Christian Basics- Chapter 11, Baptism and the…
AUTHOR: Guenther, Herb and Debbie
PUBLISHED ON: May 5, 2003
PUBLISHED IN: Bible Studies

        Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

    We believe water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances to
be observed by the Church during this age.  They are, however, not to
be regarded as means of salvation or prerequisites for church
membership.  (This church shall practice believer’s baptism by
immersion.) 1

    Baptism and The Lord’s Supper are universally practiced by
Christian churches.  These two rituals are known as church ordinances
or sacraments.  Ordinances are rites that believers practice as part of
their Christian faith.  These rites are outward symbols and testimonies
of inward spiritual grace.  However the experience of baptism and the
Lord’s supper do not create spiritual change.  Only God through
Christ’s shed blood can make us a new creation.

    No act of man, or ritual observed, will create merit in a person.
Our very best works, no matter how well intentioned, do not change
spiritual reality.  We can however publicly and privately demonstrate
our belonging to Christ by being baptized and having Holy Communion.


    When we are baptized we are doing several things.  The first
mention of baptism is in Matthew 3:6 where the Bible says ” Confessing
their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”  In this
passage John was teaching the people to confess there sins and be
cleansed.  This was before the ministry of Christ.  This early baptism
was a baptism of water only.  John spoke of one who would come to
baptise in the spirit.  In fact some of the people who were baptized by
John “of water” were later re-baptized “in the Spirit”.

    An example of this is found in Acts 8:15-17. ” When they arrived,
they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because
the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been
baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed
their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  Another verse
that speaks of this is Acts 11:16.  “Then I remembered what the Lord
had said: `John baptized with water,  but you will be baptized with the
Holy Spirit.'”  The Baptism that the believer receives is both a
baptism of the Spirit and of water.

    Baptism has always been the churches initiation rite, an event
that marks the beginning of committed membership in the church.  In
believer’s baptism the Holy Spirit is also available to empower the new
Christian to live a new life.  The receipt of the Holy Spirit may
happen before or after the act of baptism.

    The order that events happened varied from case to case.  In Acts
2:38 it was faith-baptism-Spirit.  In Acts 10:44-48 it was
Spirit-faith-baptism.  And in Galatians 3:2 it was
faith-Spirit-baptism.  For infants through the ages it has obviously
been baptism-faith-Spirit.  The order is not as important as is the
result.  The result is a new life in Christ enabled by the Spirit and
sealed by the blood of Christ.

    Baptism as was commonly practiced in the New Testament church was
immersion baptism.  The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word
“baptizo” which means to dip.  This word (baptizo {bap-tid’-zo}) is
from a derivative of bapto (to dip); and is a verb.  The word can have
the following meanings 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge
(as in the ship sank).  2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to
wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe.  3) to

    The clearest example that  shows the meaning of baptizo is a text
from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It
is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both
words bapto and baptixo.  Nicander says that in order to make a pickle,
the vegetable  should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and
then ‘baptized’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern
the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary.
The second, the act of baptising the vegetable,  produces a permanent

    When used in the NT, this word more often refers to our union and
identification with Christ than to our water baptism.  For example in
Mark 16:16 the Bible says ‘He that believes and is baptized shall be
saved’. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough.
There must be a union with Him, a real and permanent change, like the
vegetable changing to the pickle!

    Why baptism by immersion?  The reason for this is not precisely
known but several ideas have been presented.  One idea is that in
believer’s baptism we die to sin and are born again to Christ.  (See
Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12) Thus the immersion in water is symbolic
of our death to sin, and when we emerge we are coming out of the grave
a new creation in Christ.

    Another explanation is that rivers and lakes were the most
convenient sources of water where the believer could be publicly
identified with Christ.  Yet another idea notes that many of the Jewish
ceremonial cleansings took place in the Jordan or other rivers, so the
immersion in a river for symbolic cleansing had the weight of culture
and tradition. However, both washing in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:8) and
sprinkling (Numbers 8:7) are given as ways to be cleansed.

    In the New Testament we are told to be baptized in the name of
Jesus Christ.  This is specifically mentioned so that we always
remember that it is the sacrifice of Christ that cleanses us from sin,
not our own actions.  This is sometimes a source of controversy between
denominations in the church.  Many modern baptisms are done in the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Who should be baptized?  This question likewise is a source of
disagreement between church denominations.  Few, if any, Christians
would argue against the baptism of all Christians.  The Scriptures are
very clear on this requirement.  Baptism is part of the great
commission given in Matthew 28:19.  Here Christ charges the disciples;
with baptising all believers.  When the people of Jerusalem where
confronted with a living Christ, the Son of God, whom they had
crucified, they were afraid and asked what they should do.  Peter said
“repent and be baptized every one of you”.

