Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Ordinances of Baptism and Lord's Supper

Pray and Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Romans 6:2-3

Contextual Notes:

In order for a activity to be an ordinance, it must fulfill two requirements.

  1. It must be an outward sign of truth of the gospel.
    1. An ordinance is first a sign pointing to Christ Jesus. It is a prophetic act demonstrating some truth of the message of the good news of Jesus.
  1. It must have been instituted by Jesus himself.
    1. Because it is initiated and ordained by Christ, it holds the authority of Christ.

Ordinances, however, did not start in the New Testament. The idea had been around for a long time. In Exodus 12:14, God instituted the Passover as an “ordinance forever” for the people of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul picks up this idea to remind the church of its “ordinances” which it practices.

Authority to administer lies with the church, not with any government, judiciary, or individual. Therefore the efficacy of baptism or the Lord’s Supper lies not in the character or person of the individual ordained to perform the service, but in the church, the Body of Christ. (Acts 10:46-47)

An ordinance is not a sacrament. There is nothing of saving grace in an ordinance. It is an outward demonstration of truth instituted by Jesus Christ. Superstitious veneration accompanied baptism and communion in the days after the early Church. The idea of sacramentalism became a powerful tool of control to wield over the people. The threat of excommunication and damnation through withholding the sacraments was the church at its worst.



The Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal representing (“shows forth”) the atonement of Jesus Christ. He instituted it from the Passover meal at the Last Supper.

We are called to celebrate the Lord’s Supper “worthily” (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29). Does that mean that I only celebrate it if I am worthy? Of course not. If that were so, then no one could celebrate it, for it is our unworthiness which nailed Christ to the Cross in the first place. It is not our own worth but the manner in which we celebrate the meal.


· Silence – as little speaking as possible. The meal speaks itself.

· How often should it be celebrated? – We are given freedom in this. Some celebrate every day (Acts 2:42, 46), at night (Acts 20:7), or weekly (1 Corinthians 11:26). The phrase “as often as you eat and drink” seems to give freedom to believers to choose the frequency. The Reformers celebrated the Lord’s Supper once a month or once a quarter in order to downplay in people’s minds the Catholic idea of transubstantiation in the Eucharist.

· When should it be celebrated? At the conclusion of a regular service or should it take the whole service? Both ways are appropriate depending on what is going on in the church at the time.

· Fermented or not? It is unique that the word wine is not used in any of the accounts of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11). The word describes the red, crushed fruit of the vine. In an earlier time when the cup was shared and refrigeration was unknown, the slightly fermented wine was appropriate to mitigate the spread of germs and as a result of room temperature storage. Today, the unfermented juice may be used as it is usually administered separately and with refrigeration.

· What about children? Children, as everyone else, should follow the command of our Lord Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and follow the order of first being saved, then baptized, then participate in “all those things whatsoever I have commanded you” which includes the Lord’s Supper. Children or anyone else who is saved and have been baptized may participate in the Lord’s Supper. Others should abstain as it is a memorial meal for those who have been bought by the body and blood of Christ.


Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our participation with him in it. (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We have died with Christ. We are dead to the world. We have been buried with Christ. The power and temptations of the world no longer reach us. We are raised with Christ to a new, resurrected, triumphant life in Christ.

Baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo which means “I immerse” or “I sink.” Ancient Greek manuscript histories describing naval battles use this word to describe the sinking of a vessel. The boat was baptized. It sunk. It was not sprinkled. It was not poured. It was sunk. Sprinkling and pouring are more priestly activities in demonstrating the sprinkling of blood on the altar for the remission of sins or the washing of sin away from one who has been made clean. These are priestly exercises. Immersion suggests a reliance on Christ, lying back in the water is a sign of submission to the Lord Jesus. As the pastor must bring the convert up out of the water, so Jesus must do the work of raising one from the dead.

When the English translators of the 1611 King James Bible came upon this word, they elected to transliterate the word instead of translate it. So instead of saying, “all of us who were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death?” Why did the translators take the coward’s way out and not translate the word? Because the politics of religion at that time were so raw that translating the word literally would have shown the Anglican (England) and Presbyterian (Scotland) churches to be baptizing inappropriately. They were sprinkling instead of immersing. To translate baptizo as immerse or sink would have cost them their heads and perhaps launched civil war.

When a believer comes before the people of the church to make a public profession of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, s/he is presented to the church as a candidate for baptism (Acts 2:41; 8:36-39; 11:47).

When someone is baptized, he or she means that he has given himself to the Lord in faith for the forgiveness of his sins and the regeneration of his soul. In many countries, especially in the Islamic world, public baptism is a major event. It is a bold statement that one has become a Christian and quite possibly is signing one’s own death warrant.

Baptism is commanded in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). It the first public act of a believer in confession of his faith in Christ. It is usually the door into the visible, local church. Baptism is only a symbol of a reality and is not required to be saved. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

The act of baptism is a personal obligation on the part of the believer to promote the cause of Christ and state one’s own public confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

What about infant baptism? If one has been baptized or christened as an infant, is that enough? The answer is no. Here’s why. Your infant baptism was a wonderful dedication by your parents of you to the Lord and his care. The Scripture does not command us to baptize infants but to be baptized or immersed as a public statement of our conversion to Jesus Christ.

Some would take offense by asking, “Is what my parents did for me not good enough?” It was good at that time to dedicate you as a new member of their family to the Lord. It does not fulfill your obligation as a believer to announce publicly your allegiance to Jesus Christ through immersion, through the picture of death, burial, and resurrection.

Some would say, “Well, it is just not that important to me at this point in my life. I’ve been a Christian for many years now. I’m still going to heaven. I still have a relationship with Christ.” Yes, you are still going to heaven. Baptism does nothing to enhance or detract from your salvation in Christ Jesus, but just because baptism is not important to you now does not change the command that Jesus gave to be immersed as a witness to your faith. To resist immersion after your conversion is blatant disobedience to your Lord.

Some people marry spouses who are Baptist and attend the Baptist church with them but never submit to immersion. Those who do this show forth an incongruency in their marriage. Will you marry such a one, yet not only in disobedience to our Lord Christ’s command in Matthew 28:19-20 to be baptized, you also do not follow the command in Ephesians 5:21 to married couples to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. There seems to be more than a disobedience problem here. There seems to be a deeper attitudinal problem as well. What kind of picture of marriage and submission to Christ are you giving your children when you do not unite with your spouse and be baptized also?

W.A. Criswell: “The true New Testament church is a soul-saving, baptizing, teaching, preaching, evangelistic institution and the baptized believer is now a part of that great missionary world-wide ministry. We are united by the Spirit in the worship of God in praise, in thanksgiving, in prayer, and in the diffusion of the saving message of Christ to every creature. We are joined together in the body of our Lord for instruction, for spiritual growth, and for mutual helpfulness. It is a great, glorious, mighty, significant day when we are baptized into the body of Christ, the bride and church of our Lord.”[1]

Baptism is an initial ceremony, a beginning for a Christian. The church’s responsibility is not over. It has just begun to teach and disciple and train that new believer in their faith and the word of God.


For salvation

To submit to Christ in public baptism

To join this church


W.A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors, (Nashville: Broadman, 1980), 199-213.

[1] Criswell, 203.