I am a Baptist even though much that is not right goes under the name of Baptist today. Modern Baptist groups vary widely in their love for God and people, faithfulness to Scripture and holiness of life. Yet the Baptist heritage is rich and beautiful. Where Baptists have predominated, all religions have enjoyed liberty. The Bill of Rights that amends the US Constitution is the result of Baptist influence. Our basic historic beliefs are called the Baptist Distinctives. The eight Distinctives are often expressed as the acronym BAPTISTS that follows. I will list each distinctive and briefly comment.
Biblical authority (2 Ti 3:16,17) The final authority for belief and practice is the Bible.
Autonomy of the local church (1 Co 6:1-3) Although churches of like faith enjoy fellowship and co-labor in the Gospel, each church is self-governing under God.
Priesthood of all believers (1 Pe 2:5-9) Each believer has the God-given right and duty to directly approach God. Believer, you do not need a priest on earth, you are one.
Two ordinances (1 Co 11:23-32; Ac 8:36,37) One is the Lord’s Supper in which the believer remembers the blood shed and body broken and examines self. Immersion (baptism) is the second. It is a step of obedience that pictures identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The Bible does not present a baptism of infants or adults but a baptism of believers.
Individual soul liberty (Rm 14:5-14) Baptists deeply respect the fact God gives every person the freedom to worship (or not) according to conscience. We value the respectful sharing of one’s faith but reject the notion of coercion or the forced conversions of others by Muslims and other groups today.
Saved church membership (Ac 2:47) A church is an assembly of saved and baptized people who covenant to serve the Lord together in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon) (1 Ti 3:1-13) Pastors (also called elders and bishops or overseers in the NT) provide the leadership under God of the Church. Deacons serve and assist.
Separation of Church and State (Mt. 22:15-22) The idea of this often misunderstood phrase is Baptists do not believe their or any other group should be the official, established religion of a government. The notion of an official state religion comes from paganism; it was continued by the Orthodox Churches in the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West. It was adopted by some Protestant denominations in Europe and its colonies. Historically, it has resulted in the bloody persecution of Anabaptists, Baptists, Jews and others who had the misfortune to live under an intolerant State Church whether it was found in Madrid, Geneva, Moscow or colonial Virginia. The separation of church and state does NOT mean one’s religious views cannot inform his or her political action or that religious expression has no place in public life.