Other Baptist Distinctives


"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"  (Matthew 16:18).


        The other doctrinal distinctives of the Baptists flow naturally from their basic doctrine--the sole authority of Scripture.

        The independent, autonomous church is a doctrine derived from several clear Bible truths.  If there can be no other spiritual authority than Scripture, then there can be no group of men who can serve as a spiritual authority for the church.  The church is obligated to God's Word. 

        It is also clear from the Bible that local churches settled their own problems.  The principle of congregational church government is seen as the church at Jerusalem elected its own deacons as recorded in Acts 6.  It is clear that spiritual authority for the church is the Bible.  It is not the responsibility of the chuch congregation to decide whether or not to obey the Bible.

        Each church has an obligation to choose the best policies and leadership for carrying out the commands of Scripture.  It is the responsibility of the pastor to supervise (original meaning of the word "bishop") the carrying out of God's commands.  The Bible teaches that all spiritual authority is in the Scripture itself, but it also teaches that supervisory authority over the church program is in the hands of the pastor as God tells the pastor to take "...the oversight thereof" in the church (I Peter 5:2).

        In Hebrews, God commands us to "Remember them which have the rule over you" (Hebrews 13:7).  Again, He tells us to "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves" (Hebrews 13:17).  He is referring to pastors whom we are to obey.  Paul reminds us, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord" (I Thessalonians 5:12).  Luke reminds us to "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers..."  (Acts 20:28).

        Voluntary fellowship and cooperation were obviously practiced by the churches of the New Testament.  This is important if the work of the Lord is to be carried out effectively.  The Scriptures mention two offices within the church: pastor (also called bishop and elder) and deacon.  Deacons are special servants of the church whose job it is to serve the church (Acts 6 and I Timothy 3:8-13).  The responsibility of, qualifications for, and treatment of pastors is given in Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-16: I Thessalonians 5:12-13; I Timothy 3:1-7; I Timothy 5:17-19; Titus 1:6-9; Hebrews 13:7,16-17; and Galatians 6:6.  The concept of a regenerated church membership is one that very few groups, other than Baptists, advocate.  The book of Acts makes it clear that those who believed and were baptized were added unto the church:  "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:  and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).  See also Acts 2:47.

        The word ecclesia is rendered "church" in the King James Bible and was not a new word coined by Jesus.  It was a common word in current use in the Greek language.  An ecclesia was an assembly of the people.  It was most commonly used to describe the gatherings of citizens in the Greek city-states to conduct town business.  There was a predescribed condition of membership which all individuals in the assembly had in common:  citizenship in the city-state.  Christ makes it clear that His ecclesia will be built upon Himself as recorded in Matthew 16:18.  The precondition for membership in Christ's assembly (ecclesia) is Christ--the common ground is personal salvation.

        While it is true that a few passages about the church picture a time in glory when all saints are assembled together, most passages refer to local, visible assemblies that exist on Earth during the Church Age.  All passages about the church refer to assembled believers--assembly is the simple meaning of ecclesia.  Some early English translations of the Bible (prior to the King James Bible in 1611) translated the word ecclesia as "assembly".

        A New Testament Church is an assembly of baptized believers for the purpose of worship, fellowship, and the carrying out of the Great Commission.  The New Testament pattern is that church members are baptized into the church by immersion.

        The baptisms by John, the baptism of Jesus by John, and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip all took place where there was enough water for immersion.  It would make no sense to go to the trouble to find a river or pool where there was "much water" and then sprinkle or pour a little water on someone's head.  This can easily be done with a basin of water as non-Baptist churches prove all the time.  In all of the above-mentioned baptisms, each person voluntarily expressed his faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah.  All but Jesus voluntarily gave witness to their personal conversions.

        Scripture teaches that baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 6:1-6 and Colossians 2:12).  You do not bury someone by sprinkling or pouring some dirt on the head!  You bury a person by completely covering the body.  The same is true with baptism.

        The Greek word for baptism, baptizo, was also a commonly used word in the Greek language.  It meant "to plunge, dip, or submerge."  It always referred to covering with water.

        Nowhere in Scripture is the baptism of infants stated or implied.  It is impossible for infants to voluntarily express their faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  It is impossible for infants to give testimony to a conversion that hasn't taken place.  Sprinkling, pouring, and the baptism of infants removes from baptism its Biblical purpose:  picturing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and giving witness of personal conversion.

        The Lord's Supper is taught in Scripture as a memorial of Christ's death (broken body and shed blood) and of His second coming as recorded in I Corinthians 11:23-34.  This memorial service in no way imparts salvation but is a picture of what makes salvation possible.

        The priesthood of all believers is a doctrine that each individual believer may go before the Lord freely as his own representative.  We are invited, as brethren in Christ, to enter into the "holiest by the blood of Jesus"  (Hebrews 10:19).  We are told that we are a "holy priesthood" in I Peter 2:5, and that we may "come boldly unto the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16).

        Most religions have especially-appointed priests who are supposed to be representatives of the people to God.  This was true in Old Testament Israel; however, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age we each become our own priest.  Baptists have led the way in calling attention to the glorious truth of the priesthood of each believer.

        The concept of soul liberty is a related truth.  This concept is also implied by the sole authority of Scripture.  Soul liberty means that we are responsible only to God (as expressed through His Word) for our doctrine, practice, and conscience.  Each individual can interpret the Bible for himself.  True service for the Lord must be voluntary.  This doctrine does not justify lawlessness, worldliness, or loose living.  We must answer to God about our obedience to His Word.  We must interpret His Word correctly.

        This doctrine does mean that we are free from the traditions of men, personal opinions and judgments of others, and coercion from state or religious authorities.  Men can legitimately require their own guidelines for involvement in certain programs such as individual church membership, leadership standards, school attendance, etc.  These requirements have to do with personal relationships between people and organizations.  No one can interject their personal ideas into the relationship between man and God.  "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you..." (I John 2:27).  Further proof is found in Romans 14:5, "...Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."


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