Why I call myself a Reformed Baptist
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
My sincere wish at times, is that there would be no need for such identifications as “Sovereign Grace Baptist,” or “Reformed Baptist.” Having grown up in a Calvinistic pastor’s home, I was blissfully unaware that any such distinctions were being made. However, the distinctions have been made and I find myself planted firmly on the side of my Reformed Baptist brethren. This is not to say that I have no fellowship with brothers and sisters who reject the term while still holding to the doctrines of grace, but over the years I have seen the immediate need to declare precisely what it is that Scripture teaches. In other words, I see the great need for local Baptist churches to hold to a common confession of faith in order that righteous biblical continuity might be had among the people of God, leaving no guess work as to the truths upon which we stand.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold to a clear confession of faith.
Confessing the truths of a biblical faith is nothing new, albeit it may seem that way to some. Rest assured, our Particular Baptist forefathers were confessional Baptists, and if the idea of being “reformed” or “confessional” seems as if it is new, it is only because Baptist churches in America have forgotten their roots. In the past several generations, many Baptist churches have gone the way of attempting to reinvent the wheel, as it were, and the “Jesus movement” of the 1970’s and early 1980’s gave birth to a disregard of both confessions and worship regulated by Scripture alone. By the 1990’s the “seeker friendly” movement washed over many churches, and the local church became more and more like the world, confessing nothing dogmatically accept that they would do anything to get people into a church service. This view of church life is completely antithetical to the complete and clear teaching of what the church is to be, and is antagonistic to the truths that our Particular Baptist forefathers held so dear.
Within Calvinistic Baptist churches, there are some disagreements over such things as the authority of the church, church perpetuity, and over eschatological views. It would be dishonest of me to say that I have not been deeply impacted by those who lean toward “Landmarkism,” and even those who hold very strict views of what outward piety looks like in the life of a saint. However, we as Baptists need to be honest both about our history and our place in the world today. I am a Calvinistic Baptist, and historically that has meant that I am a Particular Baptist who openly confesses the truths of Scripture via a document which Particular Baptist pastors, elders, and evangelists came together to produce through much study, prayer, and with great conviction.
For those who say that Particular Baptists were not, at least to some degree, impacted by the great strides made in and during the Reformation, and that Baptists have always existed from the church’s foundation by our Lord and Savior, must ignore historical facts. This is not to say that many churches outside Roman Catholicism were not baptistic in their confessions, polity, and soteriology, but the fact is that the earliest Particular Baptist Church was not constituted until the first half of the 17th century. Also, shortly after Particular Baptists began to establish churches, they produced their first confession of faith in 1644. Since that time, biblical and Particular Baptist churches have been confessional.
Some of our Reformed Baptist brethren would say that to be a true Reformed Baptist we must “fully subscribe” to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. It seems to me that this language is unnecessary and should be reserved for scripture alone. Generally, when I hear someone use such terms in regard to the confession, what I understand them to be saying is that I must hold to their interpretation of the confession in order to be a Reformed Baptist. However, it is my understanding of God’s word that it alone is the final authority in the life of the saint and for His church, and while the confession is, in my estimation, a guide and test for biblical orthodoxy, it should never be referred to in such a manner that has even a semblance of elevating it above the very word of God. With that said, the confession is a tremendous document godly men were led to pen in order that the church might be guarded against false accusations, as a help in the study of God’s very word, as a test of orthodoxy in life, belief, and preaching, and as a systematic guide for the catechizing of the saints. I, for one, am thankful to God for His leading men to pen such a help for the church, and giving to them such a desire to plainly state the clear teaching of Christ Jesus and His apostles.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold to Biblical Doctrines that have been clearly parsed by the Reformers
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold dear the wonderful doctrine of Sola Scriptura. When we are confronted with the word of God, when we read it, meditate on it, study it, pray over it, we are coming into contact with the very condescension of our Creator to us. The phrase, then, that we can say to envelope our understanding of the importance and authority that God’s word alone possesses over the life of faith is Sola Scriptura. In this expression, we are saying with confidence, as revealed by God Himself through His word, that the Scriptures are inspired, the only inspired, the fully inspired, revelation of God’s will concerning the true Christian religion; therefore, they are the only, the infallible, the perfect, sufficient, and supremely authoritative rule of our faith and duty to God as His servants in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold dear the doctrine of Sola Gratia. The Reformers, bolstered by the clear teaching of God’s word, maintained that the sinner is saved by God’s eternal grace ALONE. It is His unmerited favor and love upon the sinful wretch which saves. This doctrine means that absolutely nothing that the sinner can do, is doing, or ever will do will merit the saving grace of God. The sinner cannot, does not, and will not ever be able to cooperate with God in the undeserved bestowment of saving grace. The fact is, that our sin necessitates the unmerited eternally gracious gift of salvation. We have blatantly, deliberately, repeatedly, and rebelliously fallen short of God’s very clear requirements for us as His creation. Not only do we actively practice our rebellion against God, we love it because it is part of our very nature. Any personal favor that we have received from God in Christ Jesus is never based on our own ability to choose but based solely on God’s grace. The difference between believers and unbelievers is not the exercise of their own wills toward God, the sole difference is always the grace of God.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold dear the doctrine of Sola Fide. The reformers and our Baptist fore-fathers readily saw that the clear teaching of Scripture is that it is by faith in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone that Justifies us before the eternal God. Divine and Eternal righteousness requires eternal justice, and there is no temporal atoning for our sin before our eternal God. It is only by grace through faith in the righteous fulfillment of our Savior that we are saved. John Calvin wrote, “...justified by faith is he who, excluded from the righteousness of works, grasps the righteousness of Christ through faith, and clothed in it, appears in God’s sight not as a sinner but as a righteous man. He then declares that the ground of our justification is Christ’s righteousness alone. Therefore, we explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness” [Institutes, 3.11.2].
