subsequent history of that church?
(11) What are the historical facts concerning the formation of the Baptist church at Newport and the subsequent history of that church?

Of course, some facts about history are subject to debate, and sometimes one cannot prove a fact or issue by a preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt (the highest standard in the legal system). The only way one can know some facts beyond all doubt is by being a witness. Sometimes, even then, one cannot know the truth for sure. One can correctly understand biblical principles but still be misled (1) by inaccurate facts, facts taken out of context, only some of the facts, or by a distortion of true facts; (2) by failing to look at all arguments (unless one looks at all facts and arguments, he definitely is in danger of coming to the wrong conclusion(s)); (3) or by failing to apply the true principles in the Word of God to the facts.

Finney is always open-minded on any issue and will consider all facts, doctrines, and positions in reaching his conclusions. After reading the books which are the subject of this review, having already built a sound foundation in the religious history of the colonies through thousands of hours of study, Finney is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. John Clarke started the first Baptist Church in America. His conclusion is based upon facts and biblical principles. Furthermore, this question of who started the first Baptist church in America can be answered without resort to a reference to the Baptist Bride, Landmark, or Baptist church succession beliefs. Finney has not studied the Baptist Bride, Church succession, or Landmark positions, although he believes that the Bible teaches a continuing succession of true New Testament churches; in other words, by faith alone Finney believes in such a succession. He also believes that many facts, both circumstantial and concrete, demonstrate that there has never been a time in history that New Testament churches and the institution of the church (as opposed to false or non-New Testament churches and false institutions which label themselves “churches” and “the church”) since ordained by the Lord Jesus were non-existent. Finney believes Christ’s promise that the “gates of hell will not prevail against his church [that is, when correctly and contextually interpreted, the institution of the church and his local churches].”

Did Roger Williams Start The First Baptist Church In America? Is the “Baptist Church the Bride of Christ? What About Landmarkism or the Baptist Church Succession Theory?
by Jim Fellure

The title and subtitle to Brother Fellure’s booklet present not only one, but three, very important questions for a serious student of history and the Word of God. Does Brother Fellure successfully and convincingly answer the primary and secondary questions presented in his short, 22 page, double-spaced pamphlet? Is it necessary to address the sub-questions in order to answer the primary question?

Two important questions in the debate over which was the first Baptist church in America are:

(1) Was Roger Williams qualified to start a Baptist church or, put another way, was the church he started Baptist?
(2) Did Roger Williams start the church in Providence before John Clarke started the church in Newport?

The first question is important because Roger Williams was not ordained in a Baptist church (he was only ordained as an Anglican) and because of the order of his baptism. Williams was baptized by one of the men who joined him in Rhode Island. Williams then baptized that man and the others who became part of the church he started.

Roger WilliamsConcerning question 1 above, Brother Fellure concluded in his booklet that the church Roger Williams started was Baptist. He certainly did not biblically support that conclusion in any way except through explicit or implicit assertions such as: “Just trust me since I have studied these matters;” “You certainly can’t rationally believe otherwise because anyone who is saved is a member of the universal invisible church;” and “as a saved person, one is qualified to baptize.” Furthermore, he most likely understands that his short and perfunctory defense of the “universal invisible church” position and his selective references to the Baptist Bride position and Landmarkism or Baptist Church Succession theory and his conclusions based thereon are in no way adequate to convince a serious student of history and the Word of God.

He asserts that opposition to his conclusions on these matters “has come from those who follow the Baptist Bride, Landmark, or the Baptist Church Succession philosophy.” However, those are not the only sources of opposition. Interestingly, among those who opposed Fellure’s conclusions concerning the authenticity of the church Williams started, as a matter of historical fact, was Roger Williams himself who made known his belief that the church was not authentic and withdrew therefrom a few weeks after starting it, as pointed out in many reliable historical works including the opposing work which is the subject of this review. This reviewer is among many who are not Baptist Briders, Landmarkers, or per se Baptist Successionists who are convinced that Brother Fellure’s conclusions are wrong. Brother Fellure also has asserted that James Beller, a pastor who opposes his view that Roger Williams started the First Baptist Church in America, is a “Brider.” Brother Beller wrote an open letter and published it over the internet. In that letter, Brother Beller replies to certain assertions made by Brother FellureSee En4 for the entire letter and the online link.

