Landmark Bible Baptist churches do not require historic proof of a church for church chain link succession. Scripture proves that there has been such a succession from the First New Testament Church that the Lord Jesus Christ established during His earthly sojourn to this day. Although the fact of it can be discerned from history.
First and foremost this is demonstrated by the fact that Bible churches have always adhered to 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 of them are:
1. Christ is its founder, its only head and law giver. (Matt 16:18; Col 1:18)
2. Its ordinances only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are typical and memorial, not saving. (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42)
3. Its officers, only two, pastors and deacons; they are servants of the church. (1 Tim 3:1-16)
4. Its government a pure democracy, and that executive only, never legislative. (Matt 20:24-28; 23:5-12; )
5. Its Laws and doctrines: The New Testament and that only. (Matt 28:20; 2 Tim 3:15)
6. Its members: Believers only, they saved by grace not works, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. (Eph 2:8-9, 21; 1 Pet 2:5; Acts 2:47)
7. Its requirements: Believers on entering the church to be baptized, and that by 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)
8. Churches must be separate and independent in their execution of Bible laws, the discipline of their membership, and in their responsibility to God, but cooperative in their work of taking the Gospel to the World. (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)
10 Absolute religious liberty for all. (2 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 3:15)
In the First Century these traits were seen in the Apostolic Church, and in successive centuries they were seen in the Novations, Donatists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Paulicans, Anabaptists, etc.
A prophetic mark that showed that these Baptist groups were the Lord's church is the heavy persecution that they suffered because they stood for the teachings of Christ and righteousness. The Lord prophesied beforehand that this stand for Truth would bring them persecution:
"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)
"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." (Matthew 5:10-12)
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim 3:12)
Another prophetic evidence, this one guaranteeing a chain link continuance of the church, is found in the Great Commission that the Lord charged His church with. The Lord Jesus said:
"... All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. 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." (Matt 28:19-20)
The simple language of this passage requires a chain link succession of churches "even unto the end of the world." The words "ye" and "you" in the phrases, "Go ye, and teach all nations ..." and "... I am with you alway ..." are plural, meaning the Church. The Lord was addressing His apostles who were the charter members of His first Church (1 Cor 12:28; Luke 6:13). However, Jesus was also addressing all successive churches that sprang from them. Some would reject this fact saying that there is no direct command on how to start a church. This may be so, but the clear language of the passages demands that there be a daily 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 #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 equires a chain link succession.
EXAMPLES FROM SCRIPTURE
Further evidence of this is not difficult to see this 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)
This is a second instance of the Lord's Great Commission to His Church. As in Matthew 28 the"ye" here is plural referring to His first Church, plus all others that stemmed from it, and maintained it's teachings. 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 at 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 to this day also. 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 Christ's first Church, plus all others that originated from it. In this passage the Lord gives His Church spiritual life with the breath of God (cf. Gen 2:7, John 3:8, 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet 1:23, Heb 4:12). Living things produce living things. The remitting and retaining of sins is of course in accordance with Scripture for 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 a deputy, an agent, a delegate. Christ had already ordained His apostles individually (Mark 3:14) 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, 2) the apostles of Jesus Christ, and 3) apostles of the churches. The fact there are apostles or messengers of the churches is 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 church sent apostles. Barnabus, Silvanus and Timothy were authorized by Christ by way of His Church. Again consider the Lord's words, "as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you" meaning that as He was sent to preach and teach Gospel Truth and to "build [His] church" (Matt 16:18) likewise His first, second, third and so on churches were to do the same.
3. "Teach... them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you ..." (Matt 28:20)
Who here is commissioned to teach? The Church has been authorized to teach to "observe" all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded. First and foremost this means that the church is to watch over, keep, or guard the Word of God and secondly to do it. That is the clear meaning. What is the church to teach to observe concerning the Church? First and foremost, Jesus said, "I will build My church," not Origen will build His church, nor Constintine, nor the popes, nor Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Campbell, but Jesus will build His church with His church and according to His Word! No mere man can build the Lord's church, but His church has been, is being, and will continue to be built with the New Testament apostolic authority till the sound of the last trump of this Church Age! A man made church is on the wrong foundation, just as man made salvation is (1 Cor 3:9-11).
