There are different ideas which have been set forth for the origin of the name Baptist. (1) A few Baptists claim that the name is God-given. It was given to John because of his mission. Also, it is the name for baptized disciples. “The name Baptist came from God, the name Christian came from the heathen” (baptistbecause.com).
(2) Some believe that it may have its origin in the Anabaptist movement. F.W. Mattox writes, “Historically the Baptist church did not exist until after the Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century from which its name is derived” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 306). He says, “The second generation of reformers had not received baptism as children. Accordingly, they refused the name Anabaptist, denying that they had been baptized again” (ibid, p. 266).
(3) More commonly, it is believed that the name finds its origin in the days of the English separatists, without direct connection with Anabaptist. Baptist historian, Leon McBeth writes, “Many people assume that Baptists got their name from John the Baptist. This is not the case. Like most religious groups, Baptists were named by their opponents. The name comes from the Baptist practice of immersion. The first known reference to these believers in England as ‘Baptist’ was in 1644. They did not like the name and did not use it of themselves until years later. The early Baptists preferred to be called ‘Brethren’ or ‘Brethren of the Baptist way.’ Sometimes they called themselves ‘Baptized churches.’ Early opponents of the Baptist often called them Anabaptist or other less complimentary names. Baptists rejected the name Anabaptist, not wishing to be confused with or identified with the people who bore that name” (Leon McBeth, Baptist Beginnings, baptisthistory.org).
Particular Baptist, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) had this to say about the name Baptist. “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever. I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish; but let Christ’s name endure forever” (Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, p. 168).
“Baptists… claim to have no authoritative creed except the New Testament” (Edward Hiscox, The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 56). Britannica lists six convictions that Baptists generally hold in common. The first concerns the Bible: “The supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice. Baptists are a non-creedal people, and their ultimate appeal always has been to the scriptures rather than any confession of faith that they may have published from time to time to make known their commonly accepted views” (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 716 © 1979).
2. Creeds, Confessions, and Manuals
Gerald Foster lists 19 Baptist confessions of faith that have been used through the years (Gerald Foster, Following the Denomination Called Baptist, p. 613-ff). “It is common… for the churches to have formulated statements of what are understood to be the leading Christian doctrines… These are not uniform among the churches… each church is at liberty to prepare its own confession, or have none at all… Members, on being received to fellowship, are not required to subscribe or pledge conformity to any creed-form, but are expected to yield substantial agreement to that which the church with which they unite has adopted” (Hiscox, p. 56).
Beliefs and Practices
1. Six Convictions
Britannica lists six convictions that Baptists generally hold in common. These include: (1) The supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice. (2) Believer’s baptism by immersion. (3) Churches composed of believers only. (4) Equality of all Christians in the life of the church; In other words, no clergy-laity system. (5) Independence of the local church. (6) Separation of church and state (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 716).
The Second Baptist Church of Houston says, “Salvation is God’s free gift to us. We receive this gift through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone… Every person who truly is saved is eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ and will spend eternity in heaven” (Our beliefs, second.org).
Billy Graham taught that four things were needed. “To receive Christ you need to do four things: (1) Admit your spiritual need. ‘I am a sinner.’ (2) Repent and be willing to turn from your sin. (3) Believe that Jesus died for you on the cross. (4) Receive, through prayer, Jesus Christ into your heart and life” (Billy Graham, The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook, pp. 5-6).
The Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas says, “Baptism is for believers… Baptism is by immersion… Baptism is not necessary for salvation… The moment a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he or she is and will forever be a child of God… Although it is not necessary for salvation, it is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior… It is a public sign of fellowship and identification with the church” (What We Believe about Baptism, oakwoodnb.com). Edward Hiscox said, “Baptism is not essential to salvation” (Hiscox, p. 21). I have not found the Baptist who believes that baptism is essential to salvation. L.S. Ballard affirmed, “The scriptures teach that faith in Christ procures salvation without further acts of obedience,” and denied, “The scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of past sins” (Warren-Ballard Debate). Bob Ross denied, “The scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of past sins,” and affirmed “The scriptures teach that salvation comes at the point of faith alone before and without any further acts of obedience” (Elkins-Ross Debate). Bobby Sparks held a similar position (Wacaster-Sparks Debate). Many other examples could be supplied.
