What makes Baptists distinct? Is it just the name on our signs? Or does the name “Baptist” represent special significance? In this three-part post, I’d like to highlight a few key areas of Baptist distinction. This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of these truths—just an overview of what makes Baptists special.
As a Baptist, no other distinctive is more critical and foundational than biblical authority. Based on 2 Timothy 3:16–17, we believe the Bible is the Word of God and therefore our absolute and final authority.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
We believe in Bible authority.
Because every teaching, belief, and practice of Baptists is built upon the Word of God, understanding the infallibility of Scripture is vital.
Christ followed God’s Word in everything He taught and did. And He specifically stated that God’s Word was divinely inspired: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Second Peter 1:20–21 explains the origin of the Book we cherish: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Our faith and practice are based on God’s Word.
Although other groups may have a similar doctrinal statement to that of Baptists, we believe that our daily living should reflect what we believe. We hold that the Bible should be our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Although there is room for cultural adaptation and preferential expression, we do not base doctrine—on paper or in practice—on tradition. Every key area of church function that we practice can be found in God’s Word. For example: preaching (2 Timothy 4), offerings (1 Corinthians 16), altar calls (Romans 12), praying (Luke 19:46), missions (Acts 13), baptism by immersion (Acts 8), and many others.
Look again at 2 Timothy 3:17. This passage teaches that God’s Word is divinely inspired and perfectly preserved for a specific purpose—“That the man of God may be perfect.” Perfect here means “fitted or equipped.” The Word of God helps believers mature in daily life and service. This means that our daily living should reflect our doctrine!
The challenge for every Baptist, then, is to align his life to God’s Word—to study it thoroughly (2 Timothy 2:15) and to obey it faithfully (Joshua 1:8).
In part 2 of this post, we’ll look at the Baptist distinctives regarding the church.