Saturday, October 07, 2006

Baptist Distinctives

What Are the Eight Baptist Distinctives?

These teachings may be remembered by associating them with the letters that form the word "BAPTISTS."

BIBLICAL AUTHORITY The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scriptures's inherent authority. 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20,21

AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierachery outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in associational tie, but a Baptist church cannot be a "member" of any other body. Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5,19,23

PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER "Priest" is defined as "one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God." Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God -- whether we are a preacher or not. 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 5:9,10

TWO ORDINANCES The local church should practice two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, (2) the Lord's Supper, or communion commemorating His death for our sins. Matthew 28:19,20; 1 Corinthians 11;23-32

INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY Every individual whether a beleiver or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. Howver, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself. Romans 14:5,12; 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 themselves with Him in believer's baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, a oneness in Christ exists, and the members can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3

TWO OFFICES IN THE CHURCH The Bible mandates only two offices in the church - pastor and deacon. The three terms - "pastor," "elder," and "bishop" or "overseer" - all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor and deacon exist within the local church, not as heirarchy outside or over the local church.

SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government. Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29


Baptists arrived at these distinctives through careful study of the Bible. That is why these teachings are more precisely called the Biblical distinctives of Baptists rather than Baptist distinctives. These teachings emerged as Baptist distinctives because individual Baptist churches have consistently and independently held to them, not because some group of Baptist leaders composed the list and then imposed the distinctives on local churches. Church groups other than Baptists have held some of the Baptist distinctives, and one may even find churches that hold all of the distinctives but do not call themselves Baptist. Such groups are "baptistic," but for some reason they choose not to be identified as Baptists. On the other hand, some churches naming themselves "Baptist" are not truly Baptist because they no longer hold the historic Baptist beliefs or even the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Baptists are people of the Book above all else. And Baptists enjoy a priceless heritage of generations who have exalted God's Son our Savior and have proclaimed God's inspired Word.


What sets one church apart from all the others? We have seen that it is the church's distinctive beliefs that set it apart from all others and that Baptists in general hold to some convictions that make them different from all other groups.

(These notes were copied from Pastor David Reagan's notes for a Baptist History class from over three years ago. They were copied by permission from the Lush family.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Bro Jim! I wanted to let you know that I have had to shutdown the ODN webpage - I was attacked by hackers, gambling hackers. I have re-established the ODN as the OpenDoor News at

The latest article is there. I will be sending out a final email to everyone under the old email address in a couple of days. I'm trying to salvage as much as I can before I shut it down compeltely.

Ray Perdue

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Bro. Ray,

I'm sorry to hear about your problems with your webpage. I'll have to check out your new blog.

I pray everything is going OK with you and your family!!!

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim for posting these Distinctives - people are always wondering what makes a Baptist distinct from other denominations, and it is good to remember this acrostic. Years ago I wrote these down in my Bible, and they do come in handy at times. God bless.

5:48 PM  

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