While baptism of believers may be the most visible difference between Baptists and some other Christian denominations, it is not the only one. There is more to being a Baptist than baptism. Historically, Baptists have always insisted that our beliefs should rest on the Bible alone. The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 states:
From the Scriptures, Baptists have compiled certain principles. These principles do not reflect the full truth of Scripture, but summarize beliefs on some of our most important distinctives. Holding these together is what makes us Baptist. What are these Baptist principles? Strand Baptist Church, together with all Baptist Union churches, hold to the following seven principles:
1. The Direct Lordship of Christ
By this we understand that Christ exercises His authority over the believer and the local church directly, without delegating it to another.
2. The Church as the whole company of the redeemed
The local church, being a manifestation of the universal church, is a community of believers in a particular place where the Word of God is preached and the ordinances of Believer's Baptism and the Lord's Supper are observed. It is fully autonomous and remains so notwithstanding responsibilities it may accept by voluntary association.
3. Believer's Baptism
As an act of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ and a sign of personal repentance, faith and regeneration; it consists of the immersion in water into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
4. The Congregational Principle
Namely that each member has the privilege and responsibility to use his/her gifts and abilities to participate fully in the life of the church. We recognise that God gifts His church with Overseers (who are called Pastors or Elders) whose primary function is to lead in a spirit of servanthood, to equip and provide spiritual oversight, and Deacons whose primary function is to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Church. This principle further recognises that each member should participate in the appointment of the Church’s leaders, and that a constituted church meeting, subject to the direct Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture, is the highest court of authority for the local church.
5. The Priesthood Of All Believers
By which we understand that each Christian has direct access to God through Christ our High Priest, and shares with Him in His work of reconciliation. This involves intercession, worship, faithful service and bearing witness to Jesus Christ, even to the ends of the earth.
6. Religious Liberty
Namely, that no individual should be coerced either by the State or by any secular, ecclesiastical or religious group in matters of faith. The right of private conscience is to be respected. For each believer this means the right to interpret the Scriptures responsibly and to act in the light of his conscience.
7. Separation of Church and State
The principle of Separation of Church and State in that, in the providence of God, the two differ in their respective natures and functions. The Church is not to be identified with the State nor is it, in its faith or practice, to be directed or controlled by the State. The State is responsible for administering justice, ensuring an orderly community, and promoting the welfare of its citizens. The Church is responsible for preaching the Gospel and for demonstrating and making known God's will and care for all mankind.
These principles aren’t unique to Baptists. There are other churches that hold to some of these principles, but not all. For example, Congregational churches hold to the congregational principle, but they practice infant baptism. What makes a Baptist truly Baptist is the fact that we hold all of these principles together.
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.