by Rick Perdue

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

The term "Old Landmarkers" was first used to describe J.R. Graves and those in harmony with the principles that he advocated in the mid-1800's. Like the name "Christian" (Acts 11:26) the name "Landmarker" was first used in derision by those opposed to the principles which J.R. Graves and others espoused. The term came from an article entitled "An Old Landmark Reset," written by J.M. Pendleton at the request of J.R. Graves and published in 1854. The term applies to those doctrines concerning the church, which set Landmarkers apart from the rest of professing Christendom, and especially from modern day Baptists. J.R. Graves in his book, "Old Landmarkism: What Is It?", listed seven marks of Landmarkism. They are combined into four in this article.

If these principles are landmarks that J.R. Graves, J.M. Pendleton and others set forth, then they are of men, not of God, and are to be discarded. On the other hand, if, as they asserted, they simply reset Landmarks which others by their loose practices had removed, then these "principles will be seen in the scriptures, and will therefore be of God. If they are of God, then it is our solemn responsibility to follow them, no matter how it might affect us or our personal relationship with others. We ought to obey God rather than man. Let us consider:


THE CHURCH IS OF DIVINE ORIGIN. Jesus called it His Church as He spake to the disciples in Matthew 16:18, "And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Some erroneously say that it was built on Peter or on Peter's confession, but when scripture is compared with scripture, we must conclude that Jesus Himself is the Rock upon which He is building up His Church. Compare the following scriptures:

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11.

"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

"Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner," 1 Peter 2: 6,7.

The material that Jesus used to begin His church was prepared by the one who was sent from God: John the Baptist.

Two Old Testament scriptures foretold John's coming. Both are quoted in the New Testament. Isaiah prophecies of John with these words: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Isaiah 40:3 (see Matthew 3:1-3). Malachi prophesied of the coming of John and the coming of Christ, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he (John the Baptist) shall prepare the way before me (Jesus, God the Son): and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of host." Malachi 3:1.

Jesus took of the material that John prepared and began His Church during His personal earthly ministry. He began to call them out along the shores of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22), and He set them in order on the mountaintop (1 Corinthians 12:28 and Luke 6:12, 13). This "called-out assembly" accompanied Him during His earthly ministry, Just before He ascended back to the Father, He gave them the authority to carry on His work here on earth (Matthew 28:19,20).

Jesus promised His Church continued existence until the end of the age, when He would come again to receive them unto Himself. This is known as church succession or perpetuity. This principle is expressed in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said, "...the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He also said that He would be with them alway (Matthew 28:20).


THE CHURCH IS A LOCAL, VISIBLE BODY. The word church is used in the New Testament to identify a local assembly of Jesus' disciples who are joined together in faith and purpose. The Greek word ekklesia (ekklesia) means a "called-out assembly" and was used in the time of the Roman Empire to designate the assembly that was called out from the citizenry of the Roman city-state and authorized to conduct its business. Thus, a New Testament church is a called out assembly of saints that have been given authority by the Lord Jesus Christ to carry out his business.

The word church is used in the singular when referring to a particular church in a particular place. For example; "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth." 1 Corinthians 1:2. There are perhaps a few places where it is used in the generic sense. Yet even then there should be no confusion. We use words every day in the generic sense without losing the individuality of the single unit. If we say that the home is the cornerstone of human society, what do we mean by the home? A huge conglomeration of all the homes in the world? Of course not! We think of the individual unit. Why then should the generic use of the word church cause so much confusion and general acceptance of a universal church, which is no more reasonable, logical, or scriptural than a universal home of which we are all members?

Churches is used in the plural when referring to more than one local church. "And all the brethren which are with me unto the churches of Galatia:" Galatians 1:2). Again in Revelation 1:11, we read. "What thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia:"

Not only is a church a local, visible body, but it is autonomous. Each local church is self-governing, answering only to her head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church at Antioch, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, sent Barnabas and Saul out as missionaries without consulting the apostles who were at Jerusalem (Acts 13:1-4). When some heretics from Jerusalem had disturbed things in Antioch, the church there sent a delegation to Jerusalem to discuss the issue. Once there, the whole church at Jerusalem made recommendations to the church at Antioch and other Gentile churches where the false teachers had been. Their language was not the edict of a higher power, but rather the recommendation of a sister church: "it seemed good unto us..." and "...if you keep yourselves, ye shall do well. " Acts 15.

