The Cost Of Your Right To Believe What You Believe

Dr Pierre Coovert

I want to ask you the following questions: Do you consider yourself to be a Baptist? If you are, and something happened to your church would you seek out another Baptist church to join? If there was none, would you be instrumental in getting one started?

Over the years of pastoring Baptist churches some have gotten upset with me when I have said something about the errors of other Christian denominations. I have usually stated that I was not saying they were not saved, only that they held false doctrine. The goal of this article is to show that there are good reasons for being a Baptist, and that Baptists are not just another Protestant denomination.

The following verse that will be the main text for this first article:

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

John did not start out to write about the common salvation and then change his mind and write about contending for the faith. What this verse say is that if you are going to understand the common salvation you are going to have to make sure that your doctrine (the faith) is kept pure. Deviation from sound doctrine in many areas will have an effect on what you teach concerning salvation.

Proving this statement is not the purpose of this article but let me just give an example or two. For the first example consider the doctrine of baptism. If you believe in infant baptism then you will believe that baptism is either required for salvation or that it is preparatory to salvation.

For my second example is the doctrine of the church. The New Testament church is a local assembly of baptized believers united together by a common faith. The Scriptures know nothing of a universal church or body. The whole of this doctrine is the teaching that there is no salvation outside the church. This false doctrine was formulated by the Catholic Church to force everyone to join their “church.” The Protestants modified this doctrine to justify their being outside the “church” (Catholic). All you have to do is read Acts Chapter 2 to see that salvation and baptism comes before church membership.

In this article I want to look at the price of your right to believe what you believe. By this I mean the right to be any denomination you choose, even none if you so choose. This has not always been the case. I also want to look at who paid the price for this right. Before I do this I want to take a closer look at Jude 1:3;

It says we are to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. This faith is found in the Holy Scriptures. “The faith” refers to the teachings of the New Testament, all of them. Nothing is excluded and there are not essential doctrines and non-essential doctrines. Listen to what Paul had to say about which part of the counsel of God we are to preach:

Acts 20:26-27 “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

If we don’t want to be guilty of the blood of men we must declare the whole counsel of God, not just those parts that cause no friction. Earnestly contending for the faith means earnestly contending for all of it, even those parts that may not be popular in the current theological climate.

The idea expressed by the phrase “earnestly contend” is that of a zealous struggle. This means we are to be passionate in our efforts to defend those doctrines that have been given to us in the Holy Scriptures. We are to ensure the the same faith we received is passed on to the next generation.

Hebrews tells us that no cost is too great in our resistance of sin, and surly changing the precepts of God, or ignoring those which are not popular is sin.

Hebrews 12:4 “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

This should give us a good understanding of what “earnestly contend” means. We need to understand that if some had not been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives we would not have the pure doctrines of “the faith.”

The truth of this matter should come as no surprise to faithful Christians. Jesus told us that some would be killed for standing for Him.

Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

Paul said essentially the same thing to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Who do you suppose most of this persecution fell upon. Many would say the Protestants but they would be wrong. It is true that for the first few years after the Reformation, and from time to time as nations changed kings (from Protestant to Catholic and vice versa), there was some persecution of Protestants. The persecution they suffered was not for the defense of the faith, it was for the control of the people through religion.

The brunt of the persecution was upon a people called by various names like Cathar, Anabaptist, Validnesses, and many others, who held to the old time faith once delivered to the saints. This people is known as Baptists today.

Here are some examples of the persecution Baptists suffered under the Protestants:

In March of 1525 Zwingli influenced the city council to issue a strong edict against the Anabaptists, which was ratified in November:

“You know without doubt, and have heard from many that for a long time, some peculiar men, who imagine that they are learned, have come forward astonishingly, and without any evidence of the Holy Scriptures, given as a pretext by simple and pious men, have preached, and without the permission and consent of the church, have proclaimed that infant baptism did not proceed from God, but from the devil, and, therefore, ought not to be practiced. . . . We, therefore, ordain and require that hereafter all men, women, boys and girls forsake rebaptism, and shall not make use of it hereafter, and shall let infants be baptized; whoever shall act contrary to this public edict shall be fined for every offense, one mark; and IF ANY BE DISOBEDIENT AND STUBBORN THEY SHALL BE TREATED WITH SEVERITY; for, the obedient we will protect; the disobedient we will punish according to his deserts, without fail; by this all are to conduct themselves. All this we confirm by this public document, stamped with the seal of our city, and given on St. Andrew’s Day, A. D., 1525.”

