Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. -- Proverbs 22:28

Landmark Bible Baptist Belief

By John Henry


The acronym B-A-P-T-I-S-T helps us understand our Historic Baptist distinctives or landmarks.

Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice.
Autonomous churches.
Priesthood of all believers.
Two ordinances: Believers Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Individual soul liberty.
Separation of church and state.
Two church offices: Pastor and Deacon.
Succession of local churches started by churches.


Landmark Baptists believe in these "ancient landmarks" of Jesus Christ's church which have been evident since the Lord established His church till this day.  The first and foremost of these landmark distinctives is the unshakeable beliefs that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.  Dr. Phil Stringer said it well in these words:

"... Christians agree with the doctrine ... [of] the full inspiration of Scripture.  However, historically, Baptists have taken their position on Scripture one important step further.  Baptists (and a very few others) teach that Scripture is the sole authority for faith and practice. ... Historic Baptists teach us that not only is everything in the Bible true, but that everything we need is in the Bible.  Baptists do not accept the concept additional revelation, authoritative decisions, ... or history as spiritual authorities.  God has given us everything essential to our spiritual well-being in the Scriptures.  It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of this one concept -- the sole authority of Scripture."

This is the reason we call ourselves Landmark BIBLE Baptists:  Because we unwaveringly believe the Bible as our sole authority in matters of faith and practice.  All the other landmarks of the true church are soundly based upon this all important doctrine of the Bible.

Landmark Bible Baptists do not require historic proof of a church for church chain link succession. The Scripture prove that there has been such a succession from the first ever New Testament Church that the Lord Jesus Christ established during His earthly sojourn to this day. However, the fact of local succession can be discerned from history by looking at the eight landmarks.


First and foremost a succession of churches is demonstrated by the fact that the Word of God plainly indicates that churches would teach salvation, baptize believers, and observe all things commanded by Christ.  There would be a succession of churches established by churches until the return of Christ:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20)

Here the Lord was addressing His apostles who were the charter members of His Church (1 Cor 12:28; Luke 6:13), but they died long ago so it was not given to them alone, but also to succeeding generations of churches that would continue the work of the church "even unto the end of the world. Amen."  Jesus was addressing all successive churches that sprang from that First Church.  The clear language of the passages demands that there be a continuous connection of the church "alway, even unto the end of the world."  That word "alway" comes from two Greeks words, "all" or "every" (Strong's Greek word #3956) and "day" (Strong's #2250). So it is clear that the church is connected in time daily or "alway, even unto the end of the world." This daily connection requires a chain link succession.  Furthermore, the commission was given to "ye" which is 17th Century English for our modern Texan, "y'all."  It's plural, meaning the church.  It refers to the already established apostolic church to whom the Lord was speaking. 

Then that word "observe" in the passage speaks not only of doing, but primarily of watching over or guarding the things that the Lord has "commanded" in His Word.  The Lord Jesus gave this charge of going, teaching, baptizing, observing His Word to the charter members of His First Church and all successive churches built on their model.  Since the Lord gave the job of protecting His Word to the church, we know that the same kind of church with the same beliefs will endure "even unto the end of the world," because Jesus promised, "I am with you [plural] alway."  Christ's Word and His Church will both endure for ever. The two go hand in hand.  The Bible says that the church is "the pillar and ground of the Truth" which is the Word of God:

"... know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth." (1 Timothy 3:15; cf. John 17:17)

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;  I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my Word, and hast not denied my name. ... Because thou hast kept the Word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:7-8, 10)

"Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21)


Secondly church succession is demonstrated by the fact that Bible churches have always adhered to the sound Scriptural doctrine. Christ's church has always believed in the Trinity, the Deity of the man Jesus Christ, salvation by grace through faith, Heaven, Hell, the second coming of Christ, etc. However, the major distinguishing mark of the true church is its church polity, practice and doctrine.  In "Trail Of Blood" Clarence Walker and J. M. Carroll list a number of New Testament doctrines and practices that are found in churches in every age since Christ established His church. Some major marks of Christ's church are:

