Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 8, 1962
NUMBER 43, PAGE 8-9a

Was John "The" Baptist Or "A" Baptist

Bill Cavender, Longview, Texas

If you were to ask a member of the Baptist church why he calls himself a Baptist, the answer almost without exception is that John was a Baptist, and therefore they call themselves after John the Baptist.

Those of us who know what the Bible teaches know that John was not a Baptist and could not have been a Baptist. We further know that the Baptist denominations and those who call themselves by the name of "Baptist" religiously did not get the name from the man in the New Testament who is called John the Baptist. We know that the name "Baptist" came not from John, but from the act of baptism! We know also that there is a difference between "a Baptist" and "John the Baptist," and that invariably those who call themselves "Baptist" will switch and shift the "a Baptist" and "the Baptist" in conversation in justifying the wearing of the Baptist name.

We now give five reasons why "John the Baptist" was not "a Baptist." We trust our readers will consider them seriously:

1. Because his name was John. His father, Zacharias, wrote, saying. "His name is John." (Luke 1:63) His mother. Elizabeth, said. "He shall be called John." (Luke 1:60) The angel, Gabriel, said, "....thy wife Elizabeth shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name John." (Luke 1:13) The Holy Spirit recorded all of this and said that "John the son of Zacharias" appeared in the wilderness preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Luke 3:2, 3) Never was John called "John the Baptist" when his name was under discussion or mentioned. It was always "John." Therefore, John's name was simply "John," not "John the Baptist."

2. Because there was no Baptist church to make a Baptist of him. It is impossible to be "a Baptist" without a Baptist church. But there was no Baptist church to make John "a Baptist." Therefore John was not "a Baptist" because it takes a Baptist church to make a man "a Baptist." Baptist doctrine (not Bible teaching) says that a man is saved by faith. and before and without baptism. Then they have him saved and a Christian, but he is still not a Baptist or a member of the Baptist church. So the Baptist church takes this saved man and votes on him, as to whether to let him become a Baptist or not. They hardly ever turn one down, but the odd thing about all this is that according to them the man is saved, is a Christian, God accepts him, Christ accepts him, if he died he would go to heaven, but he is still not a Baptist — not until a Baptist church votes to accept him and make him, a Baptist. He is then made a Baptist by baptism at the hands of a Baptist preacher. It takes more to become a Baptist than it does to go to heaven, according to Baptist doctrine. So you can see from the teaching of Baptist doctrine itself that it takes a Baptist church and a Baptist preacher before a man can become a Baptist. But when John the Baptist lived there were no Baptist churches and no Baptist preachers. Therefore, John the Baptist was not "a Baptist"

3. Because he taught a doctrine no Baptist believes nor teaches. John taught that baptism is for, in order to obtain, the remission of sins. Baptists teach that one is saved before and without baptism, that remission of sins takes place before baptism. Every Baptist preacher on earth teaches the exact opposite to what John taught, and every Baptist on earth has become a Baptist, thinking that he was saved before he was baptized. But John taught that men must be baptized in order to be saved, not because they were already saved as Baptist teach. Therefore, John was not a Baptist. Notice these passages concerning what John did: "preaching the baptism for (unto) the remission of sins." (Luke 3:3) "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4) John taught baptism for the remission of sins. Peter taught baptism for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21) Paul taught baptism for the remission of sins. (Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:26, 27; Eph. 5:25-27) Jesus taught baptism for the remission of sins. (Mark 16:16) No Baptist preacher on earth teaches what John, Jesus, Peter, and Paul taught as to the purpose of baptism. They taught that baptism is necessary to obtain the remission of sins. Baptists believe and teach remission of sins before baptism. Therefore John could not have been "a Baptist" for he did not believe and teach what Baptists teach and practice regarding baptism.

