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Baptist Beliefs and Common Faith

Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. It is a faith that is rooted and grounded in the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and continues to reveal His will through the Scriptures.

Historically Baptists have opposed creeds, but have through the years issued a number of confessions of faith. The basic purpose of a confession of faith is to express what one group of Baptists believes at a given time. These expressions of faith are not creeds, since the word creed implies authority and finality. Baptists have traditionally held that while a statement of faith expresses the consensus of opinion of a Baptist group, it is not to be regarded as infallible or final. No Baptist considers himself/ herself infallible in matters of religious faith. Neither do Baptists desire the authority to prescribe what other people must believe. Individual freedom and congregational church government lie at the heart of this refusal to impose an external authority.

The purpose of Baptist confessions of faith has been to define what a particular group of Baptists believes. These expressions of faith have usually not been written just to provide a doctrinal statement, but have been called into existence to meet some practical need, such as to indicate doctrinal consensus, to quiet a controversy, to instruct a convert, or to explain a position vis-a-vis a particular question, e.g. baptism or the nature of church government. Most Baptist confessions have been written for a specific purpose.

Common features can be identified as running through various confessions of faith that represent a continuity of Baptist belief. Some of these beliefs are shared with other Christian and Protestant groups. Others are distinctive. The unity and coherence of Baptists can be seen in six key convictions, which they hold.

Supreme Authority

The supreme authority is God as He has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Closely related is the Bible as the authority in all matters of faith and practice. Baptists are noncreedal people and their ultimate appeal has always been to the Scriptures rather than to any confession of faith that they have published.

Believer's Baptism

This is one of the most conspicuous convictions of Baptists. Baptism is an indication of the experience of the new birth. It must therefore be a Baptism of believers only. If the Christian life, as Paul indicates (Romans 6), is a sharing in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and if it means a dying to the old life and a rising to the new life, then the act of baptism should reflect this understanding. It is for this reason Baptists insist on Believer's baptism and baptism by immersion.

Regenerate Church Membership

Churches are composed of believers only. Baptists insist that the church be composed of those who have been gathered by Christ and have placed their trust in Him. The membership of the church is therefore composed of those who give clear evidence of their Christian faith and experience. As the basis of their church life they covenant with God and with one another to walk together in Christian obedience and service.

The Priesthood of Believers

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers means the equality of all Christians in the life of the church in both responsibilities and privileges. This means not only that the individual Christian may serve as a minister to other members, but also confers upon each member of a church equal rights, privileges and responsibilities in determining the affairs of the church. The church officers - pastors and deacons - have special responsibilities that are derived from the consent of the church, but they do not have a unique priestly status.

Independence of the Local Church

Baptists believe that a properly constituted church (i.e. made up of baptised believers) is fully equipped to worship and serve Christ and need not derive its authority from any source, other than Christ, outside its own life. Baptists have not generally understood the principle of the autonomy of the local church to mean that it is completely isolated and detached from other churches. The local church is but one manifestation of the Body of Christ, and as individual Christians, are to pray for one another and maintain communion with one another. Individual churches testify to their unity in Christ by forming associations or conventions through which they seek counsel and advice and cooperate in common concerns. Many Baptist churches cooperate fully in interdenominational and ecumenical bodies.

Religious Liberty – Separation of Church and State

From their earliest days, Baptists have insisted that the church and state should be separate. The church must be free to be Christ's church, determining its own life and charting its own course in obedience to Christ without outside interference. Baptists have always been in the forefront of the struggle for religious freedom.