Is it more important to determine what “I” believe or what “We” believe?
Of course, both are important. Our common beliefs, our Christian faith, unify us and serve to send us forth in the proclamation of the Gospel and service in God’s Kingdom Mission. The Preamble to the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) 2000 states that “Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history, we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in the Holy Scripture.” The Baptist Faith and Message is a Confession, a statement of what “We believe.”
Faith in biblical truth propels us to a strong declaration of our “message.” Correct belief is essential for effective proclamation, and our common beliefs, our confession, give us greater confidence in the truth of the message we are personally declaring. Christians in every generation are commanded to “guard the truth,” “teach sound doctrine” and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We are beginning a series of articles to provide a brief summary of what Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, believe. We will refer to BF&M of 2000, but the Bible will be our ultimate source and authority.
Why not simply state that we (or I) believe the Bible? Is that not sufficient? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, we believe the Bible. At the same time, we must explain and communicate well what the Bible teaches, the whole counsel of God. We are working together as a people of God to articulate what we believe the Bible says. While each person is free to believe or not believe, it is essential to have a common understanding and belief about biblical truths or doctrines. What “I” believe is also what “We” believe.
Holding to a Baptist Confession of our faith assists us in being vigilant against false teaching. It does not include every detail of what a Baptist believes, nor does it include an exhaustive detailed statement of each truth or doctrine. It is a summary. While it is not the entire vessel that describes and unifies God’s people who are called Baptists, it is an anchor for the vessel, helping us “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3).
Baptists are Christians, evangelical Christians, who hold to the historic Christian Faith. We believe the most essential truths and doctrines that all Christians believe, such as God is a Trinity, Christ was born on Earth of a virgin, was resurrected from the dead and is the one and only Savior and Lord. At the same time, Baptists are a distinct Christian people who hold to some distinct doctrinal beliefs, such as the understanding of baptism, the church, religious liberty and our Cooperative Program giving, among others.
With these forthcoming articles, we hope to strengthen your faith, exhort you to a renewed and diligent doctrinal study of the Bible and to invigorate your commitment to fulfill the mission that God has called us to be a part of as true Great Commission Christians. I Timothy 3:16 declares “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Our greatest message about what we believe is about Jesus, our Savior and Lord, so that people will come to faith in Him. We hope you will see that what “We Believe” should be vital to what “I” believe.