There are two ordinances that a local church is enjoined to participate in: Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
A lot of denominations get this wrong. While most agree on two ordinances, some call them sacraments, after the Roman Catholic teaching that we must earn our salvation by our works.
That’s a heresy. Salvation is by faith through grace, lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8-9.
The denominations attempt to soften it by saying it’s a means of “added Grace”.
Okay, now, someone define what exactly that means.
I’ve just checked the canons and creeds of those denominations briefly, and there’s no mention of it. In fact, they boldly reject the very concept.
If we look at Grace being “Unmerited favor”, and we define it as concerning salvation (which is how the Bible defines it), then “Means of added grace” means it’s a sacrament, something you must perform to achieve salvation. Now, the Roman Catholic church explains that sacraments performed equal a lesser stay in purgatory, as they believe in Baptismal Regeneration – in other words, salvation saves you.
It’s heresy, no matter how you define it.
So, what the other denominations profess is that they believe in salvation through faith by grace, then many of them tell you they believe in salvation by predestination, then they tell you they believe in baptismal regeneration, then they throw up their hands and call the two ordinances “Means of added grace”. When pressed, they ultimately tell you, “I have no idea – it’s what we learned in Seminary and I just never questioned it.”
So… what is an ordinance?
Technically, it’s a horrible word, as it means a law. If your church never performs either one, they’re really lacking, and I’d leave them eventually, but it’s still a church, and… you’re still saved.
All right, moving along.
We perform the Lord’s Supper as a MEMORIAL. Its actual intention is to heal rifts in the Lord’s body.
“For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:18, KJV)
Let me speak plainly for a minute. If I could. Every church has cliques.
Every church is broken. Cliques are not a good thing. When you get a circle of people that are pretty up in their knowledge of the Bible, involved in the church, they habitually circle the wagons, and lock that off from others to participate. Completely wrong, and Paul would urgently write more epistles on the issue if he was with us still.
Here’s the way it works – Christians disciple people. Are you a new Christian? Someone needs you to take you under their wing, show you the ropes, give you advice, help you to get involved in whatever ministry of helps that the Lord has called you to. The person who’s always looking to do something in the church is usually told to sit. Wrong advice. They’re being called of God, and eventually the Holy Spirit just stops moving in that church if you do not put into place those people the Holy Spirit calls. It’s in Acts…. look it up.
The Lord’s Supper is supposed to put aside differences, and break down cliques. And it’s the Pastor’s job to preach on it every now and then.
How is the Lord’s Supper performed? Solemnly. Remember what it’s about. We are remembering the offierng of the Lord for us.
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26, KJV)
It’s solemn. It really doesn’t matter what the music is that’s played as the elements are distributed, or even if there is some! I’ve heard “Just as I am”, etc. I personally don’t think it should be every month myself, because it takes away the solemnity of it. But that’s a decision for every church to decide.
When we hand you the bread, what is it really?
Bread. It’s a SYMBOL of the Lord. It’s not the Lord. It doesn’t magically become anything except usually bread crumbs in the sanctuary.
What’s the grape juice become? Usually spilled. It’s a SYMBOL of the Lord’s blood, it’s not really His blood.
Does it give you salvation? No.
However, some points to seriously consider.
- If you have unconfessed sin or unrepented sin, if you’re in a backslidden state… don’t. Get right with the Lord, and don’t participate. And seriously, be honest in your integrity. “Pew Repentence” as the bread is on its way to you is dishonest, because “pew repentence” is not repentence. You’re just lying to yourself. If your family was in the middle of a huge argument on the way to church, turn around, go back home, and wait until next time.
- If you are not a Christian, do not touch it. Stay away from it. It’s not for you.
- Technically, the Lord’s Supper is practiced in 3 ways… Open, Close, Closed. Open means anyone can partake (even the unSaved, and it’s unBiblical – Jonathan Edwards was fired for pointing this out), Close means only Christians, and Closed means only members of that church body. Really want to know what the Biblcal answer is???? Closed.
