Baptist Pastor Explains What Baptists Believe
What is a Baptist Anyway
As the Pastor of a Baptist Church, I find it interesting that so many are wondering who “we” are and what we believe. Just a few housekeeping items for transparencies sake. First, I am a Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who “just happens” to lead a Baptist congregation. I grew up as a Baptist but as an adult, worshipped largely as a non-denominational Believer. This is crucial because I will preach, or lead, any group of Believers who call Jesus the Christ. This, of course, does not include non-Protestant “false religions.”
Baptists are a group of Christian denominations that believe in the practice of believer's baptism (as opposed to infant baptism) and the autonomy of the local congregation. They typically hold that the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith and practice.
There are many different Baptist denominations worldwide, with varying beliefs and practices. Some of the main ones include:
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC): the largest Baptist denomination in the United States, known for its conservative theology and emphasis on evangelism.
American Baptist Churches USA: a more liberal denomination, known for its emphasis on social justice and interfaith cooperation.
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.: one of the largest African American Christian denominations in the United States
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. : one of the largest African American Christian denominations in the United States
Baptist General Conference: a conservative denomination with Swedish heritage
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: a moderate denomination that broke away from the SBC in the 1990s
Primitive Baptists: a small, conservative denomination that emphasizes a traditional, "primitive" approach to Christianity
Independent Baptists: a non-denominational group of churches that are autonomous and not affiliated with any larger Baptist organization.
Being a part of this denomination and its conventions, I affirm that the “Word of God” is not the final authority on all matters! If it was, the sectarian splits producing many of the above conventions would not have occurred. There is a difference in the Word being the final authority and “someone’s interpretation of the Word.” In fairness, several African American Baptist Conventions only exist because of racist discrimination stemming from our countries foray into the godless institution of slavery. Literally, “good white Christians” refused access to their churches (Jesus Christ) because they believed slaves and later, their descendants, were/are less than they. I guess Jesus truly did not mean: “come to me all you that are weary and heavy burden and I will give you rest.”
What Makes a Baptist a Baptist
A Baptist is a Baptist because they choose to worship at a Baptist Church and therefore commit to the statement of faith of the church. When I became a Baptist pastor, I took a course out of curiosity with respect to Baptist doctrine. The reality is there is no such thing as “Baptist doctrine”. A born-again Christian, who happens to attend a Baptist Church, is no different than any other Protestant (doctrinally).
For instance, Baptist Churches adhere to the hierarchical structure as indicated in first Timothy chapter 3. This text outlines a pastor and deacons as the spiritual leaders of the congregation. The Book of Acts also outlines church structure. However, I know a God ordained preacher who leads a nondenominational congregation in the city. He does not have church deacons but rather a “care committee” who performs the duties of a deacon.
Here are seven (7) core tenets of Baptists belief:
1. Jesus is Christ, the son of God, who came to die and resurrect to offer re-compensatory salvation to all who believe in him. John 3:15-17
2. Jesus Christ is the only way one can receive eternal life at the exclusion of every other religion. John 14:6
3. God is One (1) yet manifests Himself according to relational need as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 1st John 5:17
4. The Holy Bible is the final authority on all matters of theological debate, teaching, and matters of the spirit. Romans 3:1-4
5. Autonomy of local churches cannot be violated in deference to another church, association, or convention. This is the “weakest” of biblical claims within Baptist doctrine. 1st Peter 5:1-13, Acts 14:23
6. Priesthood of all believers is a core Baptist doctrine or belief as well. 1st Peter 2:4-5
7. Hell is a real location which anyone who rejects Jesus as savior will spend an eternity. Matthew 10:28
These can be added to but a Baptist congregation, regardless of convention affiliation, accepts these as a core belief system.
Issues with Baptists Beliefs on Women Preachers
One of the first issues with Baptist Doctrine, is Baptists not believing God’s Word is the final authority as claimed. This manifests itself in “their” view on women’s role in evangelism. I say “their” because I do not support this unjust prohibition. This is not the space for a Christian Apologetics case against the ungodly “subjugation” of women, but it deserves mentioning.
Does scripture forbid women Pastors? Yes! Sisters who “pastor”, and I have challenged, have never been able to biblically answer the “Genesis 3” and “1st Timothy 3” prohibition on women “leading” their husband(s). This just scratches the surface of theological questions women cannot answer on this subject. I have met many sisters God has given a prophetic word to, who are confused about their role(s). I do not care what they believe God told them, God is not going against His Word to the church. They are so determined and blind they do not realize they are calling Him a "liar" by proclaiming pastorship. However, these prohibitions could not have meant that: “women are never to preach from a pulpit.”
We have at least three (3) examples of female Prophets (Preachers) in scripture. Deborah (Judge & Prophet), Huldah (Prophet), and Anna (New Testament Prophet). This does not even mention the first public preacher of Jesus’ messiahship: the “Woman at the Well” (John 4). The Baptist Church cannot get around these theological facts so, no, the Bible is not always the “final authority” as “claimed”.
Can Baptists Partake in Alcohol Consumption
Yes, a Baptist can drink alcohol because Jesus did the same thing! In some corners of Christianity, it is falsely taught that Jesus’ wine drinking was nothing more than a strong version of grape juice. That is not true! Nevertheless, I have publicly addressed this with the congregation I lead. Each first Sunday, we read a “Baptist Church Covenant” before partaking in communion. One of the prohibitions in this document was: “abstaining from intoxicating beverages as a drink.”
