What it Means to be a Baptist

Baptist Distinctives

B. the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.

  • The Bible is inspired. (2 Tim. 3:16)

  • The Bible is preserved. (Matthew 5:18)

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

  • The Bible is powerful. (Hebrews 4:12)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

  • The Bible is sufficient. (2Pe 1:3-4)

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

We don't look to creeds and councils.

A. Autonomy of the local church.

This means that we as Baptists believe that each church is self-standing, self-sufficient, self-governing body. Bible Baptist doesn't answer to any denomination. There is no hierarchy above our church. Really, the buck stops here.

This doesn't mean we can't associate with other churches or band together with other churches to help send missionaries or for evangelism, but really we believe that the Biblical model is independent, self-governing churches.

P. Priesthood of believers.

When I was in college and working in Boston, several of the guys used to always say that I was becoming a priest. There is actually a swim team dad in Charleston that still calls me a priest. It's kind of funny. But the Bible teaches we are all priests.

For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:5–6)

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

We do not believe that you need to have a priest or some other intermediary to talk to God. Each one of us has direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

Listen, that means you don't have to come to me for confession. All of us are priests. There is nothing magical about me as the pastor that my prayers get answered more than yours do. Everyone of us has access to the same God.

T. Two offices

1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Phil. 1:1)

Baptists believe in two offices: Pastors (which are sometimes called elders or bishops) and deacons.

  • The job of pastors is to preach, teach, pray and provide spiritual oversight.
  • The job of deacons is to look after the temporal needs of the church so that the pastors can be free to preach, teach, pray and provide spiritual oversight.

Both of these offices have high qualifications. They are for godly men who have shown integrity.

I. Individual soul liberty.

2 Cor 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

This is one of the most important doctrines Baptist believe. Put simply, it means that everyone is responsible to God individually. Everyone must personally choose to accept or reject Jesus and ultimately, everyone has the right to live out their faith as they see fit, they are just going to answer to God for it.

This one has a lot of implications:

  • It's one reason why we don't baptize babies - we don't want to steal their right to choose their faith.
  • It's a big reason why we are proponents of true religious freedom. Why we don't believe the state should compel anyone to act contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs.

Which brings me to the next S.

S. Separation of Church and State

They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (Matthew 22:21)

This is actually a uniquely baptist idea. To our knowledge, the very first place in history to have religious freedom written into its constitution was the state of Rhode Island. Rhode Island was founded by baptists fleeing persecution from Massachusetts and Connecticut.

But the baptists didn't want to go to their own state and setup their own state church where they could force others to be baptists or to at least support the baptist church with taxes. No, we setup a government that said we recognize your right to worship God any way you see fit.

You see, a lot of people on the left in our country wring their hands and say "If the Christians are in power, then they will force Christianity on the rest of the country." But actually, baptists have it in our DNA that we don't believe in forcing our religion on anyone.

Do you realize that Baptist people have been persecuted for centuries not by the state but by other Christian groups. The Reformers, the lutherans, the anglicans, the puritans, they all persecuted baptists in one way or another.

We can influence, we can teach, we can plead but we will never coerce and we will never persecute.

The state should have no power to intervene in the free expression of religious liberty. (See Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29–31; Romans 13:1–4.)

T. Two ordinances

These ordinances have no part in salvation and only serve as pictures of what Christ did for us. (See Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; Acts 2:38–43, 8:36–38; Romans 6:1–6)