ARE YOU SITTING in front of your home computer? Give this a try, please. Do a Google search and type in, “The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches Concord Baptist Church,” or simply copy and paste the following address into your browser window: http://www.concordbaptistchurchcc.org/Hiscox_Standard.pdf. Your screen should open up to a PDF copy of an old book which at one time was a part of Princeton Theological library. Each page of the publication has been scanned and then turned into a document for you to read on line.
“The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches” was written by Edward Thurston Hiscox and first published in 1890. Mr. Hiscox was born Aug. 24, 1814 in Westerly, Rhode Island: http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/hiscox.edward.t.bio.html.
But go back to the Standard Manual in the PDF and then scroll down all the way to page 22. At the top left of the page you’ll find the page number. You’ll also notice “CHAPTER IV” in capital type. Underneath that it says, “CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.” Since this book is referred to as a manual for Baptist churches, I wanted to see what Mr. Hiscox had to say about how an individual might become a member of the church.
Now start reading please at the beginning of the paragraph. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. Watch the opening sentence, “It is most likely that in the Apostolic age…” (emphasis mine—mb).
“What exactly was the Apostolic age?” you ask. The Apostolic age was that period of biblical history during which the apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15; Acts 1:8; 2:4), led the first-century church—from Pentecost in A.D. 33 until the end of the first century, when the revelation of God’s word was completed.
Initially the Word of God (e.g., the New Testament) was revealed to the twelve (2 Peter 1:21). They spoke it and then eventually wrote it down as it was given to them (1 Cor. 2:6-16) in pieces—in parts (1 Cor. 13:9). With the passing of time, those documents were eventually gathered, collected, copied and finally put into the format of what we know as the New Testament or Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now keep reading and pay special attention to the next phrase in the online PDF. Mr. Hiscox says that during that time period when the early church was being led by the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Apostolic age), “there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed.”
Did you catch that? There was only one Lord, there was, by this particular time, only one valid baptism (see Wayne Jackson’s article, “Is Holy Spirit Baptism Available Today?” at https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/519-is-holy-spirit- baptism-available-today), and one faith (Eph. 4:5).
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and no differing denominations existed…” Mr. Hiscox, a Baptist, admitted that in the first century, during the Apostolic age, there was only ONE faith, not many. “Mike—what are you saying? What does that mean?” That means in the Apostolic age, when the apostles were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ, there weren’t 33,000+ different religious faiths as we have today, there was only one system of faith—the faith (singular). Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blYqM4HaWdw.
There was no Baptist faith, no Methodist faith, no Episcopalian faith, no Presbyterian faith, no Lutheran faith, no Charismatic/Pentecostal faith, no Anglican faith, no Mormon faith, etc., there was only one faith—THE faith.
Got your New Testament and an on-line concordance? Look up the phrase, “the faith” in your Bible. Sometimes “faith” refers to an individual’s level of trust in Christ (Acts 6:8; 11:24; 1 Cor. 2:5; 15:14), but sometimes “faith” refers to “the faith” (e.g., the body of doctrine known as the gospel of Christ—the system of faith, cf. 2 John 9).
Note several examples:
- Luke said a great many priests were obedient to “the faith” (Acts 6:7b; cf. 2 Thess. 1:8).
- Elymas the sorcerer tried to turn the proconsul away from “the faith” (13:8).
- Paul exhorted disheartened members of the church to “continue in ‘the faith’” (Acts 14:22; cf. 16:5).
- Felix and Drucilla listened to Paul preach about “the faith” (24:24).
- Paul told the church at Corinth to stand fast in “the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13).
- He later exhorted them to examine themselves to make sure they were in “the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).
- Paul himself had left Judaism and converted to “the faith” (Gal. 1:23; cf. 3:23).
- The apostle urged the congregation at Colossae to continue in “the faith” (Col. 1:23).
- He condemned those men who failed to care for the financial responsibilities of their family, and in so doing, had denied “the faith” (1 Tim. 5:8).
- The same apostle spoke of those who would eventually depart and fall from “the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).
- Jude reminded his readers to contend earnestly for “the faith” (Jude 3; cf. Phil. 1:16).
Remember the passage that Mr. Hiscox alluded to in Ephesians 4:4? Paul said there was “one Lord, ONE FAITH, one baptism…” What’s the one faith…? Again, it is THE faith—the system of faith, the body of doctrine, the gospel—as opposed to “a” faith (i.e. one of many faiths).
Now go back to Mr. Hiscox’s book online and re-read the sentence: “It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act, constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, ‘baptism was the door into the church.’ Now it is different…”
Why, my friend? Why is it different? Why are there thousands of faiths today as opposed to ONE FAITH? Why, as Mr. Hiscox correctly pointed out, during the Apostolic age when the twelve were guided by the infallible Holy Spirit of God that baptism was the door into the ONE FAITH in the first-century, but now it is different? Since according to the ONE FAITH/doctrine immersion was the one door/way into the body (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27) of Christ (Gal. 3:27), what occurred to change that?
Mr. Hiscox was absolutely correct. In the first century there was only one faith. Protestant denominationalism didn’t come into existence until the early 16th century as a reaction to medieval Roman Catholic false doctrines and practices. History itself concedes this point (http://whyaretheresomanychurches.com/).
Now consider the implications of our brief study:
- If the Bible is the inspired word of God—and it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and if until the New Testament was finally and completely brought together (Eph. 4:13), there was only ONE FAITH (see above), how can we today—as mere humans (Prov. 14:12; Judg. 21:25), sanction what the Holy Spirit of Christ obviously did not? How can we have thousands of religious bodies, all wearing different names, all authorizing and following different and often contradictory practices, and still be pleasing to the Lord? The answer is, we can’t; it’s simply impossible (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 2 Thess. 3:14; 2 John 9).
- If Jesus is married to the church, and He is (Rom. 7:4), but the church is many and not one, then He’s a polygamist with thousands of wives (Mat. 19:6). That means while He taught and commanded monogamy, He actually practices the very opposite!
- If Jesus is the head of the body/church (Eph. 1:22; 5:22; Col. 1:18), and He is, but the church has many bodies not one, then He’s over a grossly deformed, totally handicapped figure. Can one head be connected to and control thousands of separate and distinct bodies?
- If Jesus is the King of the kingdom/church (Mat. 16:16-18; Col. 1:13; 1 Tim. 6:15), and He is, but the kingdom is divided into thousands of divided and antagonistic factions, then He plead for (Mat. 12:25; Luke 11:17) and prayed for (John 17) unity, but He accepts and actually endorses division, dissention, schism and discord!
3 “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:3-6). Dear reader, are you a member of the ONE FAITH?