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:17–34, KJV)
“…in the church.” Remember what we learned a couple of days ago… the word Church means a Local, visible group of saved individuals.
“divisions among you.” Hint… this happens in only a local church.
“When ye come together”… again, this is a local church.
There’s no Biblical precedent for anyone of a church in one city partaking in the Lord’s Supper at another church.
I didn’t like this myself, and it took me a long time of Bible Study to really grasp it. I believed in close communion for years. Alas, I have had to bend my knee to God on this, and accept.
Your church may choose to celbrate the Lord’s Memory on Sunday Nights. Why? No risk of embarassing visitors that way. “I’m sorry, this is for members of this church only.” That creates an exclusionary feel, and it’s humiliating. Some churches even have a Monday or Thursday Night celebration.
How often? Quarterly is good, in my estimation. Others prefer to do it only at Passover. Some do it monthly, and I don’t like that. But again, up to the Local Church to decide.
Baptism is for believers only. There is no example anywhere in the New testament of any infant being baptized. I’ve readl R. C. Sproul’s writings on the subject, and he makes so many erroneous conclusions that it’s laughable, foe instance,
there is no explicit prohibition in the New Testament against the baptism of infants.
R. C. Sproul, What Is Baptism?, First edition., vol. 11, The Crucial Questions Series (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011), 62.
My response is, there’s no prohibition in the Bible against drowning your babies either. There doesn’t NEED to be. You KNOW it’s wrong and illegal.
Since infants received the sign of the old covenant, were they not given the sign of the new covenant, that would mean that the new covenant is less inclusive than the old covenant.
R. C. Sproul, What Is Baptism?, First edition., vol. 11, The Crucial Questions Series (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011), 63.
Response – the first covenant was a physical covenant. R. C. Sproul does not have to circumcise his sons because he’s not JEWISH, something R. C. Sproul disagrees with, as he believes in Replacement Theology. But he’s right – the second covenant is less inclusive – it is limited to those who BELIEVE. Infants cannot BELIEVE.
I acknowledge that the argument is technically correct—we do not see a single specific reference to an infant child being baptized in the scriptural records about the early church. However, there are about twelve accounts of baptisms in the Bible, and three of those accounts report the baptism not only of a particular adult but of his or her household, which may have included infants.
R. C. Sproul, What Is Baptism?, First edition., vol. 11, The Crucial Questions Series (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011), 64.
Nervous twitch, there. Spot it? R. C. Sproul knows he’s teaching something unBiblical, and he gave it away. Did you spot it?
“…may have…”. But didn’t.
“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:36–38, KJV)
“What doth hinder me to be baptized?”
“If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”
Infants don’t believe.
In Seminary, we had to memorize the “Right motivation, method, means”. You have to believe with all thine heart, make a confession of it, and… be fully immersed in water. Can you baptize yourself? No. Can you hitch ropes to a horse and get them to lower you in the water? No.
A believer must help immerse you. There’s nothing in the Bible about sprinkling. At ALL. The Bible describes Baptism as being buried with Christ into death, and raised to walk in the newness of life.
I’m going to use an analogy that I heard in the first church I ever attended, a Charismatic church. “If I kill you, and put your body in my front yard, and sprinkle dirt on your forehead… I’m going to jail.” I had to ask few questions about my pastor at that point, and I made sure I no longer sat in the front row…. but hey, I’ve never forgotten that illustration.
Of course, I still have a lot of questions about his front yard.
Anyway, getting back on topic, Baptism is done by full immersion. I’ve heard all the arguments, and they all forget this…
“And John also was baptizing in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” (John 3:23, KJV)
You don’t need much water to trace anything on someone’s forehead, unless it’s Mount Rushmore! You don’t need much water to pour half a handfull of water on the top of someone’s head.
Some add footwashing as an ordinance of the church, but this comes from one Gospel, and it was not commanded specifically for the churches to perform.