Introduction: The term Baptist is used so widely and freely by a variety of churches, not all of which may continue to esteem and practice the particular doctrines which set historical Baptists apart from every other denomination, including all Protestants.
Baptist Distinctives are best described by an acronym which uses the letters B A P T I S T S to define what a real Baptist is. A brief listing of those distinctives follows, which are described in more detail below:
B Biblical Authority for faith and practice
A Autonomy or self-government of each Baptist church
P Priesthood of All Believers in Jesus Christ as a personal Savior
T Two Ordinances from Jesus Christ: Believers Baptism The Lord's Table
I Individual Soul Liberty of the believer
S Saved, Baptized Church Membership
T Two Offices of the local church: Pastor and Deacon
S Separation, especially of Church and State
Biblical Authority: The Bible is the final authority for everything that we believe and practice, both in our personal lives and in the operations of the local Baptist church. The Bible tells us it is God's revelation to man of everything that we need to know in order to be in right relationship with God and with each other.
Autonomy of the Local Church: Each local Baptist church has the right to conduct its own business, receive and spend its own money, own its own property,elect its own leadership, without any interference from any person or organization outside of its membership, in accordance with Scripture.
The Priesthood of All Believers: Every person who has received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior has the privilege of praying to God and worshipping God, without the necessity of a priest.
Two Ordinances or Commands from Jesus Christ:
Believer's Baptism: The baptism by immersion of one who has already confessed publicly of their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. It serves to publicly declare the believer's identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, portrayed by the baptism. Believer's Baptism excludes infants or others who cannot express their faith in Christ as their Savior.
The Lord's Table - Communion: The regular gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It serves as a constant reminder of the price of our salvation and encourages believers to keep in right relationships with Christ and other believers, in order to participate.
Individual Soul Liberty: Every person has the right to study Scripture for himself and the duty to correctly understand it by interpreting it in its own context in a literal, grammatical and historical perspective. However, no one has the right to twist Scripture out of its context to make it fit any private interpretation.
Saved, Baptized Membership: A local Baptist church is composed of people who have already received Jesus Christ as personal Savior and have been obedient to Christ's command to be baptized and to be baptized by immersion.
Two Offices of a Local Baptist Church:
The Pastor: The undershepherd of a local Baptist, called by its congregation to serve as their spiritual leader. He also serves as its bishop and elder, as those terms are defined in Scripture.
Deacons: Assist the Pastor and serve the needs of the congregation.
The doctrine of Separation serves to keep a Baptist church pure from relationships and influences that are alien and/or harmful to its obedience to Scripture and honoring of Jesus Christ.
Separation has historically emphasized the importance of civil government having no authority, influence or control over any aspect of a Baptist church. As such, it opposes any establishment of a state church, but believes that the Godly influences of Scripture, and churches and people obedient to the Word of God should influence government in order to have beneficial civil authority.
Separation should also be understood from Scripture to compel believers in Christ to practice the principles of Separation in two other areas:
1. Personal Separation of the Believer, unto God and from the unbelieving world that surrounds him. Contrary to an isolationism,it is the understanding of a clear loyalty to Jesus Christ and Scripture that must prevail in all of our relationships, and keep us from compromising our Biblical principles.
2. Ecclesiastical Separation which limits the fellowship and cooperative ministries of local Baptist churches to those which sustain Biblical doctrines and prohibits fellowship and cooperation with those religious organizations which advance to cause of a unified world church at the expense of Biblical doctrines.
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