While the kingdom of God is bigger than just Baptists, there are certain beliefs that characterize many followers of Christ who call themselves Baptists. These are not rules or creeds that people sign or formally agree to, but instead are general understandings of the way we view God, each other, the church, and the world. The belief of the soul's competency in religion under God is the historical significance of Baptists, and means that God provides each person with the ability and freedom to make decisions in matters relating to God. Here are a few things that make Baptists unique.
The authority of the Bible is the authority of Christ...Christ speaks to us through the Bible. Our ultimate authority in Christianity is the authority of Christ as the revelation of God. Authority establishes truth and prescribes practice. Baptists accept the Bible as authority because it is God's revelation in Jesus Christ and can therefore guide in all Christian belief and behavior.
Each local church is self-governing and independent in the management of its affairs. Members of a local Baptist church have the responsibility and privilege of making the decisions that chart the church's course. No external authority can tell a Baptist church what to do.
The only person properly qualified for baptism is one who has heard the gospel, accepted its message, and believed in Christ as Savior. Only those should be received into church membership who give credible evidence that they have received Christ as Savior and Lord. Baptism, the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Holy Trinity, symbolizes the total salvation experience, testifies of the believer's commitment to Jesus, and provides access to church membership.
Baptists are democratic in their church government. Each local church is self-governing and independent in the management of its affairs. Baptists believe congregational church government best reflects New Testament practices, is demanded by biblical doctrines, and should be implemented in churches today. Baptists determine to resist all threats to its use and effectiveness.
The Christ of the New Testament is not a man deified by his zealous disciples, but the eternal Son of God who voluntarily became man to redeem lost humanity. Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. He is both fully God and fully human. As God, he is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Missions/evangelism finds its ultimate source in the heart of God. Missions/evangelism is an essential task of Christ's church because God desires all people to be saved; salvation meets the ultimate human need; and Christ's commission obviously includes missions. Evangelism happens only in the Spirit's power.
The church should not seek to use the state for its purposes. The state should not commandeer the church for political ends. The state should not favor one religion above another. Religious freedom with its corollary of separation of church and state is a precious privilege that was dearly bought by our Baptist forebears and should be cherished and preserved.
Salvation by grace means salvation as a free gift on God's part. Receiving salvation as an unmerited gift on God's part is faith. Two facets of God's grace are the grace of salvation and the grace of daily living. God saves us, not just from hell, but to a specific lifestyle.
One who is truly regenerated will continue in faith and will be finally delivered from sin. Believers are saved by the grace of God and kept by the power of God.
There should be no institution, human person, rite, or system that stands between the individual person and God. All have equal access to the Father's table, the Father's ear, and the Father's heart. Baptists believe in the priesthood of the believer and the soul competency of a believer. We believe we relate to God without human mediators, both as individuals and as a body of believers.
Christ instituted two ceremonial ordinances and committed them to his people for perpetual observance - baptism and the Lord's Supper. These two ceremonies are pictorial representations of the fundamental facts of the gospel and of our salvation through the gospel. The two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, tie Baptists together by reminding them of the commitments they have made to God and to one another.
That the churches in the New Testament were local autonomous bodies under the lordship of Christ is quite clear. At the same time there is the pattern of voluntary cooperation between churches in matters of mutual interest and concern. While Baptist churches are independent, autonomous, and diverse in membership and ministry, we have a great desire to cooperate together to advance the cause of Christ.