We live in a time when people reject labels of all kinds. Why is it important to be a Baptist? Why not drop the name and be a non-denominational church? Why does it matter what Christian group with which you identify?
Labels are useful. Imagine how foolish it would be if you went to the canned food aisle at the grocery store and there were no labels. Perhaps there were hundreds of cans marked “Beans.” Are they green beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, or lentils? Are the beans seasoned or unseasoned? No one would know unless they bought the can, took it home and opened it.
Furthermore, how foolish would it be if every restaurant in the world was generically named? Before you enter a restaurant, you want to know if they serve Italian, Mexican, American, Indian, or Chinese. Labels help us see at a glance what kind of food we can expect to find inside the restaurant.
We rely on labels daily to tell us what to expect. They are necessary when it comes to churches as well. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Universalist Unitarian, Nazarene, Charismatic, etc. are more than archaic labels. Each one signals a body of doctrine and philosophy that is vastly different from one another. Furthermore, a non-denominational church can be any one of these! How confusing! These various churches can’t all be right.
Do you know how to choose a good church? Many believers pick a church based on how it makes them feel, how many of their friends go there, the personality of the pastor, or if the music appeals to them. Far more important than any of these is what the church teaches regarding God and the Bible!
- Do you receive salvation by grace through faith or must you earn it?
- Can God hear your prayers or must you go through a priest?
- Should you pray to Mary and the saints?
- What is the proper relationship between church and government?
- Do religious rituals supply grace?
- Are mass and the Lord’s Supper the same?
- Can you lose your salvation?
- What Bible version should you use?
- What are your responsibilities as a Christian?
- How should my faith affect my life daily?
- What is the correct model of church leadership?
- How/When/Why am I supposed to be baptized?
All of these questions are extremely important, and God gives clear answers to them in the Bible. Yet, you will get different answers in different churches! Unfortunately, tradition trumps God’s Word in many churches and false doctrine is prevalent.
When looking for a church start with the word “Baptist.” It is more than a useless label. It indicates that the church holds to eight Biblical truths known as the Baptist Distinctives. A denomination or board did not mandate these beliefs. They are accepted through a sincere study of Scripture.
Since the time of Christ, there have always been Christians who followed the teaching of our Lord and His Apostles as revealed in the New Testament. As false teaching began to corrupt some churches, these believers held to the Biblical position and were persecuted and martyred for their faith.
They have been called by many different names throughout history, but their fundamental beliefs have remained the same. Eventually, the name Baptist was given to them because they insisted that infant baptism was not Biblical and would “rebaptize” their converts. Historical Baptists are not part of a denomination, but a family that traces its core beliefs back to Christ. These cohesive truths are called the “Baptist Distinctives.” They are what make Baptist churches unique. Some Christians believe some of them, but real Baptists believe them all. The Baptist Distinctives are easy to remember using the acronym BAPTISTS.
The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice. It is the final authority on all matters of faith, practice, and polity. The tradition of men, human opinion, false science, religious creeds, nor popular opinion override the plain teaching of God’s Word. The Bible is inspired and preserved by God and carries His absolute authority. Baptists believe the Bible and strive to live according to its teaching. It is the Divine Revelation of God to man and is the complete and infallible guide to faith and life.
Psalm 12:6-7; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21
AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
Each local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the church. Each church is autonomous, or self-governing, and contains all human authority for leadership within its congregation. No denomination, governmental body, or religious hierarchy may dictate the church’s beliefs or practices. A Baptist church may choose to associate with other churches of like faith around mutual interests or ministry opportunities, but one church cannot exert authority over another.
Colossians 1:18; Matthew 18:15-20; Acts 15:22-21; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23
PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER
All born-again believers have the privilege of direct access to God. Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man. We need no other human agent or spiritual mediator. As God’s priests, we can study His Word, pray for our needs, intercede for others, offer worship, and serve in His work. Every child of God has equal access to their Heavenly Father.
1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 5:9,10
The local church is mandated by God to practice two ordinances. 1. Baptism of believers by immersion in water symbolizes sincere faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with the desire to walk in newness of life. 2. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, commemorates Christ’s broken body and shed blood giving each believer an opportunity for self-examination and rededication. These are not sacraments to earn salvation, but privileges granted by grace.
Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32
INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY
Every individual, believer and unbeliever, possesses the God-given privilege of free will having the liberty to choose what to believe. No one should be forced to any belief against his or her will. God speaks to individuals through His Word and His Spirit. Every person is individually responsible to God and will be judged according to the beliefs and practices he or she freely chooses. Freedom of choice demands personal responsibility.
John 3:36; Romans 14:4-12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9
SAVED, BAPTIZED CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified with Him in believer’s baptism. Church membership is a necessary privilege for believers who follow Christ. Fellowship, guidance, and encouragement of the local church family are essential for believers to maintain an unwavering testimony and a meaningful life of service.
Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12,18; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Hebrews 10:23-25
Scripture mandates two offices for the local church. The pastor leads, feeds, guides, and guards the church at the direction of Christ. The Bible terms “pastor,” “elder,” and “bishop” refer to different responsibilities for the same office. Deacons help the pastor care for the flock so he can give priority to prayer and the ministry of the Word. The Bible gives qualifications for each office.
1 Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 6:1-7; Philippians 1:1
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
God established both civil and local church governments. They have distinct responsibilities and operations. Neither should control the other. Believers in a free society should influence government toward righteousness, but should not make an unholy alliance for control, influence or favors. A government should not interfere with the locals church’s preaching, activities, and ministry.
Matthew 22:15-22; 28:19-20; Romans 13:1-7
Some Baptist churches no longer believe the Baptist Distinctives but have not updated their sign. Do your homework before you join a church.
You become a Christian by believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You become a Baptist by believing the rest of Bible. Become a student of the Bible and enjoy the confidence and blessings that come from knowing God through His Word.
When it comes to salvation, the only thing that matters is your saving faith in Jesus Christ. However, when it comes to Christian growth and training, it matters what church you attend. Many believers are wasting away in churches (even Baptist) that are hindering their Christian growth and effectiveness.
Satan can’t take away your salvation, but he can take away your testimony and paralyze your ministry. Don’t let him. Not all Baptist Churches are equal. Join a Bible-preaching, soulwinning, and separated Baptist Church and get busy for God this week!
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