What is the difference between confessional Lutheran beliefs and the beliefs of Baptists?
We can only answer your question in a general way. There are between thirty and forty different kinds of Baptists in the United States alone, so they do not all believe and teach precisely the same things. But they have general traits that can be mentioned here.
In most Baptist doctrinal statements there are portions that are basically identical with ours, such as a high view of the authority and accuracy of the Bible, the importance and reality of Jesus Christ and his work as our substitute, and the confession of mankind’s sin and need for the Savior as well as God’s grace and saving work for us. In short, there is much to be thankful for, since fundamental Christianity is confessed here.
You asked about differences. First of all they reject the sacraments (both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) as instruments through which God graciously creates or strengthens faith in human hearts. They treat the sacraments as “ordinances” to be obeyed, and being baptized or receiving communion is an “act of obedience” and something WE do rather than primarily a tool of God to give blessings.
Baptism: Southern Baptists believe that baptism is an act of obedience symbolizing a believer’s faith. They do not baptize infants. We believe that baptism is a means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works faith, offers and conveys the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation (Titus 3:5-7, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21). We believe that infants are to be baptized because they are included in Christ’s command to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). They are sinful and need to be born again (Psalm 51:5, John 3:5-6). Babies also can believe (Luke 18:15-17).
Lord’s Supper: The Southern Baptists believe that the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church memorialize the death of Jesus. They deny the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. We believe that Christ’s true body and blood are given with the bread and wine to assure us that our sins are forgiven (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Most Baptists believe we can cooperate in our conversion, making a decision for Christ. Lutherans believe we cooperate with the Holy Spirit only after our conversion. He is completely responsible for the change that takes place in our conversion.
We believe in election to salvation as taught in Ephesians 1. The Bible clearly says there is no predestination to damnation, but God wants all to be saved.
Many Baptists hold to a concept called “once saved, always saved” that they called “eternal security.” We believe a person can fall from faith because the Bible says he can (Hebrews 10:26-31, 1 Corinthians 10:12). We don’t base this conclusion on reason. But in this case the principle is the same as a common principle of daily life: if I give you a gift of money, you have not done anything to earn it, but if you foolishly throw it away you lose the benefit of the gift. Faith and forgiveness is a pure gift, but the person who throws them away loses the blessing that was his.