WHAT MAKES A TRUE BAPTIST?
Today there are at least a hundred different groups which call themselves “Baptist.” Many of these churches have conflicting beliefs and practices. The natural question then to ask is, “What makes a person a true Baptist?” In examining the history of Baptists and determining what makes a genuine Baptist, five distinctives should be noted. These five distinctive beliefs separate the true Baptists from other groups who have mistakenly taken the name Baptist, and from all Protestants. Examine any church in light of these five distinctive it will be shown if they are a true historic Baptist congregation.
It is well also to note that these five distinctives are traits of the true New Testament church! These are the distinctives taught in the Bible which form a true New Testament church. The one thing that makes one a Baptist is that they historically have followed the New Testament alone as their sole rule for faith and practice. Baptists strongly insist that God’s Word is not up for arbitration or subject to the individual’s, group’s, denomination’s or church’s “private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) Baptists believe that you do not have to be a Baptist in order to be saved and have eternal life, but a person must believe the Gospel and follow the teachings revealed in the New Testament. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) Further, if a person is truly saved and strictly follows the principles of the New Testament, he will in a true sense, be a Baptist whether he uses the name or not. Baptists interpret the Bible literally within its historic, cultural and grammatical context. True Baptists believe, as the New Testament teaches, that Christ is the only head of the church.
Fundamental Independent Baptists are strict in interpreting the Bible in a “literal” sense. In other words, when the Bible speaks, the words have a literal meaning and that is the meaning God intended. To interpret God’s word one must apply sound hermeneutical principles of interpretation which consider the grammatical use of the words, and the culture and historical situation in which they were written.
True Baptists reject the Apocryphal Books as being inspired of God and use them only for historical reference. Further, they reject the efforts of the many who “spiritually” interpret the Scriptures, using allegory and placing hidden or specially revealed meanings to the words of the Bible. Baptists refuse to accept the so-called “scriptures” or revelation of modern day prophets. They believe that when the Book of Revelation was completed by the Apostle John about 90-95 AD, the Word of God was complete and He has given no further revelation. It is believed that God meant what He said in Revelation 22:18, that the Scriptures were not to be added to or taken from. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states the scriptures are the inspired word of God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 explains that the Bible is the very word of God written under the direction of the Holy Spirit and is not of any private interpretation. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God and no man has the right to add or remove anything from God’s inspired word.
If the following five distinctives are the beliefs of a church, then you will have a true Baptist church. If a church cannot answer in the positive to each of these distinctives, then you do not have a New Testament or Baptist church. If they identify themselves as Baptists they are misusing the name.