Brother Fellure’s analysis indicates that he believes that any baptism by a saved person, and even a baptism by an unsaved man, may be valid; perhaps he does not believe the latter, but if not, he needs to make clear what he believes concerning that issue and why. He also needs to give some convincing biblical reasoning to support his belief that one who is saved, yet unbaptized, can perform a biblically acceptable baptism. He quotes a few verses and states some conclusions and selected facts concerning baptism, ordination, the church, and other doctrines but does not give the issue and his conclusions anywhere near the degree of analysis needed to support his positions.

As to question 2, Brother Fellure concludes that Roger Williams started the church in Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the church at Newport. Even if one assumes or concludes, as does Brother Fellure, that the answer to question 1 above is that Williams was qualified to start a Baptist church, historical facts which are available from various  sources and which are presented in Joshua Davenport’s book which is reviewed below prove that Clarke started the Newport church before Williams started the Providence church. Fellure states on page 14 of his booklet:

“[O]ut of all the books and documents I have read, I have not found one historical record stating Dr. John Clarke started any Baptist church before 1644. Some historians claim 1639 as the most probable date, but all records I have found agree Roger Williams did start the First Baptist Church in America.”

First Baptist Church Building of Providence, Rhode Island
First Baptist Church Building of Providence, Rhode Island

That statement alone totally discredits his analysis and proves that he is not qualified to write on the subject. There are many historical records which refute the conclusion that Roger Williams started the church in Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the Baptist church at Newport. In other words, Brother Fellure was not qualified to comment on the issue because, by his own admission as applied to all the facts, he did not know of and consider all the facts.

Brother Fellure not only fails to consider all the historical facts concerning the issue of who started the first Baptist church in America, he also, within this 22 page, 5 ¼ by 8 ½ inch double spaced book, addresses many other matters. 22 double spaced pages are woefully inadequate for such a task. In 22 short pages, Brother Fellure, among other things:

  1. attempts to discredit the followers of Baptist Bride, Landmark or Baptist Church succession “philosophies” who opposed his position that Roger Williams started the first Baptist church in America, proclaiming that their conclusions are guided by ulterior motives only. This was completely off point and unnecessary and to have any credibility would require a very voluminous and painstaking study and written refutation and not a few paragraphs interspersed within a very short, 22 page book;
  2.  attempts to discredit the history utilized by the Baptist Succession theory (the author in his own studies has encountered facts which would refute some of Fellure’s cursory historical assertions about Baptist Succession);
  3. attempts to explain some parts of his version of the biblical doctrine of the church. The universal church doctrine of the Catholic and Protestant churches may not be the same as Brother Fellure’s version in all respects, but understanding and explaining any version of the doctrine requires a lot more than a few paragraphs out of a 22 page pamphlet. He summarily describes his versions of both a universal invisible church versus local autonomous New Testament churches. All these matters have been painstakingly analyzed by serious students of the Word over the centuries. Brother Fellure does a disservice to the cause of Christ in this ill-conceived effort. Serious biblical study (perhaps aided by the study of relevant scholarly works) would be required for a believer to arrive at correct conclusions concerning the issues he raises.

To comprehensively address the universal invisible church theory would be a voluminous undertaking, but one of Brother Fellure’s statements will be summarily addressed. On page 4, he writes:

“Where Victory Baptist Press differs with such a philosophy is that out of the fifteen times the word ‘Baptist’ is used in the Bible, it is always referring to John, the man who was baptizing, and there is no indication John was starting a church, and when Jesus said ‘upon this rock I will build my church…’ (Matthew 16.18), He was not referring to a local Baptist Church, He was referring to the ‘church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven…’ (Hebrews 12:23). ‘…written is heaven’ is a very interesting phrase. It would be hard to support the idea that God will wait until a saved person is baptized in water by a ‘qualified Baptist’ to write their name in heaven.”

