By Nicholas Morley
Matthew 4:12-17 (KJV) : “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, “The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As many things Christ could have told the people there in Capurnium, as much truth he could have brought to those that sat in darkness, he chose to preach the message of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Christ knew that before any new thing could be brought to the attention of those that sat and listened to him, the message of John the Baptist must first be proclaimed. Christ knew that John the Baptist’s message carried in it righteousness, sin and judgment; those three elements the Holy Spirit would reprimand the world for. (John 16:7,8).
John the Baptist was then unable to preach, and Christ carried the baton into the darkness. There, a great light sprung up and they that sat in darkness saw it. In this last leg of this great controversial relay, how are we carrying the baton? Is there even a baton for you and I to carry? And is it necessary for us in this generation?
There are seven popular Protestant denominations here in the Bahamas: the Baptist Church, which is the largest with more than 126,000 members; the Anglican Church with 76,000 plus members; the Pentecostal Church with more than 31,000; the Methodist Church in fourth position with 23,000 members; the Seventh-day Adventists with more than 15,000 members, the Brethren Church with 6,000 plus members, then lastly the Jehovah’s Witnesses with more than 4,000 members.
All of these denominations were founded on the Word of God. All saw the apostasy, and heard the false teachings of the papacy and there they built their church.
Thomas Helwys was one of the founders of the Baptist Church in England in the year 1612.
Many Baptists today know very little about Helwys and his heritage, despite his contributions to the faith. He contributed in the counteracting of sprinkling baptism, and brought back baptism by immersion. He supported religious liberty and stated how church and state must stay separate. He also supported righteousness by faith and not by penance, which was taught and practiced by the Catholic Church. In his day, Helwys was the light in the darkness. A great light had sprung up in the minds of the spiritually deprived and it was those contributions that popularised the faith.
Meanwhile the foundations of the Anglican Church were laid by King Henry VIII in 1534 when he appointed himself as head of the Church of England, following his excommunication from the Catholic Church.
Henry had appealed to the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. His request was rejected, but he married his mistress anyway. This led Henry renouncing Roman Catholicism.
His new branch of the Christian Church, neither Roman Catholic nor truly Protestant, became known as the Anglican Church.
In 1539, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired Myles Coverdale at the bequest of King Henry VIII to publish the “Great Bible”. It became the first English Bible authorised for public use.
John Wesley, founder, with his brother Charles, of the Methodist movement in the Church of England, said in one of his sermons “that Protestants at large should embrace only the things found in scripture, whatever is plainly declared in the Old And New Testament are objects of their faith.”
He went on to say that “the written word of God is the whole and sole rule of their faith and practice. They believe whatever God had declared, whatever he had professed and whatever he had commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants, and they will abide by no other.”
At that time, Wesley knew the importance of God’s word. He knew that had all Protestants followed this principal, there would be no confusion, and God’s word would be carried through the ages. There would be a distinct difference between sophistry and the truth.
Then there was Alexander Mark, the founder of the Brethren Church. Even he spoke against the false doctrine in those days. Doctrine such as infant baptism, viewing Christian rites and ordinance as a means of grace. Mark taught that the Bible, especially the New Testament, should be all Christians’ rule of faith.
Lastly, there are the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, James White, Ellen White, J N Andrews and Joseph Bates. Also known as the pioneers of Adventism, these four individuals were among the few that kept it together mentally and spiritually after the great disappointment on October 22, 1844, when it was preached that Jesus was coming on that date but he did not.
Almost crippled spiritually by that disappointment, the four prayerfully revised the scriptures and concluded that the date was right but the expectation of Jesus’ return was wrong. After prayerfully revisiting the scripture and extensive study of history, out came the sanctuary message, and out of that one message came messages such as the Investigative Judgement, the Sabbath Truth, Seal of God, the Mark of the Beast, Christ’s Second Return, State of the Dead, and the Three Angels messages – all of which have scriptural backgrounds. These men witnessed the apostasy and false teachings of the long reigned papal Church.
They stood up for truth and stood against the Catholic Church’s false teachings. However, these truths were not supposed to grow an anchor and settle. Rather, they were supposed to be a movement, a glowing light that was to shine throughout the darkness of the ages.
Had all Protestants kept the principals of their faith and carried the baton, there would of been a distinct difference between the true and false church. Had they kept their principals of their faith and carried the baton, we would have all arrived at the same conclusions. Had they kept the principals of their faith and carried the baton, there would not be so much confusion on the word of God. Had they kept the principals of their faith and carried the baton, Christ could have cut his work short in righteousness, because the word of God and the truth of God would have went forth to all the world.
Had they kept the principals of their faith and carried the baton, we would have not forgotten that the scriptures are still God’s inspired word, and that all of God’s Ten Commandments still need to be observed by his professed followers.
The dead are still dead; we must be sinless to see Jesus; righteousness is still by faith, Christ is still coming and the man of sin is still the same. This would have been the conclusion of the whole matter. Let us study prayerfully God’s word, line it up with history and the time that we now live in and press towards the mark of the high calling which is in Christ Jesus (Philippines 3:14). Carrying his baton, let us now run this last leg strong. Our very souls depend on it.