Definition of the word „Baptist“
“Baptists” comesfrom the Greek word “baptizein” which is related to the verb “to immerse or dip”and in figurative sense has the meaning “to baptize”.
The name«Baptist» was not a self-chosen one. In the early Protestant Reformation time this particulargroup of Christians made baptism on a profession of faith acondition of church membership. This rejection of infant baptism and this insistence on believers’ baptismwere so distinctive of these Christians that they were stigmatized with thepejorative «Baptists.»
History of Baptismus
During thefinal years of the 16th century radical groups emerged in the Anglican churchimpatient with the church’s slow pace of reform. Many of these broke away fromthe established church and became known as Separatists. One such group wasestablished in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire under the leadership of Thomas Helwysand John Smith, a former Anglican preacher.
In 1608this group moved to Amsterdam in order to escape persecution in England. InAmsterdam Smith became convinced that baptism should be available only to thosewho are convinced believers. Smith baptised himself and his followers, thusforming the first Baptist church. In 1611 Thomas Helwys and some of hisfollowers returned to London and established the first Baptist church inEngland. These came to be known as General Baptists because they believedthat Christ died for everyone, and not an elect few.
In 1638 aBaptist church was formed in Southwark, London whose theology was Calvinistic.Those churches that followed this theology came to be known as ParticularBaptists because they believed that only a particular elect group would besaved.
The Baptist church grew steadily during the first half of the17th century.However, the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 led to renewedpersecution of dissenting churches. During this time the Baptist preacher JohnBunyan spent 12 years in prison.
The 18th century saw renewed growth in the church. In 1792 the English BaptistMissionary Society was organised under the leadership of William Carey,planting Baptist churches in India and other parts of Asia.
Church membership continued to grow throughout the 19th century. Concomitantwith this growth was the quest to establish cooperation among different Baptistchurches. In 1891 the General and Particular Baptists were united in theBaptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. Baptist churches were also set upthroughout central and eastern Europe.
The twentieth century has witnessed a growth in international cooperation amongBaptist churches. In 1905 the World Baptist Alliance was set up inLondon. Since then meetings have occurred in different cities roughly everyfive years. Today there are Baptists in all continents of the world.
MostBaptist churches do not have an age restriction on membership, but will notaccept as a member a child that is considered too young to fully understand andmake a profession of faith of their own volition and comprehension. In suchcases, the pastor and parents usually meet together with the child to verifythe child’s comprehension of the decision to follow Jesus. There are instanceswhere a person makes a profession of faith but fails to follow through withbelievers’ baptism. In such case they are considered «saved» but nota church member until baptized.
Somechurches, especially in the UK, do not require a member to have been baptisedas a believer, as long as they have made an adult declaration of faith — forexample, been confirmed in the Anglican church, or become a communicant memberas a Presbyterian. In these cases, believers would usually transfer theirmembership from their previous church. This allows people who have grown up inone tradition, but now feel settled in their local Baptist church, to fullytake part in the day to day life of the church, voting at meetings, etc. It isalso possible, but unusual, to be baptised without becoming a church memberimmediately.
Baptist beliefs and principles
Each Baptistbeliever priest with soul competency is equal to all other Baptists in achurch, so each church is equal to every other church. Baptist churches do nothave a central governing authority. Therefore, beliefs are not totally consistent from one Baptist church toanother. However, on major theological issues, Baptist distinctive beliefs areheld in common among almost all Baptist churches.
Baptistchurches are careful to emphasize that worship is not limited to the Sundaygathering, but is a lifestyle of love and service to Christ and dedication toGod’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Most Baptist churches expect the members tocarry the message of the gospel intothe world among their family and friends.
Baptistsgenerally believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ at which time God willsit in judgment and divide humanity between the saved and the lost and Christ will sit in judgment of thebelievers, rewarding them for things done while alive.
Some whoreject the label Baptist prefer to be labeled as Christians who attend Baptistchurches. Also, a recent trend is to eliminate «Baptist» from thechurch name, as it is perceived to be a «barrier» to reaching personswho have negative views of Baptists, whether they be of a different churchbackground or none.
The Biblealone is a sufficient and authoritative guide to faith.
Baptism isonly undertaken by believers accompanied by a profession of faith and onlyconvinced Christians should belong to the church.
Each memberof the church has equal say in the running of the church, and, therefore, theminister does not have any special priestly authority.
Each localchurch is autonomous.
Church andstate are separate. Behind this principle lies the belief that the state shouldguarantee freedom of belief.