J. R. Graves

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 4)

Landmarkism and “Apostolic Succession”: a Common Misconception

It is a common charge to say that Landmarkers believe in a chain-link, almost apostolic-like succession of local churches. What saith Graves?

Landmark Baptists very generally believe that for the Word of the Living God to stand, and for the veracity of Jesus Christ to vindicate itself, the kingdom which He set up “in the days of John the Baptist,” has had an unbroken continuity until now.1

This makes good sense, from Graves’ point of view. However, he takes great pains to emphasize he is not speaking of an apostolic succession of churches.2 So, what on earth does he mean?

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Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 3)

(Part 3 considers more of the implications of Graves’ doctrine of the church. Read the series so far.)

Implication #3 – All Non-Baptist Ministers are False Ministers

Graves wrote, “If Baptist preachers are scriptural ministers, Pedobaptists certainly are not, and vice versa, since two things unlike each other cannot be like the same thing—scriptural.”1 One should not be surprised that Graves made this leap. After all, if local Baptist churches are the only “true churches” which accurately represent Christ’s Kingdom, then it naturally follows that only the Baptist ministers of these “true churches” are legitimate ministers of the gospel. Graves wrote:

Nothing could be more inconsistent than to admit those preachers into our pulpit who hold and teach doctrines, on account of which we would exclude both from our pulpits and our churches, any minister of our own denomination.2

This is a startling proclamation by itself, but Graves was even more explicit elsewhere:

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Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 2)

The Implications of Graves’ Position

Graves’ foundational assumption impacted his entire ecclesiology. Many of Graves’ Landmarker distinctives flowed directly from his peculiar views on the Kingdom of God. Now, to be sure, a Baptist can believe any of the following implications and not care one whit about J.R. Graves. But, for Graves himself, his faulty view on the Kingdom of God was the determining factor.

Implication #1: The True Church Is Only a Local, Visible Institution Located upon this Earth

A kingdom is nothing if not literal and physical. Thus, in Graves’ view, the church is always a local, visible institution. “He has no invisible kingdom or church, and such a thing has no real existence in heaven or earth. It is only an invention employed to bolster up erroneous theories of ecclesiology.”1 Graves lists three possible views on the church:

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