(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 3, 2001
This morning I want to go over the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Communion
that we practice here at Grace Bible Church. We live in a predominantly Roman Catholic area and it is
important to understand the difference between what they teach and what we teach in these areas.
The very first difference is that Roman Catholicism calls these ordinances, “sacraments,” by which a
person gains additional grace through their practice. We do not find that the Bible teaches that you can
gain grace through any work. By definition, grace is something you receive that you do not deserve. That
is why we do not call them sacraments. We find that these two rituals are commanded by our Lord as a
means of identifying with and remembering Him. That is why we call them, “ordinances.” They are not
optional for the true Christian.
This morning we are going to examine each of these ordinances and then practice them.
History of Christian Baptism
Christian baptism arose from Jewish baptism rituals. Levitical law demanded that unclean things,
including humans, were to be washed for ceremonial cleaning. Leviticus 15:13 even speaks of the
person bathing in “running” water. Jewish proselyte baptism was a sign that the convert had changed
from a gentile to a Jewish orientation of following the God and laws of Israel. The baptism of repentance
practiced by John and Jesus was symbolic of the cleansing away of sin. The baptism itself did not take
away sins, but it symbolized the righteousness and cleansing given to the individual as they confessed
their sins and placed their trust in God alone. Christian baptism arose out of these as an identification
with Jesus Christ and a cleansing from sin. We shall see this clearly in the Scriptures in a few minutes,
but this is also in keeping with the very meaning of the word “baptize.”
Meaning of Baptism
Our word, “baptize,” is a transliteration of the Greek word,
baptizw /baptizo, which means to “dip”
or “immerse,” and is in fact translated that way in John 13:26 and Rev. 19:13. The baptized object
becomes identified with whatever it is “dipped” or “immersed” into. For example, a piece of cloth
“immersed” into indelible dye will always be identified with that dye. When the Bible teaches that the
Christian is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), it is showing that the Christian is spiritually identified with
Christ in death (Gal.2:20), burial (Col.2:12), and resurrection (Col. 2:12; 3:1). The word is also
sometimes used in the sense of “washing” with water. Christian baptism also includes the idea of
spiritual cleansing or forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38:22:16, cf. Titus 3:5). The spiritual, inward, and
personal change experienced by the believer in Christ is pictured in a physical, outward, and public way
through water baptism.
Mode of Baptism
There are three different modes of baptism that are practiced in Christian churches, but only full
immersion is in keeping with the meaning of the word and the historical practice of the church. The
Roman Catholic Church, as well as most of the mainline denominations, currently practice sprinkling as
the method of baptism, and a few churches practice “pouring,” which is in reality just sprinkling with a
lot more water. While the mode of Baptism is not critical, I do believe it is important that we should try
to follow the examples given in Scripture and use the method that most clearly illustrates the meaning
and purpose of the ritual.
I have already pointed out that to “baptize” something was to immerse it. When Jesus was baptized
by John, He went up (anabainw / anabaino) from the water (Matt. 3:16). We also find that John would
baptize in a place where there was “much water there” (John 3:23). John would not need “much water”
and Jesus would not have to “come up from” the water if sprinkling or pouring was used. The practice of
the early church also was immersion. When Philip baptized the Ethiopian in Act 8:36-38, they stopped
the chariot when they came to some water and went down (katabainw /
katabaino) into (eiV/ eis) the
water. There is no Biblical text that even suggests another method was practiced.
Historically, the Christian church practiced only the mode of full immersion until the Middle Ages.
While there is evidence for Baptism by pouring being used in the second century, that was only done
when water was scarce. The Roman Catholic church did not recognize other forms of baptism except
immersion until 1311. The Lutheran and Reformed churches inherited the form of sprinkling from the
Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) did not begin sprinkling until
1645. The case for sprinkling is weak for it goes against the meaning of the word and the obvious
examples of Scripture and church history.
There is also the symbolism involved. Catholic Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In
immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of
baptizing is more commendable.” We agree that immersion best pictures the death, burial and
resurrection of Christ and therefore also the individual’s identification with Jesus
We practice baptism by full immersion because it best fits the meaning of the word, the historical
practice of Jesus and the early church, and best fits the symbolism involved.
Purpose of Baptism
There is much contention about the purpose of baptism. That is not because the Bible is unclear, but
because theologies developed by men seek to overturn the Scriptures.