The reviewer agrees that when one is saved, his name is written in the “book of life.” However, please notice that Brother Fellure makes a quantum leap in his statement in the above paragraph in his supposed identification of the church Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16.18. He quotes one verse, Hebrews 12.23, to make his point, but he does not refer to any context. Hebrews 12.22-24, which includes the immediate contest of Hebrews 12.23, states:

“22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. 23  To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinking, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

Clearly, “the church of the firstborn” spoken of in verse 23 exists at the time of “the city of the living God and the heavenly Jerusalem,” and in the presence of “an innumerable company of angels” (see verse 22). Historic Baptists have never believed that a universal visible or invisible church, a city of God and the Kingdom operate at present. From what he says in his booklet, it appears that Brother Fellure, at least to some degree, agrees with Catholic and Protestant doctrines of the church; while necessarily disagreeing with the historical Baptist and biblical position. Finney believes that not only the verses surrounding Hebrews 12.23, but also all verses in the New Testament which deal with the doctrine of the church, disprove his version of “church of the firstborn,” and universal invisible church.” For example, the Lord Jesus stood among the seven golden candlesticks and wrote a message to each.  (See Revelation 1.9-3.22; those “candlesticks” are local churches, not a universal invisible church (Revelation 1.20). That said, the reviewer knows that this brief review is no more adequate to explain the doctrine of the church than are the few paragraphs in Brother Fellure’s booklet, but a few insights are appropriate.)

Furthermore, the name “Baptist” is just an identifier used by many Baptist authors to refer to those churches, although not always called “Baptist,” which, since the time of Christ, held to, at all costs, certain principles which have been called “Baptist distinctives.”

For the last ten years, the reviewer has done and continues to do extensive biblical studies and, during the course of those studies, has pondered upon on the doctrine of the church. He agrees with Pastor Jason Cooley that the New Testament speaks of no “true” church (as it is called by C. I. Scofield), or “universal invisible (or visible) church” terms adopted by Catholicism, Protestantism, and by many modern churches including so-called Fundamental Independent Baptist churches.  When the Bible speaks of “the church,” it is referring to the institution of the church which consists of all local autonomous assemblies in which born again believers are instructed to be baptized, to be added to the institution of the church (in a local autonomous assembly), to observe the Lord’s supper, and to exercise their God-given gifts as they glorify God by growing in spiritual knowledge and obeying and following the Lord Jesus Christ and his precepts.

In other words, when the New Testament refers to “the church,” it is referring to the institution of the church. Can a universal visible or invisible church have a pastor, teachers, etc. who are functioning? How can they function as an all-encompassing visible or invisible institution? Are the local churches then subject to or part of an alleged “universal visible or invisible church?” If so, how can that be since the Bible in no way explains the organization, methods, jurisdiction, etc. of such such a universal institution—only local autonomous churches? Does God desire that a person be saved and remain only in a universal church and not a local autonomous New Testament church? Is it within God’s perfect will for a person to be saved and then to become, or remain, a member of a spiritual harlot who claims to be a church (but only God can remove a candlestick, but he has warned that He will do so in some cases) or even a non-New Testament church? Of course, there are no perfect churches, but one can glean principles from the Bible to guide him in his search for a New Testament church or to help him disciple new converts on finding and joining with a New Testament church and many other important matters. Is it God’s will for one, in his attempts to lead others to the Lord, to state, “I am not concerned about which church you attend. I am only concerned about your eternal salvation”?

The questions and insights in the preceding paragraph are very important because one must believe in some type of “universal church” in order to buy the conclusion that Roger Williams started a Baptist church. Finney believes that “universal church” doctrine makes no sense biblically or in reality.

(4) states (notice, in relation to local autonomous churches), “If a Church is found today believing and practicing the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago, I would not assume they were linked to each other through an unbroken chain of Baptist Church Succession. My assumption would be that both churches had been influenced by the truths of the same Book.” Must one’s conclusion on this matter be based upon Jim Fellure’s or any other person’s assumption? One can be influenced by the truths of the Bible but still be in error on any number of biblical doctrines. How much does a church have to be “influenced” by the truths of the Bible to be either within or outside the will of God as to organization, practice, methodology, etc.? In examining whether a church believes and practices the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago, one must answer many questions such as:

