The Baptist movement began in Holland in 1609 with an English Separatist, John Smythe, who preached the need for immersion in water as baptism and that it was for believers, not infants. The movement was brought to England two years later and quickly began to spread. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the movement was on American shores, where the Baptists would eventually grow to be one of the largest groups of “Christians” in North America. Baptists have developed and accepted many doctrines over the past four hundred years, with much evidence of Calvinist and premillennial influence. The movement has since diversified, and very few groups of Baptists have much in common; very few generalizations can hold true across the board.
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The study of the variants in the Baptist movement is a study within itself, for there are hundreds of different groups ascribing to different sets of beliefs. In general, Baptist groups range from being outright Calvinist to those teaching more accurately concerning baptism, salvation, and God’s final Judgment. The general considerations and topics of discussion will be accurate for a large number of Baptists but can by no means be attributable to all.
Some of the general terms used to describe different types of Baptists ought to be defined. “General” Baptists are those who believe that the blood of Christ was shed for all men, and so salvation is generally available to all men. “Particular” Baptists are more influenced by Calvinism and accept the concept of limited atonement. “Freewill” Baptists reject many aspects of Calvinism and believe that men have free will. “Landmark” Baptists believe that the local church is the expression of the universal assembly in a given area, to the exclusion of any others. “Primitive” Baptists seek to return to the primitive faith of the New Testament.
Major groups include the American Baptist Association, American Baptist Churches in the USA, Baptist General Conference (emerging from Pietism), General Association of General Baptist Churches, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, National Association of Free Will Baptists, National Baptist Convention of America, National Primitive Baptist Convention, New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches, North American Baptist Conference, Primitive Baptists, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Reformed Baptist Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Once Saved, Always Saved”
Many Baptist groups hold to a doctrine rather similar to Calvinism’s P- Perseverance of the Saints, called “Once Saved, Always Saved” (hereafter OSAS). Essentially, many Baptists have taken the Calvinist notion of “perseverance of the saints” exclusively, omitting the rest of the TULIP belief system. The belief is that once you have been saved, no matter what you do, you will still be saved. OSAS is based on Romans 8:35-39 (discussed in Calvinism: P- Perseverance of the Saints), and verses like Acts 16:31:
And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.”
Verses like these, which state that belief will lead to salvation, are used to say that salvation must come. Do the Scriptures teach this?
The Scriptures do teach that we can be sure of our salvation as we walk in the light (1 John 1:7). Nevertheless, our salvation is dependent on our continued obedience to God and His Word, as He Himself has made evident in Matthew 10:22:
“And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”
The Scriptures do make it clear that we can lose our salvation, as seen in Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26-31 in Calvinism: P- Perseverance of the Saints, and also in Hebrews 3:12-14 and 2 Peter 2:20-22:
Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called To-day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb,
“The dog turning to his own vomit again,” and, “the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.”
There are many that take issue with these verses, especially 2 Peter 2:20-22. They will say that Peter is discussing “false teachers” and that they were never saved. It is true that Peter is discussing false teachers, as seen in 2 Peter 2:1, but this does not necessitate that they were never saved. These individuals are said to have “escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Mere comprehension of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does not lead to the escape of the defilements of the world, for we see many individuals who heard and understood (cf. Felix in Acts 24:22-27), yet still were defiled by the world. It is evident that these individuals were thus in the fold of Christ and then departed from it, having been again “entangled in [the world’s defilements] and overcome.”
In attempting to defend OSAS, many will say that since we cannot work to gain our salvation, we can do nothing to lose it. This argument is based on a false premise, that what cannot be gained by work cannot be lost by it. It is true that we cannot gain salvation by any deed that we can do, for Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient (John 3:16). No one will deny, however, that salvation must be accepted. We must accept the truth that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that through Him we will be saved. We must then confess His name, repent of our sins, and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins, for this is the method that He has demonstrated for us to show our acceptance of His sacrifice (Matthew 10:32, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:38). This is not the end of our demonstration of acceptance, for we are told that we also must make sacrifice in Romans 12:1-2:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Furthermore, we have the witness that obedience to God’s will must exist if we are not to be condemned in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9:
If so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
It is thus true that we have not gained salvation by our deeds, but we have surely accepted salvation by our deeds. And it is very true that if we accept salvation by our deeds, we can then reject it by our deeds.
It is also said by those defending OSAS that the Bible clearly says that our belief will save us. While this is true, the Bible also says clearly that confession will save us in Romans 10:9-10:
Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Furthermore, baptism also will save us in 1 Peter 3:21:
which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Finally, the Bible is clear that our continued obedience also will save us, as Jesus said in Matthew 10:22:
“And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”
This long list of Scriptures is given to prove an argument also made in Baptism: Baptism is for Remission of Sin and is Necessary for Salvation: the Bible says what is necessary for salvation, but never says in any one place all the things necessary for salvation. Will we deny that belief is necessary because Romans 10:9-10 says that confession also saves us? Or will we deny the need for belief, confession, repentance, and baptism because Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 that our endurance will allow us to be saved? By no means! We see that belief is necessary because of Acts 16:31, that confession is necessary by Matthew 10:32, and so on, and that all of these criteria need to be met, not just the ones we pick and choose. Therefore, our final salvation is dependent on our ability to endure.
We have already discussed many Scriptures that show the need for obedience for salvation; there are other arguments that can be used to show the difficulties with OSAS:
Satan: In the belief system of OSAS, no matter what we do, we are saved. Therefore, why should we fear Satan? If we can be saved regardless of what we do, there is nothing that Satan can do to us. If this is so, why then does Peter say the following in 1 Peter 5:8?
Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
Sin: If we are saved no matter what we do, as is said in OSAS, then what if we commit a terrible sin? Let us say that a Christian loses his composure and kills a man, and will not repent of the sin. Then what?
It is often said that a true Christian would not do such a thing. This is so, but all Christians will falter at some point, as John says clearly in 1 John 1:8-10:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
“We” in this context refers to Christians, and thus we would be making Christ a liar if we would say that we have not sinned since becoming children of God.
Normally, the response will be made that if a Christian were to do such a thing, he would still be saved, but he would not go to Heaven. There are many variants of this response, with the person not going to Heaven or losing fellowship with God or losing their “testimony.” Regardless, the principle is the same: salvation is being differentiated from going to Heaven or having fellowship with the Father. There is only one response that can be given to this: where did God ever separate “salvation” from going to Heaven/having fellowship with Him/having a “testimony”? He does no such thing!
The implication of this argument is enormous. If I can be “saved” but will not go to Heaven, what is the value of salvation? Salvation is made almost worthless if the promises of Heaven and peace do not go along with it. Furthermore, where do those who are “saved” but cannot enter Heaven go? God has never made such distinctions, and therefore, neither should we.
This argument shows the inherent flaw in OSAS, for it is based on the premise that salvation is immediate and permanent. The Scriptures, especially in 1 Peter 1:3-9, make it clear that there are two levels of salvation: initial salvation, obtained when one becomes a child of God, and final salvation, which will be made manifest in the resurrection. While we have obtained initial salvation, we strive toward our final salvation, which will be based on our endurance in the truth. This is why God makes it evident that salvation is only possible for those who continue in His truth. Our salvation is only permanent when we have left this Earth and have returned to our Master.
- Faith, Works, and Grace: Understanding the Pauline Synthesis
- Popular Beliefs: “Once Saved, Always Saved”
- A Response to “Common Sense Questions a ‘Church of Christ’ Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer”
- A Response to “101 Questions for Campbellites”