Baptism and the Lord’s Supper both commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are important memorials for believers of all ages until the Second Coming of Christ. Though neither of these has the ability in itself to save a soul or transmit any special grace, they are given to the Church to be observed; therefore whatever blessing may come from observing them is because of obedience rather than some inbuilt power. Both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper reveal what Jesus Christ came to do for us. Both ordinances should be observed by saved people. “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). It is personal faith that makes these ordinances effective in our lives for they should be see as symbol of something higher rather than seeing some anointing in the actual water, bread or wine.
Water Baptism was part of the proclamation of the Gospel from the beginning of the Church’s mission, for Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). It was an outward sign that the believing person had truly committed his or her life to Christ. It was an obedient expression of repentance and faith. There are several important truths that could be lost through neglecting or misunderstanding Water Baptism:-
a) The very fact that the name of the Trinity is to be spoken as a person is baptised is proof that that only those who believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were accepted into fellowship and considered candidates for Water Baptism.
b) Water Baptism is a sign that a person is “in Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and is now the property of the Lord. Such a person shares His life, His Spirit, and His Sonship, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:14-17), “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 3:26-4:7).
c) Water Baptism is also an outward sign and testimony of that person receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour, and of his personal separation from sin, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
d) Water Baptism symbolises the believer’s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:3-11), “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). Through it he reveals to the world that he is now committed to Christ and has pledged himself to live by God’s standards, and has turned his back on sin. Believer’s baptism means that the person is identifying with Christ so that he can live a new life (the resurrected life of Christ).
e) Believer’s Baptism symbolises
(i) Christ’s death and burial – the believer is fully immersed in water.
(ii) Christ’s Resurrection – the believer is raised up out of the water.
(iii) The washing away of sin.
Though Baptism is only a symbolic act, an outward witness of what has already happened in the believer’s heart, we would not have such a perfect illustration of salvation if we disregarded it. The doctrine and practice is undermined by those who believe in infant baptism (christening) for it takes away the importance of personal faith. Groups such as the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Presbyterians practice infant baptism. Others, like as the Salvation Army, completely dismiss baptism and so do not practice it. After this there are those of other denominations that do not emphasis the need for water baptism so their congregations will go through life without hearing about this important truth. Without Water Baptism we do not have a God ordained illustration of expressing our faith before many witnesses.
The Lord’s Supper
As with Water Baptism, the Lord’s Supper has several important and valuable teachings that would be easily forgotten if it fell into neglect or disuse.
The Lord’s Supper was given as a memorial by the Lord Jesus Christ, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). Apart from the fact that it was part of a thanksgiving meal, it is a time for believers to reflect upon what Jesus accomplished for them on the cross. Paul teaches us that we are retelling the message of Christ’s death when we partake of the bread and the cup, “26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Lord’s Supper is a visible representation of the Good News regarding salvation in Christ. Though we do not accept the Romanish doctrine of Transubstantiation (i.e. the bread and wine actually turning into the physical flesh and blood of the Lord), we do believe that the “communion service” reveals that He is present with us in our hearts and lives.
The Lord’s Supper reveals several important truths:-
a) It symbolises the death of Christ for our sins.
b) It points us back to the cross by making us realise what the Lord Jesus Christ suffered on our behalf.
c) It makes us look at our present lives to see if we are still living up to the commitment we made to Him, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).
d) It reminds us that the Lord that died on the cross for our sins will one day return to receive us unto Himself, “ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
e) Because we look for His return we believe that He is the Risen Lord, for He cannot return unless He actually rose again from the dead.
Therefore the Lord’s Supper points us back to Calvary, points us to our present spiritual condition, and points us forward to the Second Coming of Christ. This application could easily be missed if we did not practice the Lord’s table.
The teachings behind the Lord’s Supper are undermined by those who teach Transubstantiation (mainly the Roman Catholic Church, but there are those amongst the Pentecostal / Charismatic Movements in the United States who now believe in this doctrine). The Salvation Army does not practice any kind of remembrance service involving bread and wine. They do not believe that there are any ‘sacraments’ or ordinances that the church is commanded to observe. Others fail to observe the Lord’s Table on a regular basis for fear that the congregation would become too familiar with it and so lose respect and Biblical understanding for what they do.
Though there is no prescribed law that the Lord’s Supper must be observed daily, weekly, or yearly at Passover, the Scriptures do teach that we should do it as often as we meet together for worship (1 Corinthians 11:26). Failure to observe it robs the Church of a time of sobering reflection on what Christ has done and the need to be free from sin.
In conclusion. It is significant to observe that both the Lord’s Supper and Baptism speak of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is therefore little wonder that Satan would seek to weaken these powerful teachings through disuse, misuse, and abuse. There are those who teach that a group of people cannot rightly call themselves a Church unless they practice Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is more than likely, for God has given them to us by way of commandment (Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).