To be a Baptist means to identify with a particular tradition within Christianity that has its roots in 17th-century England. The most prominent distinguishing mark of this tradition is believers’ baptism, which means that Baptists believe that baptism is only appropriate for those who have professed personal faith in Jesus Christ.
To be a Baptist: doctrinal beliefs
Baptists also adhere to a set of doctrinal beliefs that are summarized in their statement of faith. These beliefs include:
- The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Scriptures
- The existence of one God in three persons
- The deity and incarnation of Jesus Christ
- The fallen and lost state of all people
- The salvation of men and women through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ
- The immediate work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration and sanctification of believers
- The necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation
- The resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of all people
To be a Baptist: practices
Baptists also hold to several distinctive practices and organizational structures. Emphasis is on the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures.
- That Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice
- The Bible is the authoritative guide for Christian belief and behaviour
- The church is a fellowship of believers or a community of committed disciples
- Membership in a Baptist church requires a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ and baptism
Baptists also emphasize the priesthood of all believers. Meaning every member of the congregation has a direct relationship with Christ and shares in the ministry of the church. While pastors are recognized as leaders and equippers of the local body of believers, every member is considered equal and has a share in the ministry of the church.
Baptists also place a high value on the importance of churches working together. The local church is considered the essential unit of Baptist ecclesiology. They also believe in the importance of fellowship between churches. Forming associations and Baptist unions to facilitate cooperation and support for missionary work, the training of pastors and leaders, social services, and support for new and struggling churches.
Baptist religious freedom
Finally, Baptists place a significant emphasis on religious freedom and have historically opposed all forms of religious coercion. They affirm the rights of all people to worship freely and to hold their own religious beliefs without fear of persecution or discrimination.