Although they may not state their beliefs in exactly the same order, or with the same emphasis, most Baptists would include in any statement of their beliefs ten points. They are:-
The theme of Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost was "Jesus is Lord and God" and that truth is basic to the position of Baptists.
As Lord and God, Jesus is the supreme Head of the Church and His true followers comprise the Body through which His Spirit functions.
Jesus Christ is Lord of all and to Him must be rendered complete obedience in all things. He is Sovereign Lord of all, the King of kings and Lord of lords. In matters both temporal and spiritual He alone is Lord and Master.
For those who acknowledge the supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ there is among Baptists no further credal test, no absolute rule of faith and practice, save that which is contained in the Holy Scriptures.
The appeal of Baptists is never to ancient customs, the statements of councils or the traditions of men, but rather to the Holy Scriptures. For Baptists there can be but one authority in matters of faith and practice - it is, "What saith the Scriptures?"
Baptists believe that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" and this liberty, sometimes called "soul liberty," extends to each individual child of God. Salvation is for "everyone that believeth" and salvation is an individual experience and an individual's personal responsibility.
Each person is a free moral agent, made in a divine image, and so is morally responsible to God. Each individual must be free to believe or not to believe in God, to obey or to disobey Him, to worship Him, according to the dictates of his own conscience.
While insisting on the right to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, Baptists have also insisted on this right for others - even those who may hold very different beliefs and follow different practices.
For Baptists the Church of Jesus Christ is made up of only those who personally and individually confess Jesus Christ to be Lord and Master of their lives and have, by their own faith, been born into the family of God and the fellowship of other believers on Jesus Christ.
Baptists maintain that prerequisite to church membership is a personal experience in the life of the individual of the Holy Spirit's regenerative work brought about by the faith and obedience of the individual. On this fundamental principle rests the Baptist conception of the "gathered church.
Baptists believe that the two ordinances of the Christian Church are the baptism by immersion in water of believers only and the partaking of the Lord's Supper. They believe that these ordinances should follow in this natural order.
Baptism by immersion in water of the believer in Jesus Christ is a solemn and initiatory act of obedience symbolizing in the experience of the believer the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his own putting off of the old nature, his death to self and past sins and rising in newness of life to live and serve Jesus Christ.
Baptism is a confession of faith and an act of obedience on the part of the individual believer. It is an act which no one can contract for another. Like regeneration it has to do with the individual and his own faith and commitment.
For this reason Baptists oppose, as having no Scriptural warrant, the baptism of infants and children incapable of personal belief and commitment. Instead they frequently hold services for the dedication of parents and children to the end and with the prayerful hope that Christ may be so honored in the home and His teachings so faithfully set forth that when the children come to the age of discretion they may voluntarily and of their own free choice make their own personal commitment of themselves to Christ and confess Him in believer's baptism.
The priesthood of believers is a basic spiritual principle which underlies the democratic type of church life among Baptists. They believe that every believer may receive salvation and have free access to God the Father at any time. They believe there is only one High Priest, Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of men. No sacrament, priest or other person has exclusive powers in matters of salvation and the forgiveness of sins.
Inherent also in the Priesthood of Believers is the Baptist belief that each believer may interpret the Scriptures for himself as he is guided by the Holy Spirit.
For these reasons Baptists have been opposed to any special distinction between clergy and laity that savors of special priestly powers. Instead they encourage every believer to accept his personal responsibility to work and to witness for Jesus Christ.
Baptists have long stressed the autonomy of the local congregation but in its independence the local congregation has also an interdependent relationship to other congregations of like faith and order.
By their free choice individual Baptist congregations enter into association and fellowship with other Baptist congregations in organizations for mutual help and fellowship such as the Association, the Convention, the Federation and the Baptist World alliance, but this is a voluntary association. There is no ecclesiastical authority vested in the power of courts or councils. Individual Baptist congregations are "members one of another" in a voluntary fellowship of interdependence.
Most vigorously and persistently Baptists have contended for their belief in the separation of Church and State. They insist that the true spiritual mission of the Church is hindered by any union with the State. They believe that the Church and State have separate and different functions to perform and while there may be proper areas for co-operation, neither should invade the special sphere of the other. In matters religious, Baptists insist that the State should not interfere in any way. The Church, likewise, should not seek to dominate in the affairs of the State.
Baptists believe they should ever seek to be loyal, patriotic citizens and to discharge the rightful responsibilities of such citizenship, except where the purposes of the State may run contrary to the plain teachings of Jesus Christ, then they believe that loyalty to Jesus Christ must be first. In this personal relationship of the believer, Baptists have ever challenged the right of the State to interfere.
It is the belief of Baptists that churches and the general work of church agencies should be supported financially by the faithful stewardship expressed in the giving of tithes and freewill offerings by their members and adherents. They do not favor the financing of churches and church agencies from government funds or taxes imposed upon the general public. Such practices, they feel, would compromise their position in Separation.
Baptists feel that they must faithfully teach and earnestly promote their own basic convictions and so fulfill the particular mission to which they have been divinely called. They desire also to be friendly and to co-operate with Christians of other communions in the work of Christ's Kingdom.
Baptists believe that the Great Commission contained in Matthew 28: 18-20 is for them the command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all the world.
Evangelism has always been a distinctive characteristic of Baptists and its spirit has sent their missionaries into the uttermost parts of the world to preach the Gospel as they understand it and have themselves accepted it.
The foremost concern of each Baptist should be the salvation of others. Individual Baptist congregations have grown and been effective in the ongoing work of Christ's Kingdom to the extent that they have given primacy to the Great Commission.
These ten points constitute and set forth beliefs commonly held among Baptists. Some of the beliefs, it may be noted, are shared also by other Christians, but the unique thing about the Baptist position is that it includes them all, An understanding and courageous setting forth of the total Baptist position is the responsibility of every Baptist.
The above statement of Baptist Beliefs is a reprint of the booklet "What Baptists Believe" by Dr. Harold U. Trinier, editor of the Canadian Baptist and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.