(a) What was the New Testament model for planting a church? What New Testament church was first started by an unordained man who was baptized by another unordained unbaptized man, and who then baptized that man and others and formed a church which believed and practiced the things a New Testament church was to believe and practice?
(b) What is to be the biblically acceptable motive of church members for giving: one’s love for God or for some other reason such as, partially or wholly, a tax deduction? Biblically, to whom are tithes and offerings given: to the Lord Jesus Christ for His purposes or to, for example, a non-profit, incorporated, 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization? Is the church (which is the body made up of individual members) the giver or the receiver?
(c) What is the biblically correct view of pastoral leadership?
(d) What about the exercise of gifts by members of the local church body? Certainly exercise of such gifts cannot take place in an invisible organization; the exercise must be in a local assembly.
(e) What is the role of deacons? What place would deacons have in an invisible body?
(f) What is the biblical order, if any, concerning, for example, ordination, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the marriage of a man and a woman, the marriage of Christ and His church, etc.?
(g) What about the doctrine of separation including separation of church and state? All New Testament churches in the Bible and thereafter have believed in and practiced separation of church and state. Is a church which combines with state through incorporation and/or through 501(c)(3) tax exempt status practicing the same thing the churches believed and practiced 2000 years ago?
(h) What are the biblical principles for organization of a church?
(i) Is there a biblical order concerning the methods practiced by a church? For example, is it within God’s perfect will for a church to utilize business and/or worldly methods which conflict with the methodology laid out in the Bible in reaching its goals? To what extent?

(5) raises the issue of the definition of a Baptist church.
(6) raises the issue of whether the Baptist Bride, Landmark, and Baptist Church Succession theories are true. Can this debate be decided upon biblical teaching and/or facts? Does one have to trash the Baptist Bride position, Landmarkism, and the belief in church Succession to prove that Roger Williams started the First Baptist church in America?
(7) raises the issue of whether there is a proper order for churches, baptism, ordination, etc. What should a church do should she, from a study of Scripture, decide that she is not biblically ordered? See Endnotes 1 and 2 examples of what some churches have done if out of order as to ordination and baptism.
(8) quotes from doctrinal statements of two Baptist churches who follow the “Baptist Bride of Baptist Church Succession” theory (pp. 2-3). He assumes that those brief statements will be sufficient to discredit those theories.

In addition to his conclusions about the “universal invisible church,” the Baptist Bride position and Landmarkism or the Baptist Succession theory which raise the above questions, Brother Fellure presents quotes from some records of history to support his position that Roger Williams started the church at Providence before Dr. John Clarke started the church at Newport. Finney, in his book God Betrayed (see pages 241-242) which was published in 2008, pointed out that the issue was factually disputed and that Dr. John Clarke may have started a Baptist church in Newport Rhode Island in 1838, but did not do further study on the issue at that time. That was written in the midst of a voluminous study of the issue of separation of church and state in which Finney came across, in the natural course of his studies, some disputed facts on the issue of which was the first Baptist church in America. Certainly one who has done a serious historical study of the facts would have come across at least some of those facts.

Brother Fellure states on page 20 of his booklet: “At Victory Press we have no intention of ‘revising’ history or reading into the historical records events that did not happen in order to promote our agenda,” yet he does just that plus more which is not in the interest of serious study in the name of Christ. This is a hard thing to say to a man the reviewer loves, but it is something that must be said. Brother Fellure’s booklet is a result of either a biased selection of facts or incomplete research. Now that Brother Davenport has published his reply, Brother Fellure has access to many facts which he did not consider when writing his book.

Brother Fellure is put on alert, by this review, of the folly of his offering. He states that his pamphlet is an “expanded edition;” but a study of his booklet by one who has some understanding of biblical doctrine and Baptist history reveals that he has bitten off more than he can chew in such a short publication. The task he assumes requires a treatise, not a tract. Whether he will do the research needed to uphold his conclusions and publish the results thereof remains to be seen. This reviewer believes that the Bible, history, and honesty render that an impossible task.

Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance
by Pastor Joshua S. Davenport

First Baptist Church building of Newport, Rhode Island
First Baptist Church building of Newport, Rhode Island

Pastor Joshua Davenport’s book shows a keen understanding of the issue presented and its importance. He backs up his position that Dr. John Clarke founded the first Baptist church in America with studied facts and analyses. Davenport bases his conclusion that the Newport church started by Dr. John Clarke in 1638 was the first Baptist church in America on historical research and facts. His conclusions are enhanced by correctly recorded citations of the historical sources he relies upon. Many other sources could be cited to support Brother Davenport’s conclusion, but the reviewer does not expect that anyone has the time to cover all possible sources. Finney is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Baptist History IN AMERICA is correct factually and historically and proves that the church started by Dr. John Clarke in Newport, Rhode Island was the first Baptist church in America, even should one consider the church started by Roger Williams to be a Baptist church.