4. "... 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 Tim 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 (Rom 3:1-2). As "the pillar ... of the Truth" the church is the propagator of the Gospel and thereby of herself. As "the ... ground of the Truth" the church is the guardian of God's Word.
5. "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 Pet 2:4-5)
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus told Peter, the writer of the above passage, "I will build my church." His church is built out of "lively stones," that is spiritually regenerated people making it spiritually alive. "The house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim 3:15) is "a spiritual house" (1 Pet 2:5). This spiritual house is the local church which was originally given spiritual life when Jesus first "... breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22), and can be likened unto the time in the beginning when God's "... breath of life ..." (Gen 2:7) first cause of both spiritual and physical life in Adam, and all mankind descended from him. Life begats life and there is alwasys a chain link sucession in living things.
6. "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." (Eph 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.
7. "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 ... they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. ... And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. ... They were ... [in] Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: And there 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, 14, 44, 14:6-8, 12-15, 20-23, 25-28; 15:35-36, 39-41, 16:4-5)
Let's examine these passages in Acts chapters 13 through 16 a bit: Where it says, "there were IN THE CHURCH that was at Antioch" (Acts 13:1) it indicates that church services were going on there. We are not told if it was the whole church or only the five "prophets and teachers" that "ministered to the Lord, and fasted" in the services when the Holy Ghost called Barnabas and Paul to missionary service, or who exactly "laid their hands on them" (Acts 13:2-3). However, we can rest assured that the church along with it's leaders were in agreement with the Holy Ghost in this missionary endeavor. When Barnabas and Paul were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (Acts 13:4) the church at Antioch gladly "sent them away" (Acts 13:3). Just as John 15:26-27 says, both "the Spirit of truth" "shall testify" and "ye" (the church) "shall bear witness." As "the apostles, Barnabas and Paul" (Acts 14:4) went on their soul winning and church planting mission they "ordained them elders in every church" (Acts 14:23) and returned "from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them" (Acts 14:26-27). Later they split into two mission teams "and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God" (Acts 15:40). The word "recommended" goes hand in glove with the meaning of the word "apostle." An apostle is a delegate or ambassador sent forth with orders to act on the behalf of his sender (John 13:16; 2 Cor 5:20). "Recommend" means "to commit to the charge of another; to entrust; to endorse; to commend one to another as being worthy; etc." The churches were established by local church "apostles" (Acts 14:14) or "messengers" (Phil 2:25) who were authorized by God through an already established local church.
The fact that power and authority was given by Christ to both His apostles and His church is seen in Matthew, John and Acts, and is verified by the plain language of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Philippians, 1st Timothy and 1st Peter, etc.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Someone may object to the Biblical principle of churches coming from churches based on the fact that John the Baptist did not have church authority to baptize. However, in John 3:29 the Baptist said, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." The bridegroom, the bride, and the friend of the bridegroom are all types. The bridegroom is a picture of Christ, the bride represents the Church, and the friend of the bridegroom refers to John the Baptist. John as "the friend of the bridegroom" had no part in the Church. John closed out the Dispensation of Law (Luke 16:16). He was of the Old Testament economy handing the baton off to the New. Salvation is the same in every dispensation and comes only by grace through faith in the coming, present, or coming again seed of the woman, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The Word of God and the teaching of salvation was committed to Israel and her prophets in the Dispensation of Law, but beginning with Christ who said "I will build My Church" it has been committed to "... the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth" (1 Tim 3:15). Although John the Baptist has no part in the Baptist Church, both he and we do preach the same message. We both preach: 1) Repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Matt 3:2, 8, 11); 2) Faith in Jesus, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, 34, 36; Acts 19:4); 3) A symbolic water Baptism of believers by immersion (John 1:30-31, 3:23; Luke 7:29-30). We, like he, are Baptists, but John, unlike us, is of another dispensation and has no part in the Church.