4. Because he never began a church and died before the church of Christ had its beginning. John was a Jew. He was never a member of any church, Baptist or otherwise. He died before the church of Christ had its beginning. John came baptizing Jews to prepare them for the Christ. (John 1:19-34) He was sent only to Jews, not to Gentiles. (Luke 1:16-17; Matt. 3:1-12) Those who were baptized by John were taught to look forward to the coming of Christ and to believe on him. (Acts 19:1-5) John decreased in his work as Jesus increased in His. (John 3:30; 4:1-2) John was killed a short time later by Herod. (Matt. 14:1-12) Some months after John's death, Jesus promised to build the church. (Matt. 16:16-18) Jesus said that those who would be in this kingdom or church would be greater than John, because John was never in the church or kingdom. (Matt. 11:11) The church of Christ began on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2:1-4, 37-41, 47) Therefore John did not begin a church and was never a member of the church or kingdom of Christ. He died before the church began. Therefore he was not a Baptist, was not a member of a Baptist church, nor did he begin the Baptist church.

5. Because he is called "the" Baptist, not "a" Baptist. Thirty years after he was born, and after he began his work of preaching and baptizing Jews for the remission of sins, he was called "the Baptist." This means he was called "the Baptizer" or "the Immerser" because that is what he did. Jesus was called "the carpenter" because he worked in that trade, not because he was "a carpenter" religiously. A man may be called "Jack the painter" because he paints for a living. A man may be referred to as "Jack the machinist" because that is the work he does. So it was with John. He was never called "the Baptist' until he began his work of baptizing. If John proves anything (which it doesn't) it is that no one could be called "the Baptist" until he baptized someone. How many Baptist have ever baptized anyone? Therefore, unless they have baptized they have no right to be referred to even as "the Baptist" I am "Bill the Baptist" just like "John the Baptist" because I baptize people and that is what John did. That is why he was called "the Baptist." He was NEVER called "a Baptist" If so, where is the passage of scripture that says so?

So, John was not "a Baptist" but he was "the Baptist." and he was not called this until his work began which was baptizing Jews who believed on the coming Christ. John was the only one of his kind, for his work was temporary, was for Jews only, and taught people to look for the Christ. John was not "a Baptist."

But there are further considerations. The disciples of Jesus were never called "Baptist" but were called "Christians." You can read this in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:15-16. The man doesn't live who can find "Baptist," or "the Baptist church," or "a Baptist church" in the Bible.

Now a question naturally arises: If John was not a Baptist and the Baptist religion name did not come from him, and if the disciples of Jesus were never called Baptists, just where did the name come from and where did the Baptist church begin? The answers to this question may be found in the writings of Baptist scholars. Listen:

"The word Baptists, as a descriptive name of a body of people was first used in English literature, so far as is now known, in the year 1644." (Vedder's Short History of the Baptists, p. 3) "The first regularly organized Baptist church of which we possess any account is dated from 1607, and was formed in London by a Mr. Smyth, who had been a clergyman in the church of England." (Benedict's History of the Baptists, page 304) "Historically the modern Baptist movement dates from 1606 or 1607 when John Smyth with a small number of Separatists fled from England to Holland to escape persecution. In 1611 with Thomas Helwys and others, Smyth formed the first English Baptist church." (Winston's Cumulative Loose Leaf Encyclopedia, Article Baptists) These quotations could be endlessly multiplied but they show this: (1) John Smyth, not Jesus Christ and His apostles, began the Baptist church. (2) The Baptist movement had its beginning in London and Amsterdam, not in Jerusalem in Judea. (3) The Baptist movement began in 1606 to 1644, and not in A. D. 33. (4) These people were called "Baptists" because they baptized or immersed and were not called "Christians" after Jesus Christ.

With the facts of Bible teaching and church history before us, why would anyone want to be a Baptist? The Baptist church is a human church, begun by men, its doctrines are of men, and many of its doctrines are in direct contradiction to the word of God.

What should one do who is a Baptist? Such a one should renounce Baptist error and doctrine, be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins as the word of God teaches, wear the name "Christian" instead of Baptist serve and worship God according to the word of God, live faithfully, as a Christian, and be preparing to go to heaven as a child of God, a Christian, and a member of the church of Christ, the church that you read about in the New Testament.