Periodically, someone asks, ‘What do Primitive Baptists believe?’ If I were asked what single feature distinguishes us from most other fellowships, I would answer, ‘We emphasize the doctrines of grace.’ To say ‘I believe in the doctrines of grace’ is to say, ‘I believe that the work of saving sinners is God’s from start to finish.’ This work has not been given to the individual, the government, educational institutions, the home, or even the church. Without qualification, I say that the major distinguishing factor is this emphasis on God’s sovereign grace.
Sovereign grace refers to God’s initiative in salvation, moving toward man to bestow this gift, not because He is obligated to bless, but because it is His sovereign pleasure to bless. It also means that God is in absolute control of the work of salvation. Nothing can thwart His purpose. There are no external limitations upon His power. The doctrines of grace include the following truths.
We believe that all men are born with a sinful nature. This inward, twisted character motivates people to do wrong, not right. It produces a hostility to God and godliness which frequently manifests itself in rebellion against His laws, unconcern about His glory, and unthankfulness for His blessings. Because of this sinful tendency in the heart, the potential to commit the most heinous sins is present in every person.
By nature, man is incapable of loving God, desiring God, or pleasing God. He does not care about the Bible, the church, or the spiritual dimension of life. He is “dead in trespasses and in sins.” Unless he is born again, he cannot function in the spiritual realm. He is corrupt, vile, and ungodly. He is, furthermore, under the sentence of God’s wrath, condemned to separation from God (Rom. 3:10-13,23; 1 Cor. 2:14).
Election & Predestination
We believe that God, in His wisdom, foresaw the ruined condition of mankind in sin, and made provision for the salvation of a portion of humanity before the world began. He purposed to save them by sending His Son to die for their sins upon the cross. This purpose, or agreement within the Trinity, is called the everlasting covenant. Election and predestination are two parts of that covenant. Election means that God chose, or selected, a people out of the human family for His own glory. He did not choose every person to be saved, for that would negate the very meaning of the term “election.” But He did choose a vast multitude, a people out of every nation, kindred, language, and family (Rev. 5:9). He did not choose them because they were better than someone else, for all were sinners. He made His choice based upon His own right to do as He pleases, because He is God. He chose those whom He loved, and prearranged their final destiny. This predetermination of the final destiny of the elect is predestination.
Predestination means that God made all of the necessary plans and provisions for the final salvation of all His people, and decreed that every last one of them, without the loss of one, will one day be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, living forever with Him in heaven. Because man is totally depraved and incapable of saving himself, had God not made these provisions, every human being would have been lost for eternity. Can you see how the Doctrine of Grace takes salvation out of man’s hands and puts it into God’s hands? Though this is not a popular doctrine, we cannot afford to compromise here. The alternative substitutes a man-centered message for a God-centered one (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 9:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:9).
We believe that all who were loved and chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and called into new life by the Spirit, will be preserved in grace forever. Salvation cannot be forfeited or lost. The child of God will never cease to belong to the Father. This relationship cannot be severed. Nothing will separate one of the objects of God’s grace from His everlasting love. The heir of grace will never be disqualified from the eternal inheritance that awaits him. The sheep are kept securely in the hand of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ (Jno. 10:28; Jude 24; Rom. 8:35-39).
We believe that Jesus was God incarnate, i.e. in human flesh, and that He came to this earth for the express purpose of saving the elect from their sins. He died on the cross in order to accomplish that goal, dying, in a very real sense, in our place, a substitutionary death. He took our sins and gave us His righteousness. It is only by virtue of the work of Jesus upon the cross that anyone has eternal life. Because man is totally depraved, he cannot save himself. Grace means, however, that God did for His people what they were unable to do for themselves. The supreme demonstration of grace, then, is the cross of Christ. You and I are righteous, i.e. right with God, solely by virtue of what Jesus Christ has done for us at Calvary.
We believe the extent of the atonement is particular and definite, not general and universal. Jesus died only for the elect and His death actually accomplished salvation for them, not merely making them savable, but actually securing salvation. We frequently call this “particular redemption” (Mt. 1:21; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; 2 Cor. 5:21).
The New Birth
We believe that all for whom Jesus died will be born again by the direct and immediate work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. What Jesus did for the sinner at the cross is applied to the sinner in his heart. In other words, the cross is the legal side of redemption and the new birth is the personal side. Though a person is born with a sinful nature which is only capable of sin, yet, at the moment of regeneration, i.e. when he is born again, he is given a new nature: spiritual capacity that desires God, loves God, and longs to learn about God. In a word, he is made alive to God.
The Holy Spirit is the agent in this work and He works without the assistance of preachers, soul winners, mothers, fathers, or neighbors. When He speaks to the dead sinner, like Lazarus, he awakens into new life. It is God’s work; consequently, only He gets the glory for salvation (Jno. 3:3; Eph. 2:1,5; Jno. 6:37)