So, here we are at another Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To celebrate this Baptist minister, I thought I might identify some of the doctrinal elements which made him a Baptist.
My church Sunday School has gone through this lesson; the acrostic below is from the Baptist Distinctives wikipedia page, though errors in the thumbnail descriptions are all mine.
B: Biblical authority -easily understood-we look to the Bible as God’s Word-no church hierarchy or ’leaders’ or church laws are accepted as being on a par with Scripture.
A: Autonomy of Baptist churches-each church is independently governed, though association/cooperation with larger church groupings, such as the Southern Baptist Convention is acceptable. The SBC holds no sway over local church governance-there is no hierarchy above the independent church.
P: Priesthood of all believers -Christians look to Christ; we do not have any other intercessor. We reject the idea of any other person being between us and Jesus Christ.
T: Two ordinances -the Lord’s Supper, which is a memorial to the death of Christ who paid the price for our sins, and Baptism, which memorializes His resurrection; as we partake of these two ordinances, we are identifying ourselves with Christ’s death and resurrection.
I: Individual Soul Liberty-this follows with the Priesthood of all believers-from the wiki page: “Various terms have been used for this concept, such as soul freedom, freedom of conscience and soul competency. It refers to the God-given freedom and ability of persons to know and respond to God's will. Baptists believe that God gives people competency—that is ability—to make choices.” Which we do-often the wrong choices. We are not perfect.
S: Saved Church Membership-we had some discussion on this point yesterday in church-all guests are always welcome to visit, irregardless of whether or not they are saved. But to join a church, one must be a Christian.
T: Two Offices (Pastor and Deacon)-no Bishops except on a chess board. No Popes. Each church will have as governing authority a Pastor and Deacons/Elders. And their authority “ends” at the church door, meaning that they have no authority at all over non-church members.
Now, can a Christian live apart from a church? Absolutely-I went for years with no church membership. But I wasn’t living a life pleasing to God, and God is the one who led me to get back into communion with believers, to join the church where I am now a member.
I encourage you to dig into this subject-it’s all over the internet. Make Dr. MLKjr proud.