The Baptist Church

I had been meaning to post this, but it has taken longer than I though to get around to combining my notes and PowerPoint slides together. Also, if you’re wondering where Part 2 of A History of the Churches of Christ went to? I never got it from Philip, so it didn’t go up.

We started the class of with a review game on things we had talked about in the last two weeks. Some questions were meant to be easy, some were meant to be tricky, and some were just meant to see who was really listening. If you really want to take a look at it and see how much you know, you can download it. I guess I needed more than one tie-breaker, because the game still ended up in a tie.

The past couple of weeks we have been studying the history of our church (the Church of Christ). Tonight we are going to look at one of the biggest churches in America. The Baptist Church. Like the Church of Christ, the Baptist church has a couple of people that are important in their heritage. These men are named Roger Williams and John Clarke. We won’t spend nearly as much time on them as we did Stone and Campbell, but I’ll give a very brief history of them both.
Roger Williams and John Clarke

Roger Williams was born to a Puritan Family in London around 1603 and died in 1684. After graduating from Cambridge University, he became a chaplain to a rich family and married his wife, Mary Barnard. Around 1630, he decided to come to America were he could gain more religious freedom. One of the things that Williams believed was that the Native Americans should be treated fairly. He purchased land from them and founded Providence, Rhode Island. In 1639, he established what is considered to be the First Baptist Church in America.

John Clarke was born in England in 1609 and died in 1676. In 1637 he immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay. In 1639 he helped found the city of Newport, Rhode Island and established a Baptist Church there. This was also around the same time that Roger Williams established the church in Providence. Records are not good for which building was completed first, so both are generally considered founders of the Baptist Church in America.

Here are some statistics about the Baptist church. Over 90 million Christians consider themselves Baptist worldwide, with 47 million of those in the United States. Baptists churches are organized by a system called the congregational governance system, which gives autonomy to each individual church. (Sounds sort of like the Church of Christ doesn’t it?) They often associate themselves in denominational groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention, USA, National Baptist Convention of America, American Baptist Churches, and Baptist Bible Fellowship International are just a few. In fact, about 92% of Baptists are found in those 5 denominational bodies.

So what do the Baptists believe?

Like the Churches of Christ, they don’t have a true central governing authority, so beliefs are not consistent from on Church to the other. However on what is considered major theological issues, the beliefs are pretty common. These are things such as there is only one God; the virgin birth of Jesus; he lived a sinless life; performed miracles; he was resurrected; the need for salvation; grace; etc.

A common acrostic that describes the Baptist beliefs is:

Believer’s Baptism by Immersion Only
Authority and Absolute Inerrancy of the Scriptures
Priesthood of Every Believer
Two Local Church Ordinances (Believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
Independence of the Local Church
Saved Church Membership
Two Offices of the Church (Pastor and Deacon)
Separation (Personal, Ecclesiastical, State)

Now let’s take a look at what each of those mean. During the class I had the scripture references up on PowerPoint. To make it easier, I will just link the scripture reference to BibleGateway.

Believer’s Baptism by Immersion Only (Acts 2:41-47, Acts 8:36-38)
A person can be baptized by full immersion in water after a person professes Jesus Christ to be Savior. Still sounds kinda similar to the Church of Christ baptism doesn’t it. Here is where it differs. Whereas the Church of Christ teaches that it is for the remission of sins, Baptists teach that it is an outward expression that is symbolic of the inward cleaning that already took place when they professed that Jesus is Lord. In other words, the remission of sins occur when you profess that Jesus is Lord. A common way of professing this is by saying something like The Sinner’s Prayer. They also do not practice infant baptism. Their baptism is also a representation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They also only recognize baptism by full immersion as the only valid baptism.

Authority and Absolute Inerrancy of the Scriptures (Matthew 5:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21)
Well there’s not really a whole lot to talk about here. The Church of Christ holds the same view.

Priesthood of Every Believer (Philippians 1:8-9, John 15:13-16)
This is also something that is common among the Churches of Christ. This is the belief that we have direct access to God and the truths found in the Bible without the need for a hierarchy of priests. They are encouraged to discuss scripture and other issues with their minister and other Christians as a means of developing spiritual maturity.

Two Local Church Ordinances (Acts 2:41-47, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32)
They call them ordinances instead of sacraments, because they are obedience to a command that Christ has given us instead of activities that God uses to impart salvation or a means of grace. However, there is a group called the reformed Baptists that refer to them as sacraments because they view them as a means of grace. Since we’ve already talked about believer’s baptism, let’s move onto the Lord Supper. Depending on what the church decides, it can be done either weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or on other special occasions.
BTW: A few groups like the Primitive Baptists and Free Will Baptists that will include foot washing as a third local church ordinance.

Independence of the Local Church (Matthew 18:15-17, Acts 13:1-4)
Well we’ve kind of already discussed this as well. Although they may align themselves in groups, each congregation ultimately decides what they practice.

Saved Church Membership (1 Corinthians 1:1-2, Acts 2:41-47)
To be saved, one must be a member of the Church. That is the majority opinion anyways. Some groups will accept and teach those that have professed Jesus as Lord without following through with the Believer’s Baptism.

Two Offices of the Church (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
The two offices are that of pastor and deacon. So what exactly is a pastor? A pastor can be what we call an elder in the Church of Christ. A pastor can also be the minister, since one of the duties of the elders is to be able to teach. Oftentimes, elder and minister are considered to just be one office… that of a pastor. Their view of deacon is the same as the Church of Christ.

Separation (Personal: Romans 12:1-2; Ecclesiastical: Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; State: Matthew 22:21b)
After reading those verses, a pretty simple summary of that belief is that they should be in the world but not of it, each church is autonomous from each other, separate yourself from sin, and the government and church should be separate. While today the separation of church in state is usually fought from the standpoint that the church should not be in the affairs of the state, it was originally used to keep the state out of the affairs of the church.

Finally, here are some other Baptists beliefs that may or may not be a majority belief.

  • Most Baptists believe that it is prohibited for women to serve as pastors or deacons.
  • Many also believe that divorce disqualifies a man from serving as a pastor or deacon.
  • Most emphasize that worship is not limited to the Sunday gathering, but is a lifestyle of love and service to Christ.
  • Some Baptists object to the application of the labels Protestant, denomination, Evangelical and some even Baptist to themselves or their churches. They wish to only be known as Christians. (Sound familiar?) A growing trend is to eliminate Baptist from the name of the church. Oftentimes they will use words like Community or other non-religions or non-denominational term in the name.

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