I removed this prohibition and focused on something which is true: “abstaining from non-medically required illegal drug use.” While it is true one of the qualifications of a church pastor is: “not be giving to strong drink”, this is not a prohibition for God’s people. Even the great apostle Paul told a church: “drink a little wine for the stomach’s sake.” Do I drink alcohol as a Pastor? No, but the reason is not any claimed biblical prohibition. I do not drink because Jesus delivered me from alcoholism, and I am not going to unnecessarily tempt myself to backslide. However, there is no biblical case to be made that alcohol use, in moderation anyway, is a sin.
As with money, power, assets, and other, the issue becomes when Christians “idolize” the drink. Idolization occurs whenever something is done in excess and overrules God’s demand of holiness. Even in the 1st Timothy 3 warning to would-be and associate pastors, the word “given” speaks of being “overpowered by.” We are not greater than Jesus, nor his apostles, so if they drink wine, we are allowed too as well.
Baptist Theology on the Holy Trinity
Most Baptists believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, which holds that there is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This belief is rooted in the biblical teaching that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), and that Jesus is fully God (John 1:1) and that the Holy Spirit is fully God (Acts 5:3-4).
However, there are also some groups that do not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, such as some branches of Oneness Pentecostals. They reject the traditional understanding of the Trinity, and believe that God is one person.
The belief in the Trinity is a central doctrine in historic Christianity, and is considered by many Christians, including most Baptists, as an essential belief. The doctrine of the Trinity is rooted in the Bible and has been affirmed by the early Church councils, such as the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. However, it's important to note that denominations can have different views on certain beliefs, even if they share the same name. It's also important to note that, ultimately, the belief in the Trinity is a matter of personal faith.
Do I believe in the “Trinity”? No, not as described by Baptists at least. As was said, we have done an awful job at explaining that which is simple. Oneness Pentecostals openly refute this doctrine (as explained by Baptists anyway). This horrible theological exegesis of the Trinity has been an effective church membership recruiting tool for Pentecostals, and sown confusion with others.
It is this simple: “God is one (1), and besides Him, there is no other” according to scripture. The Baptist explanation leads one to think there are literally “three (3) Gods” having failed to explain “manifestative relationship.”
Baptist Rules for Taking Holy Communion
Each first Sunday of the month, Baptists partake in Holy Communion as prescribed in the Bible’s Book of Luke (Chapter 22). There are other versions of this “last supper” in other Gospels as well. In Luke 22, Jesus and his disciples gather for the Last Supper, where Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. He also institutes the sacrament of Communion, telling them to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him. He also predicts Peter's denial of him. Later in the chapter, Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and taken before the high priest for trial.
Here is what Baptists (like me) believe about Holy Communion:
1. Although partaken of on first Sundays, it is not exclusive to this timeline. As Jesus said to His Disciples at the last supper: “as often as you do this, do so in remembrance of me.” He never said: “take it often”, only “as often as you do.” Luke 22:7-23
2. Christians must examine where they are with the Lord Jesus spiritually before partaking in His table. Contextually, this is speaking of eating the Lord’s Supper just like any other meal. However, “drinking unworthily” extends beyond this prohibition as well. 1st Corinthians 11:23-30
3. The bread is only the “representation” of the Body of Christ and not His actual flesh. Catholics falsely believe this bread turns into the actual flesh of Jesus. The wine is simply the representation of Jesus’s blood, and not the actual substance. Matthew 26:17-20
4. Anyone not “born again” (adopted into the family of God through Jesus) is forbidden from taking Holy Communion. Ibid
5. Infant, toddler, or even child baptism, against their clear understanding and consent, is not biblical. If one is not saved and baptized, they cannot partake in communion. Romans 10:1-11
6. Only those officially “ordained” into the ministry by local denominational leadership can guide others and perform this sacrament. This is an area where the biblical authority of Baptists is “suspect.”
7. Holy Communion is based on remembering Jesus, His suffering, and resurrection. Any other reason for partaking in this Holy Sacrament is forbidden. Ibid
Baptist Doctrine on Speaking in Tongues
Baptists generally believe that speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Further, "they" believe is not necessary for salvation but can be present in the lives of believers. Some Baptists may believe that speaking in tongues is not a necessary aspect of Christian faith, while others may believe that it is a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that views on speaking in tongues can vary within the Baptist denomination.
Tongues are described as a “gift” in scripture yet presented as necessary for salvation in scripture as well. This presents a dichotomy of sorts and is another point of tension between Baptists and Oneness Pentecostals.
Here are 7 scriptures from the New Testament that mention speaking in tongues:
Acts 2:4 - "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance."
1st Corinthians 12:10 - "To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues."
1st Corinthians 14:2 - "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit."
1st Corinthians 14:4 - "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church."
1st Corinthians 14:14 - "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."
1st Corinthians 14:22 - "Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe."
1st Corinthians 14:39 - "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues."
The interpretation and practice of speaking in tongues is a matter of interpretation and debate among different Christian denominations.
This is the first of several articles explaining Baptist doctrine and Theology straight from the desk of a Baptist Preacher. Stay tuned!
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