History of Baptists  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings
· 1 view

Overview of Baptists

Baptist is a large Protestant denomination known for the practice of baptizing only professing believers via immersion. Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the tenets of soul competency/liberty, salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation.
Soul Competency
Salvation through Faith alone
Scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice
autonomy of the local church

Why Study our History

There are plenty of other denominations, so why is that? Specific to why are we Baptists and not Presbyterian, or Methodist, or Church of Christ, or for that matter, why not Mennonite or Amish?
And then what about all the sub groups?
Our goal is not to deep dive into every one of these groups to answer our question, but rather to give an understanding of why a group emerged that would become known as Baptist.


Protestant denomination that emerged from English Separatism. Baptists comprise a range of denominations that originated in the seventeenth century. The earliest Baptists were born out of three main concerns within the current Christian denominations.
The first concern was that of religious liberty. The idea that the church and the individual should be free from state coercion was a key conviction to the groups that influenced congregations that became known as Baptists.
Secondly, a biblically prescribed understanding of worship and church leadership was vital to the early Baptists.
Thirdly, the conviction that the church consists of regenerate believers who enter the church through believer’s baptism became a defining mark of Baptists.
Jonathan E. Swan, “Baptists,” ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, The Essential Lexham Dictionary of Church History (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2022).
While similarities with Anabaptists exist, such as their convictions about believer’s baptism and a clear separation between the powers of the church and state, they differ in their origin. Baptists are best understood as emerging out of the English Separatist movement
Anabaptists would later become what we know today as Amish, Mennonite and Brethren.
The Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are direct descendants of the early Anabaptist movement.
Schwarzenau Brethren, River Brethren, Bruderhof, and the Apostolic Christian Church, Came later from the same movement as split from these various groups.
During the reign of Elizabeth I (1533–1603), who established the Church of England that was Reformed in doctrine yet kept traces of Roman Catholic liturgy, Puritanism formed, seeking to establish churches that were aligned with both Scripture and the broader Reformed community. Those who could not in good conscience continue ministry within the Church of England began establishing congregations outside of it. Separatists such as Robert Browne (c. 1550–1633) (who later recanted his views) founded congregations outside the established church in both England and the Netherlands.
John Smyth (c. 1570–1612), a student at Cambridge during the era of Puritan influence, became Separatist and moved to Amsterdam, Holland, due to persecution.
In his reading of the New Testament, he rejected baptism of infants and instituted baptism only of believing adults.
Baptist practice spread to England, where the General Baptists considered Christ's atonement to extend to all people, while the Particular Baptists believed that it extended only to the elect.
In 1609, having become convinced of believer’s baptism and the idea that his Church of England baptism was illegitimate, he baptized himself by pouring and then proceeded to baptize his congregation. Later, however, he became convinced that this was illegitimate and led some in his congregation to be baptized into the Waterlander Mennonite Church.
Yep, John Smyth became a Mennonite!
Some of the Smyth congregation, however, were not convinced their baptism was invalid and followed Thomas Helwys (c. 1575-c. 1616) back to London in 1612.
Thomas Helwys formulated a distinctively Baptist request that the church and the state be kept separatein matters of law, so that individuals might have freedom of religion. Helwys died in prison as a consequence of the religious conflict with English Dissenters under James I.
2 Distinct groups then formed.
The earliest Baptists in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England established two denominations. Churches, such as the Helwys congregation, became known as General Baptists because of their view that Christ’s atonement was for all people,
whereas Particular Baptists believed that Christ died for a particular people—the elect.
Particular Baptists were born out of the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey church, named after its pastors, Henry Jacob (1563–1624), John Lathrop (1584–1653), and Henry Jessey (1601–1663). The congregation began in 1616 with Jacob, who was succeeded by Lathrop and then Jessey.
Due to their conviction and practice of believer’s baptism, which was associated with the political radicalism of European Anabaptists, the Particular Baptists drew up a confession known as the First London Confession in 1644 to demonstrate their affinity with Reformed Protestants and to distance themselves from the Anabaptists. This confession would be followed up in 1677 with the Second London Confession, which aligned very closely to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many of the earliest English Baptists were making efforts to align with Reformed Protestantism.
Flash forward to the 18th Century and things begin to really take shape. Both General Baptist and Particular Baptists grew in numbers by leaps and bounds until the 18th Century. THEN things changed and General Baptists lost number substantially. Movements such as HYPER Calvinism, the new ENlightenment movement, and other issues began to stress the Baptist growth.
And then the Baptist grew in America.
Until the Great Awakening of the 1740s, the number of Baptist churches in America was small. While Baptists were persecuted by the Congregationalists of New England, Roger Williams’s (c. 1606–1683) establishment of Rhode Island as a refuge of religious liberty allowed the founding of the First Baptist Church in America (1638/1639). All the towns in Rhode Island are given Biblical Inspired names!
Through the ministry of evangelists such as George Whitefield (1714–1770), the Great Awakening had profound effects on the growth of Baptist congregations throughout America. Out of this movement arose a flood of Baptist churches in New England, the Middle Colonies (especially Pennsylvania and New York), and the Sandy Creek congregations that were planted out of a church in Sandy Creek, North Carolina, founded by Shubal Stearns.
Jonathan E. Swan, “Baptists,” ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, The Essential Lexham Dictionary of Church History (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2022).
Now this is where things get really cool!
The English and American Baptist stories merged in a way with the missionaries Adoniram Judson (1788–1850) and William Carey who met in India.
Judson, previously a Congregationalist, became convinced of believer’s baptism in anticipation of meeting Carey on his way to India as a missionary in 1812.
This change in conviction concerning baptism led to his resignation from the Congregationalist sending agency and the eventual formation of a nationalized Baptist sending agency.
This agency, first called the General Missionary Convention and then the Triennial Convention (because it met every three years), first convened in 1814.
This body, however, later split over differences regarding slavery. In 1845, the Triennial Convention was divided over the issue of slavery, thus leading to the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Now, we have not been without controversy, but we have never been afraid to stand up and speak on topics of importance.
Regarding the topic of Slavery, we had people on both sides:
Walter Rauschenbush and Harry Emerson Fosdick were pro modernist
Charles Spurgeon attacked modernism (liberalism) and slavery! Specifically the Down-Grade Controversy!
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Baptists were on both sides of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. Pastors such as Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) and Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969) championed the modernist cause. On the other hand, Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) of London attacked the theology of modernism (liberalism) throughout the Down-Grade Controversy, and the various Baptist denominations in North America responded in different ways. One vocal antagonist to modernism in Canada was T. T. Shields (1873–1955), pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto. His views on the subject were expressed in a pamphlet titled, “The Necessity of Declaring War on Modernism.”
Baptists, while originating in England, have become a worldwide faith through missionary efforts that have expanded their reach around the globe. While not all Baptist churches carry on the evangelical legacy of its founding, Baptist churches of various expressions are recognizable across the globe.
Jonathan E. Swan, “Baptists,” ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, The Essential Lexham Dictionary of Church History (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2022).
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more