*The purpose of this post is simply to inform. My intent is NOT to offend in any way. Some of the people closest to me genuinely do not understand why I believe what I believe and this post is an attempt to clarify those beliefs, at least a little bit. If you disagree with me, we can still be friends. It does not offend me if you do not believe the exact same way as I do, and I most certainly do not think I am better than anyone else if they do not see eye-to-eye with me. Our Christian walk is a journey, and we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, not to an individual.
My family and I attend an independent fundamental Baptist church. But what exactly IS an independent fundamental Baptist church? The thoughts I have written here are taken from a study our church did awhile back called Christian Mentoring A to Z. (The study covered all kinds of areas such as assurance of salvation, obedience to God, baptism, reaching the world, victorious Christian living, and many other areas.) We used Scripture passages to learn about what God says in the Bible about different issues. One section was on the history of the Baptist church, and the fundamental principles (Baptist discinctives) that our church teaches, and most of the thoughts in this post come from that section.
Before I begin, I want to stress the fact that I do not believe I am saved because I attend a Baptist church. I do not even believe that God loves me more because I attend a Baptist church. I have no extra merit with God because I attend a Baptist church. I am saved by God's grace, because I have placed my full dependence and faith on Jesus Christ, and He alone has saved me. Not Jesus plus good works. Not Jesus plus church membership. My faith is in Jesus Christ's shed blood for my sins, and I am trusting Him for eternal life in heaven because He paid the full penalty for my sins. I cannot save myself in any way. The only merit I have with God is that when He looks at me, He sees Jesus' blood covering my sins, and so He accepts me as one of His own, on the basis of His Son's finished work on the cross.
A Baptist church is Baptist if it holds to and carries out the basic teachings of the New Testament.
B - Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A - Autonomy of the local church
P - Priesthood of the believer
T - Two ordinances of the church (baptism and the Lord's Supper)
I - Individual soul responsibility
S - Separation (personal, ecclesiastical, and political)
T - Two officers of the church (pastor and deacons)
Distinctive #1 - The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A mutual and common adherence to the whole Bible and its authority is the cohesive force among Baptists. Other churches often follow a leader or founder, and have to adhere to confessions or articles put forth by their founder. The soul of man bows to the authority of the Bible, making reason, the church, and personal experience all subordinate to it. The Bible is the written revelation of God and is complete.
Distinctive #2 - Autonomy of each local church
Each local church is sovereign and cannot be controlled by any board, hierarchical system, or other church. Autonomy means: independent, self-governing, self-supporting, an self - propagating. A Scriptural independent New Testament church is an organized band of baptized believers practicing the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper and actively engaged in carrying out the Great Commission. The foundation for independence is based on New Testament principles - 1.) the competence of the individual to know God's will, and 2.) the responsibility of the church to carry out God's will is based on the foundation that its members know God's will. The final governing authority in the autonomous Baptist church is the church itself directed by its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Distinctive #3 - Priesthood of all believers
Every born-again believer may pray directly to God through Jesus Christ, the High Priest, without a human intercessor. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God the Father (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus is not only the believer's Savior and Lord, but also his High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Distinctive #4 - Two ordinances of the local church
There are two ordinances o fhte local church - baptism and the Lord's supper. An ordinance is "An outward rite appointed by Christ to be administered in the church as a visible sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith." The Baptist church does NOT teach that baptism or the Lord's supper have ANY saving power. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality - the individual who has already placed his faith and trust in Christ alone shows that he is identifying himself with the Lord by being baptized. He is showing that he has died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and has been raised to walk a new life. Saving faith ALWAYS PRECEDES baptism. Baptists believe that baptism by immersion is the only correct way to be baptized. Why? The word "baptize" means immerse. Only immersion correctly pictures that which baptism symbolizes -death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling and pouring cannot symbolize this.
*Let me deviate from the study to put in a thought of my own. I have had someone tell me that they heard that if you join a Baptist church, you will have to be re-baptized in that church. For instance, if you were baptized in a Bible church after you were saved, you will have to be re-baptized when you join a Baptist church. Our church does not teach that, and I have never heard that taught from other independent fundamental Baptist churches that I have gone to before. After I trusted Christ for salvation, I was baptized by immersion in the Bible church that my family attended when I was a little girl. When I joined the Baptist church I go to now, I did not have to be re-baptized, because I had already been Scripturally baptized after I was saved.
