What is a Baptist?

The Gospel (the good news)

I suppose that we should first ask, what is salvation? The Bible teaches that God created human beings to have a perfect relationship with him. However, because of our disobedience to God, our relationship with him has been marred. Not only that, but all human relationships have been marred. We deserve eternal death and eternal punishment because of our disobedience. Nothing that we do, no matter how good, could ever earn eternal life for us. Left to ourselves our situation is hopeless. BUT God had a plan to purchase us back! If there were someone who had never disobeyed God, someone who lived a perfect life, that person could die in our place and bear the punishment that we deserved to bear. Because of God’s great love for us he decided to become that man himself. Though we messed things up, God would make things right by bearing the punishment himself. He did this by coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, then died on the cross to pay for our disobedience, and then rose from the dead after three days. When someone puts their faith in Jesus Christ they receive the gift of eternal life purchased by him.

So, what does all this have to do with being a Baptist?

Well, simply put, a Baptist is someone who believes that Jesus took their place. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live, he died the death that we deserved to die, and he rose from the dead so that some day we might rise from the dead as well. Through faith we are saved from our sins and are given eternal life.

The Bible

Baptists believe that the Bible is a document written by the hands of men, and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. This means that every word written in the original languages is exactly what God wanted it to be. It has no errors and it is useful for every part of life. We need to be careful to pay attention to all of it and conform our lives to it. This is why we must continually ask ourselves if what we are doing has any basis in the Bible. If it does not, then we need to be willing to let it go.

Baptism

Baptists believe that placing your faith in Jesus for salvation from your sins is your first act of obedience to God. The second act of obedience is baptism. Baptism does not save you from your sins. It is, however, the greatest display imaginable of the fact that your old self (enslaved to sin) is dead, and your new self (enslaved to Christ) is alive! The word baptism literally means “to immerse” or “to dip.” In the Bible we see that whenever someone came to faith in Jesus they were baptized (immersed) in water. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. As we go under the water it symbolizes our death and burial with Jesus. As we come out of the water it symbolizes our resurrection from the dead with Jesus.

For a more complete explanation of what Baptists believe, click here to view the “Baptist Faith and Message.” First Baptist Church of Westfield accepts this document as a confession of our faith.