I cannot tell you how many times I get asked the question, what is a Reformed Baptist? In one sense, it brings excitement to me in that I can share with others our distinctives as Reformed Baptists, thus preparing a way to preach the Gospel. On the other hand, it is saddening to know that most do not understand Church History and where Baptists originated from. Reformed Baptists grew out of the English Reformation, emerging from Independent paedobaptist churches in the 1640’s for some very specific theological reasons, and they held to a particular kind of theology.
I want to start a 5 part series on what is a Reformed Baptist by showing theologically where Reformed Baptists identify themselves. Our first distinctive, as Reformed Baptists is: The Regulative Principle of Worship.
The Regulative Principle of Worship is placed at the outset of this list because this is the one of the major reasons that Particular Baptists separated themselves from Paedobaptist churches. Reformed Baptists rely heavily on the Puritans, but they went further than their Paedobaptist brethren in rejecting infant baptism. Their reasoning being a consistent interpretation of God’s Covenants. The main idea of the Regulative Principle of Worship is the elements of public worship are limited to what Scripture commands. As John 4:23-24 says, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is just restating what the Reformation was built upon: Sola Scriptura. Scripture Alone. The Scriptures tell us how God is to be worshiped and we are not at liberty to add anything to do that.
The Second London Baptist Confession 22.1 says:
The acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.
As Tom Hicks says, “This regulative principle of worship limits the elements of public worship to the Word preached and read, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and whatever else the Scripture commands.”
He continues, “Many Baptists today have completely abandoned the regulative principle of worship in favor of entertainment-oriented worship, consumerism, individual preferences, emotionalism, and pragmatism. Such Baptists have abandoned the very principle that led to their initial emergence from paedobaptism. One wonders whether a church can depart from a doctrine necessary to the emergence of Baptists in their English context and still rightly identify as a “Baptist” church.”
The first and most important distinctive of being a Reformed Baptist is the Regulative Principle of Worship. Or stated another way, we only worship God in the way that he has prescribed to us in the Scriptures. We want to be people of God’s Word. We desire to serve him with a clean conscience and we must do the hard work necessary to understand what God has required of man.