Jesus is Lord
Baptists believe that Jesus Christ, being eternally God, only begotten Son and the visible expression of the invisible God, effectively procured salvation for all creation through his death, burial and resurrection. Basic to Baptists is a conviction that Christian life begins, continues and ends as a personal experience with God revealed in Jesus Christ through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Every area of the believer’s life and the life of the church is to be subject to the Lord.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
Baptists believe that God communicates his will through the inspired Word of God. For Baptists, the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith and practice. It is to be interpreted responsibly under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit within the community of faith.
The Priesthood of All Believers
The Bible affirms the value of each person as having been created in the image of God, and also declares each person morally responsible for his/her own nature and behaviour. Baptists believe that inherent in the worth of each person is also the right and competency of each individual personally to deal directly with God through Jesus Christ. In essence, each person, by faith, becomes his/her own priest before God; hence, the cherished term priesthood of all believers. This implies that all believers share as equals in Christ’s Body, the church, and in turn, have a priestly role toward each other. Baptists believe that everyone that attends a Baptist church has a role to play and can use their God-given skills and talents for the good of the church and the community. These gifts include teaching, evangelism, social action, pastoral care, prayer, healing, taking part in worship, administration or hospitality. A further extension of this principle means that Baptists believe that no group or individual has any right to compel others to believe or worship as they do. Baptists ideally are champions of the cause of religious liberty.
Mission and Evangelism
We have a story to tell that is mandated by our Lord in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. Our calling is to share God’s message of love and salvation with each person. Each Christian has a duty to share their faith with others. Baptists continue to be very active in mission efforts, both in local and global contexts.
We recognize that mission is not just evangelism, but also includes promoting justice, social welfare, healing, education and peace in the world. It is a holistic approach that expresses care for both the needs of the human soul and the social needs that affect all of life.
A Believers’ Church
Baptists believe that Jesus Christ chooses to form his church by bringing together believers for the purpose of worship, witness, fellowship and ministry (both spiritual and social). Baptists recognize the church universal as all who truly profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They also profess their understanding of the church as being visibly expressed in local congregations. Each local church must thus be made up of believers who, upon their profession of faith and their baptism (almost always by immersion), are incorporated into the local church through the activity of the Holy Spirit. Baptists believe that baptism is an ordinance required by the New Testament, and is to be administered by the local church. Baptism is intended to represent Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; baptism by completely immersing the candidate in water is seen as the only adequate outward expression for the spiritual faith-union with Jesus Christ. Baptism should be administered only to believers. 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. Another ordinance observed by churches is the Lord’s Supper. The bread and the cup are visible reminders of the spiritual graces of Christ’s death for our salvation to eternal life.
Church Autonomy and Association
Government in a local church is controlled by the principles of the priesthood of all believers, the Lordship of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will. Such congregational government calls for and expresses the equality and responsibility of believers under the Lordship of Christ. When a person is baptized in a Baptist church, they normally become a church member. Church members are called to prayerfully discern God’s will for their shared life.
Baptists believe that the principle of the Lordship of Jesus Christ gives each individual congregation a certain degree of autonomy and freedom from coercion by other bodies. However, just as a believer must temper his/her doctrinal interpretation and personal behaviour to satisfy the greater needs and unity of the community of believers, Baptist churches also recognize the need to temper the exercise of their autonomy in order to associate with a larger body of churches. We covenant together in cooperative ministry and mission ventures and organize ourselves to work together to accomplish ministry that no single congregation could do alone. Our Baptist churches are linked regionally, nationally and internationally for support and fellowship. Baptists believe that churches should not live in isolation from one another but rather be interdependent.
Freedom & Equality
Emerging from our convictions about the priesthood of all believers, we affirm that in Jesus Christ all people are equal. Each one is free to be in relationship with God and to express a faith that is not coerced. Faith cannot be predetermined by someone else, but is the right of and responsibility of each individual as they seek a relationship with God based on their own personal commitments. A further extension of the principle of the Lordship of Christ and the priesthood of believers is to be found in the Baptist conviction that there must exist a separation between the church and civil governments. There is the easy recognition that God has given legitimate roles to both church and state, but also the deep conviction that 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 fulfill its divine function. The function of individual believers and the church is to become part of the conscience of the community and nation.
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