Two Ordinances (Believer’s Baptism by Immersion and the Lord’s Supper)
There are two ordinances (commands) in the Bible for the church today. The first is baptism; the second is the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism is a command that comes directly from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as revealed in Matthew 28:19-20. Clearly we know this is an ordinance or command of the local church because it was revealed to us to be by Jesus Himself.
Acts 2:41 shows us that baptism was to identify ourselves as followers of Christ and add us to the membership of the local church. The context of this passage is on the day of Pentecost following Peter’s sermon regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ and our responsibility to that knowledge. After he had preached this message there were a number (3000) people who responded in repentance to that message and were baptized in response. By basis of their baptism they were “added” which implies being added to the church. Most are agreed then that baptism is what places us into the “church.” There are disagreements over how that happens. Those who believe that baptism is for believer’s only say that you have to profess faith and your baptism places you in the universal church and then by result places you in membership in the local church. Those who baptize infants believe it places them in a covenant community and somehow those who cannot “respond” to the Word are now part of the Church. The problem with this is that the text says those who “received” the Word were baptized, not infants who cannot receive the Word at all.
Acts 8:12 also confirms that one must respond to the Gospel first. This is similar to the previous verse where it was those who believed in the teaching of the Word of God concerning Christ who were baptized. There is no mention of those who cannot respond in faith to God being baptized here.
Even in the problematic passages like Acts 16:31-34 baptism does not apply to infants. While it does say that the whole household was baptized it does not mean that infants were baptized. It clearly says his whole household was saved If one must consciously repent of their sins and turn to Christ to be saved, then these are obviously not infants here that were saved and baptized. These were individuals in his household that could understand and accept the Gospel and therefore be baptized.
Therefore, baptism is clearly only for those who have repented of their sins and turned to Christ. It is designed to place them in the body of Christ and be recognized as members of a local church. Now we need to understand in what mode baptism should be performed
Lots of churches practice baptism by sprinkling or pouring water. Why do we fully immerse people in Baptist churches? It is for two reasons. First, and this is totally un-debated by those who do not practice immersion is that the Greek word “baptidzo” which we translate as “baptize” means to immerse. Those who practice sprinkling or pouring recognize this but do not follow it anyway.
Second, baptism represents the death and resurrection of Jesus. Romans 6:4 reveals to us that baptism is a picture of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. If one is not actually immersed under the water the picture is missing. Sprinkling or pouring can never reflect being dead (under ground) and coming back to life (coming up from under the ground). Only baptism by immersion can reflect that picture.
Baptism is pure and simply an act of immersing someone into water. It is a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It shows that we wish to be associated with Him and what happened to Him. It is only for believers; for those that profess faith in Jesus Christ and have repented of their sins and turned to follow Him. Its purpose is to demonstrate that we associate with Christ and what He did and His church. It places us into the body of Christ and makes us a member of a local church. It is a visible expression of our association with Christ and His church. It cannot be true baptism by sprinkling or pouring and it cannot be performed on infants.
The Lord’s Table, Supper, Communion, or the Eucharist makes up the second ordinance or command of the local church.
There are two main passages that teach the church about the Lord’s Supper.
Matthew 26:26–30 gives us the original institution of the Lord’s Supper by Jesus Himself. 1 Corinthians 11:23–34 gives us a re-iteration of that official institution as well as some added information regarding the purpose and attitude of the Lord’s Supper.
There are a number of things we can learn from these passages regarding the Lord’s Supper. First, again this is a commandment, instituted by Christ Himself, and reaffirmed by the apostle Paul. The church of Jesus Christ is required to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
Second, we read in the 1 Corinthians passage that we partake in remembrance of Him. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial. It is designed to focus our attention once again on what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. There is nothing mystical about the Lord’s Supper. It does not impart grace. It is simply a fresh reminder for us of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Third, not only is it a reminder of His work of salvation in the past, it is a promise of hope that He will return again. We proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is both a time of memorial, reflection, with a somber tone, it is also a time of celebration over the truth of Christ’s saving work on the cross and His promise to come again. We are to reflect on our own lives in relation to what Christ has done for us and rejoice in that He has provided us salvation.
Fourth, since it is an ordinance of the local church, we do not believe that the Lord’s Table should be performed outside of the regular meeting of God’s people in the local church.
Finally, the Lord’s Supper is taken by those who are baptized believers who are members of a local church of like faith and practice who are walking in the Lord. Since an un-baptized believer is an idea foreign to the New Testament, we require all those who participate in the Lord’s Supper to be a baptized member of a church that is like ours in doctrine and practice.