The late Dr. Colon Smith, in a Baptist Bulletin article, thought the acrostic B-A-P-T-I-S-T is harmful in teaching the Baptist distinctives rather than helpful. For example, Dr. Smith asks, “Where is the “C” for congregational rule in the acrostic?” Dr. Smith tells of a church that changed its form of government from congregational to elder rule. The pastor sent a challenging letter to the state association, saying congregational church government is unbiblical. This pastor further claimed that our fellowship must not believe in congregational government because there’s no “C” in the B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic. Apparently someone actually took the B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic as the official definition of the Baptist distinctive, and not simply a handy, artificial memory device!
The Baptist Distinctives should aid us in understanding the doctrine of the church with a logical progression. There is no logical progressive from
Biblical Authority to the
Autonomy of the local church to the
Priesthood of every believer to
Two Officers to
Individual Soul Liberty to
Separation of Church and State to
Two Ordinances and then by adding another “S” to
Saved Church Membership
1. Biblical Authority
A. Biblical Authority is not the same as believing the inspiration of Scripture because the RCC also holds to this doctrine. But the RCC does not believe that the Bible is the supreme authority for faith and practice. For RCC the traditions of church have greater authority than Scripture. For example, the doctrine of purgatory is not found in Scripture but still adhered to in the tradition of the RCC.
B. The Bible is the supreme authority for faith and practice not the sole authority. There are other authorities such as parents, government, that God has ordained in His Word. These only have authority, however, because the Word of God has invested them with authority. God’s Word is the supreme authority.
2. Saved or Regenerate Church Membership
A. It is the Word of God that regenerates (1 Peter 1:23).
B. If there is no regenerate church membership there is no Biblical authority (1 Cor 2:9-14). It is impossible to get unsaved people to love God, His Word, His people (Rom 8:1-4). Therefore a regenerate church membership flows out of Biblical Authority.
3. Priesthood of the Believer
A. Every believer has access to God because of regeneration (Rom 5:1-2).
B. Every believer is a Believer Priest through whom God works (1 Pet 2:5, 9).
C. Every believer is a Believer Priest with no human high priest which calls for congregational rule (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5).
D. Every believer is taught of God (1 John 2:27).
E. Every believer offers the sacrifices of praise (Heb 13:15) purse (Heb 13:16) and person (Rom 12:1-2). The Priesthood of the believers is based on Biblical authority and a regenerate church membership which results in congregational rule.
4. Congregational Rule
A. In Acts 1:26, before Pentecost officers were chosen by lot. That was the Jewish way.
B. In Acts 6, after Pentecost (when every believer is a believer priest) officers were chosen by the congregation. Congregational rule is seen in Matthew 18:15-19, when Jesus prescribed church discipline only when the unrepentent offender is treated as a heathen by a church decision. The final court of appeal is the congregation not elders or a Bishop.
5. Two Officers
A. Pastor: 1Tim 3:1-7 Elected by the congregational rule. This position is synonymous with elder and bishop. Because the three terms are used interchangebly in Scripture (Acts 20:17-28) there is not a third office of Bishop that eventually developed in church history.
B. Deacons: 1Tim 3:8-12 Elected by the congregational rule as seen in Acts 6:1-7.
6. Two Ordinances
A. Baptism demonstrates regenerated membership and union with Christ. As F. F. Bruce said in his commentary on the book of Acts that there are no unbaptized believers in the book of Acts. We are first Spirit baptized into and identified with the Universal Church (1 Cor 12:13) and then water baptized into and identified with a local church.
B. Lord’s Supper demonstrates regenerated membership and communion with Christ and His Church (1 Cor 10:16).
7. Individual Soul Liberty
A. We have individual soul liberty because of the priesthood of every believer.
B. Soul liberty is the truth that every believer answers only to God and his or her conscience (Acts 5:29).
C. Government does not force us to believe or practice what we believe against our conscience therefore we also believe another Baptist Distinctive: Separation of church and state (Matthew 22:21). You cannot have the autonomy of the local church (another Baptist Distinctive) without separation of church and state and you must have separation of church and state because of soul liberty.
D. This is another reason we do not practice infant baptism because infant baptism violates individual soul liberty (Acts 16:31-34). The church is forcing its identity on the infant without consent. I agree with the late Dr. Colon Smith that this is the way to teach the Baptist Distincitives rather than the artiflical acrostic.
There are 32 references to doctrine, teaching, teachers and teach in the Pastoral Epistles emphasizing the necessity of knowing doctrine. In 1 Timothy 1, Paul lays out the three fold purpose of the church:
1. Teach Doctrine (1:1-11)
2. Win the Lost (1:12-17)
3. Defend the Truth (1:18-20)
A clear doctrinal statement can help us accomplish these three practical goals. All four posts on The Importance of Doctrinal Statements are under Category “Doctrinal Statements.”