Baptists are people with a remarkable history defined by resilient commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our modern origins date back to the 1600's when many English puritans began separating themselves from the Church of England and forming separate 'Baptist' congregations. Since those early days, Baptists have grown into an international community of Christians. But what is a Baptist? What distinguishes us? Below you'll find some typical Baptist distinctives:
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16) Baptists through the centuries have insisted that the Bible is the sole ultimate written authority for Christian faith and practice. They have resisted those who claimed otherwise, including popes, kings, bishops, pastors and teachers. Both religious and secular powers have persecuted Baptists for this commitment to the authority of the Bible.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) The New Testament records that baptism always followed conversion, never preceded it, and was not necessary for salvation (Acts 2:1-41; 8:36-39; 16:30-33). We believe that baptism is only for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Furthermore, baptists point out that in the New Testament a commitment to believe in and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior was always voluntary. Therefore, baptism as a sign of such commitment ought always to be voluntary. Because of these convictions based on the Bible, Baptists do not baptize infants.
"Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21) A Baptist is one who fully advocates the cause of religious liberty and freedom for all. We believe in the separation of church and state for the good of both. Throughout Christian history, whenever religion has controlled the state or the state has controlled religion, both have been corrupted, and religious and civil liberty have suffered. We do not believe, however, that this truth prohibits the involvement of Christians in public life. Individual Christians and Christian institutions should seek to influence government at every level in the realm of public morals, but must not seek to control the state. Neither should the state seek to control people's personal religious practices or the expression of organized religion. Throughout their history, Baptists have stood as guardians of religious liberty and this understanding of the distinctive roles of the church and state.
AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
"I am the Alpha and the Omega" says the Lord God... "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches..." (Revelation 1:8-11) One major difference between Baptists and many other denominations is that no person or group outside of a Baptist congregation has any authority over the church in regard to beliefs and practices. There is no such thing as "The Baptist Church." There are only local Baptist churches. Each congregation is free and empowered to minister as it sees the will of God for its ministry and mission. A Baptist church, like first-century New Testament churches, is a local independent body of born-again baptized believers joined together in Christ for worship and ministry in their community and around the world.
CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT
"...so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Romans 12:5) All of the members within a Baptist church have equal voice in the governance of the church. One way that congregational governance is practiced is that each member of the church has the right to vote on matters at church meetings. Baptist church governance is often termed “democratic.” In a sense it is since all of the people have equal voices in decision making. Strictly speaking however, Baptists do not believe in democratic church governance. “Democratic” is a political term that means “people rule.” For Baptists, the ultimate authority for a church rests not in the people but in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head or Lord of the church (Ephesians 4:15, Philippians 2:11). Perhaps an appropriate term for Baptist church governance would be “theo-democratic” meaning God’s rule through all of the people.
MISSIONS AND EVANGELISM
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... (Matthew 28:19-20) Baptists throughout the world are committed to missions and evangelism. The two terms are interrelated but distinct. Evangelism involves sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with people in word and deed. While it is true that every Christian is “on mission,” missions involves sending people to share the gospel with people with whom they normally would have no contact. Being sent by Jesus on mission is part of what it means to follow him (John 20:21).
Finally, when visiting a Baptist Church you can expect an atmosphere where the Word of God is preached, where the cross of Jesus Christ is held supreme and where you can meet with God through praise and prayer and enjoy Christian fellowship.
If you're interested to know more, visit baptistdistictives.org of which this page is a brief except.