A Baptist pastor and gracEmail subscriber asks: “What practices and doctrines do you see in Baptist life and teaching that are not matching up to the Word of God?”
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I comment only because invited, since the Baptist household is not my regular home. I also speak in terms of Southern Baptists, since they comprise most of the diverse Baptist population in the United States. In keeping with Baptist emphasis on Bible authority, individual conscience and (limited) congregational autonomy, I see room for biblically-based improvement in the following areas.
Baptists need to make clearer the truth that “justification by grace through faith” does not mean that there is one human contribution to salvation, namely faith, but rather that God’s graciousness demonstrated in Jesus Christ is an objective historical reality on which we can only trust (rely, depend) and, in that sense, receive (2 Cor. 5:19–6:2). In the New Testament, those who do trust the gospel’s word of forgiveness immediately (not days or weeks later) express that faith by water baptism, rather than by an isolated “sinner’s prayer” (Acts 2:41; 8:35-38; 16:30-34; 22:16). The New Testament relates that baptism to Christ’s atoning work, not primarily to joining a congregation or a denomination (Rom. 6:4-5; Gal. 3:26-27; Titus 3:4-7; Heb. 10:21-22). Baptism declares saving faith. It does not compromise faith or compete with it.
Baptists tend to forget that the believer’s security grows out of God’s sovereign love and power, that it is grounded in divine election, and that it is accompanied by visible sanctification (John 6:37-40; Rom. 8:28-30, 38-39; 1 Thes. 5:23-24; Jude 21-25). “Easy-believism” — sometimes called “once-saved-always-saved” — wrongly seeks assurance in a one-time human “decision” rather than in God’s “keeping” his people through faith (1 Pet. 1:3-5) and it is a corruption of the biblical doctrine of security.