Baptists are a group of Protestant Christians who trace their roots to the Separatist movement in early 17th-century England. Baptists vary in some of their teachings, but all hold to the common beliefs of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ, baptism by immersion of believers, congregational church government and the Holy Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice. Most Baptists interpret the Bible, including its references to hell, literally unless the text involves obvious metaphor.
Baptists are often associated with "hellfire-and-brimstone" preaching. This refers to zealous, forceful preaching, which seeks to evangelize the hearers by warning them to avoid spending eternity in hell. This style of preaching generally uses vivid descriptions of hell, citing biblical passages that refer to hell as a lake that burns with fire and brimstone (sulfur). In most cases, the sermon's message transitions from the horrors of hell to the crucifixion of Christ and God's offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The majority of Baptists believe that hell is a literal lake of fire that burns with brimstone. This belief is based on Jesus' descriptions of hell as recorded in the Gospels, descriptions of the lake of fire in the book of Revelation and other passages in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Some Baptists describe hell less graphically as an eternal separation from God. Baptists agree that hell is an eternal place of punishment for those who have not received salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Baptists believe that those who die without first coming to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ are condemned to an eternity in hell as punishment for their sins. Most Baptists allow for the possibility of exceptions for babies and those who are incapable of understanding right and wrong and the Gospel due to extreme mental disability. Because Baptists believe that damnation in hell is an eternal sentence to a real place of torment, they are all the more zealous to warn people through personal witnessing and fire-and-brimstone sermons.
Baptists believe that God is perfectly just and because of this, mankind's sin must be punished. They also believe that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin with his death on the cross. According to Baptist belief, anyone can be eternally saved from the eternal consequence of sin and avoid hell by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. According to Baptist belief, this salvation is eternal and can never be lost. As many Baptists put it, "Once saved, always saved."
Critics of Baptist fire-and-brimstone preaching claim that it is intended to scare the hearers into conversion. Proponents of fire-and-brimstone preaching generally don't argue with this assessment, but add that the love of God compels them to warn unsaved people with the intention of leading them to a loving Savior who offers to save them from hell and give them the gift of eternal life in heaven.
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