Why I Am A Baptist
I am not a Baptist because I was raised one. I am not a Baptist because I had to "pick" a denomination. I am a Baptist because of DOCTRINE, and gladly so.
A lot of churches these days are dropping the apellation "Baptist" from their names. They think that the word "Baptist" doesn't fit in with the image they're trying to project. "Baptist" gives the world the impression of intolerance, of being hard-nosed, or taking unpopular stands. The world, all the Catholics and atheists and pagans and liberal Protestants, doesn't like the Baptists because the Baptists are mean and judgmental and don't compromise enough.
THAT'S why I am a Baptist. Particularly, an Independent, Fundamental Baptist (the only kind you can be, and still be true to the Baptist name, BTW). I believe the church of God ought to be unyielding in the face of the world, that churches which claim fellowship with Christ ought to avoid the worldly manner which a lot of religious "churches" are today adopting: the liberal, feel-good theology; the rock music and CCM; the soft, ear-tickling sermonettes; the relaxed standards of dress, conduct, and lifestyle; the counseling approach to dealing with church problems. Christ's church ought to go by the Bible, and only by the Bible. In my opinion, if the world and worldlings in the professing church don't like this, then that's too bad, because God's opinion is the only one that counts. And while I believe that there are saved, born-again people in just about every denomination, even in groups as far-gone as the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans, I believe that Baptist doctrine and practice, as handed down by our Anabaptist and Waldensian forefathers, are the ones most closely dependent on and derived from God's Word.
B - Bible as the Sole Authority
The Bible is the only source from which Christians may legitimately derive a basis for their faith and practice. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17) No man is the source of binding doctrine or belief. No pope or church "father" can tell a believer what to believe, nor can they be appealed to as any sort of scriptural authority. The pope and the church "fathers" do not have authority either over the Bible, or co-equal with the Bible, but they themselves must be judged BY the Bible. The same holds true for the actions and beliefs of all other men, whether they be Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Wesley, or any other Christian leader who has been revered by God's children. "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men." (Colossians 2:20-22) Paul warned against following the doctrines of men, literally doctrines created by men, such as pretty much every Catholic doctrine. In fact, the ONLY traditions Christians ought to follow are those from the Bible, as taught by God-fearing men who stick to the Bible and avoid mixing in their own personal ideas (cf. II Thessalonians 2:15).
A - Autonomy of the Local Church
The autonomous local congregation of saved believers is the only legitimate unit in the body of Christ. There can be no denominations, hierarchies, or organisations above the local church. You can search the Bible from cover to cover and not find even the slightest reference to any sort of organisational entity above the local body of believers. One can notice that every time a geographical region or area is mentioned in connexion with the body of Christ, the word "church" is always pluralised. For examples, In Galatians 1:2, Paul writes, "And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churchES of Galatia". The whole notion of having an archbishop over a region, such as the Catholic church has, is groundless. So is the notion of having conventions and denominations such as the Southern Baptist convention and the United Methodist denomination. In those groups too, you have the pooling of money to pay for non-local church missionaries and schools and professors, many of whom are unbelievers or heretics, and this all goes on without the direct input and consent of the local congregations. You also have authority placed at levels higher than the local church pastor, and have the phenomenon of councils and boards of directors handing down judgments on doctrine and practices to local congregations which can either be accepted, or else rejected (for which punishment is often exacted). The only time when the Christ's church will be united in one body, in one place, and in one congregation of saved believers will be when the world as we know it has ended, and Christ has called all of His faithful together into the general assembly and church of the firstborn (cf. Hebrews 12:23). Until then, each local assembly is independent and autonomous of all the others, and cannot exert control over any other, or be controlled by any other or a "higher" source of manmade authority.
P - Priesthood of Every Believer
Every believer who has put their faith and trust in Christ ALONE for their salvation now has the right to come before God's throne of grace and bring their cares and concerns directly to Him. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having out hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22) - "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) - "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." (I Peter 5:7) There is no need anymore to go to God through a priest or other religious nabob. A Christian's dealings are directly with God, and no intermediary other than our great High Priest, Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 4:14, I Timothy 2:5). We don't need to confess our sins to a priest, we don't need a priest to offer sacrifices for us, and we don't need a priest to tell us what God's oracles mean. A saved, born-again Christian believer has full right to read the Bible for his or herself and to be ministered to directly from God's Word by the Holy Spirit. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (I Corinthians 2:12-13). In short, every truly saved person has the position of a priest before God; to intercede for others with Him, to pray for their own needs, to speak His truth to others, and to learn His truth from Him.
