The following is a brief outline of what we believe as a body of Christians called First Baptist Church. It includes explanation of historical Baptist beliefs, as well as beliefs held by most evangelical Christians.
THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
We believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation and eternal life. We believe a personal relationship must be established by each individual by repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Lord and Savior. We do not inherit our Christianity from our parents, nor is it obtained through any association with the church. It is an individual's decision to receive God's grace through faith. Jesus is the focus of everything we do or believe. In the life of every believer, He is the Lord or boss of every aspect of life.
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE FOR FAITH AND PRACTICE
We believe the Bible is the absolute authority for the way we practice our faith in moral responsibility, theological beliefs, and relationships with God and our fellow man. The Bible, not the church nor the preacher, has the final say in the way we practice our faith as Christians. We believe all Christians should read and study the Bible. We are not a creedal people. Our only creed is the Bible.
In 1963, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement entitled "The Baptist Faith and Message" which says this about the Bible: "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ. "
At FBC, we teach that the Bible is the "God-breathed, infallible Word of God." It is perfect truth from cover to cover, and all Scripture in the Old Testament through the New Testament points to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, the Ultimate Word of God.
Because Baptists are diverse, we allow for the freedom to disagree on many issues and still co-exist. Faithful and honest Christians can draw different conclusions on some of the "gray areas" of life. However, we do not "seek unity at any price." There are certain theological doctrines that we consider to be non-negotiable.
We believe that fundamental to our faith is the centrality of Jesus Christ, who wasborn miraculously of a virgin. He lived a perfect, sinless life and died a sacrificial, substitutionary death. From actual death, He was literally resurrected and He is alive for eternity. He presently sits at the right hand of God, the Father. He will one day return to claim the church and rule as Lord throughout eternity. All of these truths are affirmed through the Bible which is perfectly true.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS
We believe that every Christian has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. We do not have to go through someone else to confess our sins to God or to pray to God. All Christians are ministers. We may have different roles of leadership in the church (such as pastor, deacon, teacher, etc.), but every Christian is called to be a minister. This means we presently have several hundred ministers at FBC. There is a place for you to join us and serve the Lord.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
We believe that each congregation is to determine its own doctrine and government according to the leading of the Holy Spirit in a way consistent with Scripture. Most, but not all Baptist churches, are congregational in government. The Southern Baptist Convention does not dictate doctrine and practice to local churches.
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention speaks for one person only - himself. He is a representative of all Southern Baptists, but he doesn't speak for any Baptist other than himself. His power is in the appointments he makes to determine who serves on denominational agency boards, such as Lifeway Christian Resources (formerly called Sunday School Board), Board of Trustees for Baptist seminaries, etc. He has no say in local church doctrine, government or decisions.
Southern Baptists are not drawn together in doctrine so much as we are through our cooperative effort in giving to world missions and evangelism. This aspect of being a Baptist is most confusing to people of other denominations who have an ecclesiastical structure which is in authority over the local church.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
Baptist origins go back to the Church of England in the early 1600's. Several Anglican priests began to study scriptural teaching on baptism and felt strongly that baptism should be for believers and by immersion. They baptized one another in this way and were expelled from the Anglican (Episcopal) church. Early Baptists faced great hardships and persecution and even imprisonment. One such man was John Bunyon, the author of Pilgrim's Progress. Many in this early group simply called themselves the "pure group" as they were trying to follow Scripture alone and not church tradition.
To escape persecution, many in the "pure group" came to America where they became known as "Puritans." Three main denominational groups came out of the Puritans: Baptists, Quakers, and Congregationalists. All of these groups spread throughout the United States.
The first Baptist church in the United States was organized in Providence, Rhode Island, by Roger Williams. Because of our heritage, religious liberty and separation of church and state are a precious part of our beliefs. Baptists were instrumental in securing this separation. The purpose was to keep the government out of the church, not to keep God out of the government.
BELIEVER'S BAPTISM BY IMMERSION
We believe that the Bible teaches that when a person makes a decision to become a Christian, baptism by immersion follows that decision as a public testimony of one's faith in Christ. In the early church, scholars of all denominations agreed, baptism was by immersion.
A theological misunderstanding of original sin greatly influenced the church to start baptizing infants, and the mode of baptism changed to sprinkling. Since we believe that salvation is a personal relationship with Jesus and not through association with a church, infant baptism and sprinkling would be unacceptable. We do not believe that baptism is required for salvation, but we believe that it is a symbolic testimony of our faith in Christ.
SYMBOLIC VIEW OF THE ORDINANCES
We observe two ordinances (not sacraments) in our congregation: The Lord's Supper and Baptism. We believe that observing the Lord's Supper reminds us symbolically of the great price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins. This is a time when believers carefully examine their lives, confess sin, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus' life that makes salvation possible.
Baptism by immersion symbolically describes what occurs in salvation: 1) we are completely cleansed of all sin, and 2) we have died to sin and selfishness (a symbol of burial as one goes under the water), and we rise to a new life identifying with the Resurrected Lord Jesus (as we come up out of the water). Baptism by immersion dramatizes the new life of the Gospel.
EMPHASIS ON MISSIONS AND EVANGELISM
We are certainly missions-minded at FBC. We feel it is our responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord. This means we are to go out into society and tell people about the gospel of Christ. For those who receive it, we are to teach them about God and His Word.
We voluntarily give to the "Cooperative Program," the joint fund that provides support for all our missionaries and seminaries around the world. We feel we can support more people and do more missions through a cooperative effort, though each church is free to support any Christian mission work as God leads, whether or not the work is Baptist. We at FBC support both the Cooperative Program and other mission projects locally, nationally, and globally.
In reading all of this, are you comfortable being a Christian in a Baptist church? You can see that with no creed but the Bible, belief in the priesthood of all believers, and the autonomy of the local church, Baptists are a diverse lot. Our ultimate goal is to introduce people to a personal relationship with Jesus, and help them to grow in Godliness and in obedience to the Scriptures. It is our desire that whenever any Baptist is asked "What faith are you?", he would first reply, "I'm a Christian," before he says "I'm a Baptist."