In December 1527 some of the Baptist leaders were put to death by drowning.

  1. The council had decreed, “He who immerses shall be immersed.” The Protestant leader Gastins wrote, “They like immersion, so let us immerse them”

  2. The Baptists were delivered to the executioner, who bound their hands, placed them in a boat and threw them into the water. Some Protestants mockingly called this the “third baptism.”

  3. The Baptist martyr Felix Manz (or Mans, Mentz) (1498-1527) was a very learned man, skilled in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. As he was led through Zurich to the boat, he praised God that he was going to die for the truth of the Word of God. His old mother and faithful brother exhorted him to be steadfast unto death. After declaring, “In thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit,” he was cruelly drowned.

  4. Balthasar Hubmaier was thrown into prison by the Zurich Protestants in January 1526 and kept there for four months. His wife also was in prison and his health was broken. He had just gotten over a sickness that was almost unto death.

  5. In this sad and discouraged condition, he was tortured on the rack by the Protestant authorities; and on April 6, 1526, the broken man agreed to recant his beliefs.

  6. The people of Zurich were summoned to the cathedral to hear the recantation of this well-known Baptist preacher. Zwingli first preached a sermon against the heretics. Then every eye turned to Hubmaier, who went forward to read the recantation. As he began to do so in a trembling voice, he broke down weeping. As he swayed to and fro in agony, he was suddenly strengthened by the Lord. He shouted, “INFANT BAPTISM IS NOT OF GOD, AND MEN MUST BE BAPTIZED BY FAITH IN CHRIST!” Pandemonium broke out! Some screamed against him while others shouted applause. The Zurich authorities quickly took him back to the dungeon.

  7. There he wrote these blessed words of prayer to God: “O, immortal God, this is my faith. I confess it with heart and mouth, and have testified it publicly before the Church in baptism. I faithfully pray thee graciously keep me in it until my end, and should I be forced from it out of mortal fear and timidity, by tyranny, torture, sword, fire or water, I now appeal to thee. O, my compassionate Father, raise me up again by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, and suffer me not to depart without this faith. This, I pray thee from the bottom of my heart, through Jesus Christ, thy most beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour. Father, in thee do I put my Trust, let me never be ashamed.”

  8. That prayer was answered, because he went on for the Lord and was faithful unto death. After he was allowed to leave Zurich, he moved to Moravia, where he had a very fruitful ministry and a harvest of souls were brought to the Lord.
  9. On March 10, 1528, in Vienna, he was burned to death at the stake, and he died in the faith that he preached. His faithful Christian wife was drowned eight days later.

The Lutherans in Germany also persecuted Baptists:

  1. In 1529, the imposing DIET OF SPEIRS (Speyer) pronounced the death sentence upon all Anabaptists. This council was composed of both Roman Catholic and Protestant princes and heads of state. They hated each other and did not get along even in this Diet, but they hated the Anabaptists even more!

  2. “Four hundred special police were hired to hunt down Anabaptists and execute them on the spot. The group proved too small and was increased to one thousand. … thousands of Anabaptists fell victim to one of the most widely spread persecutions in Christian history. … Burning faggots and smoldering stakes marked their trek across Europe”

John Calvin was a persecutor of Baptists

  1. So entirely was he in favour of persecuting measures, that he wrote a treatise in defence of them, maintaining the lawfulness of putting heretics to death; and he reduced these rigid theories to practice, in his conduct towards Castellio, Jerom Bolsee, and Servetus.

  2. In the days of King Edward VI of England, Calvin wrote a letter to Lord Protector Somerset and urged him to put Anabaptists to death: “These altogether deserve to be well punished by the sword, seeing that they do conspire against God, who had set him in his royal seat

The Church of England persecuted Baptists

  1. According to Foxe, quoting the registers of London, nineteen other Anabaptists were put to death in various parts of the realm in 1535.

