Shortly after the protestant reformation was in full swing in the late 1600s and early 1700s, there was a movement that shifted slightly from Martin Luther's theology and idealogies. That movement developed into a group called the anabaptists. This group held to a strict set of principles and guidelines that have been kept through the years and form eight main points. Those churches holding to these foundational principles regarding the role of the church are called Baptists. The eight points form an acrostic: BAPTISTS
The Bible, as God's inspired word, is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice. It bears the sovereign authority of God Himself. Therefore, Baptists accept the words of scripture as literal and true. Neither opinion, decree nor creed carry the authority of scripture.
[1Th 2:13 NASB] 13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted [it] not [as] the word of men, but [for] what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
The local church is an independent body accountable only to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. The governance of the church happens from within the local body making it autonomous. No religious entity or heirarchy outside the church may dictate the beliefs or practices of the local church.
[Col 1:18 NASB] 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER
All believers in Christ have direct access to the throne of God through our mediator and High Priest, Jesus Christ. There is no other mediator between God and man.
[1Pe 2:5 NASB] 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
TWO ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH
There are two ordinances practiced in the church: baptism and the Lord's supper. These are the only two practices ordained by Christ in scripture.
[Mat 3:13-17 NASB] 13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan [coming] to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit [it] at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove [and] lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
[Mat 26:26-28 NASB] 26 While they were eating, Jesus took [some] bread, and after a blessing, He broke [it] and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave [it] to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY
Every individual Christian has the liberty to believe, right or wrong, as their own conscience dictates. While we seek to persuade men to choose the right, a person must not be forced to into compliance. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. Freedom to choose right or wrong neither negates an individual's responsibility to the Word of God nor their accountability to God Himself.
[Rom 14:12 NASB] 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
SAVED AND BAPTIZED CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Membership in the local church is restricted to those that have made public professions of faith and have identified with Christ by publicly and obediently following in the ordinance of baptism.
[Act 2:41, 47 NASB] 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. ... 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
TWO OFFICES OF THE CHURCH
The Bible mandates only two offices in the church--pastor and deacon. The three terms--"pastor," "elder," and "bishop," or "overseer"--all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor and deacon exist within the local church, not as a hierarchy outside or over the local church.
[1Ti 3:1, 8 NASB] 1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do.] ... 8 Deacons likewise [must be] men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain..."
[Tit 1:5, 7 NASB] 5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, ... 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can participate in and influence a government toward righteousness. However, the government should not influence the church.
[Rom 13:1 NASB] 1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
[Mat 28:18-20 NASB] 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."