By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
In this post I will present some beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists and compare them with the theology behind the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible. To do so, the word “Baptists” will used, with each letter referring to beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists. But it must be understood that these beliefs are not the private property of those who call themselves Baptists. Many others in the past have held these beliefs, but have not been known as Baptists. Many hold these beliefs now, but do not call themselves Baptists. They often are referred to as baptistic. The Bible does not say we must call ourselves Baptists, and it wrong to insist that the name be used.
“B” stands for the Baptist belief in the authority of the Bible. This means that, because Baptists believe the Bible alone is the infallible Word of God, it, therefore, is the authority upon which our beliefs are based. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this belief? Yes. But some of their beliefs are not truly derived from the Bible. These will be pointed out as this post progresses.
“A” stands for the Baptist belief in the autonomy of the local church. This means Baptists believe the local church is a congregation of Christians that govern their own affairs without having to answer to some person or organization outside of itself for its decisions. It also means that no one and no organization makes decisions for a local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view. Perhaps in theory, but not in practice, for they were a part of a government-approved church, the Church Of England, which had/has bishops who oversaw/oversee local congregations. Not only did/do their bishops have authority over the local congregations. So also did James I, after whom the King James Version got its name. His role in the Church Of England is clearly stated in “The Epistle Dedicatorie,” found in the front of the 1611 edition of the Authorized (King James) Version.” Another proof that those who produced the King James Version did not truly believe in the autonomy of the local congregation is the fact that the 1611 edition of their translation says in the front that it is “appointed to be read in churches.” This in contrast to the historic Baptist belief that each congregation decides which translation/translations it will use.
“P” stands for the Baptist belief in the priesthood of all believers in Jesus Christ. This means that we believe each Christian has direct access to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ’s name, they can pray directly to God the Father. In his name, they can ask him for, and receive forgiveness of sins. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Yes. But they also had clergy called “priests,” something foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, and, therefore, not accepted by Bible-believing Baptists.
“T” stands for the Baptist belief in two officers/offices in the local church. These are pastors and deacons. The New Testament also calls the pastors of local churches by two other terms: bishops (meaning overseers) and elders (meaning those who lead by virtue of their age, maturity, and experience). Deacons are the officially elected servants of the local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. They believed in a hierarchical form of church government, with bishops having authority outside of their own congregations.
“I” stands for the Baptist belief in what is called “individual soul liberty.” This means that each person is directly accountable to God for his or her own beliefs and behavior, and no government, whether political or ecclesiastical, can dictate his or her beliefs. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Only in theory. Historians have proven that King James and his government persecuted those who did not conform to the Church of England.
“S” stands for the Baptist belief that there should be an obvious separation between church and state. It means that there should be no religion or Christian denomination that is the official religion or Christian denomination of a government. Although President Thomas Jefferson rejected Christianity, the Bible, and its doctrines, he understood the importance of the separation of church and state, and advocated it. But did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. That is why they were members of the Church Of England, a state church.
The second “t” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in two ordinances of the local church, which are baptism and the Lord’s upper. We believe these are ordinances, not sacraments. This means we believe they symbolically represent important truths about the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel. We do not believe baptism is required of one who wants to be saved. Instead, it is required of one who professes to have been saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe the saved should get baptized as a public profession of their faith. It is symbolic of their identification with the crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected Lord. It is symbolic of their commitment to live new lives as followers of Jesus. The Lord’s supper is symbolic of equally important Gospel truths. The bread is symbolic of the Lord’s body which was broken for us sinners. The cup is symbolic of the Lord’s blood, which was shed in payment for the sins of all humanity. Did those who produced the King James Version hold these views? Perhaps a safe answer, based on the thirtynine articles of the Church Of England, is yes and no. Their view of baptism was not Biblical because they believed in the baptism of infants. Infant baptism, even if it is done by the Biblical method, which is immersion, is not taught in the Bible. Infants cannot do what the Bible requires of those who want be baptized. That is, infants cannot believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and make profession of their faith in him. Therefore, they are disqualified from baptism. It is an interesting fact that, though the King James Version, in Acts 8:37 and elsewhere, clearly teaches a profession of faith is required of anyone who wants to be baptized, King James and the translators of the King James Version believed in infant baptism.
