Historically, Baptists find their origins in the Free (Anabaptist) Churches. These churches existed from the time of the apostles. Even though the name BAPTIST was not used until the 1600's, the Baptist Distinctives were practiced by small, persecuted groups during the Dark Ages and the Reformation. Biblical faith and practice forced these to separate from two powerful traditional groups. The Roman Catholic Church - This group eventually rejected all of the Baptist Distinctives. When their persecution ended, they became the persecutors. The Protestant Churches - During the Protestant Reformation, these formerly Catholic churches tried to return to a more Biblical pattern. They still rejected most of the Baptist Distinctives. To a lesser degree, they also persecuted the Anabaptists. Thus, Bible-centered Baptist Churches are not Protestant churches. They existed long before the Reformation.
THE HISTORIC BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES
Even though the name BAPTIST has been misused by many, we retain the name because the historic Baptist position best describes our position in matters of doctrine, faith, and practice. We share similar positions with other groups who base their beliefs completely on Bible teaching. Even though they may not choose our name, they are fellow workers. For the sake of memory, we have arranged the major Baptist Distinctives in an acrostic.
B - The BIBLE is our final authority for what we believe and what we do.
No insight, testimony, or decree of man, regardless of his piety or position, can ever supersede the Bible (II Timothy 3:16,17). This distinctive is the primary Baptist distinctive. All others spring from this absolute trust in the scriptures.
A - The AUTONOMY of the Local Church.
The local church is an independent body accountable to no one but our Lord. There is no person or organization on earth that can dictate what a local church can or should do (Acts 15; Matthew 18:15-17). This does not prevent voluntary cooperation with other churches as long as such activity does not violate the church's independence or affiliate the church with satanic apostasy.
P- The PRIESTHOOD of the Believer.
Every believer today is a priest and may enter the presence of God directly through only one Mediator, our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. There is no other human mediator (Hebrews 4:14-16; I Peter 2:5-10). Along with the privilege of priesthood, there is the responsibility as priests to live a life separated from sin and unto God.
T - There are TWO Ordinances: Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:41,42).
An ordinance is . . .
1. A command of Christ
2. A picture of saving truth
3. Explained in the New Testament
4. Practiced by the New Testament churches
We practice only believer's baptism by immersion. This contradicts two practices common among Roman Catholic and Protestant churches: infant baptism and sprinkling (pouring). Immersion is the only acceptable mode for baptism because it alone preserves the picture of saving truth. No other form pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:1-5). We believe that communion (the Lord's Supper) is a symbolic ordinance, picturing Christ's body broken for our sins and His blood shed for our redemption. It is not a saving ordinance, but helps us remember His death, and inspires us while looking forward to His coming, 1 Corinthians 11:23-24. It is to be observed by regenerate, obedient believers.
I - The INDIVIDUAL'S Soul Liberty.
We believe that every individual has the liberty to believe, right or wrong, as his own conscience dictates. While we seek to persuade men to choose the right, a person must not be forced to into compliance (Romans 14:5-12).
S - The membership is made exclusively of SAVED and baptized individuals.
Membership is strictly a matter of obedience; it bestows no grace (Acts 2:41-47).
T - There are only TWO offices which guide the church: the Pastor and the Deacons.
There is no additional hierarchy of offices (I Timothy 3:1-13).
S - The SEPARATION of Church and State.
The church and state are two separate authorities ordained by God. One should not attempt to control the other (Acts 4:29; Romans 12:18;13:1-5; I Timothy 2:1-4; I Corinthians 5:9-13)
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