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Baptist Roots

Let me tell you a little bit about the Baptist history, our denominational root

“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming to the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.” (John 1.6-12)


“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea.” (Mat 3.1)


“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Mat 11.11).


Institutionally and historically we are pre-reformers. Organizationally, the first Baptist church, as it is known today, began in Spitafields, England in 1612, with Thomas Helwys, an English martyr seeking freedom of conscience, in the kingship of James I.


The first Baptists were persecuted by religious people from Europe and became the pioneers searching for freedom in a new nation, America. Then, the church was not detached from the stigma of a dogmatic, hierarchical and institutional church still attached to the State.


Roger Williams founded the First Baptist church in America, in Providence in 1639. It is worth to highlight that the Baptists in their concept of liberty, influenced decisively the democratic structure as it is nowadays as well as the United States Constitution itself. This is the country with the larger number of evangelicals.


The Baptists came to Brazil in 1860, to the state of Rio de Janeiro, however the first Baptist church truly Brazilian was organized only on 15th October, 1882, in Salvador city in Bahia state.


There are Baptist historians who advocate, somewhat dogmatically, that the “Baptist” denomination is directly related to the Early Christianity, from the time of John the Baptist; we agree that in terms of doctrine we are, because we also preach Christ and baptism to everyone who repent (Mark 1.4). According to the documents though, the origin of the term comes from the emphasis given to re-baptism of genuine Christians because they did not accept children’s baptism, “for them, new born babies could not have conscience of sin, regeneration, faith and salvation. And there were strong basis in the Gospels and other books of the New Testament to support their standpoint. The same grounding had all other doctrines they professed. However, their demand of only baptise those who were converted called the people and the authorities’ attention the most. For this reason, they were designated ‘Baptists’, to which many suppose it is a simplified form of ‘Anabaptists’, ‘those who baptise again’.”


God works as our partner and takes in to account our human characteristics (1Cor 3.9). Our mission is divine and we are instruments of his grace (Mat 28.18-20). We are guided by the Spirit (Rom 8.14), we have the Spirit, but we are not spirit (Rom 8.9), “God is Spirit” (John 4.24), the angels are spirits (Heb 1.14; 1Cor 4.9; 1Pet 1.12) nevertheless mankind is a compound of spirit, body and soul (1Tss 5.23).


Men, as a whole, and their accomplishments go through a temporary historical context and it is not a demerit in any way to our humanity (1Cor 10.11; James 5.10). Our challenge is to have an identity that can be observed by the Lord Jesus as the great prophet John the Baptist’s identity was (Mat 11.11; John 10.14; Rev 2.2).


In times of persecution it is easier to identify who is really committed to kingdom values (Heb 11.35-40), for when everything is calm tare grows with wheat abundantly (1Cor 5.11; Mat 13.38; Mat 24.12) and it is not proper for us the risky task of reaping and burning it (Mat 25.32); this is something that belongs to the Lord (Mat 13.27-30 and 40-43). Still we should ratify our Baptist identity, take upon us that our mission to witness daily comes from the Lord, for we are sent by him, as a denomination: in this sense we are Baptists as John was (John 1.6).


Though the question is: Was John the Baptist Jesus’ good disciple?


We cannot be Baptists only; we’ve got to be disciples too!


Historical controversies apart, all of us recognise that our doctrinal concept mount from New Testament beginnings, our emphasis, once we are totally free from any other tradition that is not biblical-Christian. So, we can base our history, and our essential characteristics, in the following pillars:


1.The Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, because we believe that it is what it is by direct and indirect influence from God Himself.


2.The Grace of God manifest in Jesus is the only way of restoring God’s purpose in man’s life, in as much as grace (charis) is an unmerited favour by the one who receives it;


3.Faith is the only way to reach the grace (charis) of God, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” and “God is Spirit”;

4.Each man’s responsibility before God is personal, once “every one of us shall give account of himself to God”;


5.Everybody is free to express and interpret the Bible for themselves. The Bible is the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, since it is the truth that sets free and it is impersonal;


6.The church is a Local Apostolic Community of those who have a covenant with Christ, are born again and biblically baptised. It is absolutely independent from the State or any other institution; it is the Body of Christ, and above it is the Lord of the Church himself;


7.Our system of government is Theocracy Congregational manifest by each disciple in the Church; understanding that these bring in themselves the Holy spirit;


8.Ours is a Missionary Vision, as long as the world need to know the truth of the Lord and the Lord of the Truth who sets free and saves eternally;


9.Our relationship with other churches is based in co-operation and volunteer work, and its purpose is to fulfil the common mission of making known both the Good News and the coming of the Lord Jesus, author and finisher of faith and history;

It is priority for us to defend life and the Individual Rights of human being as we understand that each person is the image and the likeness of God himself.


Text written and published in the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in 29/06/99, revised in 2007 to our new reality.


The author:

Apostle Sóstenes Borges de Sousa is a theologian and post graduate in psychoanalysis. Pastor of Primeira Igreja Batista de Periperi (Periperi First Baptist Church) and Igreja Batista da Comunidade da Praia (Beach Community Baptist Church)  in Salvador city, Bahia, these churches are part of Ministério Internacional do Salvador (International Ministry of the Saviour); his ministerial background was in the Baptist context; he was a member of the two following Boards: Brazilian Baptist Convention and its Counselling Organization; he also was the Chairman of the following three Baptist Organisations: Baptist Pastor’s Order in Salvador city, Salvador Baptist Association and Bahia Baptist Convention, twice consecutively in each entity mentioned. He was the mentor of the project to strengthen the teaching of theology in Bahia state, which was the seed for a later recognition by MEC (Official Organ of Education and Culture) of Northern Baptist Seminary courses. He was ordained an International Apostle in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, by Ap. Renê Araújo Terra Nova, in November 2006. He is an international speaker and has served as a discipler in different denominations in Brazil and in England.