FIRST-PERSON: Clarity in the New Year
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The start of a new year is a good time to review where we are and to state clearly where we are heading. This is true personally, in our families, in businesses and even as a convention of churches.
With each question, my answer is the same. The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to doing our work together with faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in the Holy Scripture. Our commitment to the Bible remains strong. Where are Southern Baptists headed? We are headed on mission with God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as revealed through His Word.
At the beginning of this new year, it is good for us to remember the foundational truths that guide us on our mission. These truths flow from the unchanging and timeless treasure of Holy Scripture.
1. We believe the Bible is the Word of God. While I cannot speak for all Southern Baptists on many things, this is one thing on which we agree: The Bible is God's infallible and inerrant truth. This is where Southern Baptists are.
The Baptist Faith and Message, our consensus confession of faith, puts it this way: "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.... Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy" (Article I, BF&M).
2. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. He is God in the flesh. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day. One day, Jesus will come again in power and glory. There is no salvation apart from repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This personal relationship with God through Christ is the central message of our faith.
3. We believe Jesus commissioned His followers to make disciples of all the nations. When evangelizing those without Christ, we lead them to be baptized as a testimony of their saving faith and disciple them to become lifelong followers of Jesus Christ. Embracing this common missional vision, we cooperate together as autonomous churches to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
4. We believe each New Testament church is an autonomous, local congregation of baptized believers in Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ is committed to advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world. Both men and women are gifted to serve in the church and the world. The office of pastor or elder, however, is limited to men as qualified by the Holy Scripture.
5. We believe in preserving the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Every person matters to God; therefore, every person matters to us. We work together to do all we can to preserve and advance not only the sanctity of human life, but also the dignity of all human life.
6. We believe the Church and the state should be separate. God alone is Lord over the conscience. Government is given to us by God. It is our duty to obey its laws when they do not violate God's will as revealed in Scripture. We rely not on the power of civil government to carry out our work, but solely on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
7. We believe biblical marriage is only between one man and one woman uniting together in covenant for a lifetime. Both male and female are made in the image of God and are of equal worth before God. The children they share together are a gift and a heritage of the Lord. Each family is God's plan to be the foundational institution of human society.
8. We believe God created male and female in His own image. The unique gift of gender is an expression of God's blessing to us. As a creational gift of God, gender is not fluid.
With so many swirling currents from secular culture, within the ranks of evangelicalism, and even among our own Baptist family, we must be absolutely clear about what we believe concerning Scripture, the Savior it reveals, and the spiritual Kingdom our Lord came to establish. Heaven and earth will pass away; but His Word -- and His Kingdom -- abide forever.