What is a Baptist?

Some who visit our website may not be familiar with the beliefs of a Baptist church or may have misconceptions about who we are and what we believe. We hope you will take a few moments to read over this brief explanation, and we hope it will be helpful.

First let me say that being a Baptist or a member of a Baptist church doesn’t save anyone. Salvation and forgiveness of sins comes from Christ alone. The Bible tells us in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” and in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Therefore, we know that salvation comes by trusting in Christ’s death on the cross as the payment for our sins, not our works or church membership.

Baptists are not a denomination as we have no organized hierarchy or governing body. Rather than a denomination, Baptist is a label used by those who hold a specific set of beliefs. These beliefs are not new. Although the label “Baptist” hasn’t been used for the entire time, our beliefs can be traced back to the time of Christ and the early church because these beliefs come from the Word of God. We call these “Baptist distinctives” because this set of beliefs set us apart from other christian groups and denominations. These distinctives are:

  • The Bible as our sole authority: All that we believe, teach and do comes from the Bible. We do not rely on tradition or councils, but the Bible. Matthew 7:24-27, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 1:23-25
  • Autonomy of the local church: Throughout the New Testament we see God’s plan for carrying out the Great Commission, teaching, and growing Christians in the faith, and it all centers around local churches. Many of the books of the New Testament are written as letters to the leaders of local churches, and the content is written as advise rather than commands. Through the biblical example, we see that it is God’s plan for each church to operate as an independent, self-governing body. Ephesians 5:23, 1 Peter 5:1-3
  • Priesthood of the believer: The Bible teaches that upon salvation, every Christian has equal access to God through Christ our high priest. There is no need of a mediator or a priest to intercede on our behalf. 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 5:1-2, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 4:14-16
  • Two ordinances: The Bible gives us two ordinances which have been commanded to be observed by all believers: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These two ordinances are not sacraments, and convey no spiritual or saving power, but are object lessons and reminders to be observed. Baptism follows salvation as a testimony, and the mode of baptism in scripture was always immersion, not sprinkling or pouring. Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:41, Acts 8:36-39. The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ on the night before he was crucified. It was observed by those who were saved and baptized, and was commanded to be regularly kept until the return of Christ. The bread and fruit of the vine are symbols picturing Christ’s death. Luke 22:17-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • Individual soul liberty: The Bible teaches that every person must answer to God for themselves. Every person has a free will, and can not be forced or coerced to receive Christ. Salvation is an individual decision, and can not be made by anyone except that individual. John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Romans 14:12, Ephesians 2:8
  • Saved, baptised church membership: The Bible shows that salvation and baptism were always a prerequisite for church membership. Acts 2:41, 47
  • Two offices: Pastor and deacon: The only two offices recorded in the Bible within the local church were pastor (also called elder or bishop) and deacon. The pastor is to give oversight and instruction to the congregation, and the deacon is a position of service created to care for the needs of the congregation. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-3, Hebrews 13:17, Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:8-13
  • Separation of church and state: The Bible teaches that a government has no place of authority over the church, and likewise, a church is not to have authority over the government. Christians have a responsibility to obey civil government as long as it does not go against the commands of God’s word. Matthew 22:15-22, Acts 4:18-20, Romans 13:1-4, Titus 3:1

This is a brief summary of the beliefs that have been held by groups of Christians since the time of Christ. Although they have been known by several different names, the beliefs are the same because their foundation is God’s word.