The second “s” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in a saved church membership. We require anyone who wants to join our churches to profess to have been saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we require that their profession of faith is credible. That is, they must give evidence of being true believers in the Lord. Their lives must show that they have believed in Jesus Christ and have become his followers. We do not assume that everyone who claims to be a Christian, and who has been baptized upon their profession of faith, is a true Christian. Sometimes thy prove to be otherwise. But we do require a credible profession of faith prior to admittance into church membership. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No, for the simple reason that they believed baptism grafts one into the church, and they believed in infant baptism. Therefore, I am compelled to believe they believed in infant church membership. But we must remember that infants cannot believe in Christ, and belief in him is a Scriptural requirement for both baptism and church membership.
I encourage all readers of this post to read the thitynine article of The Church Of England. By doing so, you will learn firsthand the theology behind the Authorized(King James) Version. Here is a link to those articles: http://www.thirtyninearticles.org/basics/. If you are a King James Bible-only Baptist, you will find it very interesting to read the quote from Lancelot Andrews, who was one of the key persons in the production of the Authorized (King James) Version. Read the following from the same source given above:
Anglicans trace their history and doctrine back to the earliest church and through the first English speaking Christians. The English Reformation (when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church) was a pivotal event that resulted in the Anglican Formularies, our statements of belief. See below.
Beliefs and Doctrine
“One Canon (one Bible), two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”
~ Bishop Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)
If you want to learn firsthand what we call the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, they are derived from the pages of the New Testament. I suggest you start with reading the Book of Acts, and proceed from there. You are sure to find these distinctives as you read. It is a fact that many non-Baptists have become Baptists or baptistic simply by open-mindedly reading the New Testament. You can also read my two posts just prior to this one, and articles and books on this subject by other authors .
What follows is the testimony of one man who became a Baptist by reading the New Testament. It is taken with permission from this website: http://www.reformedreader.org.
Reading The Bible Will Make You A Baptist
Taken from the Baptist Reporter, October, 1858
To the Editor of the Baptist Reporter.
Dear Sir, — I am a young baptist, and have only seen your Reporter for Jan., 1858. Having recently joined the body, I inquired for one of the publications published by the baptists, and a minister directed me to the Reporter, with which I am quite delighted. It occurred to me that I would mention a few of the objections to believers’ baptism which I met with whilst I was among the Independents. I am a young man, and am occasionally engaged in giving a word of exhortation to my neighbours; but I am what is called a “self-educated man,” for I have had to pick up what little knowledge I have obtained; and therefore I trust you will excuse the imperfections which you may discover in this communication.
When among the Independents, in conversations with my fellow-members, the subject of baptism was at times introduced, when one or another would say, “Well; I do think that the baptists are right, and that their mode of administering the ordinance is scriptural.” “Well,” was my reply, “if you consider that the baptists are right, and that their mode is scriptural, why not join them, and be right too, and observe that which you say is scriptural?” The reply they generally gave was, “Oh, it is so inconvenient; and if we are baptized, we shall be expected to join the baptist body, and then what will our minister and the people say? I do not think it matters much.”
It appeared to me an odd thing for them so to acknowledge their duty, and then give such feeble reasons for declining. I could not but wonder what there could be in believers’ baptism that made the ordinance so objectionable.
I talked with other friends on the matter, but was annoyed by their ignorance. They knew not so much as he who was enquiring. Some said, “Oh, these baptists think all wrong but themselves. Have nothing to do with them.” Others said, “Such a mode would suit a warm climate very well, where the people are in the habit of constantly bathing, but not a cold country like ours.” Others “thought that there was something very indecent about it.” I then spake to a more intelligent class, and they informed me “that Christ only intended the ordinance to be observed by his servants in heathen lands, where Christianity was unknown, so that the converts to the gospel, by that ordinance, might publicly disown and cast off all their old heathenish practices.” Others reminded me, “that if I was going to enquire into such a subject, perhaps I would inform them why Christians do not recline at the table and take the bread and break it into pieces, instead of having it partly cut.”
Such were some of the helps I met with in the path of enquiry, from persons who professed to make the New Testament their rule of practice.
There are many in the Independent and other bodies who can say no more than the above. Why? Because, like those I have already mentioned, they have never thoroughly and impartially examined the subject. Ask them whether they have looked through the New Testament for instances of Infant Baptism; they reply, “No”. Ask them whether they have for evidence of believers’ baptism; they give the same reply.
Dissatisfied with such evasions, I resolved to search the New Testament for myself, with prayer for Divine guidance, and the result was that I became a Baptist.