What Does it Mean to Be Baptist?

by Linda Ray

The Baptist religion is one of many Protestant denominations that follow the doctrine that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and died on the cross for man’s sins. Baptists believe they can speak directly to God without the need of a human mediator because of this sacrifice made by Jesus. While there are activities common to Baptist services, such as baptism and preaching, the only requirement to be a Baptist is that you believe solely in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Scriptures

Baptists read the Bible and believe that it contains the final authority on how to live and practice their faith. Most Baptists rely on the King James Version of the Bible, also referred to as the KJV, and often state that newer versions of the scriptures contain changes that negate its original intent. Being a Baptist means that you refer to the Bible as your source of guidance for everything from marriage and child rearing to health and finances.

Baptism

Unlike other Christian denominations like Catholicism, baptism does not take place for Baptists until they fully understand the teachings of the Bible and have developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While baptism does not ensure your place in heaven, it is an earthly sign that you have become a member of the religion. Baptism as a Baptist requires full immersion in water and means that you’ve publicly accepted Jesus Christ as your savior and the only path to salvation.

Afterlife

Baptists believe in heaven and hell as real places where you go after you die. Heaven is a place you will go to if you believe in the sovereignty of Jesus as the only true path to God and forgiveness of your sins. Hell is a place of eternal torment. Sinners go to hell, but can be redeemed at any time by taking up the belief that Jesus died for their sins. Being “saved” from the torture of hell is a prime tenet of the Baptist faith and one that motivates many Baptists to remain vigilant in their faith.

Governance

Baptist churches are autonomous, although many belong to associations through which they support worldwide relief and missionary efforts. As a Baptist, however, you don’t have to belong to a church that participates in a national or worldwide organization. Your local church and its elected leaders have the final authority on all issues pertaining to your church. While the associations your church belongs to may make recommendations, the vote within your own church is binding.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

Photo Credits

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