In this series of posts, we’ll look at some of the terms used to try and capture what we believe and value. Words have meaning, but divorced from context they could be misunderstood. Understanding how words are defined and used is essential, so this week we’ll look at what we mean by: baptist.

The new covenant inaugurated by Jesus is significant when discussing why we are baptists. This new and better covenant is spoken of in the Old Testament and is said to be inaugurated in the book of Hebrews (see ch. 8).

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.Jeremiah 31:31-34

Why is this significant? The new covenant is different from the old covenant in that it is not a national covenant or a mixed covenant of true believers and unbelievers like the old covenant was. Everyone in the new covenant “knows the Lord,” they have a new heart, they are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17).

What does this have to do with baptist beliefs? First, because of the nature of the new covenant, the church—the new covenant people of God—is made up of believers, not a mix of believers and non-believers. This is called a saved or regenerate church membership. Second, the sign of the new covenant—baptism—is only for those who are part of the new covenant. This means that baptism is only for believers and not for infants (and the New Testament examples of baptism support this understanding).

Click the “Distinctives” category below for more posts in this series.