There are many Christian denominations that classify themselves as Baptist, the largest of which is the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptists trace their roots to the Separatist movement in 16th century England. The Assemblies of God is a single denomination. It is the largest denomination to come out of the Pentecostal movement that began in the United States in the early 20th century. Baptist and Assemblies of God churches share key teachings but also have significant differences.
Much in Common
The Assemblies of God and Baptists share many significant doctrines. They both share with the majority of Christians a belief in the concept of one God revealed in three persons, called the Trinity. Both believe that all of mankind is sinful by nature and that a literal hell is the punishment for sin. Both believe that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for people's sins when he was crucified and that forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation is freely given to those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Both believe that sanctification – the process of becoming godly – begins when a person accepts Jesus as savior and continues progressively throughout the believer's life. Baptists and Pentecostals both hold the Bible to be the inspired word of God and the ultimate authority for all teaching and practice.
Security of Salvation
Baptists believe that once a person has received Christ as savior, he is saved, guaranteed eternal life in heaven and can never lose his salvation under any circumstance. The Assemblies of God teaches that nothing external can take away a believer's salvation, but that the believer can fall away from grace by making willful choices to walk away from God. The Assemblies of God is careful to distinguish between simply sinning and willfully turning from God. The Assemblies of God teaches that those who have turned away from God – often called backsliding – must repent and rededicate their lives to Christ to regain salvation.
Spiritual Gifts: Restored or Ceased
Assemblies of God and Baptist churches both teach that the miracles and supernatural signs recounted in the Bible actually happened. Baptists believe that these miracles ceased when the New Testament was completed. This teaching is known as "cessation." The Pentecostal movement that birthed the Assemblies of God was founded on the idea that the spiritual gifts and miracles spoken of in the Bible only ceased because Christians stopped seeking them and that God wanted to restore these gifts. Assemblies of God churches teach that supernatural gifts such as divine healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues have been restored and should continue be utilized in the church today.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Baptist churches is the congregational form of government. While Baptists do form larger denominations with common teachings and practices, most actual church government and authority, including the ordaining of ministers, is handled at the local church level by deacons or elders who are elected from within the congregation. Assemblies of God congregations have a hybrid form of government that mixes some features of congregational government with some features of Presbyterian government – in other words, government by boards of ministers elected as "presbyters." In the Assemblies of God, the presbytery governs matters concerning acceptable doctrine and the ordination of ministers, while local congregations handle their own business affairs and choose which ordained ministers to appoint to lead and serve their congregations.
- Southern Baptist Convention: About Us
- North American Baptists: Our Beliefs
- Assemblies of God USA: Assemblies of God Fundamental Truths (Condensed)
- Assemblies of God: Our 16 Fundamental Truths (Full Statement)
- Baptist History: Baptist Beginnings
- Assemblies of God USA: Brief History of the Assemblies of God
- Assemblies of God USA: Security of the Believer (Backsliding)
- Adherents.com: Largest Denominations/Denominational Families in U.S., 2001
- Buccina Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images