This is the seventh installment of the “Here I Stand” series. I’ve covered my stand on the Scriptures, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of man, and salvation. Now I want to cover the ordinances of the Church, specifically the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and Baptism.
Some, in particular Roman Catholics, call these two ceremonies “sacraments”. Because the Roman Catholic Church teaches that these sacraments in themselves actually convey grace to people some Protestants (Baptists. E-Free, and other evangelicals) will not use the term “sacraments”, but instead prefer the term “ordinances”.
This is thought to be an appropriate term because baptism and the Lord’s Supper were “ordained” by Christ. Other Protestants like those from Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions are willing to use the word “sacraments” to refer to these ceremonies, but don’t endorse the Roman Catholic position. Basically I don’t want to get hung up on the terminology here. Also while this is an important doctrine I would not consider this to be a major doctrine on par with the topics previously covered.
Here is the Evangelical Free Church of America’s position:
We believe that water baptism and the Lord’s supper are ordinances to be observed by the Church during this present age. They are, however, not regarded as a means of salvation, (Article VII, 1950 EFCA Statement of Faith).
I believe there are two ordinances that are to be practiced by the Church: water baptism and communion. Neither ordinances has redeeming power, they are not to be viewed as a means of salvation. They are, however, to be observed by believers in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded us in Matthew to be baptized:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).
When Paul taught on Communion he shared that it was something that he “received from the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 11:23). So these are items that are to be practiced by the local church.
Water baptism is to be observed once by the believer in Jesus Christ. It is the picture of the believer’s salvation in Christ. The definition of the word, “baptizo”, which is transliterated from the original Greek to English literally means to immerse, or to dip. It gives the picture of being immersed in Christ – to identify oneself with Christ. It is also a picture of one’s salvation in Christ. This is why I believe that ideally the mode of baptism should be immersion.
Baptism is to be an act of obedience by the believer to Jesus’ command, subsequent to salvation, found in the pattern seen in Acts: “believe and be baptized”. While Romans 6 is describing spirit baptism, water baptism is a graphic picture of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. A believer is crucified with Christ and is dead to self and sin, and through the power of the resurrection is alive to God. The disciple of Christ walks in newness of life, (Romans 6:3-4).
Communion is a remembrance and a celebration in which we proclaim the Lord’s death, (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Instituted by the Lord Himself, (Matthew 26:26-30). The bread and the cup are symbolic of the body and shed blood of Christ on the cross. Communion is to be observed regularly by individual local congregations, (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) to remember Jesus’ sacrificial death as payment for our sins, and the oneness we have in the body of Christ. Scripture is clear the communion is to be partaken only by believers who have truly examined their lives, and confessed their sins to the Lord, (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).