Written By: Pastor Dr. Geoffrey V. Guns
The Baptist belief in religious freedom and its corollary, the separation of
the institutions of church and state, come from the Baptist commitment to the authority of the Bible. What is meant by the terms “church” and “state”? The term “state” refers to governments. The Bible indicates that governments are ordained by God to provide law and order (Romans 13:1-5). Government leaders are to act for the benefit of the citizens (1 Peter 2:13-14). Baptists and other Christians are to honor and pray for government officials (1 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:17), pay taxes (Matthew 22:17-22; Romans 13:6-7) and obey the government except when obedience would be clearly contrary to God’s will (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29). Historically, Baptists have affirmed their loyalty to the state.
The term “church” refers to religious organizations. For Baptists, this includes both local congregations and various entities established for religious purposes, such as associations, conventions, schools, and institutions for ministry.
Baptists teach that the nature of “church” is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8), to teach doctrine and develop believers (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-13) and to minister in Christ’s name (Matthew 25:31-46). The church is to rely on the sword of the Spirit and not the sword of the government in carrying out its mission.
The relation of church and state is mutually beneficial. The state is to provide order and safety; these are useful to the church in carrying out its mission (Acts 13-16). And the church contributes to a positive social order by helping to
develop law-abiding, hard-working, honest citizens (Ephesians 4:24-32; 1 Peter 2:11-17).
Baptists contend that this mutual benefit works best when the institutions of church and state are separate and when neither seeks to control the other. The state is not to dictate doctrine, worship style, organization, membership or personnel for leadership to the church. The church is not to seek the power or the financial support of the state for spiritual ends. Such is the model set forth in the New Testament.
The very nature of the gospel and of the church calls for such a relationship. The Bible reveals that humans are created by God with a competency to know and follow his will (Genesis 1:27). Following God’s will should be a free choice, not coerced by either church or state. Salvation in Christ is the result of a free choice to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-10). Thus, neither church nor state should ever interfere with the free proclamation of the gospel or with the freedom of people to accept or reject it. This article was taken from the website listed below and you can read the full article by copying and pasting the link in your web browser.
Learn more: https://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/baptists-separation- of-church- and-state/