Southern Baptist Beliefs

Explore the primary doctrines of the Southern Baptist Church

Southern Baptist Beliefs
Believer's Baptism. Kristy-Anne Glubish / Getty Images

Southern Baptists trace back to John Smyth and the Separatist Movement beginning in England in 1608. John Smyth was an ardent promoter of adult baptism. He and other reformists of the time called for a return to New Testament examples of purity and accountability. 

Basic Southern Baptist Beliefs

Authority of Scripture: Southern Baptists view the Bible as the ultimate authority in shaping a person's life.

It is God's divinely inspired revelation of himself to man. It is true, trustworthy, and without error.

Baptism: A primary Baptist distinction is their practice of adult believer's baptism and their rejection of infant baptism. Baptism is an ordinance for believers only, by immersion only, and as a symbolic act, not having any power in itself. The act of baptism pictures what Christ has done for the believer in his death, burial, resurrection. Likewise, it portrays what Christ has done through the new birth, enabling death to the old life of sin and newness of life to walk in. Baptism gives testimony to salvation already received; it is not a requisite for salvation. It is an act of obedience to Jesus Christ.

Church Authority: Each Southern Baptist church is autonomous, operating under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. Each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.

Church officers are pastors and deacons. 

Because of the congregational style of governance, Baptist churches often vary significantly, especially in the following areas:

Communion: The Lord's Supper memorializes the death of Christ.

Equality: In a resolution released in 1998, Southern Baptists view all people as equal in God's eyes, but believe the husband or man has authority in the household and responsibility to protect his family.

While both men and women are gifted to serve in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men.

Evangelical: Southern Baptists are Evangelical, meaning they adhere to the belief that while humanity is fallen, the good news is that Christ came to pay the penalty for sin on the cross. That penalty, now paid in full, means God offers forgiveness and new life as a free gift. All who receive Christ as Lord may have it. The message is so vital that telling it is like sharing a cure for cancer. One could not keep it to himself. Evangelism and missions have a supreme place in Baptist life.

Heaven and Hell: Southern Baptists believe in a real heaven and hell. Those who have been saved will live eternally in the presence of God in heaven, and those who die without being saved will go to hell. 

Ordination of Women: Baptists believe Scripture teaches that men and women are equal in value, but have different roles in the family and the church. Pastoral leadership positions are reserved for men.

Perseverance of the Saints: Baptists believe true believers will never fall away or lose their salvation. This is sometimes called, "Once saved, always saved." The proper term, however, is the final perseverance of the saints.

It means true Christians stick with it. It doesn't mean the believer won't stumble, but an inward pull will not allow him to quit the faith.

The Priesthood of Believers: All Christians have equal access to God's revelation of truth through the careful study of the Bible. This is a position shared by all post-reformational Christian groups.

Regeneration: When one receives Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit does an internal work to redirect his life, making him born again. The biblical term for this is "regeneration." This is not merely choosing to "turn over a new leaf," but is a matter of God beginning a life-long process of change.

Salvation by Faith: The only way to get into heaven is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. To achieve salvation one must confess faith in God who sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of humankind.

The Second Coming: Baptists generally believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ when God will judge and divide between the saved and the lost. Christ will judge believers, rewarding them for acts done while living on earth.

Sexuality and Marriage: God's plan for marriage and the sexual union was designed to be "one man, and one woman, for life." According to God's Word, homosexuality is a sin, though not an unforgivable sin.

The Trinity: Southern Baptists believe in only one God who reveals himself as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The True Church: The doctrine of a believer's church is a key belief in Baptist life. Members come into the church personally, individually, and freely. No one is "born into the church." Only those who have personal faith in Christ comprise the true church in the eyes of God, and only those should be counted as members of the church.