Throughout the centuries, churches have relied on three major reasons for believing what they believe and for what they practice: 1) Tradition –This meaning that many religious groups believe that there is a body of teaching and practice that has been accepted by their group for a long period of time. 2) Pragmatism – Still others believe that you make decisions that reflect the age in which you live and how well something is accepted. 3) Scripture – The Bible is the sole teacher and guide in matters of belief and practice. Some might even add a fourth that would be a combination of the above. That choice simply could not be made for if you do believe in Scripture as any authority at all, the testimony of the Scripture you say you believe will not allow you to have any other authority for your belief and practice.
As Baptists, Southern Baptists in particular, we are “People of the Book”, that book being the Bible. Please note following this paragraph that there is a synopsis of our core beliefs. These are based on The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 which is simply a brief understanding of our beliefs from Scripture on certain matters of faith.
I. The Scriptures: The Holy Bible was written by men inspired by God. It is without error and is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. The purpose of God’s Word is to reveal Himself to mankind in order to bring man to Him in salvation. It is the sole means of a standard of conduct for all human kind. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
II. God: There is only one God who is an intelligent, personal, and sovereign God. He created the earth and all in it by His choice, His design, and His love. (Genesis 1:1ff) He reveals Himself in three ways: 1) God the Father – God reigns and cares for His creation. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. He is the example for real Fatherhood. (Psalm 139). 2) God the Son – Christ is the eternal Son of God having been revealed to mankind through the virgin birth from Mary. Christ is God in the flesh. He lived a sinless life, taught repentance, forgiveness, and then died on a cross for the sins of all the world. He rose again the third day showing that He is God over death, hell, and the grave. It is only by Him that you can know God. One a day and time appointed by God, Jesus Christ will return in power and glory to judge the world and to take believers to Heaven and consign unbelievers to hell. (John 1:1-18, 29) 3) God the Holy Spirit -- God’s Word tells us that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)” He inspired men to write the Holy Scriptures. He convicts men of sin, of what righteousness really is, and of God’s coming judgment. After salvation, He indwells every true believer and remains in man to direct His paths. (Romans 8:9-11)
III. Man: Man is a special creation of God, created from the dust of the ground by God’s choice. God Himself breathed life into man, and by His design created woman as well. His design for man was for man to take care of the earth, to be fruitful and multiply. Unfortunately, after the temptation of satan, man chose to rebel against God’s commands. Since then, man has been born with a sinful leaning. Only God’s Grace on the Cross can bring forgiveness to man. Human life is of great worth to God and is sacred, therefore we ought never destroy life. ( Genesis 1-2, Ephesians 2:1-22)
IV. Salvation: Please see the link titled: How Can I Become a Member of This Church? There, you will find a detailed understanding of how to be saved. For a short thought here, Salvation involves six things: 1) Admitting you are a sinner, 2) Believing Jesus, God’s Son, died, was buried, and rose again the third day to forgive you and all mankind of our sins, 3) Asking forgiveness, 4) Turning from known Sin, 5)Making Jesus Lord of your Life, and 6) Confessing all this verbally before men.
V. God’s Purpose in Grace: Because of man’s sinfulness, God could choose to do away with man. Yet His love is the reason He offers forgiveness and cleansing from sin through the shed blood of His Son Jesus. God is gracious and slow to wrath. All believers who have been saved throughly (yes throughly, not thoroughly) will endure to the end. Though even believers sin, God stands ready to forgive sin because there is a saving relationship established with Him. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
VI. The Church: A New Testament church is a local congregation of baptized believers who meet to Worship Jesus, Evangelize the lost, Teach the Gospel, Disciple believers, Nurture them in the faith, and Minister to the physical and spiritual needs around them. Each congregation is autonomous, choosing the ministries and the resources that best suit their needs. Each member is accountable to Christ and the church. Our pastors and deacons are, as required by God’s Word, men of Spiritual strength and of an honest report. (Matthew 16:15-19, I Timothy 3)
VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Jesus commands us to follow His example in two ways we call “Ordinances”. Baptism is the immersion in water of a new believer, signifying the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only after Baptism is a new believer accepted as a member of the church. There are no other acceptable forms of Baptism. Jesus told us in I Corinthians 11:24 “…this do in remembrance of Me.” The Lord’s Supper is to be taken only by a Christian and is not to be taken lightly. The bread stands for the body of Christ while the cup (the juice) represents the shed blood of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19-20, I Corinthians 11: 23-34)
VIII. The Lord’s Day: The first day of the week is the day Jesus rose from the dead. The early church met on the first day of the week in celebration. We are called to worship on the Lord’s Day, but also to rest and not cause anyone to work for us either. (Exodus 20:8-11, Acts 20:7)
IX. The Kingdom: Regardless of whether or not every person worships God, God is still God and He is in control. His Kingdom refers to those redeemed believers who worship Him, reach out to bring others into the kingdom, and prepare for the second coming of Christ. (I Peter 2:9-10)
X. Last Things: At a time that only God knows, He will bring the world to an end. The believers whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter into heaven for all eternity, while those who have refused Him all their lives will be cast into hell with satan and his demons for all eternity. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
XI. Evangelism and Missions: Sharing the Gospel is something we are compelled to do for three reasons: 1) Christ commands us to go and tell, 2) It is our duty to go and tell, and 3) Out of sheer gratitude for forgiveness, we want to tell everyone we can about the saving power of Jesus Christ. The reason the Southern Baptist Convention came into existence in 1814 is to send missionaries to places we cannot go to share the Gospel with people we most likely would never get to meet. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:48, John 20:22-23, Acts 1:8)
XII. Education: “Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. (BF&M) “ Every believer will want to use every faculty given him to learn and make himself approved by God. Christian education equips us for the tasks of life. In Christian education, there is a constant tension between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Remember t hat academic freedom stops at the door of Biblical authority. (II Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17)
XIII. Stewardship: God is the author of all things for He has made all we see and all we do not see. He is the one who blesses us. Every believer is called to return to Him through His church (the Bible in Malachi 3 calls this the “storehouse”) a Tithe, or the first tenth of our gross income. We are also called to bring offerings (gifts made after the tithe is shared) at special times as well. These are given because we need to give them out of gratitude, and because the church must have resources to use to operate in the world in order to get out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must also ge good stewards of every resource God has given us. (Malachi 3:8-18)
XIV. Cooperation: Christ’s people should work together for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ whenever that cooperation does not compromise the integrity of Christ. As Southern Baptists, we are of like faith and doctrine, and we work together to send missionaries through our associations and conventions. Our sole reason for working together is to minister in Christ to a lost and dying world. (II Corinthians 8-9)
XV. The Christian and the Social Order: The BF& M sums this up best by saying: “All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, and aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love…” (Micah 6:8)
XVI. Peace and War: Every Christian should seek peace with all men on the standard of Christian righteousness. The true remedy for the warring spirit is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The highest need of the world is the acceptance of the teachings of Christ and accepting Him as Lord and Savior and that should be the focus of our energies. (Matthew 5:9, 38-48)
XVII. Religious Liberty: The state owes it to every man to allow man to pursue his spiritual ends. Every man must choose Christ or reject Him as Lord and Savior and the government must not sway that choice. We should have free and unhindered access to God for all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in religious matters without fear of a civil power. (I Peter 2:12-17)
XVIII. The Family: God formed the first family in the Garden of Even. Marriage is only between one man and one woman under God’s authority. The marriage is God’s unique and only gift in which the sexual union is to be practiced. Both husband and wife are of equal worth before God, though they may have their own roles. The Bible says that the husband is the spiritual leader of the home, and he along with his wife are to raise their children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:21- 6:4)