I am a reformed Baptist because I hold dear the doctrine of Solus Christus. The only way that a sinner might obtain salvation by grace through faith rests upon the Person and the finished work of the Savior. Salvation of sinful souls is through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. There is no cooperation of ours, no good work in tandem with the Lord that could ever save us. The Lord Jesus Christ alone lived in complete righteousness and obedience to His Father as the second Adam. The Lord Jesus Christ alone became the righteous spotless sacrifice offered up for the atonement of our sins. The Lord Jesus Christ alone arose from the grave defeating death not only for Himself, but for all those for whom He died. God is satisfied with His own dear Son alone, and the gracious gift of Salvation depends on this satisfaction alone.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold dear the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria. Everything that has, is, and will dwell in time and space has been created by the most high Triune God for His own glory. The Godhead’s covenant of grace determined in His eternal decree, has been determined and is being providentially brought about for the specific purpose of bringing glory unto Himself. While I do not claim to understand these things in their totality, nor can I, everything that has, is, and will happen, happens according to God’s heavenly decree for His glory alone.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold to the biblical Doctrines of Grace
One cannot hold to the five Solas and not understand that God is completely sovereign in salvation. The very nature of God’s grace toward man requires that He not only chooses to bestow salvific grace on men, but that He chooses on whom to bestow it through no merit of their own. Scripture plainly teaches that man is totally depraved in nature and actively proves this nature throughout their lives apart from salvation by grace. God, by His eternal decree, has chosen to unconditionally elect those for whom He sent His Son, and that Christ Jesus shed His blood only for those given to Him by the Father. Having graciously bestowed His love upon us, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to irresistibly bestow grace, thereby regenerating the lost and drawing them to Himself. Having done that miraculous work, the work of the Holy Spirit continues to dwell within the believer and guarantees their perseverance to the end of their earthly lives.
I am Reformed Baptist because of my understanding of Church life
I am a Reformed Baptist because I understand that the clear teaching of Scripture is that church life holds central the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s word from those whom the Lord has chosen to be elders, pastors, and teachers within His local assemblies. In a time when preaching is regarded as nothing more than a feel-good, self-help message on a Sunday morning, it is important that we uphold the word of God through the constant and consistent exposition of it. We are to preach it, hear it, pray over it. While preaching is not the whole of the worship service on the Lord’s Day, it does hold special significance in that everything that we do on that day revolves around it. The worship of the saints on the Lord’s Day must be most reverent and as God centered as we can possibly make it, this means that we must exclude all things from our worship that would divert our attention from this most sacred duty and reasonable service.
I am Reformed Baptist because I believe that God has regulated His worship through the revelation of His holy word. While the New Testament church’s worship is not as closely regulated as the ancient Hebrews, it is regulated. The clear teaching of Scripture is that God desires us to praise Him through hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. He desires us to worship Him through the faithful preaching of His word. He desires us to pray with and for one another. To deviate from what God has revealed concerning these things is to add to what He has given us, which is a dangerous thing both for the individual and the church as a whole.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I believe that God’s word clearly teaches that there be multiplicity of elders leading the local church and its sheep. While the natural way of things is that there are one or two elders who assume the responsibility of full time ministry, every elder in the church must be apt to preach, teach, and submit to the qualifications so clearly established in Scripture. With that said, women are not to be in positions of leadership when it comes to preaching, teaching, or any other part of church polity.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold dear the Law of God as revealed to us in Scripture, to include the Decalogue. God has instructed all His people, for all time, to be separate from the world through holy adherence to His commands. While the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Levitical rites and rituals through His priestly office and work, He did not come to destroy the Law of God. Therefore, just as Christ Jesus is our example in all things and having been given a new heart to serve Him and His Kingdom, our desire should be to live a life regulated by the very word of God.
I am a Reformed Baptist because I hold to the biblical teaching of the church’s authority in the lives of God’s people given to her by the Lord Jesus Christ. The church, as governed by biblical leadership, plays a critical role in the edification, instruction, encouragement, and discipline of the saints. The kingdom of God is represented on earth through the church, and plays a critical role in the advancement of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to take seriously the command given to us by the Lord before His ascension to boldly proclaim the gospel to all nations.
I am a Reformed Baptist because in understanding the authority of the local church given to her by the Lord Jesus Christ, the administration of the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper are public and corporate expressions of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. These expressions are to be faithfully administered to the saints gathered as a local church in keeping with the instruction our Savior has given us. Baptism by immersion is to be administered to those who have come to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who are ready to humble themselves in submitting to Christ’s positive command and example. The Lord’s supper is to be administered only to those who have been properly baptized and have submitted themselves to the authority of their Lord and those He has placed over them.
I am a Reformed Baptist because in understanding the authority of the local church, I also understand the Scriptural instruction to God’s people in Christ to join together with the local church. As members of one body we are to submit to one another in the Lord, and function together in faithful obedience to God’s word with a singular desire to do the revealed will of God in our lives. We have not been called to be separate individuals, we have been called to be a part of Christ’s body.