1.   Its founder, Christ is the only head and law giver. (Matt 16:18; Col 1:18)
2.   Its laws and doctrines: The New Testament and that only. (Matt 28:20; 2 Tim 3:15)
3.   Its members: Believers only, they saved by grace not works, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. (Eph 2:8-9, 20-22; 1 Pet 1:23, 2:9; Acts 2:47)
4.   Its ordinances only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are typical and memorial, not saving. (Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42)
5.   Its requirements: Believers on entering the church to be baptized, and that be immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, then obedience to all New Testament laws. (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor 5:11)
6.   Its officers, only two, pastors and deacons; they are servants of the church. (1 Tim 3:1-16)
7.   Its government a pure democracy, and that executive only, never legislative. (Matt 20:24-28; 23:5-12)
8.   The churches are separate and independent in their execution of laws, discipline and responsibilities, but cooperative in their work. (1 Cor 5:12; 2 Cor 2:6, 8:23; Phil 2:25, 4:15-18)
9.   Complete separation of Church and State. (Matt 22:21)
Absolute religious liberty for all. (2 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 3:15)

These local church doctrines are seen being upheld in every era of this Church Age.


Thirdly, throughout the centuries it was the landmark churches that preserved the B-A-P-T-I-S-T distinctives that were persecuted by the false churches and others.  In the First Century the distinctives were seen in the Apostolic Church, and in successive centuries they were evident in the Novations, Donatists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Paulicans, Anabaptists, and others.  The Bible prophesies that true believers would be persecuted for their faith.  This prophetic mark of persecution shows that the Baptist groups were the Lord's church.  They suffered heavy persecution, because they stood for the teachings of Christ and His righteousness. The Lord Jesus Himself prophesied this beforehand: 

"Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you ..." (John 15:20)

"... In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

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

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.   Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.   Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.   Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.   Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.   Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.   Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:9-16)

"Peacemakers" are soul winners and this is a job committed by the Lord to the church.  It is a righteous activity, as baptism likewise is (Matt 3:14-15; Titus 3:5).  It has been for these two righteous activities, more than others, that Baptists have both earned their name and been persecuted. 

A thousand years ago the Waldensians were among the strongest of Baptists, but their churches were decimated by relentless Roman Catholic persecution for their righteousness.  After centuries of persecution those called Waldensians finally gave in to heresy.  These churches can no longer be considered Baptists today.  The Waldensians lost their salty "savour" and have become useless.  However, in the same areas that they once thrived independent churches were branded by their persecutors with the name "Anabaptists," because they immersed former Catholics and all that receive Christ upon their profession of faith and they rejected infant baptism. The prefix "ana" means "another" and of course "baptists" means "immersers."  They were labeled such because of their righteousness soul winning and baptizing which rejected infant baptism.  Of course the sprinkling of infants was not Biblical baptism for two reasons: 1) infants cannot believe, and 2) sprinkling is not baptism. This was the reason for more than a thousand years of persecution by Roman Catholicism. 

Millions of Baptists had been persecuted to the death for a thousand years for their faith before the unscriptural "anathemas" (curses or damnations) of the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) were pontificated.  Two foundational doctrines of the Bible, salvation and baptism, were attacked by the Roman Whore (Rev 17:1-6) in this Catholic Council:

Canon 12 on Justification: "If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema." (Session 6 - January 13, 1547)

Canon 24 on Justification:  "If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema." (Session 6 - January 13, 1547)

Canon 3 on Baptism:  "If anyone says that in the Roman Church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism, let him be anathema." (Session 7 - March 3, 1547)

Canon 5 on Baptism: "If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema." (Session 7 - March 3, 1547)

Canon 13 on Baptism:  "If anyone says that children, because they have not the act of believing, are not after having received baptism to be numbered among the faithful, and that for this reason are to be rebaptized when they have reached the years of discretion; or that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith of the Church alone, let him be anathema." (Session 7 - March 3, 1547)

These two, salvation through faith and believers baptism, and other truths condemn by the Catholicism at the Council of Trent are those that Baptists have held since the days of the apostles till now.

The Principal Baptist doctrine was also anathematized.  Dr. David F. Reagan said, "The unchanging practice of Roman Catholicism has been to place tradition above the Word.  However, this practice was made a dogma at the Council of Trent in 1546.  This council declared that the apocryphal books together with unwritten tradition are to be received and venerated as the Word of God.  In elevating tradition, God's Word has been lowered.  In truth, this makes the Word of God of none effect."  


"... Peter and the other apostles ... said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29, cf. 4:19)

The Council of Trent adjourned on December 4, 1563 with these words: "Anathema to all heretics, anathema, anathema." 


To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)


After Trent “the Mother of Harlots” continued her persecution of Baptists, and also her harlot daughters, the Protestants, did persecute the Lord’s church (Rev. 17:5).


