Baptist Distinctives
James A. Gunn
Copyright © 2004 James A. Gunn
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Are you a Baptist?
Why are you a Baptist?
And, if you are not a Baptist, why not?

There are certain beliefs and principles that may be called the Baptist Distinctive.

There are at least nine things that identify a person as a Baptist. There are, of course, other denominations and faiths that hold to one or more of these same tenets', but to hold to them all makes you, by definition, a Baptist.

Consider the inevitable result of compromising any one of these tenets and what it means to hold to these tenets in word only and not in fact or practice. What do each of the following distinctive tenets mean / do not mean?

1. tenet: {Latin, he holds}An opinion, doctrine, or principle considered as being true by an individual or especially an organization.

1. The headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If Jesus Christ is not everything, He is nothing. If a sinful man or group of men takes the place of Christ as head of the body then Christ is not truly the head.

Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

2. The authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

If another authority {book, personal revelation}; Confession of Faith, Creeds, etc. are needed to make the Bible complete then the Bible becomes secondary in authority.

Confessions of Faith and Creedal statements have their place but they are all subject to change.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

1 Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

3. The requirement for a regenerate church membership.

The Church is Christ's body and does not include unregenerate people. Of course there will be unregenerate people in most local churches but at least the members of the body profess faith in Christ.

Acts 2:47 ...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4. Individual discipleship.

If a person is disobedient to the One they claim to love then their can be no assurance of a saving interest in Jesus Christ.

John 14:15 If you love Me keep My commandments.

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5. The priesthood of all believers.

Believers have access to God through Jesus Christ [Romans 5:1-2]; not through Mary, "saints," "priests." Priesthood of the believer does not mean private [individual] interpretation of the Bible; it means access to God.

1 Peter 2:5 ...you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Revelation 1:6 ...and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."

6. Baptism is for believers only, by immersion, upon confession of faith.

There is no Scriptural precedent to baptize unbelievers (infants).

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Matthew 28:19, 20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all pings that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

Acts 8:36, 37 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

7.The Lord's Supper as a memorial for baptized believers upon
  self-examination.

Examine self and Remember Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

8. Autonomous church government with a God-called pastor(s).

Acts 15 was a one time apostolic conference. The Scripture was not yet complete.
Acts 15 is not a model for church polity.

Forms of church government:

Episcopal = hierarchy of men
Presbyterian = hierarchy of churches
Congregational = autonomous churches

9. The separation of church and state as defined in the United States Constitution.

No government control over the local church and no "official" state church.

Matthew 22:21 They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Jim Gunn