Back to the study. The second ordinance is the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial table, picturing the body and blood of Christ and serving ONLY as a reminder of His sacrifice. The ordinances were instituted by Christ on the eve of His death (Matthew 26:26-30). The purpose is given in I Corinthians 11:25-26 - for a memorial. We reject the doctrine of infant baptism, since individuals must decide for themselves. We also do not practice infant church membership, since members must be saved, scripturally baptized, and request church membership. These two ordinances are not sacraments. They neither give salvation, help salvation, nore keep salvation. We observe the ordinances due to commandment (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24).
Distinctive #5 - Individual soul liberty
Each individual has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He can worship God as he believes the Bible teaches. People have individual wills, and God directly instructs individuals. God deals with people as individuals and judges people as individuals. Each person has individual soul liberty to choose his own church, determine his own spiritual fate, and decide what the Bible teaches (or deny the Bible altogether). We must never force our beliefs on others. Share the gospel and biblical truths, yes, but not coerce.
Distinctive #6 - Separation
Separation is to be in three realms - political, ecclesiastical, and personal. Political separation - God established civil government, and He instructs the Christian in their duty to government - pray for it, submit to it, support it, and honor it. Ecclesiastical separation - as a church, we must separate from apostasy - II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:16-17; II John 10-11; II Thessalonians 3:6,14. Personal separation - a Christian is to be personally separated FROM the world (Romans 12:1-2) UNTO Christ (I Thessalonians 1:9). In order to take the question out of questionable activities, there are three things to consider. First LOOK UP (Colossians 3:2) - does it violate a direct command from God, and will God be glorified through my participation? Second, LOOK IN (I Corinthians 6:19-20) - what effect will it have on me, on my mind, on my body? How would I feel if Christ returned while I was invovled in this activity? Third, LOOK OUT (I Corinthians 8:12) - what effect will it have on the unsaved, or on the saved (it is a sin to cause a brother to stumble). The Christian has the privilege of living a holy life for Christ. This is also our duty. It is far from boring; and it is not restrictive. It is a joy to please our great God and Savior.
Distinctive #7 - Two officers of the local church
The offices of pastors and deacons are the only Bible-recognized offices in the local church. The congregation chooses both. The Bible clearly teaches the qualifications and responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacons.
An independent fundamental Baptist church is the church that I choose to attend because it is the kind of church that I believe best follows the guidelines of the New Testament church. I'm not saying my church is a perfect, flawless church. No church is, because it is made up of imperfect people. I do believe God has led my husband and I and our children to the church that we attend. Our pastor teaches and preaches Biblical truth. It is not that we blindly swallow everything he says, hook, line and sinker without even thinking or searching the Scriptures. No, we do listen carefully and turn to the passages he is preaching from and we confirm whether the things he is saying do indeed line up with the Bible. Our pastor does not just preach "feel good" sermons; on the contrary, he preaches straight from the Word of God and does not skip over topics just because they might offend. Does he intentionally try to offend people? Absolutely not, but he does not just skip over things that might be offensive.
We use the King James Version of the Bible because we believe that is the most accurate translation available. We sing congregationl songs from hymnals, the great hymns of the faith. We do not have a band that plays rocky "Christian" music, nor do we sing any "Christian Contemporary" music. We believe that most "CCM" music sounds worldly - because of the beat and "watered-down" lyrics- and that it often seeks to glorify the performer through intricate vocal techniques, rather than the Lord. However, don't think that if you were to walk into our church during the singing that it would sound like a monastery. We use instruments, and our music director picks out arrangements that have meaningful words and beautiful music. We hope to soon have a full orchestra as we add more musical people to our church. I wear a dress or skirt to church, as do many of our ladies. However, some of our women do wear pants to church. While I have a personal conviction to not wear pants myself, I do not look down on those that do not share the same conviction. God does not love me more because I came in a skirt. Wearing a skirt, in and of itself, is not an indication that I am right with God. For all of these things I have mentioned in this paragraph, our church does not teach that God loves us more because we do these things. Our church does NOT teach that any of these things give salvation. Our church does not look down on those who do not believe as we do. I have always heard our pastor give Bible verses to back up what he is preaching. IF something is his opinion, he is careful to distinguish between his opinion, and a clear directive in Scripture.
I am not saying that no other church teaches the Truth. I have been members in three different Bible churches (non-denominational) and all three taught truth from God's Word. I have even visited a few Community churches and Southern Baptist churches, and found them to also teach truth from the Bible. Now SOME of those same churches had some issues on which I strongly disagreed with. However, it is my personal belief that an independent fundamental Baptist church is the type of church that best follows the guidelines of a New Testament church. This post is simply meant to give information, and not condemn or point fingers in any way.
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