Biblical Distinctives of Baptists in Review
The Bible is the final authority in all matters of which it speaks, because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists should accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Not even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture's inherent authority.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21
Practical application: I will to the best of my finite understanding live by the Book. His Book, the Holy Bible.
Autonomy of the Local Church
The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in an associational tie, but a Baptist church should not be a "member" of any other body.
Scripture: Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23
Practical application: I will do my best to seek God’s direction though prayer and His Word, to be involved as an active member of a local body of believers, to contribute within my strengths and limitations, to promoting the local church which God has designed.
Priesthood of the Believer
A "priest" is "one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God." Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. We all have equal access to God--whether we are a preacher or not.
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10
Practical application: I am a priest of God; I will do my best to establish a consistent systematic study of God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God--whether we are a preacher or not.
Local Baptist churches hold to two ordinances: baptism and communion.
(1) Baptism by immersion in water identifies the individual believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is a picture of what took place in the believer’s heart; being dead to sin and alive to Christ having trusted in Him for forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Immersion (baptism) is an outward public declaration of what has already occurred in one’s heart when that one was born again (that one is baptized into Christ’s body by the Holy Spirit). It is the also the “initiation” into the local church.
(2) The Lord's Supper or communion is symbolic it is a picture of what Jesus did. Communion is a memorial commemorating Christ’s death for our sins and a promise that He will return to this present earth. “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” (Luke 22: 16-18) “…ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” (1Cor.11:26)
Scripture: Matthew 28:19, 20; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32
Practical application: Therefore, I will do my best to promote being identified with Christ’s body; the church. I will encourage believers to get baptized, thereby making it publicly known that they too are in Christ. I will observe the ordinance of communion with the local church as a solemn memorial of what Jesus Christ has done for me and reflect on His promise to return one day.
Individual Soul Liberty
Every individual, whether saved or unsaved, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. (Baptists have always opposed religious persecution.) However, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself.
Scripture: Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9
Practical application: I will accept others in the dignity of being created in the image of God and do my best to contend for their liberty as well as mine. But I will also through persuasion of word and deed actively proclaim the gospel that others may receive true liberty in Christ (1Cor. 15:1-8).
Saved, Baptized Church Membership
Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer's baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, it unifies the members, gives us a sense of family, and brings us into full responsibility to one another in the bond of peace.
Scripture: Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3
Practical application: I will do my best to keep the unity of my local church family and carry out my responsibilities to the best of my abilities as governed by the Holy Spirit and the Word which He authored, the Holy Bible.
The Bible mandates only two offices in the church--pastor and deacon. The three terms--"pastor," "elder," and "bishop," or "overseer"--all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor and deacon exist within the local church, not as a hierarchy outside or over the local church.
Scripture: 1Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 20:17-38; Philippians 1:1
Practical application: I will do my best to demonstrate the utmost respect for and support those ordained of God; the pastor/s of my church and help him/them in any way that I am fit within the scope of my strengths and limitations. Further, I will demonstrate the utmost respect for the those ordained of God who serve the church and pastor/s in the diakonia. I will, also do my best to affirm these two offices as altogether biblical, and contend that they are NOT an invention of Romanism.
Separation of Church and State
God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other. There should not be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government.
Scripture: Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29
Practical application: I will pray and do my best to influence those who God ordained to govern our land to do so in righteousness. I will further do my best to obey the laws of the land, and still exercise my influence to preserve the separation of church and state.
The biblical distinctives of Baptists are biblical and practical. Baptists are people of the Book. The aim of this study was to encourage Baptists to be Baptists genuinely and not just by name by providing greater clarification of the biblical distinctives of Baptists. This was a study of who we are, what we believe, why we believe it, and how to live as biblical Baptists.
If you are not a Baptist you should now, at least, have seen what Baptists really believe and why Baptists really believe it.
A word from the G A R B C
What sets one church apart from all the others? We have seen that it is the church's distinctive beliefs that set it apart from all others and that Baptists, in general, hold to some convictions that make them different from all other groups. Regular Baptist churches will continue to hold to the Baptist distinctives because these distinctives are historically Biblical. They are relevant to the issues facing contemporary society and the church. So when "shopping" for a church, look for the name "Baptist" and then take a closer look to make sure that church is upholding the Biblical Baptist distinctives.
A personal word from the Earnest Contender
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a perfect church.” I both agree and disagree with this saying. I agree with this saying because on earth there is no perfect church. Churches are organizations made up of sinners, some more than others. Baptist churches are no exception. In Christ we all have differences and partialities, ideas and convictions, presuppositions and idealistic leanings. My church is not perfect (they let me become a member), the association of churches which we fellowship with (the GARBC) are not perfect either. It seems many separate more over policy, principles, and personal preferences. There are legitimate reasons for one to leave a church, but our desire should be to keep the peace in the bond of love, biblical love.
This brings us to why I disagree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as a perfect church.” Jesus shed His blood… for the church (Eph.5:25) in God’s eyes the church is perfect because he views it as an organism of which He purchased with His own blood. Who will say that Christ’s body (the church) is not perfect?
My point is this; we all have differences, this should give us strength in the Lord as we bring those differences to the table of fellowship in the unity of Christ. How? We are able to establish, sharpen, and define our convictions, test our doctrine and keep our focus on our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His fellowship,
If you have any questions or wish to make a comment or two please go to the following link. Biblical Distinctives of Baptists in Review