What is a baptist?
Baptists are distinguished from other Christian groups by specific Biblical distinctives. The name “Baptist” identifies people who hold those distinctives. These Baptist distinctives relate to questions of vital interest today. For example: Does absolute truth exist, or are all belief systems relative? Who controls the program, property, finances, staffing, and doctrinal position of a local church? How does being a representative of God on earth affect the believer’s marriage, work, or relationship to government and society? Does God dispense His grace through religious rituals? Should a free society “legislate righteousness”? Is it right to “judge” anything about another person? Is there a Biblical model for church leadership? What is the proper relationship between church and state?
Why Is It Important to Know the Baptist Distinctives?
- They are Biblical! They are part of God’s truth as revealed in His Word. The knowledge of these facts provides practical benefits relevant to today. Such knowledge enables one to select a church that is faithful to these Biblical truths.
- It demonstrates the meaning, worth, and significance of the name “Baptist”. General titles that lack identification, such as “Christian” or “Christ” and churches labeled “community” or “nondenominational,” leave much room for ambiguities and misunderstandings. The name “Baptist” is understood through its distinctives. Baptists should be confident that when their name is heard, no ambiguities are left in defining what they stand for. Certain Biblical distinctives have distinguished their doctrinal position.
- It helps members maintain the Baptist position of their church, preventing digression into unscriptural positions. Each member of a Baptist church needs to know what a Biblical Baptist individual and a Biblical Baptist church does and then do these things faithfully.
How Did These Distinctives Originate?
- Baptists arrived at these distinctives through careful study of the Bible. That is why these teachings are more precisely called the Biblical distinctives of Baptists rather than Baptist distinctives. These teachings emerged as Baptist distinctives because individual Baptist churches have consistently and independently held to them, not because some group of Baptist leaders composed the list and then imposed the distinctives on local churches.
- Church groups other than Baptists have held some of the Baptist distinctives, and one may even find churches that hold all of the distinctives but do not call themselves Baptist. Such groups are “baptistic”, but for some reason they choose not to be identified as Baptists. On the other hand, some churches naming themselves “Baptist” are not truly Baptist because they no longer hold the historic Baptist beliefs or even the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
- Baptists are people of the Book above all else. And Baptists enjoy a priceless heritage of generations who have exalted God’s Son our Savior and have proclaimed God’s inspired Word.
What Are the Eight Baptist Distinctives?
These teachings may be remembered by associating them with the letters that form the word BAPTISTS.
- Biblical Authority
The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture’s inherent authority. ( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
- Autonomy of the Local Church
- Priesthood of the Believer
- Two Ordinances
- Individual Soul Liberty
- Saved, Baptized Church Membership
- Two Offices
- Separation of Church and State