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What Makes Primitive Baptist Churches 'Primitive?'

Which Beliefs Set Primitive Baptist Churches Apart?

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Ocilla Primitive Baptist Church, W 5th St, Ocilla, Irwin County, Georgia
Michael Rivera/Wikimedia Commons

Primitive Baptist churches are not ashamed of their name, explaining that "primitive" means "of early times; of long ago; first of the kind; very simple; original." They adhere strictly to the model of the early Christian church described in the New Testament and are true to the beliefs of early English and Welsh Baptists.

Following are some beliefs of Primitive Baptist churches that set them apart from other Christian denominations:

Primitive Baptist Churches Teach Salvation for the Elect Only

Jesus Christ died only for his elect, people chosen by God before the foundation of the world, Primitives say. All of his elect will be saved; the rest will not. They further claim that salvation is through God's grace alone, and that such human acts as repentance, baptism, hearing the gospel, or accepting Christ as one's personal Savior are "works" and have no part in salvation.

Primitive Baptist Churches Use Traditional Elements in Communion

Wine, not grape juice, and unleavened bread are used in Primitive Baptist churches in the Lord's Supper because those substances were what Jesus used in his last supper, in accordance with Jewish law. Primitives also practice feet washing with the Lord's Supper, because that is what Jesus did.

Primitive Baptist Churches Are Not Protestant

Primitive Baptists say they are not Protestants. They state that their church is the original Christian church, founded by Jesus Christ himself, 1,500 years before the Reformation. They try to follow the practices of that New Testament church as closely as possible.

Primitive Baptist Churches Accept the King James Bible Only

Primitive Baptist churches believe the 1611 King James Bible is the superior translation of Scripture. It is the only text they use. Further, they take all their doctrine from the Bible. If they cannot support it solidly with the Bible, they do not practice it.

No Additions in Primitive Baptist Churches

Mission boards, Sunday Schools, and theological seminaries are modern additions to the church, according to Primitives. They do not send missionaries. Bible instruction is conducted in church by male elders and in the home. Pastors, or elders, are self-trained so they do not pick up any of the errors of academia. Scripture is their only textbook.

Vocal Music Only in Primitive Baptist Churches

Because they can find no mention of musical instruments being used in New Testament worship services, Primitives permit only unaccompanied singing in their churches. Many still use shape note singing, a 19th century system of reading music involving basic shapes instead of standard music notation. The Sacred Harp, which refers to the human voice, is one such songbook widely used by Primitives.

(Sources: pb.org, olpbc.org, oldschoolbaptist.com, arts.state.ms.us, fasola.org.)

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