Would Jesus Be a Baptist?

Baptists are one of the biggest Protestant groups in the United States, and many other denominations have developed within this important movement. One of these is the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S., along with American Baptist Churches USA, National Baptist Convention, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, along with many other smaller factions.

All claiming Jesus as their head.

Raising an intriguing question, was Jesus a Baptist?

The Baptist denomination, which emerged centuries after Jesus, holds 6 core beliefs.

  • Autonomy of local churches
  • Priesthood of all Believers
  • Individual Soul Liberty
  • Two Ordaninces (Baptism and Lord’s Supper)
  • Salvation through Faith Alone
  • Inerrancy and Authority of Scripture

Jesus most likely shared 3 of these, 2 are debatable, and 1 most likely not.

But we will need to go into further detail both about the Baptist beliefs and the life and teaching of Jesus to answer these.

The Baptist movement began in 1609, long after the time of Jesus. Therefore, it is impossible for Jesus to have been a Baptist. However, Jesus, at times, taught and lived in agreement with these beliefs.

As I researched this, I was surprised at which beliefs he did share in common with the Baptists.

Did Jesus Value the Autonomy of Local Churches as Baptists Do?

The concept of local churches as we know it is foreign to the life and times of Jesus. Therefore it wasn’t even on his radar.

But we do have some interesting parrels which we could draw conclusions from.

John the Baptist

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ interactions with John the Baptist show a complex dynamic. While Jesus affirms and validates John’s ministry, He does not appear to submit to John’s authority in the traditional sense. Instead, He asserts His autonomy while also acknowledging John’s role in preparing the way for His ministry.

Jesus Questioned about Fasting

The Pharisees and John the Baptist disciples practiced regular fastening.

When confronted with why his disciples didn’t, Jesus responded that things were different for his group than theirs (Matt.9).

Practise some local autonomy with his group.

It’s hard to tell, in a different time and place, but it does seem like Jesus practised some local autonomy in his personal ministry.

Making me think that it is entirely possible that Jesus would have agreed with the Baptist principle of local autonomy.

Did Jesus practise the Priesthood of all Believers?

A very broad question and relates much more to the post-enlightenment era. With a religion that separates between clergy and laity. In Jesus’ day, there was a distinction between priests who worked at the temple and the general population.

But with the growth and development of the pharisaical movement. Who strove to encourage all Jews to live holy lives and obey the law. With many “regular Jews” taking up the charge. Becoming Rabbis and encouraging fellow Jews to study the Torah and live as God desired.

Keep that in mind when thinking about Jesus practising the priesthood of all believers.

Three stories come to mind when I think of Jesus practising empowering all to minister.

Jesus sends out the 12 and 72 ( Matt.10, Mk.6, Lk.9, 10)

Actually, two events here, one where Jesus gives charge to the 12 to do ministry in his name in the surrounding villages. The other is very similar but to a larger group of 72 men.

In both accounts, Jesus gives other people the power to preach, teach, heal, and minister in his name.

You could argue that these men were ordained by Jesus, in particular the 12. But it is still intriguing that Jesus is giving others the power of ministry outside of his supervision.

Rebuking for Stopping Others from Ministering (Mk.9, Lk.9)

Here Jesus rebukes his disciples for attempting to stop someone from driving out demons in his name.

John had rebuked the man because he was “not one of them”.

Jesus rebukes him in Luke, saying, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

It is hard to argue that Jesus believed that only a limited amount of people should minister if he was okay with the stranger doing ministry in his name.

Crossan, in The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, argues that this is one of the significant differences between John the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus shares his ministry with others.

Jesus’ Final Charge to the 11 (Matt.28)

In the great commission, as it’s called, Jesus tells the disples to make disciples and teach them to obey.

This is post-resurrection, and some may debate the historicity of the story. But here, Jesus clearly is passing the ministry on to others.

From these three accounts, I will say it’s safe to say that Jesus believes that all can and should minister.

Looking like that Jesus did practise the Priesthood of all believers like the Baptists.

Lord' Supper

Did Jesus practise the two ordinances of Baptists (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)

From a modern Baptist perspective, this is more a loaded question and stands in contrast with the Roman Catholics who hold to practising seven sacraments.

But modern or information debate aside.

