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The Principles On Which The Baptist
Movement Is Founded

By

Neil Armstrong B.A., M.Div.


Introduction

These are the main principles on which the Baptist movement is founded. Although different terminology is sometimes used, essentially all Baptist Churches hold the same basic principles. Not all Christians who hold these views are necessarily members of Baptist Churches. Over the last couple of centuries, individuals and even denominations, have adopted many of the ideas which at one time were considered uniquely Baptist. Today, many of these principles are behind the world wide growth of the evangelical movement.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ

Baptists believe Jesus is Lord. He is the supreme authority over the Church and each individual who surrenders their life to Him. He secured salvation through his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Every area of the believer's life and the life of Christ's Body, the Church, is subject to His Lordship.

The Authority of the Scriptures

Baptists believe the Scriptures are inspired by God. They are the only perfect, supreme, infallible and sufficient standard of faith and practice.

The Priesthood of the Believer

Baptists believe that all Christians are equals in the church. Each one has a priestly role under Jesus Christ who is the High Priest. Every member is called to be a minister with the responsible of sharing the Gospel and serving one another in love.

An extension of this principle is that inherent in the worth of each person is also the competency of the soul to have direct access to God through Jesus Christ. Baptists believe that no group has the right to coerce others to believe or worship as it does.

Regenerate Church Membership

To become a Christian requires a personal acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord which results in the person being born-again. This act of faith is followed by believer's baptism which must precede membership in the local church.

Baptism

Baptists practice believer's baptism by immersion. It is one of the first significant acts through which the believer proclaims personal faith in Christ and is initiated into church life and ministry.

Local Church Autonomy

Baptists believe government in a local church is controlled by the principles of the priesthood of believers, the Lordship of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will. Each church is competent under Christ to look after its own affairs and has freedom from coercion by other bodies. From their beginning, however, Baptists have consistently recognized the importance of cooperation with churches of "like faith and order."

The Separation of Church and State

Baptists have championed the right to freedom in spiritual matters under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They believe there must exist a separation between the church and civil governments. There should not be a church controlled state, nor a state controlled church. God has given legitimate roles to both, but neither is to encroach upon the rights or obligations of the other. They are, however, under obligation to recognize and reinforce each other as each seeks to fulfill its divine function.

Postscript

Although many people consider the Baptist Church to be a denomination it is better understood when it is seen as a movement. This is because Baptists have no fixed theology, their only authority is the Word of God. Each congregation is organized around the autonomy of the local church. Although there are associations and conventions denominational structures are minimal. Furthermore, Baptist Churches own their own properties, call their own Pastors and make all of their own decisions. Each Baptist Church even has a different order of service which may be changed whenever needed. The way people worship may also vary from church to church. Because Baptist Churches are very flexible and can change very rapidly, they are better understood as a movement rather than a denomination.


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