Forthly, we have the New Testament pattern for missions through the church.  Further evidence of succession is not difficult to find in Scripture. Take these passages for example:

1. "... ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Here we have another instance of the Lord commissioning His Church. As in Matthew 28 the "ye" is plural referring to the First Church and all other churches that stemmed from it. From the Church of Jerusalem sprang churches in Judaea, and in Samaria and on out to Antioch, and Antioch continued witnessing on out to many other places. A daily connection is clearly seen. The Church a Philippi was the offspring of the Church at Antioch, and Antioch was the offspring of the Church in Jerusalem. That is the way it has been down to this day. Another aspect of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8 is that a single church is to be witnesses unto Christ both locally and in other places simultaneously. This can only be done by sending missionaries out from the church. When new churches are planted it is a chain link succession.

2. "... Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:21-23)

This is a third instance of the Lord giving the Great Commission to His church. As in Matthew 28 the "you" here is plural referring to the First Church, plus all others that originated from it. In this passage the Lord imparts His church spiritual life with the breath of God. Living things produce living things.  The Lord "... breathed into [Adam's] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7).  "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived ..." (Genesis 4:1).  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. ... The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:6, 8)  "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Peter 1:23; cf. 2 Tim 3:16; Heb 4:12).  In similar manner to their having received spiritual life through regeneration, Christ also "breathed on them" corporately and the church became a living entity, and just as believers are to reproduce themselves through soul winning, likewise churches are to reproduce themselves through church planting.

The remitting and retaining of sins is, of course, in accordance with Scripture, because the church is sent even as the Father send the Lord Jesus.

Where the Lord Jesus said, "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you," He was referring to the fact that He was the Heavenly Father's "Apostle" (Heb 3:1).  In John 13:16 the Lord said, "... The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him."  The phrase "he that is sent" comes from a single Greek word which is most often transliterated "apostle."  It means someone who is authorized and sent forth to act on the behalf of another. An apostle is an authorized deputy, delegate, agent, or ambassador.  Christ had already ordained His apostles individually (Mark 3:14, cf. 16:20) before John 20:21. Here in John 20:21 the Lord Jesus Christ is authorizing the church as His missionary sending agency.  A more Scriptural word for missionary is "messenger."  It is used twice in the Bible (2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25) and comes from the same Greek word that is translated "he that is sent" and "apostle."  There are 3 kinds of apostles in the Bible: 1) the Apostle of the Father, Jesus Christ, 2) the apostles of Jesus Christ authorized to complete the Word of God, and 3) apostles of the churches.  The fact there are apostles or messengers of the churches is also seen in Acts 14:14 which calls both Barnabas and Paul apostles.  Barnabus was an apostle of the church of Antioch, not an apostle after the order of the 12 like Paul. Again Paul includes Silvanus, and Timotheus (1 Thess 1:1) as "apostles of Christ" (1 Thess 2:6), because they were sent by a church.  Barnabus, Silvanus and Timothy were authorized by Christ by way of His Church.

3. "... behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)

This is not only authority, but also responsibility. As the "the pillar and ground of the Truth," the church, of necessity, must continue perpetually as the caretakers of "the oracles of God" like Israel before us (Romans 3:1-2).

4. "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5; cf. Ephesians 2:19-22)

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "I will build my church." It is built out of "lively stones," that is it is alive. "The house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim 3:15) is "a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). This spiritual house is the local church which administers the ordinances, disciplines erring members and keeps the Word of God. The local church as a living thing propagates itself. 

5. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Similarly to the way Adam and Eve were commissioned by God in these words, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Gen 1:28), so likewise the Lord and His wife, the church, produce not only converts, but new churches.

6. "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers .... As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed ... And when they were at Salamis, they preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. ... Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, ... they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.  And after the reading of the law and the prophets ... Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. ... God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:  When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.  And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.  Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.  For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.  And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead:  And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.  And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,  God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. ... And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God. ... [And in] Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, ... they preached the gospel. ... [and after Paul healed] a cripple from his mother's womb, ... they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein .... [Paul] departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. ... And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples. ... Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do .... and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. ... And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." (Acts 13:1-5, 13-16, 23-33, 44, 14:6-8, 12-15, 20-23, 25-28; 15:35-36, 39-41, 16:4-5)




"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. … Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth him that sent Me." (John 13:16, 20)


"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:  Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:21-23)


"Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20)

"They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:5-6)


"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." (Proverbs 22:28)