Such is still the relationship between New Testament churches who have a desire to cooperate in mutual endeavors and fellowship as equals around the truths of God's Word.


THE CHURCH HAS A REGENERATE MEMBERSHIP. That one must be saved in order to qualify for membership in a New Testament church is clearly a principle of the Scripture. A person must know Christ as Saviour before being baptized, and baptism is a prerequisite to becoming a member of a New Testament church. Christ must come before the water.

When many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John to be baptized, he demanded that they "...bring forth fruit meet for repentance," Matthew 3:8. John only baptized those who have evidence of repentance and expressed faith in Jesus, who would come after him (Acts 19:4). True New Testament churches do the same today.

In Matthew 5:15,16, Jesus likens the church to a candlestick. If you will notice, the candles must be lit before they go on a candlestick. Peter, in 1 Peter 2:5, illustrates the church with a house built of living stones. The stones must be living stones to become a part of the spiritual house. It is not the putting of the candle on the candlestick that lights it, nor is it the placing of a stone in the spiritual house that makes it living. Thus, members must be regenerated before they become members of a New Testament church.


A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH HAS TWO ORDINANCES: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are not sacraments which contribute to our salvation, but pictorial ordinances which declare our salvation by the finished work of Christ.

To be scriptural, Baptism must have these four elements: the proper candidate, the proper mode, the proper purpose, and the proper authority. Only one who professes faith in Jesus Christ as their only and all-sufficient Saviour is a proper candidate for Baptism. You must have experienced the cleansing power of the blood before you are a fit subject for the water. Only those who had the blood applied in Egypt made it through the Red Sea (a type of Baptism -- 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Pharaoh and his army perished in the Sea trying to follow Israel. So those who enter into Baptism without the blood of Jesus Christ for a covering and cleansing shall perish.

Scriptural Baptism is by immersion in water. The word means to dip or immerse. No other mode of Baptism properly represents the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).

The purpose of Baptism is to declare our faith in Christ Jesus: That He died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures and thereby secured our eternal redemption. In Baptism we identify with the Lord Jesus Christ and His church: "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body," 1 Corinthians 12:13. Baptism is not to put away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a conscience already cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

The final ingredient in scriptural Baptism is the proper authority. Who does the baptizing is important. Jesus choose His disciples from among those who had been baptized by John the Baptist because he was the one sent from God (John 1:6). Jesus passed that authority on to His church (Matthew 28:16-20) and His churches are the only ones with scriptural authority. If a church is not identifiable by the "landmarks" that have been presented, she does not have scriptural authority. Should any question the restrictiveness of this they are referred to Acts 18:24-19:4. There, some disciples who had apparently been baptized by Apollos (who, though he was mighty in the scriptures, fervent in spirit, saved and scripturally baptized, had no authority) were baptized again by Paul (who had authority).

The other ordinance of a New Testament Church is the Lord's Supper. If it is a church ordinance, then it should be clear by now that it must be restricted to the members of the local body (the only kind of church known in the scriptures). It is to be observed as a body. Paul's language on the matter is clear. When he speaks of the resurrection, when all the saints shall rise, he uses the all inclusive term we, but when he speaks of the Lord's Supper his language is different. In 1 Corinthians 11:26 he writes, "As oft as YE eat this bread, and drink this cup,". Not WE, but YE. YE who? The church of God which was at Corinth, that's who.

The Lord's Supper is to be observed with the proper elements: unleavened bread and the unleavened fruit of the vine. Leaven is a type of sin, and nothing with leaven in it can properly represent the sinless body and blood of Jesus. It is to be observed in remembrance of His death till He come. It is looking back, as well as a looking forward to that time when He will observe it new with us in His Father's kingdom.

CONCLUSION: If a bird looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and waddles like a duck, then I assume that it is a duck. If it is not a duck it will not do any of the above, though it be called a duck. Just so, the Lord's churches can be identified by their doctrine and practice.

If churches do not teach and practice these truths, they should not be accepted as New Testament Churches and their ordinances and ordinations are to be rejected. It is by the preservation of the ordinances that New Testament church authority is preserved from one generation to another. May the Lord enable us to earnestly contend for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints!