Facing the Issues
Why I Am A Baptist
by Dr. DeWayne Nichols
Dewayne Nichols is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15)
Peter said that we should be able to give a reason for the position which we hold, and that’s what I’m doing today. One thing that has concerned me for several years, as it has other preachers, is to see young men graduate from our colleges and, two or three years down the road, they go out and take the word Baptist off their sign.
I appreciate what Dr. Bob Smith did some years ago. He got so tired of it that he put on the marquee out in front of his church “Baptist Without Apology.” That’s what I am, too. I’m going to speak to you on the subject, Why I Am A Baptist.
Let me begin by saying that it’s possible for a person to be a Christian and not be a Baptist. I point that out because, inevitably whenever someone begins to defend the Baptist position and doctrine, somebody will rise up and say, “Well, you think Baptists are the only ones going to Heaven.” No, we do not believe that, and frankly, I do not know any Baptist who believes that Baptists are the only ones that are going to Heaven. Going to Heaven is determined by whether or not you’ve repented and received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. It’s possible for a person to do that and not be a Baptist. On the other hand somebody said, “If you’re going to Heaven, you might as well go first class.” Anyhow, it is possible for a person to be a Christian and not to be a Baptist.
As sad as I am to say it, in this day of spiritual anemia and deterioration among Baptist churches, it’s also possible in some cases for a person to be a Baptist and not be a true Christian in the Bible sense of the word. It would not be possible for a person to be a Baptist and not to be a Christian if all Baptist churches truly held to Baptist doctrine and operated according to Baptist principles.
What I mean is this. One of the Baptist distinctives, one of the basic Baptist doctrines, is the belief in a converted church membership. That is the belief that one should only become a member of a local church after salvation. That’s supposed to be a basic Baptist concept. It’s because of this belief that anybody who’s a member of our church in San Antonio professes to be saved and also to have been Scripturally baptized. We will not receive a person into membership unless they receive Christ’s salvation and then attest to the reality of their salvation by following the Lord in the initial Christian step of believer’s baptism. That’s supposed to be a basic Baptist belief, that of a converted church membership. But sadly, due to the deterioration of Baptist churches, especially denominational Baptist churches in this day, there are great numbers of people in America today who are members of Baptist churches and they’re not Christians at all in the Bible sense of the word.
I’m not talking about somebody who became a church member thinking that they were saved, and then later realized that they didn’t have it settled and then got saved. Every church has that kind of situation. But I’m saying there are Baptist churches, especially denominational Baptist churches, that are filled with people who have never professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in fact in some cases, who do not even believe in salvation. There are people who are members of Baptist churches, and who teach in Baptist colleges and universities, who not only are not saved, but in some cases deny and even scoff at basic fundamental doctrines of the Word of God.
If the churches that these Bible deniers are members of truly operated according to Baptist principles and Baptist doctrine, those infidels would be removed from their church membership. But tragically, not every church that has Baptist on the sign and claims to be a Baptist church truly follows Baptist doctrine or operates according to Baptist principles. But thanks be unto God there are churches which truly are Baptist churches, which do hold to Baptist doctrine and which function and operate according to Baptist principles. These are New Testament churches that are following the pattern set forth in the Word of God.
I want to say two things by way of introduction before I actually begin to deal with the issues that are Baptist doctrines. The first thing that I want you to understand is that Baptists are not Protestants. Now the secular world and much of the religious world as well, when they refer to Christianity or to Christendom, they divide it into two branches, Catholic on the one hand and Protestant on the other hand. They include everybody who’s not Catholic, including Baptists, under the heading of Protestant. Ladies and Gentlemen, this has been done so frequently that even most Baptists have the idea that Baptists are Protestants.
Somebody came to me one time and said, “Preacher, you know it really bothers me that the world has the idea that Baptists are Protestants.”
I said, “That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is that 90% of Baptists think that Baptists are Protestants.” But those of us who have done some investigation of church history and understand what happened historically, understand that Baptists are not Protestants. The Protestant churches and denominations are groups which came out of Roman Catholicism as a part of the Protestant Reformation of the 15th, 16th, and the 17th centuries. Probably most of the leaders of these groups did not originally intend to leave Roman Catholicism. Rather they wanted to reform the Catholic church in certain areas, and in their desire and their attempt to reform the Catholic church, they protested what they saw as abuses of the Roman Catholic church. The word Protestant comes from the word protest, and the word reformation comes from the word reform. Because of these people who protested certain teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism, and because of their desire to reform the Catholic church, their movement therefore became known as the Protestant Reformation.
While many of the leaders of these groups did not originally intend to come out of Catholicism, but simply to reform it, ultimately many of them were either kicked out of the Catholic church, excommunicated by the pope, or once it became obvious that they could not reform Catholicism, they voluntarily left the Catholic church. Then these people started new churches and denominations which became the Protestant churches and Protestant denominations. That’s where the Lutheran churches came from. That’s where the Presbyterian and the Reformed churches came from. That’s where the Anglican, the Protestant Episcopal church came from, and then from that the Methodist Episcopal churches. Because of the background of the Protestant groups, and the fact that they came institutionally out of Roman Catholicism, that’s why you can go into a Protestant church in our day find many things in these churches that are simply leftovers and holdovers from the time when they were Roman Catholics.
For example, go into the Protestant churches, and you’ll find that many of them sprinkle babies. Where did they get that? They didn’t get that out of the Bible. There’s nothing about sprinkling babies in the Bible. It’s a leftover practice from the time that they were in the Roman Catholic institution. You go in many of the Protestant churches, and you’ll find that they have the very formalistic, ritualistic, high church, ceremonial type of services. Where did they get that? When you read the book of Acts, the New Testament church didn’t operate like that. I’ll tell you where they got it. They got that from the time when they were institutionally Roman Catholics, and it’s simply a leftover from their days in the Roman Catholic church.
But on the other hand, you let somebody who’s accustomed to attending a Roman Catholic church come to this Baptist Church, and they’ll understand immediately that what takes place here is totally and entirely different from what goes on in the Catholic church. There’s never going to be any danger of anybody mistaking this church for a Roman Catholic church.
One reason for that is because, as Baptists, we do not trace our institutional church heritage back through the Protestant Reformation into the Roman Catholic church. We came from an entirely different line. As Baptists we never were Catholic. Now, I’m not talking about somebody who may have been a Catholic at one time, then got saved and became a Baptist. I’m talking about as far as the institution of the church is concerned. Baptist churches did not come out of Roman Catholicism.
Rather, while the Roman Catholic church exercised almost total and absolute control on the continent of Europe for a thousand years of wretchedness and misery that’s known as the Dark Ages, throughout that time there were still groups of true New Testament Christians, operating underground and in hiding, so as to escape being murdered by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. These groups would meet out in the woods, or up on mountain sides, or out on riverbanks, in some out of the way place and there they would preach the Bible, and get sinners saved, and there they would operate according to Bible principles. These underground groups of Christians who followed Bible principles instead of Roman Catholic superstition, that’s the group that we trace our heritage back to.
Now these believers were not always called Baptists. You need to understand that we did not name ourselves. Our enemies gave us our name. These underground churches were called by different names at different times and in different places. Sometimes they were known as Donatists. Sometimes they were known as Paulicians. Sometimes they were known as Waldenses. Sometimes they were known as Albigenses. The most common name for them was Ana-Baptist. I’m saying to you that this line of Bible preaching churches stretches all the way back to the founding of those type of churches in the days of Jesus and the apostles, who laid the foundation for true New Testament churches. Those were the churches that held to the doctrines which are today believed and promulgated and propagated by Baptists.
As Baptists, we trace our institutional church heritage through those underground churches back to the days of the New Testament. We do not trace our heritage through the Protestant Reformation into Roman Catholicism. Baptists are not Protestants. Our heritage as Baptists follows a completely different line historically than does the church heritage of the Protestant groups.
Here’s Roman Catholicism on this side and here’s the Bible position over here on this side. There is a big gap between the two. What you need to realize is that when the Protestant groups and denominations came out of Roman Catholicism, they came toward the Bible position, but they stopped short. They didn’t come all the way over to the Bible position. They came partway, but held on to many of the beliefs and practices they knew from Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile through the ages, the Baptists, by whatever name they were called, have held firmly to the position set forth in the Word of God. It’s because of this fact one preacher made this statement, and if you’ll think about it, you’ll realize that it’s true. “If you’ll take a Protestant church and remove all Baptist doctrine from it, you’ll be left with a Catholic church. On the other hand, if you’ll take the same Protestant church and remove all Catholic doctrine from it, you’ll be left with a Baptist church.” That’s exactly right. I want you to understand, young men, Baptists are not Protestants.
Then the second thing that I want to say by way of introduction is this: I do not believe Baptist doctrine because I’m a Baptist, but rather I am a Baptist because I believe Baptist doctrine. In other words, it’s not that I became a Baptist and then said, “Okay, let me find out what Baptists believe so I’ll know what I’m supposed to believe.” No, that’s not the way it happens. Rather what happens is I go to the Bible, the Word of God, and I learn that Baptist doctrine, what they call the Baptist distinctives, is simply Bible doctrine. It’s what the Bible teaches. So I’m a Baptist because Baptist doctrine is Bible doctrine, and I believe the Word of God. What I’m trying to get you to understand is that I do not believe what I believe just because I’m a Baptist and Baptists are supposed to believe certain things. Rather, I believe what the Bible teaches and by virtue of accepting Bible doctrine, I’m therefore a Baptist because the Bible leads you to Baptist doctrine. The distinctive Baptist doctrines are nothing more than Bible doctrines, truths which are set forth in the Word of God.
Now, with these thoughts in mind, I want to give you some reasons why I’m a Baptist, what they call the Baptist distinctives. These are the doctrines which have been held to and promulgated by Baptists through the ages, and in some cases, by Baptists alone. These are the doctrines that have historically separated us as Baptists from other Christian groups. Now, because of Baptist influence, there are some other groups besides Baptists who have held to some of these doctrines at some point in their history. But from a historical perspective it has always been Baptists that have held to, proclaimed, suffered for, and in many cases have died for these Bible truths that I’m going to give you, and thus they’ve become known as the Baptist distinctives.
Obviously I have to be very brief. I’m dealing with this in our church in our Wednesday night Bible study. I’m going to try to give you in the next 20 minutes, what I’ve spent already about three or four months on in our Wednesday night services, and have another probably six months to go. So I’m going to try to condense all that for you.
Why am I a Baptist?
#1. I am a Baptist because I believe the Baptist doctrine that the Bible is the only standard for faith and practice.
Possibly the greatest passage in the Bible that speaks of the Word of God itself is II 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, throughly furnished unto all good works.” That’s the passage that reminds us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. There are many tremendous truths taught in that passage, and among them, that the Scriptures, the Word of God, is enough to make God’s man perfect, or complete, so that he’ll be throughly furnished, completely, absolutely, totally furnished with all that he needs in the service of God.
In other words it’s teaching that the Bible is enough. We don’t need anything besides the Bible. That’s why we reject the extra-biblical pronouncements of the pope. That’s why, as Baptists, we reject the extra biblical so-called revelations of the charismatics. That’s why we reject the extra-biblical phony scriptures of the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses or anybody else. Why? Because we have in the 66 books of the Bible all that we need. Our question is not whether we line up with somebody’s creed or confession. Our question is only, “Do we line up with the Bible, the Word of God?” This Book is the only standard for faith and practice.
#2. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of the autonomy or liberty of the human soul.
What does this mean? By the way, this may be the underlying doctrine of all the rest of them. It simply means that in the final analysis, a person’s religion is ultimately between that individual and his God. It means that, in the final analysis, one’s relationship with God has to be a personal matter between that person and the Lord.
No other person can have a relationship with God for you except you, and nobody can force you to have a relationship with God. You can be required to go by some outward rules and regulations, and I’m for all of that, but that’s not what gives you a relationship with God. Somebody said, “I don’t want somebody cramming Christianity down my throat.” Nobody can cram it down your throat. You either accept it of your own free will, or you don’t. You have the liberty to choose what kind, if any, relationship you’ll have with God, but then you and you alone are accountable to God for the choice that you make.
It means that you don’t get a relationship with God by inheritance from your parents. You don’t get a relationship with God because some priest or some preacher, or some church, or some denomination pronounces that you have a relationship with God. It simply means that, ultimately, your relationship with God is dependent upon you and nobody else.
That’s why Romans 14:12 reminds us, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Don’t talk about somebody forcing Christianity upon you. You must understand that you make your own choices. The outward can be fake, but your relationship with God is dependent on the choices that you make in your heart. It’s an inward thing.
#3. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of spiritual regeneration.
By this I mean spiritual regeneration, as opposed to baptismal regeneration, and as opposed to covenantal regeneration. I simply mean that we believe the teaching of the Word of God that a person is born again spiritually by virtue of receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour, not by virtue of baptism, not by virtue of simply accepting some doctrinal covenant or creed, not by virtue of their family’s religious heritage, but by their own personal faith in Jesus Christ. When a person receives Him as Saviour, that’s when the Spirit of God reaches down and regenerates that soul and births that individual into the family of God.
Read the Gospel of John chapter three, the classic passage in the Bible concerning the new birth. Many people do not realize that John 3:16 is a part of that discussion about how to be born again. You read that passage in its entirety, and you’ll find that the Lord Jesus Christ in emphasizing the new birth, again and again He emphasized the necessity of believing, having faith in the Son of God. My dear friend, you can be baptized all you want to be baptized. You can give mental assent and acceptance to all the doctrinal creeds ever written in the history of mankind, but you will not be born again. You will not become a child of God until you personally put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
#4. I’m a Baptist because I believe the Baptist doctrine that states that the only two local church ordinances are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and both of them are symbolic, not sacramental.
I’m saying the Lord Jesus Christ did not establish seven ordinances. He didn’t institute six ordinances, or even three ordinances for the New Testament church. He instituted two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s supper.
These two ordinances are symbolic, representing spiritual truth. They are not sacramental. They do not carry saving grace. Matthew 28:19 and many other places, the Lord Jesus commanded His church to baptize converts, instituting this ordinance of believer’s baptism. Check out Romans 6:3-5 and I Peter 3:21, you’ll find that these verses teach us that baptism is symbolic. It’s a likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It’s a figure, a type, a picture. It doesn’t carry saving grace. It’s not sacramental.
In Matthew 26:26-30, the Lord Jesus instituted the ordinance of the Lord supper. Check out what Paul said about it in I Corinthians 11:23-26. Paul told us that as we partake of the unleavened bread and the unfermented juice, that we do this in remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is not only unscriptural, but it’s downright foolish, and borders closer to witchcraft than it does to New Testament Christianity. The idea that because some priest stands over a wafer and says some hocus pocus, that it magically is converted into the literal body of Jesus Christ is no where to be found in the Bible.
No, Paul said that, quoting Jesus, “As oft as you do this, you do it in remembrance of Me.” These symbolic ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s supper, are the only two ordinances that Jesus left for the New Testament church to observe, and that’s why, as you read the inspired history of the church in the early days of Christianity, in the book of Acts, you’ll find that those are the only ordinances that the early church observed. Why? Because they’re the only two that Jesus commanded us to observe.
#5. I’m a Baptist because I believe that the local church has only two Scriptural offices.
The only two offices of the church are pastor and deacon. Now the pastor is referred to in the Bible by several different titles. Sometimes he’s called the bishop. Sometimes he’s called the overseer. Sometimes he’s called the shepherd -- shepherd and pastor being the same word. Sometimes he’s referred to as the elder. But all of these refer to the same office, and that is the office of pastor. Pastor and deacon are the official offices set forth in the Bible for the local church.
Now we have functioning titles. We have bus directors and Sunday school superintendents and that sort of thing, but those are functioning titles, not official offices. The only official offices in the New Testament church are the office of pastor and the office of deacon.
That’s why in Philippians 1:1 apart from the membership of the church which Paul refers to there as the saints, he only mentions two offices, bishops and deacons, because that’s the only two there are. That’s why as you read I Timothy 3, where the list of qualifications for church offices are given, the only ones mentioned are pastor, referred to as bishop in that passage, and deacon. Why? Because those are the only two that there are. This idea of archbishops and popes and cardinals and all that is unscriptural heresy. There is nothing about that in the Word of God.
#6. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine that the ordinance of baptism means immersion, and that it comes after salvation as a symbol of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
I wish I had time to go into this. There are three requirements for Scriptural baptism. Number one, a proper candidate -- that’s a saved person. Number two, a proper mode -- that’s immersion. Number three, the proper authority -- that’s a New Testament church. We’ve already noticed from Romans 6:3-5 and I Peter 3:21 that baptism is symbolic. Check out Acts 8:36-37, if you have a King James Bible. (If you don’t have a King James Bible, verse 37 may not be in your bible. That means you need to get a real Bible, by the way.) In Acts 8:36-37 you read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch and how the eunuch wanted to be baptized. Philip said, “No, no, no, wait a minute. I’m not going to baptize you until I know that you’re saved.” The eunuch professed his faith in Christ, and then and only then, would Philip baptize him, because baptism follows salvation.
Then you go on and read in the same chapter verses 38 and 39. He didn’t sprinkle him. He didn’t pour some water on him. They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him, and they came up out of the water. That’s immersion, friend. It’s on the basis of the Bible teaching concerning baptism, that as Baptists, we reject the heresy of baptismal regeneration. It’s on the basis of the Bible teaching concerning baptism, that as Baptists, we reject the heresy of infant baptism.
By the way, do you understand that in the Dark Ages, when the Roman Catholic church was murdering people like you and me by the thousands and anybody else that didn’t cow-tow to the pope, do you understand that more people lost their lives over rejecting Roman Catholic errors about baptism than for any other reason? More people lost their lives because they rejected the error of baptismal regeneration and the accompanying error of infant baptism than for any other reason. Well, we do reject those errors, and we reject any mode of baptism besides immersion.
#7. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of religious liberty and separation of church and state.
Now I don’t mean separation of church and state as defined by the secular humanists and the revisionist historians of today. I mean separation of church and state as historically defined. I mean that no one denomination should be in charge of the government, and that the government should not favor one denomination over the other and have a state church.
In John 18:36, the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out, “...My kingdom is not of this world:...” and thereby separated the realm of the spiritual from the realm of human government. I understand that in Old Testament Israel they operated under a theocracy, but I also understand the New Testament church is not Old Testament Israel. It’s a different thing. It’s not a government entity. It’s a spiritual entity and that’s why in the book of Acts you’ll find there was no organic connection between the New Testament church and the role of government in the society.
We believe in religious liberty. Baptists have always been on the cutting edge of religious liberty. So you think Muslims ought to have liberty? They do have liberty, but what I resent is that they come over here and try to take advantage of the liberty that we offer in order to take away our liberty.
#8. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of a converted church membership.
Read Acts 2:41. The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. First comes salvation, then church membership. That’s why throughout the New Testament epistles it simply assumed that the members of the church are saved people. They’re referred to as saints. They didn’t have a bunch of unconverted people in their churches that entered the door of church membership by virtue of infant baptism in Bible days. They had no infant baptism, and they had no unconverted church membership.
#9. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of the autonomy of the local church.
Each local church is independent of any outside human control. This church operates independently, with the Lord Jesus Christ as her Head and her Lord, and the Bible as her guide Book, and the pastor as Christ’s under shepherd. Nobody outside this church has any business trying to dictate anything to this church. The same thing is true of every other Baptist church. You read Matthew 18, where Jesus instituted in verse 15-17 the concept and principle of church discipline. Did you notice that once the matter is brought before the church and the individual refuses to hear the church, Jesus didn’t say, “Well, if they won’t listen to the church, take it to the archbishop, or take it to the cardinal”? No, there is no higher spiritual entity on earth than the local New Testament Baptist church. He said, “If they refuse to hear the church, then treat them like a heathen and a publican. Treat them like they’re unsaved, because they probably are.”
#10. I believe in the Baptist doctrine of the priesthood of every believer.
Check it out. The only New Testament concept of priesthood that there is, is the concept that the Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and that every believer is a priest with direct access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why any religious organization, any so-called church, which has a human priesthood apart from the body of all believers is an out-dated, out-moded system. It is just as unscriptural to have a human priesthood in this New Testament age as it is to have animal sacrifices. Jesus fulfilled it.
In Revelation 1:5-6, a marvelous passage, is something that is often overlooked. This Scripture in praising the Lord Jesus says, “...Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;...” The same group that He loved and washed from our sins in His own blood is the same group that He made into priests and kings with direct access to God through Jesus Christ. You don’t have to come to me to get to God. You don’t have to go to a priest to get to God. You don’t have to go to a preacher to get to God. You can get some counsel from the preacher, but you don’t have to go to him to get to God. You go to God on your own.
#11. I’m a Baptist because I believe in the Baptist doctrine of eternal security.
We’re kept by the power of God, I Peter 1:5. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
I’m a Baptist and I’m unapologetically a Baptist. I’m not going to remove the name Baptist from my sign, and I’m not going to apologize for having it on the sign. These are Baptist distinctives, but the truth is they’re simply Bible truths and Bible principles and Bible doctrines. On the basis of these doctrines I’m a Baptist. Because I believe the Bible, I believe Baptist doctrine, and that’s why I’m a Baptist.
Charles Spurgeon’s father was a preacher in the state church, the established church. Spurgeon got saved when he was 15 years old. Through his study of the Bible, he came, as a person will if they study just the Bible, to the Baptist position. So he went and got baptized and became a Baptist. His godly mother had been an Anglican. She was a little bit disappointed that he had become a Baptist. She said to him, “Charles, I always wanted you to be a Christian. I always prayed for you to be a Christian, but I never wanted you to be a Baptist.”
Mr. Spurgeon said, “Well, Mother, God has answered your prayer in His usual marvelous way, and He’s given you more than you’ve asked for.”
These are the Baptist Distinctives, the basic Bible truths upon which Baptist doctrine is founded. I believe and practice these truths and principles from the Bible and reject all man-made hierarchy and tradition. This Bible is enough, and that’s why I’m a Baptist.