As Baptists we believe that the Bible is our only authority in life for both our faith and our daily actions. We hold to the Biblical teaching that church leaders, denominations, or associations should not have control in our life. God's Word is the final authority in the life of any christian.
A Autonomy of the Local Church
Autonomy simply speaks to the self-governing of the local church. Christ is the head of the church, and has established pastors to be the under-shepherd in the local church. Thus the local church should not be controlled or governed by any denomination or association. Each local church is self-governing in accordance to Christ's direction.
P Priesthood of the Believer
The Bible clearly teaches that upon Christ's death on the cross communication with God became accessible through Jesus Christ. As Baptists we follow this teaching and believe that confessing our sins is essential to salvation, but is done through Jesus Christ. There is no need for any individual to confess his sins before a priest or church leader in order to gain forgiveness from God.
T Two Ordinances
Baptist history clearly shows that this has been a dividing factor between baptist and many other religious beliefs. The two ordinances of the local church are:
1. Baptism: We believe that baptism, as demonstrated by Christ, is an identification with His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism thus can not be done to an individual that has not made a decision to place their faith in Christ's payment for sins on the cross. Baptists hold to the belief and teaching of the Bible that infants can not be baptized and that baptism is for those with a clear testimony of salvation. Furthermore Baptist believe in baptism by immersion. Multiple scriptures teach us that baptism was not accomplished in a basin of water but was done with complete immersion in water. Thus baptism depicts us first walking in our sins; buried like Christ, thus cleansing our sins; and finally raised to walk like unto Christ. Scripture teaches us that Baptism is the first thing a Christian should do upon accepting Christ as his saviour.
2. The Lord's Supper: Just as baptism is a representation of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection; the Lord's supper represents the sacrifice that Christ made. Baptist believe that the Lord's Supper is only to be taken by those that have placed their faith in Christ and are not living in un-confessed sin. The elements of the Lord's supper are the bread and the juice. These are a representation and not the literal body and blood of Christ. We reject the teaching that this bread turns into the literal body of Christ, and that the juice turns into the literal blood of Christ.
I Individual Soul Liberty
This is the belief that God works in an individual to preform His will and that this individual has the liberty, or freedom, to reject God's will for his own. God did not make Adam live a perfect life but presented him with the opportunities to follow him willingly. Thus individual soul liberty is not an excuse for our falling away from God but should serve as a reminder that our love for God can be found in our voluntary submission to God.
S Saved Church Membership
Church membership is only open to those that have a testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ. Baptists believe that the Church is the bride of Christ and that He will one day return to take his bride, the church, away. Why then should an unbeliever be joined in membership to that which will one day live forever with what they have denied? Membership into the local church is only done through a testimony of salvation and a following of the Lord in Baptism.
T Two Officers
The two offices of the local church are:
1. The Pastor: This is the under shepherd and leader of the local church. The Pastor is answerable to God for the actions and ministry of the local church. The Pastor's job is to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. This should always been done in the spirit of Christ and his love.
2.The Deacon: This is the office that is to assist the pastor in ministering to the saints. The office of a deacon is a place of service both to God and to the pastor. The biblical call for a deacon was not to have power or control in the church but to set an example of services while assisting the pastor in his ministry.
S Separation of Church and State
This belief has been greatly twisted in the public spectrum to mean things that our American founders did not intend. Even before the colonies were established there was a belief that the Government of a nation only has authority to the point in which the Bible allows. The separation of church and state simply means that no government should have control or power over a church. It was intended that government would not become one institute with the church but that individuals would freely practice and voice their religious morals and values in the government setting.