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Baptist Distinctive

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The basis of Baptist denomination
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  Baptist Distinctives Baptist Distinctives  is a name usually given to a set of historical doctrinal principles common to most Baptist traditions. While no single principle listed below is completely unique to Baptists, taken as groups they represent distinctives. Four Freedoms One way of classifying Baptist Distinctives is called the Four Freedoms, articulated by Baptist historian Walter B. Shurden: [1]   ã   Soul freedom : the soul is competent before God, and capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body ã   Church freedom : freedom of the local church from outside interference, whether government or civilian (subject only to the law where it does not interfere with the religious teachings and practices of the church) ã   Bible freedom : the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and biblical study available to the individual ã   Religious freedom : the individual is free to choose whether to practice their religion, another religion, or no religion; Separation of church and state is often called the civil corollary of religious freedom B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S acrostic Another popular list of beliefs shared by most Baptist traditions is expressed in the form of the following acrostic backronym, spelling BAPTISTS : [2]   ã   B iblical authority (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) ã   A utonomy of the local church (Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3) ã   P riesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9; 1 Timothy 5) ã   T wo ordinances (believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper) (Acts 2:41–47; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32) ã   I ndividual soul liberty (Romans 14:5–12) ã   S aved church membership (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23–32; Colossians 1:18) ã   T wo offices of the church (pastor and deacon) (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1–2) ã   S eparation of Church and State (Matthew 22:15–22) Each of these eight distinctives will be examined individually: [2]   B: Biblical authority Baptists through the centuries have insisted that the Bible is the sole ultimate written authority for Christian faith and practice. They have resisted those who claimed  otherwise, including popes, kings, bishops, pastors and teachers. Both religious and secular powers have persecuted Baptists for this commitment to the authority of the Bible. The Bible is foundational for Baptist doctrine and church polity. Baptist statements of belief through the centuries have always cited Scriptures for each belief set forth. It is on the authority of the Bible that Baptists base beliefs in matters such as salvation by grace through faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, soul competency, believer's baptism, the symbolic nature of baptism and the Lord's Supper, a church membership only of those who have been born again, congregational church governance, the autonomy of churches, religious freedom, and voluntary cooperation for missions and ministry. Baptists declare that all people should have the freedom to possess, read and interpret the Bible for themselves. Based on the life and teachings of Jesus, Baptists insist that faith cannot be coerced and no one should try to do so. Neither should a particular interpretation of the Bible be forced on another. Yet, when Baptists differ on certain doctrines or practices, they use the Bible as the authority for their position, not some other source. Therefore, although Baptists may disagree about what the Bible teaches about certain doctrines and practices, they agree that the Bible is their sole ultimate written authority for faith and practice. A: Autonomy of Baptist churches Most, but not all, Baptists emphasize the autonomy of local churches. The word autonomous comes from two Greek words that mean self and law. Autonomous means self-governing or self-directing. Thus, an autonomous church governs itself without any outside human direction or control. The exception to complete autonomy is that Baptist churches recognize the control and authority of Jesus as Lord. Autonomy means that each Baptist church, among other things, selects its pastoral leadership, determines its worship form, decides financial matters and directs other church-related affairs without outside control or supervision. Baptist denominational organizations such as associations of churches and state and national conventions have no authority over a Baptist church. For any one of these organizations to attempt to exercise control over an individual church is to violate a basic Baptist conviction about polity. Being autonomous, a Baptist church recognizes no governmental control over faith and religious practice. Baptists also have rejected the practice of some denominations for denominational authorities to hand down to local congregations what to believe and how to worship. Baptists have insisted that there is no human authority over a Baptist church, and that only Jesus is Lord of a church. Although challenges are associated with church autonomy, it is a basic biblical concept that is a vital part of Baptist identity.  