  2. After 24-year-old Anne Askew was condemned to die and was imprisoned in the London Tower to await execution, her persecutors attempted to get her to inform on other believers. They also hoped to gain information against Queen Catherine herself, the wife of Henry VIII. When Anne refused to give them any information, they put the frail woman upon the rack and commanded Sir Anthony Knyvet, Lieutenant of the Tower, to instruct his jailer to torture her. He did so, but not very strenuously, being mindful of her feminine nature. Not being satisfied with the racking given to her by the Lieutenant, Thomas Wriothesley, chancellor of England, and Master Rich, the Solicitor-General, angrily took control of the rack with their own hands and treated the godly woman with an inhuman viciousness. So intent were they on gaining the names of any high-placed ladies who believed in the grace of Jesus Christ, they cruelly tortured her, pulling her bones and joints out of place, so much so that she was unable to walk after that and had to be carried to her execution in a chair. All the while, she did not cry out and bore their wicked torments with the patient grace given to her of the Lord, refusing to turn any of her friends over to the tormenters. She finally swooned from the pain, and Sir Knyvet took her up in his arms and laid her on the floor. When she awoke and while she was still lying on the hard stone floor, Wriothesley remained by her for two hours longer attempting to talk her into recanting her religious views.
  3. In her written testimony, the brave Christian woman gave a glorious witness to her faith in Jesus Christ and in His blood and grace alone for salvation, and she stated that her sole authority was the Bible. Though her father, husband, and son had abandoned her because of her faith, and though she was hated by the rulers of her own country, we can be sure that this humble Christian lady was not abandoned by her Heavenly Father. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (Psalm 27:10).

  4. Anne and three other dissenters against the Church of England were brought to the place of execution on July 16, 1546. When they were chained to a stake, they were offered a pardon if they would sign a recantation. They refused even to look at the paper containing the pardon and stated that they had not come to that place to deny their Lord. At that, the fire was lit and Anne and her friends in Christ were burned to death by the ecclesiastical authorities.

Baptists were persecuted by protestants in America until they became states

  1. The Pilgrims were separatists who had been forced to flee the persecution of the Church of England. They had spent a brief time in the Netherlands, then traveled by ship to America. While in the Netherlands, they enjoyed some measure of religious liberty, but they did not grant the same to others. They practiced infant baptism and denounced Anabaptists.

  2. Holmes, a Baptist pastor, was beaten with 30 strokes of a three-corded whip. In a letter to a Baptist church in England, Holmes recounted the Lord’s mercy in strengthening him during this trial:
  3. “…for in truth, as the strokes fell upon me, I had such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence, as the like thereof I never had nor felt, nor can with fleshly tongue express, and the outward pain was so removed from me, that indeed I am not able to declare it to you, it was so easy to me, that I could well bear it, yea, and in a manner, felt it not, although it was grievous, as the spectators said, the man striking with all his strength (yea, spitting in his hands three times, as many affirmed) with a three corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes. When he had loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart and cheerfulness in my countenance, as the spectators observed, I told the magistrates, you have struck me as with roses…”
  4. Though he testified that he did not suffer from the actual beating, he did suffer much from its effects. The beating was so vicious on his back, sides, and stomach that Holmes could not lie down for many days afterward.

If I were to add to this list all of the persecutions of Baptists during the Dark Ages it would take many more pages to hold them. Suffice to say that during the thousand years of the Dark Ages more than fifty million Baptists were put to death for earnestly contending for the faith. This is an average of fifty thousand Baptists being killed every year or one hundred thirty seven people every day. Why? They were earnestly contending for the faith of the Holy Scriptures!

We have seen the price our spiritual ancestors paid for our right to believe what we believe. Unlike the Protestants, our Baptist ancestors did not force others to believe as they did. They gave their lives so that Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and all other faiths, might have the right to practice their faith without interference of the state as long as they did not do harm to others in so doing.

Even according to those who are not Baptists, they are not Protestants. They are a very special people who have been willing to die to earnestly contend for the faith. Not only did they die for the right to believe what they believe, they also died for the rights of others, even those who persecuted them, to believe what they believe.

I would like to ask the two questions again: Do you consider yourself to be a Baptist? And, If something happened to your church or you moved to another town, would you seek out another Baptist church to join, and if there was none, would you be instrumental in getting one started? Let me add one more question to the list. Would you be willing to suffer as our Baptist ancestors did as you contend for the faith that the next generation might have the truth?

Your answer to these questions will tell if you are a true Baptist or not.

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved