Christianity is very wide and consists of many denominations each with its unique perspectives and practices. The practices and beliefs that each denomination holds shape and define their identities. Among the many Christian denominations are Baptists and Pentecostals.
Each of these denominations believes in unique theological concepts and holds the significance of specific religious practices. Even though they share many things in terms of beliefs, traditions, and practices, they have several differences that distinguish them from each other.
Things You Need to Know About Baptists
- Baptists emerged from the Protestant Movement and are distinguished, as their name suggests, by their stand on baptizing professing believers who are able to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus by complete immersion. The Baptist Movement emerged in the 17th century by English-speaking believers who read and interpreted the Bible. It started with John Smyth, an English Separatist, as its lead pastor. John Smyth read the whole of the New Testament and by his interpretation labeled the baptism of infants invalid and not Bible-centered. He emphasized the baptism of adult believers who were able to profess their faith and could make a conscious decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
- Baptists were initially two groups; the General Baptists and the Particular Baptists. General Baptists are the group of Baptists who believed Jesus Christ died for the sake of all humanity. They traced their roots to the English Separatists, John Smith and Thomas Helwys. On the other hand, Particular Baptists are the group of Baptists that claimed the death of Jesus Christ was significant to a select few; the elect. They emerged from a non-separatist congregational movement and embraced the theological doctrine of John Calvin.
- Baptists emphasize the individual responsibility and accountability before God. They believe that members of their churches can only receive salvation if they believe in God; salvation is by faith alone and only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, they emphasize the authority of Scripture and believe that it is the guide to their faith. Their church government is congregational; local churches are independent and have the freedom to make their own decisions. They recognize and give significance to two major sacraments which are sacraments of baptism and communion.
- Baptists are known for their silent way of worship and they mostly sing hymns.
Things You Need to Know About Pentecostals
- Pentecostals trace their roots to the Azusa Street Revival which emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit. It started in Los Angeles with William Seymour as the lead pastor.
- Pentecostals are widely known for their emphasis on a believer’s direct encounter with God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their name emerged from the word Pentecost, which is an event where the 11 disciples of Jesus experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit while they were celebrating the Jewish Festival of Weeks in Jerusalem. This event is illustrated in Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” According to them, baptism with the Holy Spirit is essential in the life of a believer as it enables them to live a life that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. They hold a lot of significance to the day of Pentecost. Furthermore, they believe that baptism with the Holy Spirit empowers them to manifest spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and the gift of healing.
- Pentecostals affirm and adhere to the inerrancy of Scripture and believe in the authority of the Bible. They believe that their denomination echoes the beliefs, customs, teachings, traditions, and practices of the Early Church and the Apostles of the New Testament.
- Pentecostals are open to a variety of worship styles but are known to be lively and a bit loud when worshipping. Their music may be accompanied by dancing, musical instruments, clapping and jumping, and so on.
Read Also: Why I Left the Assemblies of God
Similarities Between Baptists and Pentecostals
Are earlier mentioned, Baptists vs Pentecostals share various beliefs, religious concepts, and practices. In fact, some people find it hard to differentiate Baptists from Pentecostals and many think they are one denomination. This could be attributed to the fact that they both emerged from the Protestant Movement and have several things in common. So, what are the things that Baptists and Pentecostals have in common?
- Salvation: Both Baptists and Pentecostals are committed to salvation and believe that their members can only receive salvation by believing in Jesus Christ. They also place a lot of significance in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which they believe provides a means for reconciliation with God.
- The Holy Trinity: Both believe the One True God exists as God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. Also, both Baptists and Pentecostals acknowledge the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.
- Authority of Scripture: Both Baptists and Pentecostals recognize the Bible as the inspired Word of God and affirm its inerrancy. They adhere to the teachings in the Scriptures and believe that it is their ultimate guide for faith.
- Life After Death: Baptists and Pentecostals believe that there is life after death and there exists heaven and hell beyond life on earth. Both believe that Jesus Christ will come to take believers with Him to heaven.
Read Also: Why I Left the Church of Christ
Key Differences Between Baptist vs Pentecostal
- Worship Style: The style of worship in Baptist churches is more structured; one can easily predict the next song during a church service. Mostly, they employ traditional hymns in their worship and follow a liturgical format. Their worship and prayers are silent. On the other hand, Pentecostals are lively in their worship and loud when praying. Their worship is characterized by live bands, praise, and shouting. They believe that the Holy Spirit can manifest through worship and enable them to prophesy, speak in tongues, and heal.
- Baptism: Baptists are very strict when it comes to the concept of baptism. They reject the idea of baptizing infants saying it does not align with the teachings in the New Testament. Baptists emphasize the baptism of adults by immersion claiming that it is the form of baptism that the Bible teaches. They identify baptism by immersion with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism in Baptist churches is preceded by a believer’s profession of faith that acts as proof of their conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ. Additionally, they do not believe in speaking in tongues even though they believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, Pentecostals are open to all forms of baptism; immersion, sprinkling, and pouring of water on a believer’s head. But again, this depends on the beliefs of specific congregations. Some only practice the baptism of adults by immersion while others are open to baptism of all age groups. Pentecostals also emphasize baptism with the Holy Spirit and place a lot of significance in it. They believe that through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they experience a deep connection with God and they are empowered to serve Him. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a very important aspect in the faith journey of Pentecostal believers.
- Women Leadership: Baptists claim that women do not have the mandate to lead the church; only men can become pastors. On the other hand, Pentecostals allow both women and men to lead the church. They believe that one can become a pastor as long as they are called and have been given the grace to lead.
- Salvation: Baptists hold to the belief that once a believer is saved; they cannot lose their salvation. They believe that salvation happens once in a lifetime and saved believers will remain saved until they meet their death. However, Pentecostals believe otherwise. They emphasize daily purity and holiness. According to them, a believer can lose their salvation if they do not walk in paths of righteousness and holiness. Each believer, even though they are saved, is expected to maintain their faith and holiness until the end.
- Access to God: Pentecostals believe that a believer can have a direct encounter with God while Baptists do not believe in direct connections with God. They believe that to connect with God, a believer must prove their religious authority.
- Church Governance: The leadership setting of Baptist churches is congregational. Their local churches have the freedom to make important decisions as regards their church leadership, finances, and doctrines. In other words, local congregations self-govern themselves. On the other hand, Pentecostals are diverse in their leadership settings. Some follow a hierarchical structure with Bishops overseeing several local churches. Others follow the same setting of leadership as Baptists where each church is independent and free to make the church’s major decisions.
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Both Baptist and Pentecostal are good denominations that preach and teach the Word of God. The differences that arise from what they believe or what they do not believe in do not make either of them better than the other. They are good Christian Movements and prove to us that Christianity is diverse. If you are wondering which one you can join between the two, choose the one that aligns with your beliefs.