Jesus did practise both baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus and Baptism

Among biblical scholars, Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist is one of the surest events of Jesus’ life. Attested in all 4 gospels (Matt.3, Mk.1, Lk.3, Jn.1)

with a degree of embarrassment for the early church. It is hard to imagine that this event would be made up.

John (3:22) also records an incident where a dispute arises because of Jesus baptizing people in the Judean countryside. Showing some level of Jesus being involved in the practice of baptizing.

In John 4:1, it is mentioned that Jesus’ disples were baptizing more people than John. But in this verse, it clearly states that it was his disples, not Jesus himself, who was baptizing.

Either way, clearly, Jesus is involved at some level with baptizing others. Add this to the fact that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and clearly, Jesus believe in baptism. Not to mention the great commission where the 11 are commanded to baptize.

Jesus Partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

Again an activity that is well attested that Jesus participated in.

There are some scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan, who do not believe that Jesus had a last supper with his disciples before his death.

It is recorded in all the gospels, except John has a different version of the event. Also, Luke reverses the order with the wine first, followed by the wine.

This is further supported by Paul, in his letter 1 Corinthians 11, written before the gospels (50-55 CE) slightly different wording and following the order of the majority of the gospels. Bread first, wine second.

But regardless of the details, Jesus’ participation in the last supper memorial is well-tested.

Fun side note Didache 9 ad 10 teaches how the Lord’s supper is to be celebrated but is entirely different than any of the other sources and has been much more formalized for a church service. Not an attempt to report of what Jesus did.

In summary, Jesus was baptized, possibly baptized others and instituted a memorial for his disciples.

But did not make these actions any more sacred or part of a limited number of ordinances. That was for the Baptists to do hundreds of years later.

Did Jesus Believe in Individual Soul Liberty Like the Baptist?

Well, let’s start with a little definition.

“Definition: Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the freedom to choose what his conscience or soul dictates is right in the religious realm. Soul liberty asks the believer to accept responsibility for his own actions and not try to force anyone else to do or believe anything contrary to his own conscience.”

Free Sunday School Lessons

One could make an argument from Jesus saying, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt.7:1), that he believes that we are to be tolerant of other people’s actions and beliefs.

Or you could cite John 8:7, where Jesus calls on, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Leaving little room to act on other people’s sins once looking in the mirror.

Jesus teaching on turning the other cheek., and loving, not persecuting those who disagree with you makes it hard to see him advocating persecuting others for their beliefs. Granting them a high degree of individual liberty in beliefs about God and religious practice.

These and other examples could be used to show that Jesus practised and believed in “Individual Soul Liberty.” It would be a little bit of a stretch but not impossible to draw such a conclusion.

Individual Soul Liberty is a concept born from a period of religious conflicts, persecution and wars. The Baptist’s simple solution was a level of tolerance to stop the killing of each other. A noble goal but not a situation that Jesus experienced.

I don’t think Jesus practises individual soul liberty or even thought about such a concept as we do.

But feel free to disagree with me. You have the liberty to do so.

Baptists Teach You are Saved By Faith Alone, Did Jesus?

The research I have done to answer this question has led me to read many articles that are often more a reflection of the individual’s beliefs than Jesus. Yes, they do use examples from Jesus’ life, but it becomes clear that they already hold their opinion before looking to Jesus.

With such a significant doctrine since the reformation, I can understand why. It is such a significant doctrine in Christianity since the Reformation.

You have the two extremes.

A popular view shared by the Roman Catholics church and many others. Who will say NO. Jesus did not teach that you are saved through faith alone.

On the flip side, you have authors like John MacArthur, a prominent Baptist, who adamantly assert that, YES, Jesus taught we are saved by faith alone. Click the link if you want to read his full argument.

But let’s consider a few times that Jesus taught about salvation, both what could be interpreted as teaching salvation by faith alone and when actions are also required.

Teaching Salvation By Faith Alone

The first to consider is a parable that Jesus tells in Luke 18:9-14. He tells about two men who go to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee who prays about all the good things he has down and how he is better than others.

But in the back, a tax collector bitterly begs for mercy.

Jesus sums it up by saying that the tax collectors pray justified home before God. Not the “righteous” man’s prayer.