In Roman Catholicism, and in some other Christian religions, baptism is the means by which the
individual is cleansed from Adam’s sin. That is why they baptize infants. However, there is nothing in
Scripture to even suggest this idea, much less teach it. This practice sprang up from the idea that the
ritual of baptism itself is a means of gaining God’s grace. However, the only means by which we can be
cleansed from our sins is through being justified by faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed as
the atonement for our sins (Eph. 1:7). He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Those who do not
have the Son do not have the life, and those that do have the Son have the life (1 John 5:11,12).
Other groups have taken this same idea and teach that unless you are baptized, you cannot be saved.
They cite 1 Peter 3:21 as Biblical support – And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you– not the
removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience– through the resurrection of
Jesus Christ.” Peter says something similar in Acts 3:37 in response to the people asking what they
should do in response to his sermon that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was risen from the dead.
“Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
While it may appear at first glance that baptism is necessary for salvation, even in both of these passages
it is not baptism itself, but what it represents that saves – belief and identification with the resurrected
Christ. The scripture is clear in many places that no act of righteousness which you can do can save you
from your sin. For example, Titus 3:5-7, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in
righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy
Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by
His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
A person should not be baptized as an effort to gain or to keep salvation. Water baptism does not
save! Salvation is completely by grace through faith in Christ as Savior (Acts 16:31; Eph .2:8-9) and
not by good works including water baptism. Baptism should be a result of salvation. Note the order in
Acts 8:12, “when they believed, . . . they were baptized” (see also Acts 16:31,33, 18:8).
I am not minimizing Baptism for it is important, and in the New Testament we consistently find that
those who come to believe in Jesus are baptized. There should be serious questioning of the salvation of
a person that refuses to be baptized. However, baptism does not save or add to salvation. That is not its
Among those holding to reformed or covenant theology, there is the idea that baptism brings a child
into the covenant relationship the parents have with Christ. For these groups, baptism is essentially the
New Testament replacement of the Old Testament ritual of circumcision among the Jews. That is an
interesting concept, but not one that can be demonstrated by Scripture. That is not the purpose of
The purpose of baptism is to identify the individual with Jesus Christ’s death, burial and
resurrection. It is the outward ritual of something that should have already taken place in the individual’s
life. Their old self is crucified with Christ and they no longer live, but the life they now live is by faith in
Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6). As Romans 6:4 puts it, “Therefore we have been buried with Him
through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Baptism is a public profession of a person’s faith in
Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. They are proclaiming that they have turned their back on their
former life of sin and have begun to walk in a new life of righteousness for God. That is why we
encourage those that are going to be baptized to also give their testimony of salvation. Going down into
the water is identification with His death and burial and represents the death of their old self. Coming up
out of the water is identification with His resurrection and their being raised to walk in newness of life.
Requirements for Christian Baptism
Out of the purpose of baptism comes the requirements for Christian baptism. The New Testament
teaches that only true believers in Christ should be baptized. First, Jesus command in the great
commission is to baptize people after they have become disciples (Matt. 28:19). Second, baptism is
reserved for believers because only believers have been spiritually baptized into the body of Christ by
the Holy Spirit (I Cor.12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”). In the book of
Acts, people expressed repentance or faith and received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts
2:38,41; 8:12; 10:47-48; 16:31-33; 18:8). Spiritual baptism must be a reality through trusting Christ as
personal Savior before water baptism can have its true scriptural meaning for a person. A person
baptized before salvation becomes just a wet unsaved person instead of a dry one.
This means that baptism should be limited to people who are old enough to know Jesus as their
personal Lord and savior. This
excludes infants since they cannot understand these things. Also, the Bible does not give a single clear
example of infant baptism.
While an infant cannot believe, a small child can. Jesus Himself spoke of “these little ones who
believe in me” (Matt. 18:6). If a child gives clear testimony of saving faith in Jesus Christ and shows a
basic understanding of Christian baptism, then such a child is eligible for baptism, just as an adult would
The principle to remember is that genuine belief in Jesus must precede Christian baptism if it is to
be scriptural and meaningful.
Motive for Christian Baptism
Why should a Christian desire to be baptized? True Christians have a genuine love for Christ which
motivates them to obey their Lord’s commandments (1 John 4:19, cf. John 14:21, “He who has my
commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me,“). Christians should be baptized as an act of
obedience to express the reality of their love for Christ (Matt. 28:19, cf. John 14:15). Jesus’ own baptism
“to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15-16) gives an example of obedience for the believer to follow in
Christian baptism is like a soldier who puts on his uniform, not to become a soldier, but because he is
a soldier and wants to publicly identify himself as a soldier. In Christian baptism the believer publicly
identifies himself with Christ and His people (cf. Rom.6:3-4; 1 Cor.12:13).
This morning we have two men that want to make that public identification with Jesus Christ. If you
profess to know Jesus as your Lord and savior but have not been baptized, then you need to. Pick up the
explanation sheet on Baptism in the literature rack at the back of the church, and then talk with me about
it and we will make the appropriate arrangements with you.
The second ordinance I want to discuss with you this morning is the Lord’s Supper. It is a biblically
ordained rite for the life of the church and a means by which God is worshiped (1 Cor 11:20). It is also
called “communion” from the apostle’s reference to the cup and the bread as the “communion of the
blood of Christ” and the “communion of the body of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16). It is also referred to by some
as “Eucharist,” “breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7) and the “Lord’s Table” (1 Cor. 10:21).
The Institution of The Lord’s Supper
As with baptism, the Lord’s Supper was instituted directly by Jesus’ command. The night before His
death, Jesus gathered with His disciples to eat the Passover meal. The Passover meal had been a time of
remembrance of God’s redemption of His people, Israel, from slavery in Egypt. Jesus took this occasion
to institute a memorial to His own imminent redemptive death. However, this memorial rite does not
look back on redemptive types, but directly to Jesus Christ who was the perfect and final sacrifice given
for man. Accounts of this event are recorded in Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20 and 1
The Practice of the Early Church
The early church observed this rite from the very beginning. Immediately after Pentecost they were
“breaking bread” in remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice (Acts 2:42,46). This was practiced alongside
learning the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship and prayers. So from the very beginning the Lord’s table
played a significant part in the worship and edification of God’s people as they met together.
The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper
The meaning of the Lord’s supper is primarily summed up in the command of Jesus, “This do in
remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24,25). It is first and foremost a memorial rite of Jesus and His
redemptive death, even as the Passover was a remembrance of God’s redemption of His people from
slavery in Egypt. Based upon a common participation in Christ and His salvation, there is also in the
Lord’s Supper a communion or fellowship of believers in the unity of His body (1 Cor 10:16). These two
thoughts of the remembrance of Christ’s work on the cross and the fellowship with the members of His
body are the focuses of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The remembrance of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper is threefold. First, it is a remembrance of His
sacrificial death. The very elements and words used in it emphasize the communion as a remembrance of
the death of Christ. The bread, signifying His body, and wine, signifying His blood, speak of sacrificial
death, for to the ancient Hebrew the “body and blood” already referred to the two component parts of the
sacrificial animal that are separated when it was killed. Jesus’ death is therefore the sacrifice which is the
basis of the new covenant (Mark 14:24). This is not to overlook the fact that it is a “remembrance of
Me,” that is, of Christ Himself as the person of the Saviour who gave Himself. It does however point out
the fact that the climax of His ministry and foundation of salvation was the giving of His life as a ransom
for many (Mark 10:45). The remembrance of His death is a remembrance of the event which brought the
promised forgiveness of sins and the opportunity for reconciliation between God and man. Communion
proclaims Jesus’ death as the final salvation act of God. It is a reminder to the church that its salvation is
in the atoning death of Jesus. The command is to “do this in remembrance of Me” as the proclamation of
the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:25,26).
In this remembrance of the death of Christ there is no thought of a re-enactment of His death as in
the sacrifice of the Roman mass and also among some others. The sacrificial death in the Lord’s Supper,
as in the Jewish Passover, has already taken place. The ritual and the explanatory words serve as a
remembrance and a proclamation of what God has already done. Rather than any sacrifice to God, the
Lord’s Supper is totally concerned with the movement of grace from God to man which flows from what
Christ has already done. This direction is indicated in the Lord’s words over the bread and cup, “This is
My body, which is for you, ” and “This is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of
many” (1 Cor 11:24; Mark 14:24). The elements signify something that is done toward man. Christ has
“died for sins once for all” and is now seated on the “right hand of the Father” (Heb 10:12). The actions
of breaking the bread and pouring the wine do not represent Christ dying again as a sacrifice to God on
man’s behalf, but rather a memorial to the sacrifice He has already made on the cross. Jesus is not re-sacrificed.
Second, the Lord’s Supper is a present fellowship with Christ. In partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the
Christian shares in the “communion in the blood of Christ,” and in the “communion of the body of Christ
(1 Cor. 10:16). The word “communion” used here is the same Greek word, (koinwnia / koinonia), that
is also translated “fellowship.” There is a sense of being in fellowship with Christ. This is more than just
sharing a meal with Him, for He gives Himself as the very substance of that meal.
