The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself, eternally. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true.
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." ~ 1st Thessalonians 2:13
Autonomy of the Local Church
The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing.
No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices.
Autonomy does not mean isolation, however. A Baptist church may choose to fellowship and identify with other like-minded New Testament churches that also adhere to these distinctives.
"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." ~ Colossians 1:18
Priesthood of the Believers
Every born-again believer has direct access to the throne of God. Therefore, since every child of God shares in the priesthood of the believers, each one has the same right as an ordained minister to communicate with God, interpret Scripture, and serve others in Christ's name.
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Peter 2:5
Two Ordinances of the Church
Baptism is only for those who have personally accepted the Lord as their Savior. As a first step of obedience, this is to be done Biblically before others by immersion, because this mode alone preserves the picture of saving truth. No other form pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:1-5)
We believe that the Lord's Supper is a symbolic ordinance, picturing Christ's body broken for our sins and His blood shed for our redemption. It is not a saving ordinance, or sacrament of the church, but functions purely to help us remember His sacrificial death on the cross. This observance also serves as accountability for every believer who participates – that they are careful to maintain an obedient walk with the Lord “until He comes.”
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." ~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-24
Individual Soul Liberty
Every individual Christian has the liberty to believe, right or wrong, as his/her own conscience dictates, understanding that each believer will stand alone before the Lord. While we seek to teach righteousness, no person can be forced into compliance. In practice, we do not present a list of “do’s and don’ts” for our members. The Bible itself provides all we need for guidance in our daily walk with Him. Personal convictions are developed as the Holy Spirit teaches and directs each believer through His word.
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. ~ Romans 14:12
Saved and Baptized Church Membership
Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a Biblical testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer's baptism. When the members of a local church are genuine believers, a unity in Christ exists. This oneness also facilitates accountability toward one another for edification and encouragement.
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."..."Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." ~ Acts 2:41&47
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, but in order to accomplish intent of the New Testament local church – the edification of believers, equipping them to do the work of the ministry.
"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."..."For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
~ 1st Timothy 3:1-13
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. The historic intent of Baptists as well as the founding fathers of America was to prohibit the intervention of human government into the affairs of the church. In no way however, was this ever to be applied in its reverse – prohibiting the participation in human government by members of a local church.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:" ~ Romans 13:1-3