In his classic book, “The Trail of Blood,” J.M. Carroll, a Texas pastor and educator of the last century, lays out the beginnings of the multitude of different religious denominations. After the ascension of Christ back to Heaven as recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, the spreading of the Gospel by the Apostles and the early Christians continued as Jesus had commanded before His departure, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15). Once the early believers passed on to Glory through death and new generations arose, the way of salvation in Christ Alone as found in Scripture began to be distorted by some of the churches that had been established throughout the known world. Those churches began requiring the addition of baptism for salvation, referred to as “baptismal regeneration.” It was from this error that the birth of different denominations arose.
The separation of churches thus began. As early as A.D. 251 churches loyal to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ broke fellowship with the erring churches. As an outgrowth of requiring adults to be baptized for salvation, it was determined by A.D. 370 to begin baptizing infants by immersion, too.
A group of the erring churches formed into the Catholic Church, organized during Constantine’s reign, and became involved in legislative activities. In A.D. 416 a law was passed making infant baptism mandatory throughout the Roman Empire. Those who rejected the practice as unbiblical took their stand against obeying the new law and suffered the consequences. Just ten years later in A.D. 426 the “Dark Ages” began, lasting over 1,000 years with over fifty million Christian martyrs giving their lives for the Truth of the Gospel.
It was not until 1530 during the Great Reformation the Lutheran Church came about in Germany under the leadership of Martin Luther, a former Catholic monk who was converted to faith in Christ Alone upon reading in the Scriptures, “The just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:17). In 1541 the Presbyterian Church came into being in Switzerland under the leadership of John Calvin who left the Catholic Church upon his conversion to Christ. England’s King Henry VIII established the Church of England around 1534, making himself the head of the church after the Catholic Church would not annul his marriage to his first wife. In spite of their coming out of the Catholic Church, each of these denominations continued the practices of church and state alliances, baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism, which had evolved throughout the intervening years to either sprinkling or pouring for baptism.
The Methodist Church was born out of the work of John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield, in the 1700s, who had been members of the Church of England and had hoped to reform it from within. The Episcopal and Anglican churches also derive from the Church of England begun by Henry VIII. Those who remained true to the Scriptures since the days Jesus walked with His disciples and taught them salvation is by grace alone through faith alone were first referred to as Baptists in 1523 in Switzerland.