Dr. John Clarke
Dr. John Clarke

Brother Davenport does not address Landmarkism, the Baptist Bride theory, or Baptist Church succession, but “a matter of mere historical correctness and facts.” Like any good advocate who believes in the factual and doctrinal truth of his position on a very important issue, he considers some facts concerning Jim Fellure’s possible personal motivation for writing his booklet. Then he gives the four necessary categories of facts that need to be considered in order for the issue to be correctly understood. His well-documented facts are very persuasive in supporting his conclusion.

In addition to the facts, Davenport explains the importance of the issue and the importance of accurate facts. He correctly and with great insight points out that “Once one starts changing history, one changes who he is, where he came from and where he is going.” As he explains, (1) “Integrity for Historical Correctness is at Stake. (2) Proper Examples of Doctrinal Soundness is at Stake. In this section, Davenport gives his argument for a biblical order for baptism. (3) Regard for our Baptist Heritage and Identity is at Stake. (4) Historical Influence on American Principles is at Stake.” In this last section, Davenport declares something which Finney discovered himself after an intensive study over several years: “One cannot truly understand American history until he understands Baptist history.”

Finney, without equivocation, recommends that all true Baptists read and study Davenport’s jewel, Baptist History IN AMERICA Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America/A Resurfaced Issue of Controversy/The Facts and Importance. This booklet is the kind of writing and teaching those seeking the truth of the matter need to read and digest, and the quality of writing that needs to come forth from one who is contending for the faith. From a foundation of intense study over many years, Finney attests to Davenport’s biblical, historical, and analytical acuity. See En3 for information on books by Jerald Finney.

Endnotes

En1. The following concerning ordination is from J. A. Shackelford, Compendium of Baptist History (Louisville, Kentucky: Press Baptist Book Concern, 1892 (Reprint), pp. 123-124. (Can be ordered from Local Church Bible Publishers):

“‘Commenius, who published a synopsis of the discipline of the churches of Bohemia, dwells particularly upon this article and shows that ‘a stated ministry was always considered as a matter of great importance among the Waldensean churches.’ A dreadful persecution broke out among the Bohemian brethren in the days of Commenius, which produced such havoc among them that he himself ‘was the only surviving bishop that escaped.’ The scattered brethren, in process of time, elected three persons as qualified for the pastoral office, but ‘found themselves greatly perplexed about their ordination.’

“‘Having understood that there were some Waldensean churches on the confines of Moravia and Austria, to satisfy their own scruples, as well as those of others, they resolved to send Michael Zambergius, one of their pastors, with two other persons to find out those Waldenses, and give them an account of what has passed among them, and especially to ask their advice upon the matter in hand. They met with one Stephen, a Waldensean bishop, who sent for others also residing in that quarter, with whom they had a conference upon the doctrines of the gospel, and the state of their churches, and by them the said three pastors were ordained by the imposition of hands. ‘Hence,’ says Dr. Allix, ‘it is abundantly evident, that as the Waldenses have preserved the faith that was committed to them, so have they been as careful to preserve entire among them the ancient discipline of the church.’

“These Waldensean brethren regarded regular ordination so much of importance, that they sent the three brethren some five or six hundred miles that they might be ‘examined upon the doctrines of the gospel,’ and receive ordination at the hands of a regularly ordained ministry. In this way have the pure doctrines of the gospel been preserved through all ages.”

En2. From the May 12 entry concerning baptism of This Day in Baptist History Past, “The Conversion of a Church”:

The Congregational church in Sedgwick, Maine, had enjoyed the ministry of the Reverend Danil Merrill for twelve years. During which time it became one of the largest of the denomination’s churches in the state. However, when several of his ministerial students became Baptists, the rev. Mr. Merrill determined to restudy the matter of baptism and write a book on the subject which would protect against such losses, and such a volume would be invaluable to many in refuting what he considered heresy taught by the Baptists. After more than two years of studying the scriptures he concluded that the Bible did not support his long-held position of sprinkling.

The matter came to a head when a group of children were presented to be sprinkled and the pastor could no longer with good conscience perform the rite. For several months Merrill continued in agony of heart for, as he confessed, he “could not bear the idea of being called one .

On February 28, 1805, after a series of sermons on the biblical mode of baptism, the congregation voted unanimously to call for a council of Baptist ministers to administer New Testament immersion, to constitute them as a Baptist church, and to ordain Daniel Merrill as their pastor. In all, sixty-six candidates were baptized on May 13, 1805, and nineteen more were baptized on the following day.

