The sacred Scriptures are the norm for faith and practice. Baptists stress the authority of Holy Scripture. The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry scripture’s inherent authority.
2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:20-21
Autonomy of the Local Church
Each church is its own authority under Christ. The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus, the church is autonomous or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church’s beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in associational ties, but a Baptist church cannot be a member of any other body.
Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23
Priesthood of the Believer
All believers may come directly to God through Jesus Christ. “Priest” is defined as “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between man and God.” Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God’s Word, pray for others and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God – whether we are a preacher or not.
1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10; Hebrews 4:1-13
- Baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
- The Lord's Supper or Communion commemorating His death for our sins.
Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32
Individual Soul Liberty
Each individual is responsible to God for decisions about religious experience. Each individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the freedom to choose what s/he believers is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to accept any belief against their will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. However, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself
Romans 14:5; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9
Saved, Baptized Church Membership
The New Testament church is composed of baptized believers. Personal faith in Christ is necessary for baptism and church membership. Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer’s baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, a oneness in Christ exists, and the members can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3
Separation of Church and State
The state may neither deny the individual religious faith nor compel him/her to accept it. God established both the church and civil government and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government’s purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church’s purpose in Matthew 28:19-20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government.
Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29.