The Ordinances of the Church – Baptism & Communion

(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

Sermon Study Sheets

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

June 3, 2001

The Ordinances of the Church

Baptism and Communion – Selected Scriptures

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 purpose.

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 baptism.

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 be.

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.

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 Corinthians 11:23-26.

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.

A Remembrance

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.

A Fellowship

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.

A Hope

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

Sermon Study Sheets


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.


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

Gal. 3:27; Gal.2:20; Col.2:12; Col. 2:12; 3:1; Acts 2:38:22:16, cf. Titus 3:5

Mode of Baptism

Matt. 3:16; John 3:23; Act 8:36-38; Acts 16:31; Eph .2:8-9

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

1 Peter 3:21; Acts 3:37; Titus 3:5-7

Note the order in Acts 8:12, “when they believed, . . . they were baptized” (see also Acts 16:31,33, 18:8)

Romans 6:1-11

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

I John 4:19, cf. John 14:21; Matt. 28:19, cf. John 14:15


The Institution of The Lord’s Supper

Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

The Practice of the Early Church – Acts 2:42,46

The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper – Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24,25

A Remembrance

Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-26

A Fellowship – 1 Cor. 10:16

Trans-substantiation, Con-substantiation, Spiritual Presence

Lev. 3:17; 7:26,27; 17:10-14

A Hope – Mark 14:25; cf. Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:16,18 : 1 Cor 11:26

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

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