HISTORICAL FACT OF BAPTIST PERPETUITY
There are exceptions to the chain link principle, but that is just what they are, exceptions. The norm is for one church to come out of another church with the formers blessings. This is the case with every church mentioned in the Bible, and It is verifiable in history, although not church by church, but it is group by group. For example: Jesus started His church which after His departure headquartered in Jerusalem; the Apostle John went to Asia Minor and discipled Polycarp who pastored in Smyrna; Polycarp in turned discipled Irenaeus (2 Tim 2:2) who in 177 AD went to Lyons, France near Piedmont where the Vaudois or Waldenses flourished.
A good number of Church Historians including Jarrel, Christian, Orchard, Newman, Ray, Broadbent, Carroll, Overbey, Nevins are on record as affirming the existence of the Waldensians prior to the time of Peter Waldo (1160 A D) of Lyons, France, who is attributed with originating them. These Waldensians believed in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace, a born again church membership, democratic church polity, etc. just like the Baptists of today. How could it be any other way since they preserved the Bible pure and based their faith and practice on it. They had a fervent evangelistic spirit and sent out missionaries all over Europe, translated the Bible into Latin as early as 157 AD and later into French, German and Flemish. Here are some quotes from a few historians on their sound church polity:
1. Armitage says this of the Waldenses: "Waldensians ... insisted on a regenerate Church membership marked by baptism upon their personal faith. ... The Baptists of today and the original Waldensians have much in common. They ... followed the literal interpretation of Scripture; their priesthood was that of believers and not of a hierarchy; men renewed in heart and life. ..." [Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Watertown, Wisconsin, Baptist Heritage Press, 1988, pp. 304-305]
2. Overbey says: "They also believed that the ordinances were only baptism and the Lord's supper and they were only symbolic, that only believers should be baptized, that baptism was by immersion, and that salvation and baptism were the requirements for church membership." [Edward Overbey, A Brief History of the Baptists, Little Rock, Challenge Press, 1974, p. 46]
3. Jarrell states of them: "The Waldenses admitted the catechumeni after an exact instruction, a long fast in which the church united, to witness to them the concern they took in their conversion, and a confession of sins in token of contrition. The newly baptized were, the same day, admitted to the eucharist, with all the brethren and sisters present. Thus they, like Baptists, first instructed; second, baptized; third, being in the Church, admitted them to the supper. ..." [W.A. Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity, Dallas, published by the author, 1894, p. 168]
4. Ray says: "The Waldenses had pastors ordained by themselves. It is so generally admitted that the ancient Waldenses recognized the equality of their membership, as regards church privileges, that it is unnecessary to occupy much space on this point. ... It may be regarded as an established historic fact, that the ancient Waldenses possessed the Baptist peculiarity of religious equality in church membership. [David Burcham Ray, The Baptist Succession, Gallatin, Tennessee, Church History Research and Archives, 1984, pp. 332-333]
5. Morland describes the Waldensian annual fellowship meetings: "As to their synodical constitutions, ... the barbes [pastors] assembled once a year, to treat of their affairs in a general council. An ... manuscript (the original thereof is to be seen with the rest in the University library of Cambridge, bearing date 1587) tells us that this council was constantly held in the month of September, and that some hundreds of years ago, there were seen assembled together in one synod held at Valone del Lauso in Val Clusone, no less than 140 barbes." [Samuel Morland, The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont, Gallatin, Tennessee, Church History Research and Archives, 1982, p. 183]
6. Dr. A. H. Newman observes: "Waldenses ... ascribed to the local body of believers, or to the general assembly of the local bodies, the highest ecclesiastical powers." [W.A. Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity, Dallas, published by the author, 1894, p. 180]
7. Monastier states: "No hierarchical distinction was established; the only difference that existed between the pastors was that arising from age, or services performed, and personal respect." [Antoine Monastier, A History of the Vaudois Church, New York, Lane and Scott, 1849, p. 95]
