There are many “churches” in the world today claiming to have authority from God. The real test of an authentic, New Testament church, however, is its adherence to sound New Testament doctrine. Below are the peculiar doctrinal distinctives which have historically separated Baptist churches from all others which have laid claim to the title “church”. These distinctives have been arranged to form an acrostic: B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S.
The Bible is recognized as the sole rule for faith and practice. All other writings, personalities, and traditions have no binding authority upon the New Testament church. Scripture: Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:3, 4, 19-21.
Autonomy of the Local Church
The local New Testament church answers solely to Christ and His Word not any other church or governing body. The New Testament church of Jesus Christ is independent of denominational ties. Scripture: Acts 2:41-47; 13:1-3; 14:26-28; 1 Timothy 3:15.
Priesthood of the Believer
In Jesus Christ, every believer is considered a “priest”. No other human instrumentality is needed to attain grace or forgiveness. Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9.
Two Ordinances in the Church
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances Jesus Christ left behind for His church to observe. These two ordinances illustrate the sacrifice of our Lord and provide the believer with a means to identify with and remember this sacrifice. Scripture: Matthew 28:19, 20; Luke 22:19, 20; Acts 2:41; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Every person is responsible for his own relationship with God. Each individual must give an account of themselves before God. This accountability is the sole responsibility of the individual. Scripture: Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15.
Separation from the World
The believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God. As such, he is to be separated from worldly influences, sinful practices and erroneous teachings. Scripture: Proverbs 19:27; Romans 12:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Colossians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:3.
Three Offices within the Church
There are three offices provided within the local New Testament church: 1. The evangelist (“a preacher of the gospel”) – this office is the Biblical equivalent of the modern missionary or church-planter. 2. The pastor/teacher – this office represents the shepherd of the local church. This office is also referred to as “bishop” and “elder”, reflecting the functional variety of the office. 3. The deacon (“a servant”) – this office cares for the temporal affairs of the local church in a support role. Scripture: Acts 6:1-6; Ephesians 4:11, 12; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3.
Saved Membership within the Church
The local church consists only of saved and baptized individuals. While unbelievers are welcomed within the church, only baptized believers comprise its membership. Scripture: Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.