Baptist Distinctives

Last updated on May 14th, 2023 at 10:56 pm

What are the Baptist Distinctives?

What are the Baptist distinctives? The Baptist distinctives are the lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of the scriptures, local church autonomy, priesthood of the believer, two ordinances or offices, individual soul liberty, saved and baptized into church membership, and separation of church and state.

What does it mean to be a Baptist?

In church culture today there are a whole number of different denominations and communities of faith. Each of these types has its own set of core values and fundamental beliefs that they adhere to.

Some of these more traditional, or more established denominations have had years and years of refining and rewording their core beliefs. In the baptist community, these are known as the Baptism distinctives. They are the guiding set of theological and spiritual ideas and statements that shape the foundation of the Baptist faith.

People who call themselves Baptists are distinguished from other groups or communities within the Christian faith by these distinctives. They are the guiding theological pillars of the Baptist faith, and to be a baptist you must adhere to those distinctives.

Why is it Important to Know the Distinctives?

As a Christian, especially in today’s world, it is important to know what you really believe, and why you believe it. The Baptist distinctives come from the Bible and are revealed in God’s word.

The knowledge of these facts provides significant benefit and are extremely relevant for today.

  1. The knowledge of the distinctives helps you to select a church that adheres to the same principles that you do.
  2. They give meaning to the word Baptist and create a signpost for believers. Other more general titles don’t give as much meaning. Labels like Christians or Faith Community or even denomination. When you say baptist it carries a meaning with it and there is no ambiguity.
  3. They act as true north, keeping people on track with their spiritual journey and keeps the church accountable.

How do the Distinctives Help me Choose a Church?

Choosing a church can be a daunting task, especially if you have moved to a new area and you do not know anyone that lives there. There are so many options, and so many options that look, feel and sound basically the same.

You end up trying to come up with a feeling or a best guess.

At 15 Degrees NE we believe that God directs you to the community that you are supposed to be a part of. Through a series of meeting people and attending different communities, the Holy Spirit will speak to you in one way or another and guide you to the place you are supposed to be. It may not always be your favourite based on the external things, but rather God may have a reason for you to be a part of that community that isn’t surface level.

The baptist distinctive help baptists make this decision. They are the guide. If a church does not have these then that church isn’t even considered in the options. The most important thing is to make sure that the ministry and the leaders all line up with these directives, based on God’s word. Here are the Distinctives.

The Baptists also believe in the Lord Supper. Baptists celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Communion commemorating and remembering Christ’s death. Matthew 26:26-30.

The 8 Baptist Distinctives

The Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Baptists believe that Jesus is Lord of both the church and the individual. We believe that salvation and eternal life with God are only available as a free gift through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. It is the only path, there are no other paths to God. Believing in God means that what a Christian says is also evident in their actions, and the Lord rules over every area in the believer’s life and in the life of the church. God is the supreme authority.•

The Authority of the Scriptures.

Baptists believe the scriptures are inspired by God. They are the only perfect, supreme, infallible and sufficient standard of faith and practice.

2 Timothy 3:15–17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21

The Bible is the final authority in all things that pertain to belief and practice. The Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible teaches, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can overrule the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture’s inherent authority.

Local Church Autonomy

Baptists believe the government in a local church is controlled by the following

  • principles of the priesthood of believers
  • the Lordship of Christ
  • the authority of the Scriptures
  • the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will.

As a result, it is important that each church verify each potential member’s statement of faith to make sure that their claim is valid. Each church is competent under Christ to look after its own affairs and has freedom from coercion by other bodies. From their beginning, however, Baptists have consistently recognized the importance of cooperation with churches of “like faith and order.”

Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1–5, 19, 23

The Priesthood of the Believer.

All Baptist believers are equals in the church, and, in turn, have a priestly role with each other. Every member is called to be a minister. Differences in education, wealth, gender and so on do not disqualify a person from service or from serving God through ministry to others.

1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10

Priests are a little different than pastors or even the gift of a pastor. A pastoral gift is that of a shepherd, and a priest often is looked at as a link to God for people. We don’t really need a link, though. We have direct access.

The Two Offices

The local church should practise two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and (2) the Lord’s Supper, or communion, commemorating His death for our sins.
Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–32

Soul Liberty – Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9

Your soul has direct access to God Through Jesus Christ. It is Inherent in the worth of each person. Baptists believe that no group has the right to force others to believe or worship as it does. God has given all people freedom of choice and as such Baptists have championed the cause of religious freedom.

Saved and Baptized into Church Membership.

To become a Christian requires a personal acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as both Saviour and Lord. You cannot say Christ has saved you from judgment unless you also allow him to control your life as Lord. This act of faith and believer’s baptism must precede membership in the local church.

Acts 2:41–47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3

Baptists practise believer’s baptism by immersion. It is one of the first significant acts through which the believer proclaims personal faith in Christ and is initiated into church life and ministry

The Separation of Church and State. – Matthew 22:15–22; Acts 5:17–29

Baptists have championed the right to freedom in spiritual matters under the lordship of Jesus Christ. They believe there must exist a separation between the church and civil governments. There should not be a church-controlled state, nor a state-controlled church. God has given legitimate roles to both, but neither is to encroach upon the rights or obligations of the other. They are, however, under obligation to recognize and reinforce each other as each seeks to fulfil its divine function.

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About the author

Lucas is a former worship pastor and Hillsong College graduate (2005). He has spoken at churches, conferences and worship events and loves inspiring people to be more than just a Sunday service-goer. He founded 15 Degrees NE and is one of our leading authors.

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