In the year 1819, Willem I (1772 - 1843), King of The Netherlands (1813 - 1840), commissioned Dr. Ypeij, Professor of the University of Gunningen, and Dr. J. J. Dermout, chaplain to the King to make a study of the history of their State Church. Dr. Ypeij and Dr. Dermout published a history, in four volumes, entitled, "History of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands" in which work they devote a chapter to the history of the Dutch Baptists. In it their impartial investigation they came to this conclusion:
"We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptist, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses. and who have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian society which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages. The perfectly correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Romish Church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary, and at the same time goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their denomination is the most ancient." (Ypeij en Dermout, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Hervornude Kerk. Breda, 1819; See Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Art. MENNONITES; also, the Southern Baptist Review, Vol. v, No. 1, Art. 1, for full translation of the chapter)
"This testimony from the highest authority of the Dutch Reformed Church, through a Commission appointed by the King of the Netherlands, is a rare instance of liberality and justice to another denomination. It concedes all that Baptists have ever claimed in regard to the continuity of their history. On this account State patronage was tendered to the Baptists, which they politely, but firmly declined." (John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Texarkana, Tx, Bogard Press, 1922, Vol. 1, pp. 95, 96)
Dermout and Ypeij did differentiate between the Baptists who accepted the designation of Anabaptists (rebaptizers) and the Baptists who rejected it. Biblically Catholic and Protestant baptisms are not valid Scriptural Baptism and thus Baptists began to reject the name Anabaptist. In must be remembered that Anabaptist is a name given to us by our enemies. Dermout and Ypeij were supported in this conclusion by "The New Royal Encyclopedia" in an article entitled, Anabaptists:
"Their coincidence with some of those oppressed and infatuated people in denying baptism to infants, is acknowledged by the Baptists, but they disavow the practice which the appellation of Anabaptists implies; and their doctrines seem referable to a more ancient and respectable origin. They appear supported by history in considering themselves the descendants of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Romish hierarchy." (Wm. H. Hall, Esq., The New Royal Encyclopedia, London, 1788, Art. ANABAPTISTS)
This Baptist view of administering Scriptural baptism to Catholics and Protestants is Landmarkism.
"And it is a curious and instructive fact that the Anabaptist churches of the Reformation period were most numerous precisely where the Waldenses of a century or two previous had flourished ..." [Edward Overbey, A Brief History of the Baptists, Little Rock, Challenge Press, 1974, p. 49]
The Waldenses Baptists planted churches after the order of Christ's, because they were the offspring of Christ. They won souls and planted churches all over Europe. All the way from Piemont in Italy and France to England (Walter Lollard), to the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Bohemia, etc.
I believe in chain link transmission of churches because it is required by Christ in Matthew 28, John 20 and Acts 1, it is the exemplified for us especially in Acts 8 and 13 through 16, and it is the teaching of the tenor of the New Testament. It can't be any other way. The teaching is verified in history, especially Waldensian history. These had the New Testament, knew what Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23 meant and did what is said. They were no different from Baptists today in faith and practice. They had apostolic (New Testament) authority from the first century, which said go start churches after our missionary model, and that they did. Moreover, we are still doing it 2000 years later. Today some Baptists think they are Protestants, but that does not change the fact that they are not. Some Baptists knowing the facts are bound by their own consciences to stand up for the teachings of Landmark Bible Baptists.
More important than understanding all of this is what has occurred continuously for 2000 years. One's salvation does not depend upon understanding it. Nonetheless, once demonstrated with Scripture it ought to be accepted not only as a Biblical principle that should practiced, but it should be believed with the heart.