Not a direct teaching about salvation but an example of Jesus not elevating the “works” of a person but his humility.

The gospel of John presents Jesus with a much more developed theology in particular, the idea of being saved by faith.

John 3:15-18 is a classic passage memorized by millions around the world. Jesus, while talking with Nicodemus about being “born again” (saved), gives this line.

“whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It cannot get much clearer than that.

Another story (Jn.6:25-59) has Jesus in a discussion about bread after the feeding of the 5 000. Jesus challenges them not to work for things that will spoil like bread but rather for eternal life.

In which they ask, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Could the question be any better?

Jesus responds with, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So yes, works for salvation, but the work is believing, having faith in Jesus.

These three stories have Jesus teaching that salvation is through faith alone. And especially the stories in John, it is in the context of a discussion about salvation.

But a little disclaimer about John. The author is wonderful in revealing his perspective. In chapter 1, verse 12, he clearly says that salvation is through belief. I am not saying he is wrong, but we must keep in mind his perspective which will colour his stories and the stories he tells.

Teaching Salvation By Faith Plus

On the other hand, we have a pointed story recorded in all 3 of the synoptic gospels (Matt.19:16-22, Mk.10:17-23 Lk.18:18-23)

A man who comes up to Jesus and asks him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Good question.

But this time, Jesus does not speak of faith and belief. No, the answer is a conversation about obedience to the law, ending with an appeal for the man to give away everything he has and follow Jesus.

Looks much more like faith plus. Not only was the man to follow Jesus, requiring faith, but he was to add to his years of obedience with even more actions. Giving away everything he has.

The struggle, as I just showed, is that both sides can be presented from the teaching of Jesus.

Many Christians and Scholars who have researched and thought about the issue more than I have. Presenting a much fuller argument than these few short paragraphs.

Regardless of which side you lean to, Jesus’ brother James has a good thought.

“I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

James 2:18

Regardless if you are being saved by faith alone or are working out your salvation by loving God and others as commanded by Jesus, your faith must be accompanied by loving actions.

Jesus did not live a life of inaction, nor did he call his followers to.

It’s not really one or the other. It’s both.

Open Glowing Bible

Inerrancy and Authority of the Scriptures Are Bedrock of Baptist Theology, Did Jesus Share the Same Belief?

This is such a modern question that it is tricky to answer about what an ancient believed, such as Jesus.

The term “inerrancy” was most likely first used by Hodge and Warfield in their book Inspiration in 1881 relating to the Bible. There is much more to the history of the development of this belief beyond this single book, which I do not care to get into at the moment. But please keep that in mind as we answer the question about Jesus’ view of the Scriptures.

Another thing to keep in mind, the “Bible” as we know it did not exist in the time of Jesus. The idea of binding together many books together had not been thought of, let alone invented. The idea of holding a single book in one hand as we causally do now and saying these are the words of God could not happen.

Beyond the mere physical reality, the idea of “canon,” an agreed-upon set of writings considered “Scriptures,” did not happen until many years later.

“(In) the Second Temple period and early Rabbinic times there is no evidence for an official canon,”

Biblical Archaeology

But Jesus, along with many Jews of his time, did hold some writings to be from God and valuable in discussions and authority in religious matters.

During Jesus’ temptation by Satan, Jesus utters these words.

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Matt.4:4

Words recorded in the Torah in Deuteronomy 8:3.

All throughout this conversation between Jesus and Satan, Jesus responds by quoting from the Old Testament.

Later on, during what we call the Sermon on the Mount/Plains, Jesus assures the crowd that. He did not come to abolish the law and prophets (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17) . The term was used by the Jews of the time to refer to the Torah and the writings of the prophets.

Furthermore, Jesus, often in debates, will cite Scripture. Often with the phrase “have you not read” or “it is written.” Appealing to the authority of Scriptures.

Christian Publishing House has an entire article listing many of these times. Showing the regularity of Jesus using the Scriptures in his conversation.

What is even more amazing is that the Society of Jesus did not have easy access to the Bible, and many scholars argue had a low level of literacy, but still, Jesus was able to reference Scripture so freely.

In conclusion, I do not know if we can assertively say that Jesus believed in “the Inerrancy of Scripture,” but we can safely say he had a high view of Scripture and it was authoritative in his life and teaching.

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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