Who are Free Will Baptists?
Have you noticed a Free Will Baptist church in your community? Maybe you have heard of “Baptists” all your life but never realized there are actually dozens of Baptist groups. But who are these Baptists with “Free Will” before their name? And how are they different from the other Baptist groups?
The Free Will Baptist denomination is a fellowship of evangelical churches that adhere to the Bible as the foundation of faith and practice. The denomination began in 1727, and for nearly 300 years has contributed to the moral and spiritual fiber of the nation. Bound by common beliefs, common worship, and a common mission, nearly 300,000 individuals from 2,500 congregations across 40 states have come together voluntarily to extend their impact throughout the world.
Free Will Baptists are fundamental in doctrine, that is, they share the historic Christian Faith with all other genuine Christians. They are, as the name indicates, Baptist in doctrine, teaching that immersion—not sprinkling or pouring—is the correct method of baptism. Finally, Free Will Baptists are free will in doctrine. Some Christian groups believe God predetermined who would be saved and lost, that Jesus died only for certain “elect” individuals, and the rest have no opportunity to be saved.
In contrast, Free Will Baptists believe God desires salvation for all and sent Jesus to die for everyone. Still, He has given man the freedom of choice to accept or reject Christ’s sacrifice. Those who put faith in Christ’s work are saved. Learn more about what Free Will Baptists believe.
Free Will Baptist churches are self-governing, own their own property, and call their own pastors. Yet these independent churches have chosen to work together to carry out various enterprises and programs beyond the scope of the local church. These efforts include several colleges and missions efforts both at home and abroad. The denomination supports missionaries in 20 international locations as well as the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Free Will Baptists enjoy an extensive publishing ministry headed by Randall House Publications.
The National Association of Free Will Baptists maintains an executive office building at 5233 Mt. View Road in Antioch, Tennessee. The Executive Office plays a vital role in providing direction to the denomination by correlating national ministries and administering denominational affairs.
What do Free Will Baptists believe?
- God – We believe that God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Righteous Ruler of the universe. He has revealed Himself in nature, and in the Scriptures of the Holy Bible as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: yet as one God.
- Jesus Christ - He is God’s unique Son; the only one of a kind. The Scripture teaches that He is God revealed in flesh. In His Divine nature He is truly God and in His human nature truly man. He is the One once crucified for man’s sin, the now risen and glorified Savior and Lord who mediates between God and man and who gives us access to the Father through His intercession. None can come to the Father unless they come through Him.
- Holy Spirit – All of the attributes of God are ascribed to the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures. It is He who convicts and convinces men of their sin. He also convinces man of that which is right, and that a final day of judgment will come. He, it is, who comes to live in us at conversion, to open our understanding to the Scripture, and to lead us into the truth.
- The Bible – God used holy men to write the Scriptures. They are, in both the Old and New Testaments, the very words God intended us to have. They are, as given by God, without error and are our only rule of faith and practice. We profit from them by learning the truth about many things: they also speak to us about wrong doing; they even correct us and get us back on course as well as instructing us in right living.
- Man – God created man in a state of innocence. Man, being tempted by Satan, yielded and willfully disobeyed God, becoming a sinner and incurring God’s judgment upon sin. All of Adam’s descendants inherit his fallen nature and thus have a natural inclination to sin. When one comes to an age of accountability, he is guilty of sinning before God and in need of salvation.
- God’s Relationship to His Creatures and Creation – God exercises a wise and benevolent providence over all beings and things. He maintains the laws of nature and performs special acts as the highest welfare of mankind and His created order of things require.
- Salvation – Man receives pardon and forgiveness for his sins when he admits to God that he is a sinner, when in godly sorrow he turns from them and trusts in the work of Christ as redemption for his sin. This acceptance of God’s great salvation involves belief in Christ’s death on the cross as man’s substitute and the fact of God’s raising Him from the dead as predicted. It is a salvation by grace alone and not of works.
- Who Can be Saved? – It is God’s will that all be saved, but since man has the power of choice, God saves only those who repent of their sin and believe in the work of Christ on the cross. Those who refuse in this life to repent and believe have no later chance to be saved and thus condemn themselves to eternal damnation by their unbelief.
- Perseverance – We believe that there are strong grounds to hope that the saved will persevere unto the end and be saved because of the power of divine grace pledged for their support. We believe that any saved person who has sinned (whether we call him a backslider or sinner), but has a desire to repent, may do so and be restored to God’s favor and fellowship. Since man, however, continues to have free choice, it is possible because of temptations and the weakness of human flesh for him to fall into the practice of sin and to make shipwreck of his faith and be lost.
- Gospel Ordinances – Free Will Baptists believe the Bible teaches three ordinances for the church to practice: Baptism in water by immersion, the Lord’s Supper, to be perpetuated until His return, and the Washing of the Saints’ feet, an ordinance teaching humility.
- Resurrection – Free Will Baptists believe the Scriptures teach the resurrection of the bodies of all men, each in its own order; they that have done good will come forth to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.
- Church Government – Free Will Baptist churches enjoy local church autonomy (self-governing). The local church is the highest authority in the denomination. Local churches voluntarily organize themselves into quarterly meetings, district, state, and national associations for the purpose of promoting the cause of Christ on the local, state, district, national, and world-wide level.
- Christ’s Second Coming – The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, who ascended on high and sits at the right hand of God, will come again to close the Gospel dispensation, glorify His saints, and judge the world.
- Missions – Free Will Baptists believe that Jesus commanded the church to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. For an in-depth study of Free Will Baptist beliefs and practices, download a copy of the Free Will Baptist Treatise.
About the Logo
The logo of the Free Will Baptists incorporates four symbols used by the earliest communities in Christendom: the ship, the fish, the anchor, and the cross.
In the four corners of the ship’s sail, the symbols of earliest Christianity are enhanced by modern emblems of a vital, living faith—the Holy Bible, the Loaf and Cup, the Basin and Towel and Clasped Hands —the symbols of Free Will Baptists.
The Ship symbolizes the Church and represents all the members pulling in one direction, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Seeking to fulfill Christ’s last command to the Church, Free Will Baptists unite in one purpose with one priority to proclaim the good news of the gospel throughout the world.
The Fish, represented in the symbol by the space between the bottom of the sail and the top of the ship’s body, is one of the most popular symbols for Jesus Christ. Many believe that it was a secret symbol which identified Christians during periods of persecution. The word “fish” in the first century Greek (ichthus) is an acrostic for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
The Anchor on the bow of the ship symbolizes the Christian hope of salvation, “the sure, strong and steadfast anchor of the soul.”The Cross forms the emblem in the mast of the ship. It is the most familiar symbol in the history of the world. The Cross, an instrument of execution and death turned into a worldwide emblem of hope and love by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Bible has always been at the heart of our life as Free Will Baptists, the centrality of the scriptures. Free Will Baptists adopt the Word of God as our only rule of faith and practice. We believe the scriptures to be inspired, inerrant, infallible and immutable.
The Loaf and Cup represent the Lord’s supper, one of the gospel ordinances. This ordinance commemorates the death of Christ for our sins in the use of the bread which He made the emblem of His broken body and the cup the emblem of His shed blood. Participation in this ordinance expresses love for Christ, faith and hope in Him, and serves as a pledge of perpetual fidelity and faithfulness to Him.
The Basin and Towel historically symbolize the service and outreach of the church, but for us it has an added significance of representing our practice of washing the saints’ feet.
The Clasped Hands symbolize many things to us: fellowship, brotherhood and the warmth of our faith. Perhaps the most important thing symbolized by the clasped hands is our commitment to reach out to people around the world with the good news.