At the church I was previously pastoring at, I taught through the Baptist distinctives and then developed it into a position paper for the church. I thought it would be valuable here to share it with the blogging world for critique and suggestions. I will post the first distinctive below:
You may be thinking, what makes a Baptist any different from other churches? What sets apart a Baptist church from other denominations? Essentially what makes us different is what is known as the “Baptist Distinctives.” This can be easily explained using the acrostic, BAPTIST:
- Biblical authority of the New Testament for faith and practice
- Autonomy of the local church
- Priesthood of all believers
- Two ordinances (Believer’s Baptism by Immersion and the Lord’s Supper)
- Individual soul liberty
- Separation of Church and State
- Two offices of the church (Pastor and Deacon)
While various other types of churches may hold to one or more of these distinctives, Baptist churches hold all of them.
Biblical Authority of the New Testament for faith and practice
By biblical authority we mean that everything we believe and do in our church rests about the absolute authority of the Bible. The Bible is authoritative for all matters of faith and practice within the local church.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 reveals to us that the Bible is that which is directly from God, or God-breathed literally. It is profitable for every area of life and faith and practice. It reads “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (All Scripture taken from the ESV).
2 Peter 1:19–21 reminds us of the importance of God’s Word for our lives and that the Bible is not merely the words of men but are directly the words of God! It reads also, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Finally, 2 Peter 1:3 explains that everything we need for a life of godliness is provided through knowledge of God. We know that knowledge of God is revealed to us through His word. It reads, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
Therefore, the Bible is the absolute and only authority for the all matters of faith and practice for individual Christians and for the local church.
What specifically separates Baptists from other denominations though is the specific focus on the New Testament for matters of church faith and practice. Since the church is a new entity formed at Pentecost (Acts 2), the specific area of the Scriptures dealing with how the church is run and what it is to believe is the New Testament. The Old Testament, while still Scripture and profitable for all areas of spiritual life, does not speak about the nature, function, purpose, and beliefs of the local church.
Therefore, while the Bible is the absolute and only authority for believers, it is the New Testament primarily that is the ultimate basis for faith and practice in the local church.