Article Ten: The Great Commission
We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5
This is a wonderful article and a proper note on which to end a Baptist declaration of faith. Baptists have been and remain a “Great Commission people.” William Carey, who is widely recognized as the Father of the Modern Missionary movement, was a Baptist. Through his faithfulness and the herculean efforts of his friends and fellow pastors, Andrew Fuller, John Ryland, Jr, John Sutcliffe and Samuel Pearce, the gospel was propagated beyond the shores of England into the borders of India in the late 19th century. It was their vision and devotion that gave rise to the “Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen” in 1792.
Similarly, in 1812 Adoniram and Ann Judson were among the first Christian missionaries to travel overseas from America to India. Though Adoniram left his homeland a paedobaptist, after studying the issue of baptism in preparation for meeting the famous Mr. Carey, he arrived on those distant shores a convinced Baptist. Through his labors and those of Luther Rice, The Triennial Convention was established in 1814 for the purpose of supporting the work of Judson in Burma. This body was the precursor to the Southern Baptist Convention that marks its beginning in 1845. The SBC was organized to serve churches specifically by “eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the denomination for the propagation of the gospel.” The Great Commission is the DNA of the SBC.
Through the years Southern Baptists have been willing to contend earnestly to maintain and recover the purity of the gospel but they have never been content to be hoarders of it. It is precisely because “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) that Southern Baptists have seen themselves as charged with a stewardship to take this gospel–the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified–to the nations.
This statement of affirmations and denials could produce one or more of four responses. Two of these are desirable and two would be distressing. To the degree that this “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” helps the convention’s churches clarify their commitment to the biblical gospel and renew their passion to preach Christ to the nations, it will have served the denomination well. Also, if this serves to give some stable talking points over the doctrinal differences between Calvinists and the “traditional” Baptist, it could be productive of a much broader understanding in the Convention as a whole concerning the similarities and differences in question. To the degree that it drives a wedge between brothers and fosters rancor, ridicule and disrespect among those who while disagreeing on important matters of the faith actually agree on many more, it will hinder the purpose for which the SBC exists. Further if it becomes a standard (either formally or informally) employed to stifle freedom within the historic confessional framework of Baptists or as a blockade or threat to ministry in churches or denominational offices, then its potential for good will become the reverse.
I sincerely hope that the outcome will be positive and edifying and not negative and destructive. But regardless of what results, if history is a reliable guide, those who are faithful to the true Southern Baptist vision and reason for existence will move forward into the twenty-first century with an uncompromising commitment to the gospel of Christ and an unquenchable passion to see the nations bow before him as Lord. Just as it has been by his grace that Southern Baptists have made it thus far, so we are wholly dependent on that same grace as we set our sails for the future.