The word “Primitive” means original or first of the kind. It is one of many names the church has been called since it was established by Jesus during his earthly ministry (Matthew 16:18). Other names through history by which our predecessors have been known are Christians (Acts 11:26), Donatists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Anabaptists, Novations, Lollards and Baptists. Successively, these were a separate line of believers who were never a part of what became known as the Catholic church, and thus, we are not Protestant either. Furthermore, while some early American believers did separate themselves from Protestant churches to form Baptist congregations, most Baptist churches in America came from this earlier mentioned line of believers who had maintained a separate identity down through the ages of church history.
The name “Primitive” was first used in the early 1830’s when a major division came in the Baptist family. One group advocated a general atonement (i.e., that Christ died for all) with salvation by the work of Christ, but also taught that the belief of the gospel by the sinner was necessary to make Christ's work effectual to the individual. They came to be known as “New School” or “Missionary Baptists”. The other group continued holding steadfastly to the doctrine of “Particular Redemption” with salvation entirely by the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They came to be known as “Old School” or “Primitive Baptists”. Therefore, the name “Primitive” expresses the desire to maintain the identity of the Lord’s church as he established it and gave it to his disciples, and, as some have faithfully advocated down through the history of the church, earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. (see Jude 1:3)