Exceptions are some Reformed Baptists, who are organized in a Presbyterian system, the Episcopal Baptists who have an Episcopal system, and some Baptist megachurches who lean towards a strong clergy-led style, in some instances abandoning congregational governance altogether (as independent congregations within an association, they are free to adopt any style). P: Priesthood of all believers Baptists insist that all who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior are priests, believer priests. The concept of the priesthood of believers is basic for Baptists. As with some other beliefs important to Baptists, there are varying interpretations of what the concept means, but all Baptists treasure the biblical truth of the priesthood of believers. In the Old Testament, priests were responsible for certain aspects of worship, and served as mediators between the people and God. The High Priest, the head priest, was the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple. This especially sacred place was separated from the rest of the temple and from the other priests and worshipers by a great curtain or veil. With the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, all of this changed, according to this doctrine. No longer was the sacrifice of animals appropriate, because Christ as the Lamb of God had given himself as a sacrifice for sin. It is seen as a once-and-for-all act. At the resurrection of Jesus, the great veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), indicating that Jesus, the great High Priest, now mediated between God and humankind. No longer were priests of the Old Testament variety needed. Indeed, all who believe in Jesus become priests with direct access to God. Human mediators are no longer needed. Every believer in Christ can go directly to God in prayer, confession, praise and worship. The term the priesthood of the believer communicates the biblical emphasis on the individual and soul competency. It also communicates the biblical emphasis on community and fellowship. T: Two ordinances Baptists recognize two ordinances (similar to the sacraments of other denominations): Believer's Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptist beliefs about baptism and the Lord's Supper differ from those of many other denominations. These differences are some of the ingredients in the distinctive Baptist recipe of beliefs and practices. Baptists usually use the term ordinances rather than sacraments when referring to baptism and the Lord's Supper. Even if sacraments is used, it is never intended to imply that either of these two is necessary for a person to be saved.  Baptists consistently declare that baptism and the Lord's Supper are symbols  and are not necessary for salvation. Because baptism and the Lord's Supper are symbolic, the use of the proper symbols is important. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that has made salvation possible. Baptism also symbolizes that a person through faith in Christ has passed from death to life and that this person has identified with Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6:3–5, Colossians 2:12). Baptists maintain that only the total immersion of a person in water adequately symbolizes this death, burial and resurrection. Likewise, using the correct elements in the Lord's Supper with a biblical understanding of them is important to Baptists. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper at his last meal with his disciples as part of the Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–26; Luke 22:14–20). According to the New Testament, unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine were part of the meal. Jesus indicated that the bread was symbolic of his body and the cup was symbolic of his blood. Baptists believe the unleavened bread symbolizes the purity of Christ, for he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and thus his body was an unblemished sacrifice for our sins. The juice from crushed grapes symbolizes the blood that Christ shed for us. In partaking of the bread and the cup, Christ's disciples are to remember his sacrifice on the cross of Calvary as he gave his body and shed his blood for our sins. Baptists believe the Bible teaches that the elements used in the Supper are not literally the body and blood of Christ. They are seen as symbols of his body and blood. In eating the bread and drinking from the cup, a person does not actually partake of Christ's flesh and blood. Rather, it is an opportunity to obey a command of Christ and to recall his sacrifice for us, his presence with us and his certain return (1 Corinthians 11:24-28). I: Individual Soul Liberty Various terms have been used for this concept, such as soul freedom, freedom of conscience and soul competency. It refers to the God-given freedom and ability of persons to know and respond to God's will. Baptists believe that God gives people competency—that is ability—to make choices. Baptists emphasize that this ability is not a mere human characteristic, but a gift from God. In creation, God gave to persons the freedom to make choices, a freedom that carries with it awesome responsibility. We are responsible for our choices. God sets forth the consequences of good and bad decisions. If we exercise our freedom to obey him, we have life. If we use our freedom to deny him, the result is death (Genesis 1–2). According to New Testament accounts, neither Jesus nor leaders in the New Testament churches coerced or forced persons to follow him, hence respecting the soul freedom of individuals. S: Saved Church Membership
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