Neil Armstrong B.A., M.Div.
When asked to explain what it means to be a Baptist there are usually several responses. The most common view is that a Baptist is someone who is baptized by immersion. Another response is that there is an association with John the Baptist. This is because John baptized many people, including Jesus. Although these answers are found in the New Testament, they are not adequate explanations. To have a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a Baptist, one must understand the core beliefs of the Christian faith.
At the very heart of the Christian faith is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout his teaching ministry he made it clear that he had come to earth for this reason. Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:18-20 "He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." Mark 9:31
Clearly, Jesus' considered his death and resurrection to be the very center of his earthly ministry.
For the Christian the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just an event which happened two thousand years ago but is something which happens spiritually each time a person becomes a Christian. Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Becoming a Christian is dying with Christ and being resurrected to new life. This is called the new birth. An appreciation of the new birth is absolutely essential in understanding what it means to be Baptist.
When individuals identify themselves as Baptists they are indicating they have experienced the new birth. This is also referred to as salvation. After experiencing salvation they are baptized in water. This is outward ceremony or symbol which Jesus instructed his followers to perform. Baptists believe in baptism by immersion. It is meant to reenact the death and resurrection of Jesus. It also testifies to the fact that a deeper spiritual reality has occurred in their lives. When individuals identify themselves as Baptists, it is this inner spiritual reality to which they are referring.
Because the term Baptist is so intimately tied to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is possible to use the terms Baptist and Christian synonymously. Often when someone mentions they are a Baptist they are expressing the fact they are a Christian. This is because baptism is the way Christians, of all denominations, declare their faith in Jesus Christ to the world.
Although there are other principles on which the Baptist Church is founded
, spiritually this what it means to be a Baptist.