T - Two Scriptural Offices, the Pastor and the Deacon
In the Bible, we see only two offices ever given in the church: the pastor (sometimes called the bishop, elder, overseer, or undershepherd) and the deacon. The various synonyms for the pastoral office reflect the various aspects of his duties. Qualifications for these two offices are given in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9 reiterates the qualifications for elders. Beyond that, there are no scriptural offices. The apostleship ceased to exist once the last apostle, John, went on to receive his reward. Hence, there is no apostolic succession. In fact, Revelation 2:2 speaks of Christ commending the Ephesian church for rejecting those "which say they are apostles, and are not". As no other apostle than John was alive at this time, this means that ANYONE claiming to be an apostle besides him was a liar. This holds as true today as back in that day. The pope and the Catholic hierarchy are not apostolic successors, and the offices such as pope, cardinal, archbishop, archdeacon, etc. etc. ad nauseum are irrelevant, unscriptural, and non-existent in God's economy. So are these same offices in the various Protestant settings, as found in Episcopal and Methodist churches, for instance.
I - Immersion Baptism
Baptism by immersion after the taking of Christ as Saviour is the only Biblical means of baptism. This is the only example found in the scriptures. Jesus provided the supreme example of believer's baptism by His obedience to God's will to provide an example in baptism to future believers. Mark 1:10 says that Jesus came straightway "up out of the water". He was immersed, not sprinkled or anointed! Note also, that John's baptism, as with Christian baptism later on, was the "baptism of REPENTENCE for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4) Baptism doesn't save, it's an outward testimony of repentence and trust in Christ....it's the repentence which leads to salvation, not the baptism. All the baptisms pictured in the New Testament are believer's baptisms, baptism by immersion under water after a person had trusted Christ. Sprinkling a baby is not baptism. Sprinkling an adult is not baptism either. Anointing a person with oil or unguent is not a baptism. Baptism of believers can only be scripturally acceptable if they are by immersion, and done after true saving faith has been placed in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
S - Separation of Church and State
Baptists have long supported the separation of church and state. In fact, Baptists and their forebearers were the ones who pioneered this separation, often under intense persecution from "official" state churchs, both Catholic and Protestant. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)" (II Corinthians 10:3-4) Baptists have always understood this to mean that the church of Christ cannot and should not advance its cause by the use of government force, violent persuasion, or official sanction. In essence, the separation of church and state, rightly understood, simply means that you don't have a state church. The church does not exert authority in the secular realm, and the secular realm does not exert authority in church business. Baptists suffered at the hands of state churches in Europe and the colonial period in America, and were adamant in their opposition to established churches in the New World. Baptists were instrumental in bringing about religious toleration in America, and in seeing the inclusion of the 1st amendment in the United States Constitution. Baptist pastor John Leland persuaded James Madison to include the 1st amendment language in his drafts for the Bill of Rights for the Constitutional convention. the Danbury Baptist Association, in Connecticut, also influenced Thomas Jefferson towards keeping and maintaining his position against official church establishment in America. This emphasis on freedom of conscience, against a coercive state church, does NOT mean that Baptists have to stay out of the workings of government and politics, however. Because of the freedom with which God has blessed us in America, Baptists (like everyone else) can and ought to vote, lobby, run for office, and serve in government, with the end of seeing their views become law. Christians ought to vigorously oppose abortion and special rights for homosexuals, state lotteries and no-fault divorce. Christians have a moral obligation to be the salt and light of the world and stand up for right in the political realm. This is not a violation of church and state separation (except in the eyes of far-left bigots and fear-mongers like the ACLU), it is a fulfilment of Biblical obligation from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
T - Two Scriptural Ordinances, Baptism and the Lord's Supper
The only two ordinances which the Bible speaks of as pertaining to Christians are those of believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper. As was covered above, baptism is an ordinance carried out on new converts after they trust Christ, and in obedience to His commandment to disciple and baptise those who trust in Him. In baptism, identification is made with the death and resurrection of Christ, and this requires faith and understanding of what is being identified with. Infant baptism cannot be considered baptism because there is no possible way an infant could understand this identification. The Lord's Supper is an ordinance whereby we take communion with the Lord, and remember His death for us and look to His coming again through the symbolism of the Supper (cf. I Corinthians 11:24-25). Note that this ordinance is purely symbolic, as the words "in remembrance of me", and Jesus' testimony in John 6:63, "...the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." indicate. This ordinance is NOT the same as the Catholic mass, which is an idolatry resacrificing a cracker in the place of Christ. There are no other ordinances mentioned in the Bible as being ordinances to be practiced by all believers in communion with the life and work of Christ. Marriage is not a Biblical ordinance, neither is "extreme unction" (derived loosely from James 5:15). This doesn't mean that believers should not marry or pray for those who are sick and dying; it just means that they are not ordinances which are spiritually binding on believers to be carried out in commemoration of Christ.