Summary: An exploration of what it means to be free in Christ.
“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”?’
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.’
“They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing what your father did.’ They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’”
We are currently engaged in studies designed to present an apologia for our faith and practise as evangelical Christians, and especially as Baptists. Baptists are not an historic anomaly in Christendom; rather as founding members of the Christian community, Baptists have sought unceasingly to adhere as closely as possible to the doctrine of the Apostles. As Christians, Baptists are orthodox in doctrine and evangelical in practise. As Baptists, we are committed to being thoroughly biblical in expressing our Faith. Above all else, we make every effort to hold to the apostolic teaching delivered in the Word of God.
As Christians, we confess that Jesus Christ is truly God in human flesh; that He died a sacrificial death; that He was buried and that He rose bodily from the tomb. We confess that He ascended into Heaven, and that by faith in Him, and by faith alone, all who believe are forgiven all sin and delivered from judgement. The foundation for these beliefs is the Word of God, which we receive as authoritative and accurate in all details.
As evangelicals, we hold and teach that we must be saved through faith in the Risen Son of God. We believe that we who have faith in Christ are responsible to live a holy life, honouring God in the choices we make and in our manner of life. We believe that man is sinful in every facet of his being, but that God redeems us to His glory and for our good. We believe that all who trust the Lord receive His Holy Spirit and are thereafter disciplined for His purposes. We hold that we are responsible to unite in congregations where we may worship Christ, teach the truths of the Word of God, evangelise the lost and build one another through exercise of the spiritual gifts entrusted to each of us as Christians. We also believe in the resurrection of the redeemed and the lost—the saved being raised to life and the lost facing the resurrection of damnation.
As Baptists, in addition to holding to positions defined by orthodoxy and evangelicalism, we also hold to the historic distinctives that have defined us as Baptists. Included among the Baptist distinctives are the authority of God’s Word for faith and practise, the autonomy of the local congregation and the priesthood of the believer. We insist that there are only two ordinances—ordinances and not sacraments—that have been entrusted to the churches of our Lord—baptism and the Lord’s Table. As Baptists, we avow and defend individual soul liberty, endeavour to maintain the principle of a saved, baptised church membership, and hold to two offices, elders and deacons, among the churches. We also believe that the Word of God teaches a separation of church and state. These convictions shape who we are and they determine our faith and practise.
Illuminating the principles championed by Baptists is the freedom found in Christ. I contend that this is a Baptist principle, though I am equally confident that this is sound Christian doctrine. Freedom in Christ does not mean that whatever I wish to believe about a subject is valid, neither does it mean that my actions are of no consequence; freedom in Christ does mean that the conscience cannot be violated by another mortal. Freedom in Christ teaches that the conscience must not be coerced, though it does not proscribe pleading with the recalcitrant soul to heed the message of life.
This great blessing of freedom in Christ is firmly grounded in the revelation of Christ Jesus as Lord; it is an integral part of Scripture. One place in which this principle of freedom is clearly revealed is in the Gospel of John. John records an exchange between Jesus and people who were following Him. In fact, the text says that those who were shocked by His words that day were actually people who had “believed in Him.”