These days it is becoming rather unfashionable to actually mention your denomination. Let me clearly say that the denomination is never as important as what is believed by those who are part of it. However, there are some beliefs that arose from Scripture that everyone who attends or belongs to a Baptist church should be aware of. Let me list them.
1. The Bible is the only authority for faith and practice.
Though all Christians honor the bible, Baptists are among those who literally have no authority, council, leader, or sage that directs what they believe or do other than the words of Scripture. This allows us to adjust if we find that we have developed a tradition not well supported by Scripture. It also allows us to make practical modifications in how we practice our faith so long as the practice is in accordance with and not contrary to what we see in the Word.
2. The Church is composed of baptized believers only.
Every word of this statement is supported by Scripture. On the day of Pentecost, when they believed; they were baptized. All through the book of Acts belief preceded baptism. There is not a single instance of infant baptism in Scripture. Therefore we do not baptize our newly born children. We teach them and pray with and for them as they grow and wait for them to choose to follow Jesus to baptize them. No person of any age who has not “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” and been baptized by immersion is considered a member of a Baptist church. We do not, however, regard Christians of other faiths who do not practice this as being lost. We just don’t believe that they have been properly trained to understand the meaning and message of believer’s baptism. In some cases, I have met those who say to me, “I believe you are correct, but I refuse to break my tradition.” To do this is willful disobedience to a command of Jesus. That concerns me greatly.
3. The priesthood of every believer and the autonomy of every local church.
These two go together because a church made up of believer priests must necessarily be autonomous, that is self governing. Peter himself states this truth in 1 Peter 2:9. Here we are called a “royal priesthood”. No outside body makes decisions for Baptist churches. They work together with other churches solely to the extent that they choose. Believer priests can go to God for themselves and can bring others to God through Jesus Christ. Every member can be an evangelist and missionary for the cause of Christ.
4. The concept of religious liberty and the separation of church and state.
This belief was never intended as a means of silencing the church, but rather a means of setting the church at liberty to speak with freedom unencumbered by the state. Even in the American colonies if you lived in Virginia you paid taxes to support the Anglican church. All over the world government and church were entangled. The Baptists were among those who decried this union. We clearly saw in the teachings of Jesus and the practice of the church that the church should not be controlled nor supported by the coercion of the state. When the First Amendment was adopted it was at the insistence of Baptist believers. America’s religious experiment has influence around the world and wherever you find religious freedom you can largely thank baptist believers for its emergence. God planted this truth in Baptist hearts and they raised their voices to be heard in the founding of the United States of America.
None of this is intended as boastful. These are simply historical realities that must not be forgotten.