This question often arises when viewing these two Baptist families. Both groups hold similar beliefs on many core Christian essentials. Both groups affirm the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Christ, the inspiration and preservation of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the Hypostatic union, the sovereignty of God in salvation, eternal security, as well as many other Baptist and sovereign grace believer distinctives.
With that said, there are vivid distinctions between these two groups. Below are 5 strong contrasting differences. These 5 points will focus primarily on the theological differences and not the historical development, or history of the two groups.
- Duty faith. Primitive Baptists do believe it is the duty of all to repent but deny that it is the duty of those not chosen in Christ to believe in Christ as their savior, which he is not. Primitive Baptists do not agree with duty faith and Reformed Baptists generally do.
- Atonement. Primitive Baptists believe that the atonement was sufficient only for those it was also efficient. Reformed Baptists generally hold that is was sufficient for all and efficient only for the elect.
- Well-meant offer of the gospel. Primitive Baptists believe that the gospel should be preached openly and to all people but deny that it is an offer for those not elected to salvation to get saved. Reformed Baptists affirm a well-meant offer.
- Regeneration and Conversion. Primitive Baptists make a strong distinction between regeneration and conversion, holding that God gives spiritual life without using the gospel as a medium. The gospel would then be the instrument of conversion, to give the benefits of salvation to those given spiritual life. Reformed Baptists typically hold that the gospel is the instrument or means of regeneration.
- Justification. Primitive Baptists believe that we are justified before God by Christ on the cross. Reformed Baptists hold to sola fide, which says that we are justified by God when we believe. Primitive Baptists do believe that we are justified by faith, but this justification is in the courtroom of our own mind as it apprehends the truth of Christ.
Note: These are generalities and may not fully represent all Primitive Baptists or all Reformed Baptists. There may be overlap on beliefs depending on the various individuals you may speak with in each denomination.
Originally published July 2020