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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BAPTIST?
People have different ideas of what a "Baptist" is. It is thus helpful to understand what are the core historic beliefs of Baptist churches. Below are some distinctive historic Baptist distinctives. Scripture passages are given to provide the source of our understanding regarding each conviction. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like further resources or clarification.
1. The Bible as the Word of God and final authority on all matters of faith and life. Thus, every point below is to be judged by the Bible's standard as overarching and trumping personal or traditional conclusions and preferences (Isaiah 66:2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
2. The autonomy of the local church. Local churches are commissioned to elect their own leaders who are to exercise leadership under Christ the Head (Titus 1:5-9). Church affiliations are helpful and good for advancing Kingdom work, but each individual church body is responsible to order and govern itself under Christ the Head (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, 14:40). This means that our congregation is not essentially linked with any other church bearing the name "Baptist."
3. The priesthood of all believers. Pastors are not priests any more than all believers are priests (Isaiah 66:21, 1 Peter 2:9). Anyone who is in Christ has direct access to God through Him (John 1:18, Hebrews 7:25), and in that sense are "priests to God."
4. Technical separation of church and state. While most Baptists in America are American citizens (and in that sense they have responsibility both to heaven and to earth, there is to be no authoritative or responsible tie between the state and the church. God has commissioned civic leaders to exercise authority and rule the nation (Romans 13:1-7). He has also commissioned his covenant people as the church to be light in the world (Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:15-16).
5. Regenerate church membership. Church membership is Biblical, and is to be open only to those who have made a credible profession of faith and have been baptized (Matthew 16:18, 18:15-20, 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 1:13, 5:12, 12:12-13).
6. Liberty of Conscience. Because each believer has the Holy Spirit and is called to walk with Christ in faithfulness, each other believer, without neglecting accountability, is not to try to bind the other's conscience over disputable matters (Romans 14:10-12, 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). We recognize exercising this practice requires wisdom to discern between what is disputable and what is indisputable. But we believe the Scripture outlines it clearly.
7. Two ordinances - baptism and the Lord's Supper (communion). These are to be given only to those who are partakers of the spiritual matter which the ordinances depict (Acts 10:47). Baptism depicts the sinner as dead to sin and alive in Christ, cleansed, and united with Him (Romans 6:2-3). The Lord's Supper depicts our spiritual soul feast on Christ's body and blood which was given for us, as we look forwad to the heavenly feast that awaits those who belong to Jesus (Isaiah 25:6; Luke 22:15-16; see also John 6:47 and 54).
8. Two offices in the church - pastor (elder) and deacon. The Lord instituted that men are to exercise the office of elder to provide spiritual guidance and leadership over the flock of believers in the individual church (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Deacons are to handle week-by-week and day-by-day tangible ministries that the local church needs (1 Timothy 3:8-13). The distinction between the offices is seen well in Acts 6:1-6, where the teachers are to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer (as pastors are to, now), and a second group is to give themselves to ministries of mercy (as deacons are to, now).
We aim to be allies with other evangelical churches in our region who share our convictions regarding the Word of God, the nature of God (Trinity), and salvation by grace through faith in Christ. We believe that these are the essentials to Christian faith, and we believe that all who hold these convictions are indeed members of the household of God. What is laid out above is simply a statement of our convictions which distinguish us as Baptists among our Christian brothers and sisters.