History Of Baptism And Its Main Beliefs
In order to determine the true origin of the Baptist denomination, one must look to the best available historical evidence. This leads to the conclusion that Baptists came into existence in early seventeenth-century England. They separated and derived from the great change caused by the Puritan-Separatist movement in the Church of England by reading the Bible in their own language and seeking to live by the Word of God. This seemingly sudden change in the thinking and acts of the people was greatly influenced by the new translations of the English Bible which allowed the common people to once again have the ability to read the Word; social and political changes also led to many people wanting to have more participation in their church.
Two main groups emerged due to this need for reform: Puritans and Separatists. The Puritans were more extreme but truly did desire to revive pure Biblical teachings and practices within their church. The Separatists were also seeking reform but did not join the Puritans for the following reason: The Puritans were not even attempting to reform the church from within. Separatists decided to form their own independent congregations apart from the Church of England. The Separatists included many different groups who all held differing views, allowing for a variety. As they studied the Bible, one group of Separatists adopted the belief of believer’s baptism and thus became known as Baptists.
While Baptists were already a group within a group, there were two major sections within those known as the “Baptists.” With the belief in believer’s baptism alike, General and Particular Baptists differed somewhat in other beliefs and practices. The General Baptists believed in general atonement, meaning that Christ died for all people generally; they held the belief that anyone who would believe in Christ could be saved. John Smyth, a former minister in the Church of England, led the first General Baptist Church away from the danger of King James I in 1607 A.D. in Amsterdam, a city that provided safety due to it religious liberty. As the congregation led by Smyth and Thomas Helwys continued studying the Word of God and seeking the path of the Lord, Smyth noticed that the group was adopting the ways of those built upon a “covenant,” not a confession of faith in Christ. He therefore rebuilt the growing church to be based primarily upon the ideas of individual confessions of faith in Christ, as well as believer’s baptism; Smyth first baptized himself then did the same to the other believers. Helwys led a chunk of this group back to London in 1611, where the first Baptist church on English ground was set up, teaching the following beliefs: baptism of believers only, general atonement, the possibility to lose one’s salvation, and religious liberty.
Those known as the Particular Baptists taught the ideas of believer’s baptism by immersion, that one is always saved after having been saved, and particular atonement, meaning that Christ died for only those within a certain group, the elect. The Particular Baptists, who were greatly influenced by John Calvin, began teaching a generation after the General Baptists. Even though they were completely separated from the Church of England, these people, who, since coming out of an Independent congregation, were known as Independents, wished to have freedom in controlling their own affairs without a full-on break from the state church. Henry Jacob, along with John Lathrop and Henry Jessey, were the leaders of an Independent congregation in London as early in time as 1616; this small church was often fondly labeled the “JLJ Church” after its three pastors. Many disagreements regarding baptism led several members of this church to withdraw individually in 1633 and create their own congregations, being rebaptized as believers. This leads to the conclusion that the first truly Particular Baptist church began in the year 1633.
As the people of God have continued to study the Bible throughout history, Baptists have steadfastly believed and held to the following ideas which they consider to be supported by the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Regarding God Himself, Baptists believe that the singular living and true God Himself is limitless, all-powerful, totally sovereign, divine, and infinite, without beginning or end. While God is One, He comes in three parts, being the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each member of the Trinity has distinct personal qualities and attributes, all while remaining totally undivided in nature, essence, and being.
Those of the Baptist body believe that God the Father, being the first part of the Trinity, relates to and redeems human beings, and even while He hates sin and judges it, He forgives sinners themselves. He is the creator of every single thing that exists and has ever existed; He rules over, preserves, and sustains His creation actively. God is morally pure, meaning that He is therefore wholly righteous and just; the Lord is unconditional love, even to the point of personal sacrifice. He is perfect in the most absolute sense in every aspect and thus deserves to be loved, obeyed, and worshipped. While humans cannot know everything about Him, those with faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, can know God truly by becoming His children. God of Son, who was mentioned above, is the second member of the Trinity, being the eternal Son of God. When He was incarnated as Jesus Christ, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a totally obedient life, leading to His death on the cross being substitution for the penalty of sin and providing for the option of men to be redeemed if one believes. The third member of the Holy Trinity is the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God. He exalts Christ, convicts men, and enlightens and empowers believers as well as the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
For Christians, including Baptists, the Holy Bible is the Word of God and divine instruction in which God uniquely reveals Himself to mankind. It was written by men who were inspired by God to write down and thus deliver God’s revelation of Himself to all mankind. This book is total truth and has no errors with God as its author. It informs man of how God judges, how God is, and how humans ought to live; it is to be the center of Christian union and the absolute standard of all human acts and opinions. The entirety of this Scripture, according to many people, including Baptists, is a testimony to Christ, who is the complete focus.
The idea of salvation involves redemption and is freely offered to all who do accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior in their hearts. Salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Baptists firmly believe that only those who have brought Jesus into their hearts and are believers may be baptized by immersion in water. It symbolizes the individual’s faith in the Savior, his or her death to sin and the old life, and the resurrection which leads to the new ability to walk in a new life with Christ; baptism is also a sign and act of obedience. Regarding communion, which is also an act of obedience, Baptist members perform this act of consuming a piece of bread with grape juice, symbolizing the body and blood of Christ, in order to memorialize the death of Christ the Redeemer and look forward to His second coming. The frequency of this practice depends upon each individual church. Every Baptist church is self-governed and self-supported, even though local Baptist churches do often come together in regional, national, and even international associations for fellowship and support, among other things. Also, every member of a Baptist church is considered equal, with no one exercising authority over another, though they do have ministers, elders, and deacons who hold leadership roles, often discussing financial policies and mission strategies. However, those who attend the church and are members are enabled to vote at the church meetings in order to have a part in making the final decisions. Those who are part of the Baptist community truly do have a meaningful conviction and purpose in life caused by their shared belief in the One True God, the Creator of all things.
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