Still, “It is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper” (The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net). Think of the implications. It takes less to be saved than it does to become a member of the Baptist church. The Baptist church is unnecessary. One can be saved without becoming a Baptist.
“It is most likely in the Apostolic age… the baptism of a convert, by that very act, constituted him a member of the church… Now it is different; and while churches are desirous of receiving members they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their ‘experience,’ and then their reception is decided by a vote of the membership” (Hiscox, p. 22).
This is not uncommon. The First Baptist church of Carthage, Tennessee says, “The names of the prospective members will be presented during the regular monthly business meeting for approval… The person will become an official member on a majority vote of the members present at the business meeting” (Membership 101, fbccarthage.com).
Membership has been rejected. “An incident occurred in the Pilot Point church during Rev. J.B. Cole’s pastorate which… subjected Pastor Cole to criticism… Pastor Cole went fishing one day… Jo Ives… said to Pastor Cole, ‘Here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?’ Obviously Brother Cole thought of the story of Philip and the eunuch, and taking that incident as an example he led Mr. Ives out into the water and he baptized him. Rev. Cole had been a Baptist but a short time and was not up on their conception of baptism, and how and when it should be administered… The following Sunday, Mr. Ives presented himself to the church, asking membership, and his application was rejected and he was hurt at the action of the church and turned to another church, which readily accepted his baptism.” (J.N. Rayzor, History of the Denton County Baptist Association and the Sixty Churches in its Jurisdiction,” p. 82, denton.pdf, thywordistruth.com). Pastor Cole was advised not to repeat the act (ibid). Guy Woods brought this point up in the Woods-Nunnery Debate of 1946 (See p. 162-ff, p. 186-ff).
5. Lord’s Supper
“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipated His second coming” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000).
The frequency varies. “While quarterly observance of the Lord’s Supper is the norm for nearly 60 percent of all Southern Baptist churches, 1 percent observe the Lord’s supper weekly. Eighteen percent offer it monthly and 15 percent from five to 10 times a year. Another 8 percent conduct the Lord’s Supper less than four times a year” (Lord’s Supper, Lifeway Survey churches’ practices, frequency by Carol Pipes, Sept. 2012, baptistpress.com).
6. Eternal Security
“All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net). A.U. Nunnery denied the proposition, “The Bible teaches that a child of God can so act as to be lost in hell” (Woods-Nunnery Debate, 1946). Many other examples could be supplied.
Baptists are divided on Calvinism. Marion Fox writes, “The Primitive Baptists teach all five of Calvin’s points. The Missionary Baptists dropped ‘unconditional election’ and ‘limited atonement’… some other Baptists have dropped ‘total depravity’ doctrine while retaining the ‘irresistible grace’ and ‘perseverance’ doctrines. Still others, such as the Freewill Baptists have rejected the ‘perseverance’ doctrine” (Marion Fox, The Work of The Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 93).
Baptist Churches are autonomous. “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net). The SBC and other conventions are fellowships of autonomous churches. These conferences do not oversee local Baptist churches.
Types of Baptists
There are many types of Baptists, as we’ve seen. Here are a few to show the diversity:
1. Primitive Baptist (Hard shell; Old School; Regular)
They are Calvinists. Some practice feet-washing. They reject instrumental music (Frank. S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, pp. 51-52, Instrumental Music in Worship by Zack Guess, primitivebaptistssermons.org).
2. Missionary Baptist
They reject “limited atonement” and “unconditional election.” “Thus, they see the need for preaching and are labeled, ‘missionary’” (The Baptist Church: It’s Various Sects by Larry Ray Hafley, truthmagazine.com).
3. Freewill Baptist
“They believe Christ died for all and that one is free to accept or reject salvation. They believe in the possibility of apostasy and are opposed ardently by other Baptists for this. They have historically contended for foot washing” (truthmagazine.com).
4. Seventh Day Baptist
“As the name implies, these Baptists observe Saturday, the Sabbath… The first Seventh Day Baptist church was established in England during the Cromwell era” (ibid). They actually pre-date the Seventh-day Adventist, and the Church of God (Seventh-day).