Although the name BAPTIST was not intended for this, each of the letters in Baptist stands for a doctrine that has been a scriptural tenet of our churches since the time Jesus began the church. The consistency of church doctrine through these many centuries is a remarkable testimony to Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18 that the church would never lose the truth or surrender to the attacks of Satan.
The doctrines represented by the acrostic are not necessarily the core essential beliefs that make a person a Christian, but rather the criteria that makes the Christian a Baptist. They are distinguishing doctrines that separate us from Roman Catholics, most of the Protestants, and all of the cults. We believe each doctrine in the acrostic should be taught and believed by all churches and to whatever degree some or all of them are not taught will determine the seriousness of their error. If these doctrines were held by all churches, there would be no denominationalism. All Christians would be Baptists because they would be in compliance with the doctrines Christ and the apostles gave the first church.
Some might think this is an arrogant statement, but it is only a logical conclusion that any church would want to claim for itself. Shouldn’t any church want to make the claim they are apostolic? What is the point of belonging to a church that makes no claim to hold to all the same doctrines given at the beginning to the church? Clearly there are differences in denominations. We are divided but Christ is not, which means we must determine which church most closely adheres to the New Testament.
There are some doctrines that when changed do not affect the salvation of the soul but do affect the constitution of the church. Enough error in a series of these doctrines would prevent the church from being a true church. This is the point of the acrostic. Can we take each of these doctrines and find a scriptural basis for it?
Some of the doctrines will affect not only church constitution but will indeed affect the soul’s salvation. In some cases, an error on baptism may not be serious enough to affect salvation. For example, a church that practices infant baptism or sprinkling in which they are in error on the mode and the recipient of baptism, has not necessarily committed an error that condemns the soul. It does affect their recognition as a true church because proper baptism is essential for church constitution. If this error is compounded by teaching that baptism is a sacrament whereby saving grace is obtained, it has become a salvation issue. Salvation is affected because the critical method by which we are justified with God is breached. Justification is by grace alone through faith alone. In this is changed, the church fails because salvation cannot be obtained when justification is compromised.
Many times in my sermons I refer to the name Baptist on our sign. Our doctrine is different from Methodists, Presbyterians, Assemblies of God, and others. We believe the doctrinal differences matter. If we didn’t think so, we would identify as a “community” church or simply a “Christian” church. With those names people are left to guess if they have a good starting place to find a true New Testament church. Baptist identifies us historically. Historians agree people who believe like Baptists have been present in every age since the time of Christ. As a seeker, I believe I would have more confidence in the doctrine of a church if I know it has an apostolic claim.
Admittedly, the name on the sign does not guarantee the truth of the doctrine within. However, it is a good place to start. Investigations must be made to prove the doctrines are true. At Berean, we gladly invite this and encourage it—we expect no less. In our case, historicity of doctrine is extremely important. It matters because we want to be known as a true New Testament church.
Start with the name. Is it historical or does the church you are interested in fall into the generic category of startups and may only be a few months or years old? The name could be the first key piece of your investigation. Note this last comment. Baptists were not always known as Baptists. We were identified by our doctrine first and then we were named by our enemies. The name became significant because it identified us with apostolic doctrine. Therefore, the name is important.
Pastor V. Mark Smith