Summary: Exploring the biblical basis for the Baptist Faith.
Jesus said to the Jews who were seeking to kill Him, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Some years ago, I invited several Baptist pastors to bring a message telling why each one was a Baptist. Among those who accepted that invitation to address the congregation were a denominational leader and several prominent pastors from within the communion with which I was then affiliated. After they had spoken, with one exception, the congregation still did not know why any was a Baptist.
The denominational leader chided the congregation and chastised me for being “too independent.” He pled with the church to be more co-operative within the denomination, which co-operation was determined by money sent to the hindquarters. One man listed a number of benefits for “belonging” to the denomination, focusing primarily on the moneys that would flow to the church. Yet another of these fellow elders presented an energetic and entertaining apologia for a denominational expression of Christianity that could well have been delivered by any evangelical Christian.
Mostly, we received a series of sociological arguments devoid of doctrinal support; and we were told the benefits of denominational membership without reference to doctrine. Truth compels me to reject any ecclesiastical association without doctrinal foundation; mere fellowship is insufficient for religious co-operation. Missionary enterprise alone is insufficient for extended ecclesiastical co-operation. Any congregational association that seeks to honour Christ must have a doctrinal foundation.
To claim the name Baptist is to identify oneself doctrinally—it is not merely a means of situating oneself denominationally. To appropriate the name Baptist implies that a person holds convictions concerning certain truths; she or he is convinced of the veracity of those particular truths. It is my stated conviction that any Baptist should be able to state the reason for his faith and practise. Any Baptist should be able to say why she is a Baptist, whether she shares in the life of one of the more than forty-five Baptist groups within North America, or whether she belongs to an independent congregation. To say one is a Baptist is to aver a doctrinal position unique from other communions. Ultimately, all ecclesiastical associations are on a doctrinal basis.
I was not “born” a Baptist. I was “born again” a child of the Living God and having come to faith I adopted Baptist convictions. I was not raised in a Baptist church. I was not induced to become a Baptist out of convenience or through promises of support. Almost without exception, denominational leaders representing several Baptist groups have made promises to me only to fail to honour their word. It is fair to say that I was not led to my Baptist convictions through the veracity of any of a number of Baptist leaders. Nevertheless, I confess that I have devoured Baptist preaching, rejoicing in the power of the pulpit exemplified by great contemporary Baptist preachers. To this day, I thrill to hear great preaching, and Baptists convictions create an atmosphere for great preaching.