THE FIVE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES
This means that Baptists do not accept any authority except the New Testament Scriptures in regard to church polity, practice and doctrine. The institution of the local church (ekklesia – assembly) is not found in the Old Testament. The institution of the local “ekklesia” was not instituted until Pentecost after the Lord ascended into heaven. Christ is head of the local church, and it is His bride. We believe the Word of God, the Bible is complete and it solely, “. . . Is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God many be perfect, throughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) We reject that God is giving supposed “new” Revelation, believing that God forbids any adding to or taking away of the canon of Scriptures. (Rev. 22:18-19) We do not accept any authority over the New Testament Church, but Christ Himself, including any hierarchy to include popes, modern day prophets, or councils of churches.
1. WE BELIEVE THE SIXTY SIX BOOKS OF THE BIBLE ARE THE INSPIRED, INERRANT AND INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD.
2. WE BELIEVE THE CHURCH IS TO BE MADE UP OF SAVED BAPTIZED BELIEVERS.
3. WE BELIEVE IN STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
4. WE BELIEVE IN THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER.
5. WE BELIEVE IN THE AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH.
Though not a historic distinctive of a Baptist church, one other characteristic is necessary for an assembly to call its self a true New Testament church. This distinctive is based on the truth that God will not, nor can He bless or be a party to doctrinal error. A true New Testament church will believe and follow the correct and proper instructions of God’s word. There are many churches that believe and practice false doctrines, such as modern tongues speaking, do not practice biblical separation from worldliness and hold to other unbiblical views. A true New Testament church’s doctrine and practice will correctly follow the word of God. The New Testament stresses purity in faith and practice as Revelation 2-3 clearly teach. Jesus strongly warned five of the seven churches of Asia saying he had things against them. He warned them believe the Word of God and to correct their failures or He would take action against them or have not part with them. A true church that has the blessings of the Lord will diligently seek purity in faith and practice. Those who refuse to repent of their errors will not have the approval or the blessings of God.
A church which cannot answer yes to all of these questions cannot historically call itself a Baptist church, nor can it legitimately call itself a New Testament church. These are the distinctives that separate true Baptists and from all Protestants, any organized church, doctrinally unsound church, or “Christian” cults.
A person can rightly take godly pride in truthfully bearing the name Baptist. Many men have suffered and given their fortunes and their lives to hold the name in truth. It stands for devotion and a strict obedience to God and his commandments. It holds high the saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament and an unwavering commitment to carrying out the Great Commission, that is, to teach everywhere the truth of God’s Word.
The validity of a church as being a true biblical New Testament church does not rest in its ability to show an unbroken line of succession from the time of Christ. In fact, no church on earth can make that claim. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which boasts of his unbroken history cannot prove an unbroken line of churches any earlier than the Fourth Century, and what Catholicism teaches today in no way resembles New Testament faith or practice, or what the early churches believed and practiced.
We must agree with John Smyth: the true New Testament church is founded on its belief and practice of the Scriptures, and not on any outward succession of a visible or invisible organization. In this sense, any church which bases it faith and practice strictly on the teaching of the New Testament is a true and Biblical church, even if it existed in time, only yesterday. It is not the name or the organization that makes a biblical church, but its practice of the faith as revealed in the New Testament.
It is the Word of God, the Bible, and in particular the New Testament, that tells us what is a real and true church! The Bible and only the Bible reveals to men how to have their sins forgiven and have everlasting life and heaven. That is what saved believers have always believed, because that is what the New Testament, which is what God’s Word says.
The true Baptist bases his authority solely on the Bible itself. They do not accept that authority was given to any particular man, pope, prophet, group, or church on earth to be the means of the salvation of men. A church is not God’s instrument of salvation, but an institution of believers joined together to preach and teach God’s word and present the Gospel to a lost and dying world. God has not entrusted that authority to impart salvation to any man or church. God alone has that authority and He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, brings conviction and salvation to those who in simple faith believe.
A church that is a true biblical assembly, patterns itself after the example in the New Testament. It is one made up of baptized believers organized in a local congregation for fellowship, teaching and evangelism. Every system of hierarchy set up by man over the authority of the local church is unbiblical and has led to doctrinal errors and corruption without exception and God has no party with them.