Baptist Distinctives: Two Ordinances…Church & State

Are all churches equal? What makes one church distinct from another? The answer is the doctrinal beliefs that are taught and espoused are what distinguish us from other churches.

Traditionally there are eight distinctives that Baptists (and baptistic churches) have historically held. The next three in the series are…

Two Ordinances: Believer’s Baptism & Lord’s Supper

An ordinance is custom or practice that is symbolic or representative of something actual. Some denominations would call these sacraments. We choose to call them ordinances. The term sacrament is a means by which grace is confirmed either visibly or invisibly. No grace is given to those who participate in these ordinances, but rather we obey them out of simple obedience to the Scriptures and love for Jesus.

Believer’s baptism is essential to a scriptural understanding of the local church. A true church consists, first, by those who have been born-again, and, second, those who follow Christ’s first command following salvation—baptism (Matthew 28.19-20; Acts 8.12, 13, 36). Many Protestant denominations practice “baptizing” of infants via sprinkling. Baptists have taught and died for the belief that the New Testament teaches that a person is baptized after salvation as a sign of identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection by immersion (Romans 6).

The Lord’s Supper is the second ordinance where we commemorate Christ’s death for our sins.

Individual Soul Liberty

Every individual whether they are a believer or unbeliever has the liberty to choose what they believe is right. Baptists have opposed  a culture or government insisting upon one religion or religious denomination above another, but rather allow for the freedom of conscience for each person to worship as they believe.

Should a man choose to deny the truths of God and the Bible this freedom of conscience though does not relieve man of his responsibility before God and His Word .

While this soul liberty allows people the freedom to worship as they see fit, historically Baptists have also allowed those within the Baptist heritage to differ from one another on lesser issues (e.g. personal applications, less clear issues as found within the Bible, etc) not doctrinal issues of importance (e.g. inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, virgin birth of Jesus, deity of Christ, the personal, bodily return of Christ, existence of hell).

Separation of Church & State

God ordained three institutions: family, government and the church. He gave each their own purposes. Romans 13 lists the governments responsibilities, while Matthew 28.19-20 gives the purpose for the church. When the two converge neither fulfill their God-given responsibilities. While we believe in separation of church and state that is not to say that a Christian cannot run for government office or play a role in some way. In fact, we are commanded to be salt and light in our world which includes government and politics (Matthew 5).

The Baptist distinctives:

  • B iblical authority
  • A utonomy of the local church
  • P riesthood of all believers
  • T wo ordinances (believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
  • I ndividual soul liberty
  • S eparation of Church and State
  • T wo offices of the church (pastor and deacon)
  • S aved church membership

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