bread and to prayer. - Acts 2:41-42
We are just over halfway through our sermon series called “What Do Baptists Believe?”. Last week we talked about the church. We discussed its makeup, its mission, and its management. This morning we will continue our discussion regarding the church as we examine the church ordinances. As Baptists, we recognize only two church ordinances - namely, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. Jesus expressly commanded these two observances, and we find ample evidence of the early church practicing both. The Baptist Faith and Message
presents our beliefs as follows...
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen
Savior, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of
life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church
ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of
the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second
What is an ordinance? The dictionary defines it as an "authoritative rule or decree". It is something that, despite not rising to the same level as a law, nonetheless has binding authority. Typically an ordinance is written or given in order to clarify and help enforce the overall principles of a law to which it relates. When it comes to the church ordinances, Jesus himself commanded that we observe them and both point to something much larger than the ordinance itself.
Baptists believe that the two church ordinances are symbolic. That is to say, that there is nothing supernatural about them - rather they are simply representations that picture outwardly that which is an unseen spiritual reality. There are some denominations that view them as sacraments, believing that the grace of God actually is invoked and falls in extra measure upon the participants of Baptism and The Lord's Supper as they are administered. This view, however, lacks Biblical support. Again, Baptists believe the ordinances are symbolic.
Baptism is commanded by Christ in The Great Commission and elsewhere in Scripture. It is not necessary for salvation, but rather is a visible and public declaration that one has been saved. Therefore, those who have not been born again should not be baptized as such would be "false advertising" and misleading. Baptism not only reminds us of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but it also points to the new believer's death to the old sinful man and resurrection of the new man clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. The only proper, logical, and Biblical mode to represent this transformation is immersion.
Baptists believe that baptism is a necessary requirement of church membership. Jesus was baptized as the first act of His earthly ministry, and when we seek to become members of a church (through which we are called to live out our ministry) we should follow His example. If a person is unwilling to publically declare their allegiance to Christ by exercising this first step of obedience, their resistance should give the church pause. Those who love the church and want to be involved in it will be baptized gladly and then acclimated into the body.
During the Passover meal on the night of Jesus' arrest, our Lord instituted The Lord's Supper and commanded that it be kept perpetually by the church. The Lord's Supper was practiced repeatedly in the New Testament - and always by the members of the local church. Therefore, Baptists believe that in order to partake of it one must first be born again and also be a church member (which requires baptism).
The Lord's Supper symbolizes the body of Christ being broken and the blood of Christ being shed in order to purchase the redemption of mankind. It is a memorial to His great sacrifice for us, a recognition of our participation in the Body of Christ, and an anticipation of His coming again. The Bible is silent as to how often we should observe this ordinance, but when we do it should be a solemn time of reflection and remembrance. The Bible warns that those who practice the Lord's Supper casually or flippantly do so at their own peril.
Both Baptism and The Lord’s Supper point to the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. They symbolize the depths of His great love for us, in that He was willing to be broken and smitten that we might be forgiven. And though He died and was buried, death could not hold him and He rose from the grave. This is the message of the ordinances and is indeed the message of Christianity itself - that Jesus saves!