En3. Notice that two of Finney’s books listed below have already been fully reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website; links are included below. Also, God Betrayed has already been reproduced in audio form on the website, and much of the book is already reproduced, in written form, on the website. Soon, all the books will be in written form on the website. Finney is concerned with imparting truth, not with making money, in his God-called “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry. If one does not want to buy the books, but wishes to read them, he can do so at no cost.

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only) which has been reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website at Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses; (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only) which has been reproduced on the “Separation of Church and State Law” website at The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls; (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

En4. Letter from James Beller replying to assertions made by Jim Fellure in his booklet. The online link to this e-mail is: http://www.21tnt.com/index.php?view=article&catid=47:ancient-nature-of-the-baptists&id=25:a-letter-to-jim-fellure-of-victory-baptist-press&format=pdf

1 / 3A Letter to Jim Fellure of Victory Baptist Press

March 13, 2011

Bro. Fellure,

Thank you for your time on the phone on March 3, 2011. I had called to clarify some things with you concerning the “Open Letter To Those Who have Questioned Our Stand On The Baptist Bride, Lankmarkism, or Baptist Church Succession Theory,” which was dated March 3, 2011. This email letter was sent to over 15,000 recipients and, as I shared with you, had references to me, describing me as a Baptist “brider.” In this you linked me with a group of people I do not represent. I mean no disrespect in this short answer and I believe you to be a good man, but I mean to try to set the record straight.

Even though I am not a part of this group, nor have I ever denominated myself as a “landmarker,” you painted me as such. As I mentioned on the phone, I would have wished you had contacted me before you painted me with such a broad brush.  I will say that some of what is called “landmarkism” I embrace, as do a large number of independent Baptists. For instance, our church does not accept immersions for membership from any organization that has its roots in the Roman Catholic, or catholic Reformed. This is an ancient practice. We also believe in the local church as the only church found in the Bible. We also believe strongly that churches are to birth churches. We also, like many, many Baptists believe in the succession of principles. This was believed by Henry D’Anvers, Theilman Van Braght, Charles Spurgeon and the late David L. Cummins. This is nothing new. You seem to misunderstand both “brider” and “landmark” positions, mixing them together.  I am going to answer your letter in detail at a latter time, but you promised me a retraction:

1. On page 2 you write:

“The Baptist Bible Fellowship, the Bible Baptist Fellowship, the World Baptist Fellowship, and the Independent Baptist Fellowship International can all trace their history back to Dr. J. Frank Norris, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor who left the SBC and promoted and influenced the independent, fundamental Baptist movement. Men such as Dr. John R. Rice, Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Harold Sightler, Dr. Shelton Smith, Lester Roloff and many others had their roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention has its roots in the American Baptist Convention, which is linked back to Roger Williams and the First Baptist Church in America at Providence, Rhode, Island.“ It is a grievous error to claim “the independent, fundamental Baptist movement…had their roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention has its roots in the American Baptist Convention, which is linked back to Roger Williams and the First Baptist Church in America at Providence, Rhode, Island.” ANY Baptist historian, Cathcart, Armitage, McBeth, etc. knows the SBC has its roots in the Separate Baptist Revival through Shubal Stearns. Stearns was baptized by Wait Palmer and the line of baptism does go back to Newport, Rhode Island. However, all that aside, you…

2. On page 3 state:

“The Landmark theory would teach that not one of the pastors mentioned previously, or the converts that were saved and baptized under their ministry, are legitimate Baptists, and none of them will be in the Bride of Christ.”

I know of no “landmarker” that believes this and even if they did, I don’t believe it and have never said such a thing. But you make me one of the number that would say this by…

3. Writing on page 3:

“Some writers that follow the Landmark theory have some great historical information. Examples of two of these mens’ books are, The Trail of Blood, by J. M. Carroll, which VBP prints and sells, and America in Crimson Red, by Brother James Beller which we sell in our bookstore.”

You have made me a companion of those you claim “would teach that not one of the pastors mentioned previously, or the converts that were saved and baptized under their ministry, are legitimate Baptists, and none of them will be in the Bride of Christ.”

I do not believe this, nor do I know of any “landmarker” who believes it either. You made me out to say things I have never said, nor believed.

Bro. Fellure, you said you would print a retraction, but instead you re-sent the same email letter on March 10 (even though it was still dated March 3). Is this a retraction?

James Beller