    The controversy is not so much a case of who, but rather when.
When we look at the New Testament church we are also looking at first
generation believers.  Therefore, it is not a surprise that the vast
majority of the Scriptural record deals with adult baptism.  The
question hinges on whether or not this fact is due to design of

    The church is divided into two camps.  A large section of the
church believes that infant baptism is a must, and that delaying
baptism may imperil a child salvation if it where to pass away.  Thus,
many people will have a sick baby baptized at birth.  Indeed I have a
sister who briefly stopped breathing as a newborn.  She was immediately
baptized by the nuns who worked in the Roman Catholic affiliated

    The second group practices “believer’s baptism”.  In this case
only people who are of age, and who have professed an acceptance of the
message of Christ are baptized.  Elmbrook Church, and many other
evangelical churches have this view.

    Most of us, myself included were baptized as infants, and many
churches, ours included recognises this as a valid baptism.  When we
are baptized as infants we are publicly committed to become a member of
the body of believers.  However the rite of baptism does not create
righteousness or faith in the baby being baptized.

    There is Scriptural evidence of children being baptized in several
passages in the Bible.  When the head of the household became a
believer the common practice was for the whole household to be baptized
as well.  This includes not only children, but often servants as well.
(See Acts 3:38-39, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, Acts 18:8, 1 Corinthians
1:16).  In all of these cases, belief by the head of the household at
the very least was present before baptism.

    Ultimately our view of who should be baptized has more to do with
what we believe baptism to be.  If we accept baptism as outward sign
then we will want faith first and baptism second.  If we believe that
the act of baptism will create faith, and destine us to become a
believer and receiver of the message of Christ, then of course we will
practise infant baptism.

    Baptism is picture for us in 2 Kings 5:1-14.  Baptism is promised
for us in Ezekial 36:22-32.  Baptism is realised for us in Titus

    Martin Luther was prone to fits of severe depression.  During
these time of depression he thought back to the fact that he had been
baptized.  In addition to the other meaning of baptism it is the mark
of belonging to Christ.  We may not remember the day we first believed,
the day Christ first became real to us.  However we can all either
remember our baptism, or easily assure ourselves that we have been
baptized.  The fact of our baptism is a sign of God’s grace given to
                          The Lord’s Supper

    What is the Lord’s Supper?  The Lord’s Supper is also an ordinace
of the church.  As with baptism there is controversy surrounding the
meaning and practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
Other names for the Lord’s Supper are Holy Communion, Breaking of
Bread, and the Eucharist.

    Luke 22:19-20 says the following in the Authorised (King James)
Version ” And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave
unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in
remembrance of me.  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This
cup [is] the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” The New
International Version translates the same passage as follows.  ” And he
took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In
the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is
the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. “

    This request from Jesus to remember Him in this way is a logical
one.  We can see from His request that He truely understands us.  The
act of eating the bread, and drinking the wine will remind us that He
has gone before us and paid the price for our salvation with His body
and blood.  Each time that we take the Lord’s supper we are physically
reminded that He has died for each one of us individually.  As we share
in the communion we also share the gift of His life poured out for us.

    When we have the Lord’s Supper we are also in the fellowship of
other believers.  We are reminded that we have been given the gift of
salvation by Jesus one by one, but also that He has given us a living
body, His church to be a part of.  The Lord’s Supper points us back to
His death on the cross, forward to His present life in glory and His

    It is important to remember that the “Last Supper” above was the
celebration of passover.  The passover is the most holy of days for the
Jews.  The Jewish people eat the passover supper every year to remember
the covenant that God had made with them.

    The Lord’s Supper is also a covenant meal.  It is a symbol of the
new covenant in Jesus’ blood, not that of a lamb’s.  In the same way as
God made provision life and freedom for the Jews in Egypt, God’s action
through Christ’s death made a way to new life for all believers.  It is
a reminder of the forgiveness that His shed blood purchased for us.

    What is meant by “This is my body”?  Christ here has taken the
bread and broken it into pieces to that all of the apostles could share
it.  On a symbolic level we can think of the bread as we eat it as food
for our souls.  Christ, in His humanity, gave His real earthly body
over to death to create the believer, a new creation.  His work here on
earth was daily a labor of feeding and nurturing us.  This ministry
extends to this day through the Scripture.

