A Brief Summary of Landmark Belief
THE IDENTIFYING MARK’S OF THE CHURCH
by T. P. Simmons
If, as we believe, the church of Christ has been perpetuated then it is in the world today and been in the world since its founding. By what means, then, are we to identify this church in any age? In order to have a church, there must be—
1. A LOCAL INDEPENDENT BODY.
The Roman Catholic Church cannot qualify as the church of Christ. Neither can any branch of the Methodist Episcopal persuasion. Nothing such as these existed in New Testament times. New Testament churches were local, independent bodies. No hierarchal institution can qualify as a church.
2. HOLDING THE TRUTH AS TO THE WAY OF MAKING DISCIPLES.
The primary purpose of Jesus in putting the church in the world was that His gospel should be preached. No institution that preaches a false gospel is recognized of him who even threatened the church at Ephesus with the removal of its candlestick because it had merely lapsed in its zeal and grown negligent concerning the work He had committed to His churches.
No institution that teaches any form of salvation by works is holding to the truth about the way of making disciples. A church must teach salvation wholly by grace through faith.
3. HOLDING THE TRUTH AS TO BAPTISM
Scriptural baptism is essential to a true church because it is the door into the church. Cf. 1 Cor. 12:13. Hence there can be no church without baptism. An organization that practices anything but immersion, or that does not hold to believers’ baptism, or that baptizes people in order that they may he saved, surely is not recognized of Christ as one of His churches.
4. RECOGNIZING CHRIST ALONE AS ITS HEAD, AND SEEKING TO CARRY OUT HIS WILL AND COMMANDS.
The church belongs to its head. If its head is Christ, it is His church. If its head is the pope, it is the pope’s church. If its head is a conference, then it is the conference’s church. If its head is a presbytery or synod, then it belongs to the presbytery or synod instead of to Christ.
Wherever is found a local body possessing all of the attributes, there is a church. Without all of them there can be no church.
And we do not hesitate to say in closing that, as regards the regular denominations, at least, only Baptist churches today can, by the foregoing tests, be identified as New Testament churches.
The term Landmark Baptist originates in Proverbs 22:28: "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."
Landmark general convictions of belief are:
The church is local, not universal visible as Catholics claim, nor universal invisible as Protestants say. No non- Baptist ordinations of preachers is recognized. Communion is only for members of the Baptist church administering it. Missionaries are sent out by a local church, not by a convention or missionary society. Believers baptism is acceptable only if administered by a Baptist church of like faith and order. None but immersions are scriptural, no infant baptisms admitted, alien immersions unacceptable. A regenerated church membership. "Christ before the baptism, and the blood before the water." Landmarkism stipulate that legitimate Baptist churches are the only scriptural kind. Their doctrines are generally Calvinistic, usually instead called "the doctrines of Grace." Congregations of other denominations are merely religious gatherings, or "societies," with no claim to the title "church."
Church succession Most Landmark Baptists believe the studies of G. H. Orchard in his book, A Concise History of the Baptists (1838), that actual organized Baptist congregations had existed at all times throughout the preceding centuries all the way back to the New Testament era. Orchard wrote: "During the first three centuries, Christian congregations, all over the East, subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government, and consequently without any secular power over one another. All this time they were Baptist churches…"
We believe origins our kind of churches predate those of Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy, we have refused to refer to ourselves as Protestants. Church Succession has no connection with the doctrine of Apostolic Succession which Landmark churches do not accept. We believe that a historic "Baptist succession" may be traced from John the Baptist to modern Baptist churches in which believer's baptism and Landmark principles have prevailed as seen in "The Trail of Blood" by J.M. Carroll. Landmarkism was the dominant ecclesiology among Southern Baptists well into the twentieth century and some Landmark concepts continue to influence the Southern Baptist Convention as evidenced by the recent decision of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board to require its missionaries to abstain from receiving alien (non-Baptist) immersions.
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