Baptist by Choice

Baptist by Choice

The idea of choice is something that is unique to Baptist doctrine. Recently, in door knocking, I was brought to think on this subject again. Many Catholics, Lutherans, and other religions have their beliefs and relationship with their church passed down from generation to generation.  I ask, “How do you know that you are saved?”  “Why, I was born a _________.”  However, each generation of Baptist have become one by choice.  No one is born “Baptist”.  We must be careful not to mix the Protestant thought of generational heritage or even other religions that have a generational idea of Christianity. Baptists believe in salvation through faith by grace alone. Baptist also hold to the belief in individual soul liberty. These concepts mean that each generation is a first-generation Christian. We will cover some negatives that may come to mind towards the end of this article but see if the Scriptures bear out this concept of “Baptist by Choice.”

We find this present in the garden of Eden. 

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:15-17)

Notice that God created man and then gave him a job to do. He also gave him guidelines of what to eat and what not to eat; this was God’s directives to the first man and woman on earth. However, God did not force them to obey, nor did He demand that they fellowship with Him. God desired a relationship with His creation.  He longed for them to choose to love and obey Him. 

Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. (Deuteronomy 4:1)

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; (Deuteronomy 4:7-9)

We see this concept of choice displayed with the children of Israel. Even though they were God’s chosen people, He still desired that they choose to love Him. This was the instruction in the book of Deuteronomy. God chose them out of all the nations and yet they would tend to forget how good God was to them. 

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.  (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

God desires love to Him to be a choice. This has been a common thought throughout Scripture, and Baptist have held to those Biblical teachings to better understand that salvation, sanctification in living, and the surrender of the heart are all choices that need to be made by the individual believer. 

I am not discounting training or teaching. The Bible also instructs us to train our children, share the gospel, to teach all nations, and to work to make disciples of Christ. However, the teaching is brought to the individual and the individual must then apply that to his own heart. There is not a forcing of the beliefs, for God knows that this type of love is not a genuine love from the heart.  Some religions force beliefs on the next generation and if they reject those beliefs, they are disowned.  Many religions use fear to keep the next generation in the church.  “You will go to hell if you leave the Catholic church.”  “We will never speak to you again and will disown you if you leave the Amish community.”

Jesus said:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

The first word is an imperative. However, you can tell by the context of the passage that there is a choice involved in the path of life. The command is to choose the strait gate, but truthfully, as Jesus tells us, “…few there be that find it.” Few actually choose to enter the strait gate.  When we come to someone and share with them the gospel, we cannot force them to accept it. They must come to the point that they see their sin and see Christ as their payment. They then choose the narrow path. 

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Here, we find a passage written to believers. They are instructed to sow to the spirit rather than to the flesh. Again, God is encouraging the believer to do this. The believers in Galatia were being told the benefits of sowing to the Spirit. He was trying to prod, encourage, and exhort the believer by saying that if you keep at this job of doing what is right, you will reap if you don’t faint. Most would understand that we must daily be sowing good seed, but it is an individual choice in this area. 

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

We come to a great example of faith in the New Testament. It is describing the choice that Moses came to in his life. He came to a crossroads and chose Christ and the suffering that would come with that choice rather than the riches in Egypt. 

I conclude by saying again that we which hold to strict Baptist principles should remember that it is a Biblical understanding which drives us to believe that individuals make decisions for themselves. Yes, we should warn and rebuke when we see wrong occurring, but every man must appear himself before the judgment seat of Christ. I will not stand and answer for other’s decisions; I will answer for my decisions. A pastor will stand for his admonishing of his flock.  He will not be judged for those who choose to reject his exhortation (Ezekiel 33:1-9).

We should be Baptist by choice. It is one of the tenets that makes us truly Biblical. With Baptist Christianity, we experience liberty. This liberty is the ability to make choices, though they may be to my detriment, but nonetheless, choices of my own will. 

Let’s remain Baptist by Choice!


Steve Damron

Questions for pondering. 

  1. What Baptist tenets teach the idea of choice? 
  2. What are two Biblical examples of choice given to us through Scripture? 
  3. How has choice been given to you as an individual?