There are several views of the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. Roman Catholicism
teaches that the elements of bread and wine turn into the literal body and blood of Christ once they have
been consecrated by the priest. This view, called transubstantiation, means that those who partake of the
bread and wine are literally eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood. This view requires that
those who practice it will be doing what was and is considered an abomination by the Jews (Lev. 3:17;
7:26,27; 17:10-14). It is also a view that goes against the understanding the disciples must have had
when Jesus instituted the rite. Jesus was present with them, so they could not have believed that they
were actually eating him. This view also goes against the metaphorical language often used by Jesus and
which was used in instituting the rite. For example, Jesus calls himself a “door” (John 10:2), a “true
vine” (John 15:1), “living bread” (John 4:51-65), and in regards to the cup, Jesus said, “this cup is the
new covenant . . . “. Yet the cup was not the new covenant itself, but only a symbol for it. These
arguments also speak against the Lutheran position called consubstantiation which is similar to the
Roman Catholic view except that the elements themselves are not said to be transformed, but the real
presence of the body and blood of Christ are said to be present “in, with, and under” the bread and the
wine when the elements are partaken.
The view with the greatest biblical support is that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial with Christ being
present is some real sense spiritually. The bread and the wine are visible symbols of His presence, and
partaking of them visibly symbolizes spiritual participation in the salvation of His sacrificial death.
Third, the Lord’s Supper is an anticipation of Christ’s return. This hope was expressed by Jesus when
in the institution of the supper He said, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the
vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25; cf. Matt. 26:29; Luke
22:16,18). This same sense is expressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 11:26 when he says that the Lord’s
Supper is a proclamation of Christ’s death “until He comes.” The Lord’s Supper is anticipatory to that day
when we will have direct fellowship with Him in the kingdom of God.
The Efficacy of The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper was designed to be a blessing to the church whereby believers might partake and
thereby be nourished and strengthened in the life of God. The efficacy of the Lord’s Supper in the
believers life is not concerned so much with a special presence of Christ, but with the further enjoyment
of His continual presence in the believer’s life. The believer already has Christ in his heart (Eph. 3:17)
and Jesus promised to never leave or forsake the believer (Heb. 13:5). Christ’s spiritual presence in the
Lord’s Supper brings the blessing of a fresh awareness of His continual presence within the believer. It is
a reminder of this great promise and truth. The Lord’s Supper is not a special means of saving grace in
itself, as within Roman Catholicism, but a blessing received by faith as the participant remembers the
redemptive work of Christ and the relationship the believer now has with Him.
Participants of the Lord’s Supper
Who should partake of the Lord’s Supper? This rite was given to the disciples and the church. Only
believers who are a part of the body of Christ are entitled to partake of it. Paul adds that the believer
must also have examined himself in order to participate in it in a worthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27,28).
Communion is a time for fellowship with Christ and with other believers. Many of the Corinthians had
turned what was to be a love feast (Jude 12) into a time of division and thus they were not eating the
Lord’s table properly. Some were drunk and gluttonous while others were going hungry. Because of this,
some had become sick and others had died (1 Cor 11:20-30). Partaking of Communion in a “worthy
manner” does not refer to us coming in our own righteousness, for we would never be worthy based on
that, but rather in the righteousness of Christ with a proper attitude of humility, repentance and gratitude
as we think seriously about the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how He wants us believers to live. It
should prompt us to holy living and correcting any problems we might have with other believers. We
will be giving you time to reflect on these things in a few minutes.
We do not restrict participation to members of this church, but invite all that profess faith in Jesus
Christ as their Lord and savior to participate. Those that know their sins are forgiven by Christ and that if
they died today that they would be with Him in Heaven are part of the body of Christ and should follow
His commands concerning this. If these things are not true of you, then please just pass the elements
along, for they have no meaning for you and would in fact bring the Lord’s judgement upon you.
The Mode of the Lord’s Supper
While the early church often observed the Lord’s Supper in connection with a meal called a “love
feast” (1 Cor. 11:17-22; Acts 20:7,11), the elements of communion itself were distinguished from the
meal itself. Over time, as there were problems with the way some celebrated the meal and the rise of a
sacerdotal spirit in which the memorial supper was turned into a mysterious priestly sacrifice, the
connection of the Lord’s Supper with the love feast ceased.
