In addition to believing in the fundamentals of Christianity that all Bible-believing Christians share, we hold to a set of beliefs shared by Baptists around the world. These beliefs can be summed up by making an acrostic of the word: BAPTISTS.
THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY AUTHORITY FOR FAITH AND PRACTICE
(2 Timothy 3:16-17), “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
We believe that the Bible is the only authority for what we should believe about God and how we should serve Him.
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore; is and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions shall be tried.”
AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
(Ephesians 5:23), “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”
(Acts 14:23), “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Because we believe that Christ is the sovereign head of the church, we believe in the political independence (autonomy) of the local church. In other words, we do not believe that a church should be part of a hierarchy in which other bodies can rule over it. Every church should be independent and governed locally, by its congregation, in accordance with the Word of God.
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that every church is independent and self-governing, but that it is under moral obligation to associate itself with other churches of like faith and order in approved common enterprises and seek the promotion of Christ’s Kingdom, particularly such as mission, Christian education and benevolences.”
PRIESTHOOD OF EVERY BELIEVER
(Revelation 1:6), “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
(Hebrews 4:16), “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Priesthood of every believer means that Christ-believers are priests and can go directly to God in prayer and confession of sin. We also believe that Christians can read and interpret the Bible for themselves. We do not believe that another spiritual leader is necessary to give us special access to God.
TWO SCRIPTURAL ORDINANCES: BELIEVER’S BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER
(Matthew 28:18-20), “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26), “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
Rather than observing sacraments we practice ordinances. The word sacrament implies that baptism and the Lord’s Supper have some type of saving power. We do not believe that either of these ceremonies has saving power. We believe that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ as our crucified, buried and risen Savior. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed at Harmony Baptist Church as ordinances. An ordinance is a religious ceremony that Christ ordered His churches to observe.
Baptist are distinguished by their strong belief in believer’s baptism. That is, we do not believe that baptism is for infants or for the unsaved. It is an ordinance that should only be observed by professing believers in Jesus Christ. We believe that baptism is by immersion of the whole body in water, and not by sprinkling or pouring. Baptism symbolizes the burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and our new life in Him.
The Lord’s Supper, we believe, is to be observed regularly (at Harmony, we have it once a quarter). It is done in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us. The bread symbolizes His broken body and the grape juice symbolizes His shed blood.
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer…it is a prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation…and to the Lord’s Supper, in which the members of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine are to commemorate together the sacrificial love of Christ.”
INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY (liberty of conscience)
(Romans 14:5-12), “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
(2 Corinthians 4:2), “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
We believe that each individual must answer to God for his or her own conscience. Therefore, we allow personal liberty in areas not clearly dictated by Scripture. However, we deny that individual liberty in the Christian life should be used in such a way as to harm the consciences of other believers who do not see things our way.
Spurgeon on Baptists & Liberty of Conscience: “…there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor I believe any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man”
SAVED CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
(Acts 2:47), “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
We believe that every member of the church should have a personal testimony of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. We do not receive unsaved children or adults into membership.
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that a church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel…”
TWO SCRIPTURAL OFFICES: THE OFFICE OF PASTOR AND THE OFFICE OF DEACON
(1 Timothy 3:1), “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
(1 Timothy 3:10), “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that a church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel, observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His Laws; and exercising the gifts, rights and privileges invested in them by His word, that its scriptural officers are Pastors (sometimes called Bishops and Elders), and Deacons, whose qualifications are defined in the Epistles of Timothy and Titus, together with such other leaders, teachers and workers as the church may select and are needful in carrying out the true functions of a gospel church.”
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
(Luke 20:25), “And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”
We believe that there are civil and criminal matters that belong to the government, and spiritual matters that belong to God. Therefore, we believe in a reasonable and biblical separation of church and state. This does not mean that Christians should not serve in or have influence over government. It simply means that the state should not interfere with spiritual matters and that the church should not oversee criminal and civil laws.
From our Church Bylaws: “We believe that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interest and good order of human society; and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed, except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience and the Prince of the Kings of the earth. We believe in separation of Church and State.”
The Baptist belief on separation of church and state played an important part in American history:
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association: (January 1, 1802)
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Jan. 1. 1802.