What is a Baptist?

By David J. Stewart

Acts 20:20, “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house.”

What is a Baptist?

Baptist Distinctives — There are eight historical tenants of Baptists from the Word of God.

B Born again, baptized church membership (Acts 2:42). Of course, water baptism is not required for salvation; but it is a step of obedience to the Scriptures, and consequently to be considered a Baptist.

A Autonomy (Immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority) of the local church (Matthew 18:17; 1st Corinthians 5:4-5,13). This tenant describes our position on the Word of God. We are independent with no associations to a national organization. The Bible is our Final Authority, apart from all other writings and dogma.

P Priesthood of the believer (1st Timothy 2:5; 1st Peter 2:9)

T Two ordinances: Believer's baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper (1st Corinthians 11:23-30, Matthew 28:19-20: Romans 6:3-5). These are not grace-imparting sacraments, but instead steps of obedience that picture what Christ has done in and through the believer.

I Inspiration and sole authority of the Scriptures (2nd Timothy 3:16), and using Scripture to define the fundamentals of the faith (Jude 3; Romans 16:17).

S Soul Liberty—the right and responsibility to interpret Scriptures individually (Acts 17:11).

T Two offices: Pastor and Deacon (1st Timothy 3:1; 1st Peter 5:1-5).

S Separation of Church and State (Romans 15:1-7; 13:1-7). In other words there is no organic union. The government is not to run the church, and the church is not to run the government.

What is a "church"?

The Bible refers to the church in two different ways. First, there is the universal group of all believers who have professed faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ through salvation (Matthew 16:18; Acts 8:3; 9:31; 1st Corinthians 12:28; 15:9) Second, the Bible also refers to the local assembly of believers as the church. This smaller body of Christians is part of the universal Body of Christ (1st Corinthians 4:17; 1st Thessalonians 1:1). Being an active, participating member of a Biblical, local church can provide accountability and aid in a Christian's spiritual growth.

Please understand that there's no such thing as "the Baptist Church.” There are genuine born-again believers in many different denominations; such as, Presbyterian, Methodist, non-denominational, and numerous others, including Baptist.

The Bible speaks of "the church in the wilderness" in Acts 7:38. The church didn't begin in the Lord's earthly ministry, nor even at Pentecost as some teach; rather, the church began with the very first Christian family back in Genesis, with the eldest in the family being the spiritual leader. Of course, the local New Testament Church as we know it today, as exemplified in the book of Acts, began in the Lord's earthly life and ministry. But the church itself, i.e., the Body of Christ, began with the very first born-again believer.

Why Independent Fundamental Baptist?

It is my sincere belief that Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches come closest to abiding by the Scriptures than any other denominational group.

I recently visited a more modernistic Baptist church service. I knew I was in the wrong place when I saw the electric guitars on the platform. The crowd began to sing, waving their hands in the air side by side. Many of the women in the church were wearing pants. The women singing on the platform were using the same sensual type of vocal inflections that are used in worldly music. They often sang with their eyes closed. When they finished singing, the audience loudly clapped in applause for their performance. I wasn't impressed at all. However, the pastor, a completely bald-headed man, gave a wonderful sermon that really impressed me, saying that getting close to Christ is costly, which is why few are willing to do so. I enjoyed the sermon and saw the passion and sincerity of the pastor, but the worldliness of the church service itself was a sad commentary for that church. If you removed the worldliness from the church, I doubt if anyone would come back for the preaching. This is America today. People want entertainment.

The next week I visited an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church down the road and what a world of difference it was! I didn't see any women wearing pants. Most of them had on long dresses. The appearance and behavior of the women in any given church speaks volumes about the church itself. The Bible teaches that women ought to dress like ladies (1st Timothy 2:9), sing like ladies (1st Peter 3:4) and behave like ladies (1st Corinthians 14:35).

The music was soft and pretty. They had numerous musical instruments; such as, woodwind, brass, a piano, an acoustic guitar and other sorts of instruments, but it didn't sound worldly. Everyone kept their eyes open. No one swang their hips back-n-forth or put their hands in the air clapping. The atmosphere was day-and-night compared to the previous church I had visited. I'm not condemning the other church, I just prefer the sweet fellowship of like-minded believers. The world has no place in the church.

The great need of our time is soulwinning Christians, who love the Lord and desire to live right according to the Scriptures, praying for the power of God's Holy Spirit, abiding in Christ and His Word abiding in us, that our precious Lord may bear MUCH FRUIT through us (John 15:5-7).