Over the years, I’ve often told our church family here at Lancaster Baptist Church, “I’m Baptist born and Baptist bred, and when I die I’ll be Baptist dead.”
At times, this has been a fun, catchy phrase, but in reality I fully mean these words because I believe in my Baptist heritage, and I hold it dear.
I recently read a blog post by my friend Pastor Kevin Folger that highlighted what the name “Baptist” means to him. It reminded me anew of how grateful I am for the Baptist heritage and for the sacrifices others who have gone before me have made for truth and for Christ.
What is the Baptist heritage?
It is a heritage of doctrine.
Doctrine is indispensible to true Christianity. Through the centuries, Baptists have understood that. They have stood for the inspiration of Scripture, salvation through the blood of Christ apart from the sacraments, the biblical Lord’s Table, the priesthood of the believer, and the biblical authority for all matters of church doctrine and practice—all biblical positions going back to the apostles which we hold dear as Baptists.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.—1 Timothy 4:16
It is a heritage of the local church.
I love the local church because Christ loves the local church so much that He bought it with His blood. Baptists believe in the Scriptural autonomy of the local church and the headship of Christ over the church. Our heritage is one of sacrifice for, investment in, and ministry through the local church.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.—Acts 20:28
It is a heritage of faithfulness.
While the Protestant Reformers truly sacrificed and stood for vital doctrines, hundreds of years before the Reformation, throughout the Reformation, and after the Reformation, our Baptist forefathers sacrificed for the faith of the gospel. They sealed their testimony with their blood.
My Baptist heritage is written with the blood of martyrs—men and women who loved Christ and were faithful unto death. May I be no less faithful.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.—Revelation 2:10
It is a heritage of effective witness.
The last command Christ gave the local church was to reach the world with the gospel. Our Baptist forefathers weren’t persecuted because they kept the gospel to themselves. These courageous men and women may have been forced to worship secretly, but even so, they continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to reach the lost world around them.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16
It is a heritage of ecclesiastical separation.
Baptists have always been separatists. During the Reformation, many of the Reformers blended their newfound gospel orientation with the old ordinances and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Historically, however, Baptists have separated from doctrines, practices, or people that would distort doctrinal integrity. This is what is meant by the phrase “ecclesiastical separation.”
In the past generation, when men like Harold Okenga of Fuller Seminary introduced the term “New Evangelical,” attempting to bring men of fundamental conviction together with those who denied Bible doctrine, biblical Baptists have stood their ground and refused to share platforms in these compromising settings.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?—2 Corinthians 6:14
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?—Amos 3:3
I’ve spoken primarily here about the heritage of Baptists in general. Recent heritage of independent or unaffiliated Baptists includes great men of the faith, now with the Lord, who took their own stands for truth, doctrine, and the autonomy of the local church. I’m privileged and grateful that several of these men personally invested in my life. Dr. Tom Malone, Dr. Lee Roberson, and many others took time to encourage and exhort me in ministry.
Years ago, Dr. Curtis Hutson wrote me a letter in which he said, “I challenge you to take your place in the long line of independent fundamental Baptists who have stood for separation and soul winning (and I speak now especially of ecclesiastical separation) and to hold that banner high until Jesus comes or God calls you home.” By God’s grace, I have followed this counsel, and I’ve been honored to take my place in this line.
Depending on the paradigm or experiences of an individual or audience (i.e. the secular press), I may sometimes define my position as an unaffiliated Baptist or a biblical Baptist. But make no mistake, after the privilege of being called a Christian, it is an honor to identify as a Baptist whose desire is to please Jesus and contend for the faith…the fundamentals of our heritage.
I’m proud of my heritage and yet humbled to stand in a long line of godly, faithful men and women of faith, courage, and commitment to Jesus Christ.