Lesson 1: What Is a Baptist?

Knute Rockne was the legendary football coach at Notre Dame from 1918 to 1930. He is regarded by many as the greatest football coach of all time. Coach Rockne had five undefeated seasons and won six national championships. Each year, at his first team meeting, he would tell his players they were going to have a winning season because they were going to stick with the fundamentals. Then, he would hold up a football and say, "Boys, this is a football." You can't get more fundamental than that! As Christians, we are not going to win the world for Christ unless we stick with the fundamentals of our faith.

Whether or not you are a Baptist is determined by what you believe. There are (1) ___________________ essential beliefs that make us Baptists. These are essential beliefs on which we must agree. Many things in Baptist life are not essentials, so we sometimes differ on them as a matter of opinion or preference. Therefore, there is a lot of diversity among Baptists. In Romans 14:1b, what does the Bible tell us to do about these non-essential areas?

 
 

This means we should accept people who don't believe everything the way we do and shouldn't quarrel over matters of opinion or preference. To be worthy of a quarrel or controversy, the disagreement must be about an essential belief. What is a non-essential belief? One example is how often we should observe the Lord's Supper. According to Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11:26, when should a church observe the Lord's Supper?

 
 

Some churches observe the Lord's Supper each week, some once a month, and some once a quarter. Still others observe it only once a year because Jesus transformed Passover into the Lord's Supper, and Passover was observed only once a year. The frequency with which we observe the Lord's Supper is a non-essential issue, as long as we observe it.

In regard to non-essential issues, the Bible teaches we should never do anything to cause division or conflict in the church (Rom. 14:15, 21). Why, according to Romans 12:18?

 
 

There is an old saying: "We don't have to be (2) ___________________ to be brothers and sisters in Christ." The point is we can disagree on some things, but there are seven things on which we must agree if we're going to be Baptists. Let's look at the seven essential Baptist beliefs. There are seven letters in the name "Baptist," and each letter can stand for one of the essential beliefs. (This acrostic is not original with this author, but the commentary is.)

B—Bible as our only (3) ___________________

As Baptists we don't have any creed or source of authority other than the Bible. It is our only and final authority on all matters of doctrine and behavior. The Bible was originally written in two languages—the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in (4) ___________________. The Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God in written form. How is this fact stated in 2 Timothy 3:16a?

 
 

All Scripture (all of the Bible), not some or most, is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. This means the Holy Spirit guided the writers as they wrote down God's Word.

It is absolutely (5) ___________________ for you to be certain the Bible is the Word of God. Nothing in your Christian life is as important as what you believe about the Bible. Because the Bible is God's Word, it is the final authority—not a creed, a denominational statement, nor what some talk show host says. We can trust the Bible because it is the inspired Word of God, not the writing of mere men. How does 2 Peter 1:21b describe how the Bible came to be written down?

 
 

When faced with a question or decision, we should first ask: "What does the Bible say?" The Bible is the authoritative basis for all we preach, teach, and believe.

A—Autonomy of the local (6) ___________________

The word "autonomy" means self- (7) ___________________ and independent. No denominational control from outside our local church can tell us what to do in any way. New Testament churches were autonomous. The twelve disciples needed help overseeing food distribution to widows so the disciples could spend their time in prayer and studying the Word of God. Therefore, they decide to turn this responsibility over to others. What do they say to the church in Acts 6:3a?

 
 

Therefore, the local church, not the apostles, chose its own deacons. They obviously did so by taking a vote, which is how an autonomous church makes major decisions.

Baptists believe every local church should be self-governing ana independent of any kind of outside control from an association, state convention, or anyone else.

P—(8) ___________________ of the believer

The Bible teaches that every Christian is a priest. In Baptist churches, pastors lead the church but have no more access to God than any other believer. What does the Bible say about all believers in 1 Peter 2:9b?

 
 

The word "priest" means (9) "___________________," or one who goes between people and God. We don't need anyone to stand between God and us anymore because all believers can go directly to God in prayer. We as believers are a royal priesthood. A priesthood must have a High Priest. We do—He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God and takes our requests directly to God. There is only one mediator between us and God. Who is He, according to 1 Timothy 2:5?

 
 

You don't have to confess your sins or pray for forgiveness through a pastor or priest, because if you are Christian, you are a priest and have as much access to God as anyone.

T—(10) ___________________

The Bible teaches a tithe of everything belongs to God (Lev. 27:30). The word "tithe" in the Bible refers to giving one (11) ___________________ of our income back to God.

Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees tithed so meticulously they tithed from worthless garden products, including leaves from mint and cumin. Yet, they were neglecting the more important parts of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Mt 23:23). Then, in the last sentence of that verse, what does Jesus say?

 
 

That means you should do both—tithe and not neglect the more important things in the Bible.

Tithing is the way we finance our church. We don't finance it through cake sales, garage sales, etc. Our members finance our church because they love the Lord enough to give ten percent of what they earn back to the Lord's church. If we don't love the Lord enough to support His church, we should permanently close the doors. When you give your tithe, you are not giving it to the pastor or even to the church, you are giving back to the Lord.

At offering time we are not giving to the Lord; we are giving back to God. We are giving back to God because of what fact found in Psalm 24: la?