    The eating of the bread commemorate and confirm God’s commitment
to us. The taking of the Lord’s Supper also confirm our commitment to
Him.  We are told to have Holy Communion in unity, so it also commits
us to each other and His church.  Indeed the Lord’s Supper is thought
of as a wedding feast.  Christ is the groom and the church (that’s us),
is the bride. (Ephesians 5:25, Revelations 19:9)

    The early church struggled with many of the same issues that we
do.  One of them was the practice of the Lord’s Supper.  This had
caused division and bitterness between believers.  The following
passage is taken from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  The
letter addresses several issues surrounding church practice, however we
will look only at what he has to say about the Lord’s Supper.  The
passage is from 1 Corinthians 11:20-29 (NIV).
    “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for
as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.
One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  Don’t you have homes to eat
and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those
who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this?
Certainly not!  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to
you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when
he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way,
after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in
my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For
whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s
death until he comes.  Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the
cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against
the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before
he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and
drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks
judgment on himself. “

    How are we to properly celebrate the Lord’s Supper?  Paul suggests
for starters that we should remember the time that it was instituted.
This was Christ’s last sharing of passover with His disciples.  It is
only a matter of hours before He will be lead away to death on the
cross.  Both the fact that it is a remembrance of the passover supper,
and the imminent death of Christ tell us that the Lord’s Supper is a
solemn affair.  We would never treat a remembrance of out earthly
parents lightly.  How therefore, can we treat a remembrance of our
heavenly Fathers work lightly?

    Paul commands the church to order and propriety when taking the
Lord’s Supper.  He tells us that those who receive the Lord’s Supper
unworthily are guilty of the body and blood of Christ.  Instead of
being cleansed they eat and drink judgment unto themselves.  This does
show that the penalty of taking the Lord’s Supper in an worthy manner
is an individual penalty of judgment.  This doesn’t mean that we are
ever worthy to be in God’s presence, rather it is our attitude towards
Jesus’ work and death that we need to examine before taking communion.

    Therefore I believe that each individual needs to prayerfully
consider our heart attitude before taking of the bread and wine.  I do
not believe that the church should prescribe tests to prevent those who
wish to, to sit at the Lord’s table.  In the same way we do not claim
to be able to read the state of another’s heart, and where it lies in
relation to God.

    How can we be unworthy to have Holy Communion?  If we, in our own
heart, know that we don’t belong to Christ, the unity with Christ which
makes the Lord’s Supper meaningful is missing.  If we are harboring a
known unconfessed sin, we are offending Christ by coming to His table
to share the meal with His children.  If we come without repentance we
are not recognizing the holiness of Christ.

    When Christ celebrated His last passover with the disciples He
washed their feet.  This was an unusual thing that got all of the
disciples attention.  One of the reasons that Christ washed their feet
was to show clearly the attitude we are to have to each other.  It is
one with no distinctions of class between brothers.  This was a problem
that the church in Corinth was having, and one we should be sensitive
to as well.
    We should take the Lord’s Supper regularly.  In the same way that
our body needs continued feeding and nourishment, so our soul needs
nourishment.  The Lord’s Supper is nourishment in Christ for our souls
growth and maturity.  We are told to practice the Lord’s Supper until
Christ returns, so the Lord’s supper continues to be celebrated today
in the true church worldwide.

    Christ did not lay down a schedule, so we do not know if regularly
means daily, or weekly, or some other interval of time.  This is left
up to the beliefs of the individual church and believer.

    For more information on the Lord’s supper see Acts 2:46, Jude 12,
Mark 14:22f, Matthew 26:26f, and 1 Timothy 4:4-5.

    What are the bread and wine that we use to celebrate the Lord’s
supper? There are three positions on this subject.  Most Protestant and
non-denominational churches believe that the bread and wine (elements)
used in the Lord’s supper are symbols of Christ’s body and blood.  They
believe that we are sitting together at the Lord’s table to remember
His covenant with us and His sacrifice to us.  Since Christ is present
at all times in all places with the Christian there is no special
indwelling or changing of the bread or wine.

    The Lutheran church holds the position that Christ is present with
the bread and wine.  This is called consubstantiation.  In this view
Christ is present with the unchanged bread and wine in a unique way.

    The third view is that of the Roman Catholic church.  They have
the view of transubstantiation.  They believe that during the
celebration of mass the actual body and blood of Christ are present.
The celebration of mass they say changes the bread and wine into the
body and blood of Christ.  The bread and wine are changed and are no
longer bread and wine.  This also means that Christ is continually
dying and shedding His blood.  This means that Christ did not die one
time for all on the cross of Calvary but is continually sacrificed.
(Hebrews 10:14,18)

          Discussion Questions

1)  What clue does the Greek word for baptism give to the significance
    of baptism?

2)  What is the relationship between faith and the ritual act of

3)  Can we have fellowship with Christ without being spiritually

4)  What might make it wrong for you to have Holy Communion?

5)  What is present in the elements of Holy Communion?

6)  Who decides who should have communion?

7)  Who may celebrate the Breaking of Bread?

1 From The Statement of Faith  from the Constitution of Elmbrook
  Church.  Waukesha WI.          (74)

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