Since I have made reference to the Baptist distictives is seemed good
to give a listing and brief explanation of these for the reader.
Baptists believe in the usual fundamentals of the faith, however due
to their history and convictions they are distinctively "Baptist." Most
are Baptist by conviction and are convinced that the Baptist stand is correct.
This is somewhat of a consternation to other Biblicaly sound people
in that the distinctives which we will soon see are Biblical distinctives
first and the Baptists have by nature held to them through the years. The
Bible church movement holds to these same Biblical distinctives also.
The difference may be that the Baptists have held them longer. However
there is evidence there were Biblically centered people much earlier than
"Baptists believe in the scriptural teaching of the priesthood of believers,
which is the spiritual principle underlying their democratic type of church
life. They believe that every believer receives salvation and has free
access to God the Father at any time for spiritual comfort and forgiveness
of sins through the one and only High Priest, Jesus Christ our Savior.
With this principle in mind, Baptists have opposed any distinction between
the clergy and laity that savors of priesthood." (from a pamplet WHAT BAPTISTS
BELIEVE by Robert Torbet)
They feel that the congregation has the final authority in all matters.
Due to their persecution by state churches in their early days they
have held tenatiously to the separation of church and state.
The Baptists have what they call "BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES". These are some
beliefs that Baptists from the early days have held to be Biblical. They
are not Biblical distinctives but "Baptist Distinctives". I have discussed
this often with many baptists and always end up with the same frustration.
These things are doctrines of the Scriptures. God made them up and not
Baptists. They are doctrines that Baptists for years have held but they
are still Biblical distinctives. I feel that if you hold these ideals and
doctrines you are a Bible beleiving Christian. I say what I say knowing
that I am as Baptist as most baptists. I have been educated in two Baptist
schools and feel more comfortable with Baptist churches than any other.
1. Biblical Authority. The Bible is the rule for faith and practice
in all areas of life.
Whats more the Bible is the only authority for your life as opposed
to the Roman church that the Baptists fought with in their early days.
A church system has no authority over the believer. This is not to say
that the individual of a local congregation can't be disciplined if there
is sin in their life. The thought of a church hierarchy telling a person
what is spiritual is what they oppose.
2. Autonomy of the Local Church. This means that the local church is
independent of all ties with other organizations.
There are fellowships of Baptists which are loosely knit gatherings
of pastors and laymen for the purpose of fellowship and mutual edification.
There are some churches that will work together in the areas of youth work
Some are very strong on not being linked in any way with other churches
- even of their own kind. In Denver years ago there were at least a dozen
independent Baptist churches with Christian day schools. They wouldn't
even go together to buy paper and supplies together to get a price break.
3. Priesthood of all believers. The emphasis is on ALL believers. Each
and every believer has the right to go before the throne of grace with
his needs and sins to set them right before God.
4. Two ordinances. There is the Lord's table that is usually open to
all believers, but not always. Some have closed tables for their own members
only. The second ordinance is that of baptism by immersion as an outward
sign of an inward change.
5. Individual Soul Liberty.
6. Saved, baptized church membership. All people desiring to be part
of an assembly must be baptized and saved before they can become members.
7. Two offices. Pastors or as they very seldom say but usually admit
to elders and deacons. The deacons are the board that keep the church running.
Most deacon boards are very active in the spiritual end of things as well
as the physical.
8. Separation of church and state. They are opposed to any state intervention
into church affairs. Be it worship or day school.
I agree with their feeling and would back them on their feelings however
in turn, logic demands that the church not be benifited by the state. The
majority of Christians be they Baptist or other would be up in arms if
the government took away our tax exempt status. Now if we really want separation
of church and state shouldn't we welcome the lifting of tax exempt status?
From the above distinctives you can see why a congregational form of
government has been the hallmark of Baptists churches. It is only in recent
years that some have begun to stray from this distinctive.
If the individual believer has access to God on his own and can be lead
and guided by God then it follows that the church should be lead by all
the people as they are in tune with God.
The balance between "Baptist Distinctives" versus "Biblical Distinctives"
was met by a college prof of mine. Mr. Richard Muntz told us that the distinctives
were not purely Baptist, but they were points of doctrine that the Baptists
have closely followed through history. He mentioned that the points are
needed to fully achieve the Biblical local church. He also stressed that
if a church did not follow these points of doctrine, they were not truely
a Baptist church.