The essential elements of the supper, as instituted by Christ and practiced by the church, include:
1. Prayer over the elements, setting them apart as symbols of the body and blood of Christ’s
sacrificial death. These prayers consisted of thanksgiving and praise for Christ’s sacrifice and the fruits
of salvation which flow from it.
2. The distribution of the bread and cup to all. The manner in which the bread is broke and the wine
is poured does not have a special symbolism, but are only involved in their distribution.
3. The recalling of the words of Jesus explaining the bread and cup as representative of His body and
blood in sacrifice for His people and inviting them to “take” and “eat.” The difference in wording of the
biblical accounts indicates that the exact wording is not essential.
4. Eating and drinking the elements, signifying reception of Christ and His sacrificial death for the
spiritual nourishment of His people.
In order to truly celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the entire person must be involved in the performance
of these acts. Unless the spirit is involved in appropriating by faith the realities symbolized in the
elements and actions, it is a meaningless ritual that brings down judgment upon those who participate in
such a superficial manner.
Jesus and the early church used bread and wine for the elements, but the emphasis was upon their
symbolic significance and not on the nature of the elements themselves. We use Matzah crackers
(unleavened bread) since it would be similar to what Jesus had used with the disciples at the Last
Supper. We use grape juice so as not to be a stumbling block to anyone that has a problem with wine.
There is no specification about who should administer the Lord’s Supper, but in that the command to
continue the observance was given to the disciples, it is logical to assume that it would be recognized
leaders of the church that would administer it. However, the lack of specific biblical instruction implies
that this is not reserved for a distinct class of clergy, but can be led by any true Christian.
There is no set time or frequency for celebrating the Lord’s Supper, though it seems to have been
celebrated frequently by the early church. Acts 20:7 indicates that, at least in Troas, it was celebrated
weekly. Acts 2:46 may indicate that it was celebrated more often in Jerusalem. In either case, Paul’s
comment in 1 Cor 10:26 that as “often as you eat . . .” indicates that it is observed on a frequent basis,
though exactly how often is not indicated. Our practice is to vary when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper
so as to protect it from becoming a meaningless ritual tacked on at the end of a worship service.
At this time we would like to give you some time to prepare yourself for partaking of the Lord’s
Supper by prayer and meditation in confessing any sins and reflecting on what Jesus has done for you.
Excerpts taken from: Christian Baptism by Dr. Henry Holloman and from The Church in God’s
Program, by Robert L. Saucy
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about
something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following:
1) Count how many times the word “Lord’s Supper” or “communion” are mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about either what
Communion means to you or what would be needed for you to participate.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the difference between a “sacrament” and an “ordinance”? What is the
origin of Christian Baptism? What does the word “baptize” mean? What are the different modes of baptism? Which mode best reflects the
Biblical meaning and purpose of baptism? What is the purpose of Baptism? Is baptism necessary for salvation? How important is baptism?
Why shouldn’t infants be baptized? What are the Biblical requirements for baptism? Why is the proper motive for baptism? If you have not
been baptized, why? What are some of the other names used for the “Lord’s Supper”? What was Jesus doing when He commanded this
rite to be observed? How long has the church practiced it? What is the primary meaning Communion? How is it a “remembrance,” A
“fellowship” and an “anticipation”? What is the nature of Jesus’ presence in the Lord’s Supper? What effect should Communion have on
the person partaking of it? Who should participate in it? What preparation should you do before partaking? What warning is given about
taking it improperly?
Sermon Notes – 6/3/2001 A.M.
Baptism and Communion – Selected Scriptures
History of Christian Baptism – Leviticus 15:13
Meaning of Baptism: baptizw /baptizo
Mode of Baptism
Historically, the Christian church practiced only the mode of full immersion until the Middle Ages
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly
expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.”
Purpose of Baptism
Requirements for Christian Baptism
Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor.12:13; Acts 2:38,41; 8:12; 10:47-48; 16:31-33; 18:8
A person baptized before salvation becomes just a wet unsaved person instead of a dry one.
Motive for Christian Baptism
THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Institution of The Lord’s Supper
The Practice of the Early Church – Acts 2:42,46
A Fellowship – 1 Cor. 10:16
Trans-substantiation, Con-substantiation, Spiritual Presence
Lev. 3:17; 7:26,27; 17:10-14
The Efficacy of The Lord’s Supper
Participants of the Lord’s Supper – 1 Cor. 11:20-30
The Mode of the Lord’s Supper