October 5th – What is the Difference?



The other day I was stopped in the village where I am serving the little Baptist community and asked: “Just what is the difference between Baptists and the Church of England?”
A simple reply was expected in one sentence, and that one sentence was expected to centre on Believer’s Baptism as distinct from Infant Baptism. The answer given must have been a bit of a disappointment. For one thing it takes more than just one sentence. From memory the conversation began something like this:
Question “What’s the difference between Baptists and the Church of England?”
Answer; For one thing, it is the Baptist understanding of the church which is different from other churches.
That answer was bound to produce other questions, and it did. “Well, what’s so different about your ideas of the church compared with the others?”
And immediately we were into many more sentences than one – such as:the main difference is about who it is that makes up the church of Jesus. Is it those who live in a particular parish? Is it those whose families have been part of a church tradition from the year dot?
Or is it those and only those who have come into a living and personal faith in Jesus Christ?
That’s the answer which millions of Baptists and other Christians world-wide would give. The church is not made of structures or buildings but consists entirely of people who personally have entrusted their lives to Jesus of Nazareth. I suppose that is what people mean when they quote Jesus about the basic need first is to be born again.
Of course we are all glad that the different doctrines of the church do not any longer prevent true Christians of all denominations from loving each other and working together. It is also true that the things which unite Christians are vastly greater than the things which keep them in their separate traditions.
Indeed, most thinking Christians these days are more concerned about the 93% of our population which has no obviously expressed Christian beliefs than they are about their own church identities, but identity is a factor which has to be taken seriously.
It is that understanding of the nature of the church which determines how Baptists and others understand the Christian sacraments and Christ’s mission to the world.
By this time the conversation had become a sermon, and you know how glassy-eyed that leaves listeners. Perhaps I should have quoted the last two verses from Matthew’s Gospel and left it at that:
A Prayer:
Lord Jesus, for all the millions of churches there are in the world we pray that they may be first and foremost your people.
Now read Ephesians Chapter 4.

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