 
 

Everything we have is the result of God's blessings to us because every good thing we have is a gift from God (Jas. 1:17). Believers should give freely, without any compulsion or guilt, because what kind of giver does God love, according to 2 Corinthians 9:7?

 
 

It is so sad that in most Baptist churches offering time looks more like a sad funeral service than a time of cheerful giving back to the Lord.

I—(12) ___________________ only

The reason we are called "Baptist" is our strong feelings about the mode of baptism. Immersion is the only way we baptize because this is the way Christ was baptized. When Jesus was baptized, He immediately came up out of the water (Mt 3:16).

The Greek word translated baptize [BAPTIZŌ, bap-teed'-zo] means to (13) ___________________, or immerse, in water. There is a Greek word for "sprinkle" (hrantizō, ron-teed'-zo; Heb. 9:13), but it is never translated "baptize." There is also a Greek word for the word "pour" (KATACHEŌ, kah-tah-keh'-oh; Mt 26:7), but it is also never translated "baptize." The word "baptism" means that the person goes (14) ___________________ the water. How does Colossians 2:12a describe baptism?

 
 

You can't do what that verse says unless you go under the water, and then come up out of the water. Baptism is a symbolic picture of what we believe about the death and resurrection of Christ.

S—(15) ___________________ of the believer

Some call this "the perseverance of the saints" (or better, "the preservation of the saints") or "once saved, always saved." God wants us to know we are saved. According to 1 John 5:13b, why did John write his first epistle to us who believe in the name of the Son of God?

 
 

However, God not only wants us to know we are saved; He wants us to know we can never lose our salvation. Sometimes we may not feel saved or act saved, but our salvation is not based on how we feel or act; it is based on the promises of God (Rom. 10:9).

Furthermore, we cannot lose our salvation because we do not save ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9), and we do not keep ourselves saved. God does both. We are not secure in ourselves; we are secure in God's power. The Bible teaches salvation is not a future hope for true believers but a present reality. In John 5:24 what does Jesus promise to those who hear His Word and believe in the God who sent Him?

 
 

We are saved when we believe in Jesus (Acts 16:31), not just about Jesus. The Greek word translated believe means to believe to the degree your life is changed; it is not just believing historical facts. In the Bible "faith" means (16) "___________________."

For example, do you believe what history tells us about Adolf Hitler? Probably so. Do you believe in Adolf Hitler? If you do, you are a Nazi. In the same way, believing about Jesus doesn't make you a Christian; believing in Him does.

Every believer is a project under divine construction, and God always finishes what He starts. Therefore, according to Philippians 1:6, of what can we be confident?

 
 

The real issue concerning the security of the believer is who does the work of salvation. A person who is truly saved is always saved because salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). But what does the Bible declare in Ephesians 2:9?

 
 

If our salvation is based on works—past, present, or future, we are insecure. But if salvation is totally the work of God, not based on our works, we are secure. It is possible to lose the joy of our salvation, but not our salvation (Psa. 51:12).

There are people who decide to be saved, but their decision is based on (17) ___________________, not commitment. They live the Christian life for a few weeks or months but then go back to their old ways of life. However, true believers continue, even though they may, like King David, temporarily falter in faith. John writes that some believers went out from us but never really belonged to the company of true believers. Why, according to 1 John 2:19b?

 
 

There is an old saying that goes, "A faith that (18) ___________________ before the finish had a (19) ___________________ from the first." True disciples continue to follow Jesus (Jn 8:31).

(Additional verses on security: John 10:28; Rom. 8:1, 29, 35-39; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:5; and Psa. 37:23-24)

T—Telling others about (20) ___________________

The word gospel means (21) "___________________ News." It is the responsibility and privilege of every Christian to share the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead three days later to prove He was who He claimed to be. Before

Jesus ascended back into heaven, He told His disciples, which includes you and me, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to (22) ___________________, baptizing those who accept Christ in the name of the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mk 16:15 & Mt 28:19).

The only opportunity some people you know will ever have to hear the Gospel is through (23) ___________________. The Bible tells us to always be ready to answer anyone who asks us about our hope, or the basis for our faith (1 Pet. 3:15). However, how are we to answer them, according to the last phrase in that verse?

 
 

We should live such holy lives that people will ask us questions about our faith. Then, we are to share with them in a gentle and respectful manner. In other words, we cannot act holier-than-thou or talk to them in a condescending way. We are saved sinners, or as someone said, "Witnessing is just one (24) ___________________ telling another (25) ___________________ how to find bread."

Telling others how to be saved is as easy as ABCD:

A (26) ___________________ you are a sinner (Rom. 3:23).

B (27) ___________________ Jesus died on the cross to pay for all your sins (Jn 3:16; Rom. 5:8).

C (28) ___________________ that you believe Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead. In prayer, ask God to forgive you of all your sins and save your soul (Rom. 10:9-10)

D (29) ___________________ yourself to following Jesus daily as your Lord, or Boss (Lk 9:23).

Another way to share the Gospel is the "Roman Road" (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; and 10:9-10). Every Christian should be able to present a simple plan of salvation to anyone who asks them about their faith or how to be saved.

Now, let's review the Seven Essential Baptist Beliefs...

B (30) ______________________ as our only authority

A (31) ______________________ of the local church

P (32) ______________________ of the believer

T (33) ______________________

I (34) ______________________ only

S (35) ______________________ of the believer

T (36) ______________________ others about Christ.