“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 Saviour, 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 coming.”
— Article VII of the Baptist Faith & Message
Christ has given two ordinances to his church, one for commitment and the other for remembrance. Many in the church today approach these acts of worship as individuals, choosing when, how, and in what manner they participate and understand them. Although salvation does come to the individual, the christian lives out the faith in community. This is the biblical understanding of corporate worship.
Many believers who first confess Christ as Lord hesitate to submit to the Lord’s baptism because they have been taught, “Baptism does not save you, Christ does.” Now, this is a true statement. Baptism does not save anyone from condemnation, but to misunderstand the command of our Lord Jesus to baptize (Matthew 28:19-20) leads to a self-centered religion that does not model the biblical standard. We are commanded to baptize. We are not asked to consider baptism as a choice. All references to baptism in the New Testament indicate that new believers were baptized immediately after conversion to Christ. (Acts 16:14-15; 30-33). There is no evidence in scripture nor in church history prior to the mid 20th century that new converts to Christ ever hesitated to submit to baptism. It is also clear that new converts understood that they were becoming part of a larger family of believers called the church. An individual relationship with Christ that overshadows the communal relations with other christians is not even an option in scripture.
Baptism is an individual, public commitment to the new covenant of Christ’s salvation. Subsequently, this ordinance shows that the individual is repentant, becoming a new person in Christ, and joining a larger family of Christians, the church. However, this individual mindset in baptism then carries over to the understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Many approach the Lord’s table as individuals rather than as a family…a body of believers together.
Communion, the term often used for the Lord’s Supper, literally means to be in community. Worship itself is in community. When Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body which is for you…” the you is plural, not singular. This is one hindrance to the english language. The word “you” can be either singular or plural and the reader’s responsibility is to recognize the context of this word in scripture to determine if it is singular or plural — (or learn Greek grammar to see more clearly the meaning of the word).
The very idea of partaking of the Lord’s Supper as individuals is contrary to the very act itself. Jesus broke bread with his twelve during his last passover feast (Matt 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20). Paul scolds the Corinthian church for not waiting on each other when breaking bread together (1 Corinthians 11:33). Paul likewise voices disapproval for their division in coming to the Lord’s table (1 Corinthians 11:17-20) “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” (11:20). Likewise, we too often approach the Lord’s table as individuals without considering that we are part of a community partaking together and in like manner with the church at Corinth we, “come together..not for the better but for the worse.” (11:17).
When the mindset of an individual christian relationship with Christ overshadows the communal reality of the faith, then both ordinances of the church are dishonored, thus dishonoring Christ himself. It is good from time to time for Christians to review why we partake in the ordinances of the church. In both circumstances, the Christian is submitting to a larger community through Christ. Baptism symbolizes submission of one’s life to Christ in cooperation with the church. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to the suffering and death that Christ endured for all Christians, his church. Christ is returning for his church and we are commanded to remember his death and resurrection until he returns.
Please join with me in prayer for clear, biblical understanding and teaching of the ordinances. Please join us on Sunday mornings as we grow stronger in our commitment to each other through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In HIS Grip
Pastor Bryant Owens