Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (“What we believe” that I wrote for my church)

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

We believe in Baptism by immersion and for believers as an outward sign of the inward work of salvation that comes when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We believe in partaking of the Lord’s Supper regularly in remembrance of Him. We partake of bread and juice as symbols of the Lord’s body which was broken, and His blood which was shed so that we might be justified by our faith in Him.

Baptism as a symbolic representation of an inward work: In 1 Peter 3:21 we read: “21Corresponding 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” (NASB)[1]. This has long been used as evidence for Baptism causing regeneration, but it actually gives testimony to the nature of baptism as symbolic. “An appeal to God for a good conscience” is a way of saying “a request for forgiveness of sins and a new heart.”[2] It is not the outward cleaning of the water, but the inward appeal to God for a good conscience that saves. In Col. 2:12 we read “12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (emphasis added). Baptism symbolizes us being buried with Christ, and then raised with him so that “we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). It symbolizes the regeneration that happens when we are born again, dead to sin but now alive in Christ (Romans 6:8-11) as whole new creations walking in the newness of life. This new life comes through faith in the working of God (Col. 2:12). Some hold that baptism itself is what causes regeneration in us, but this is contrary to the testimony given by Scripture of Justification by Faith alone. We also see in Luke 23:43 that one of the Thieves with whom Christ is crucified is saved just before his death, solely through his faith in Jesus; Jesus tells him “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” There is no baptism involved here to regenerate this man.

Baptism by immersion: We believe that the mode of baptism taught in Scripture is immersion. When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist it is in the Jordan river(Mark 1:9) and we are told in Matthew 3:16 (Mark 1:10) that Jesus “came up immediately from the water,” and when Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch we are told that he also “came up out of the water” (Acts 8:39). This indicates that they went into the body of water to be baptized, and then come out, the only seemingly satisfactory reason for this is baptism by immersion.[3] In this same account of the conversion and baptism of the eunuch, he says to Philip “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” There would have been water in the cart in which he was traveling, but instead of being baptized by sprinkling or pouring of this water, he notices a body of water and it is in it that he is baptized.[4] The Imagery found in Romans 6:4 and Colossian 2:12 also strongly suggests immersion, describing baptism as “burial” and “resurrection.”[5] Sprinkling or pouring do not parallel with these descriptions nearly as well as immersion in water. In John 3:23 we read of John the Baptist baptizing in “Aenon near Salim,” the reason given for baptizing here is “because there was much water there”. If sprinkling or pouring was the baptism performed in the New Testament, then much water would not be needed. Finally the Greek verb used for baptism, βαπτίζω (baptizō), “means “to plunge, dip, immerse” something in water.”[6]

            The believer’s baptism: We believe that Baptism, consistent with the above description, is for those who have expressed saving faith in Jesus Christ, and not for infants. Both 1 Peter 3:21 and Colossians 2:12 indicate that baptism follows faith, saving through an “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter) and symbolizing newness of life “through faith” (Colossians). This understanding of baptism is not consistent with infant baptism, and there is no example of infant baptism in Scripture. There are three examples of households being baptized, but there are no reasons to assume, and good reasons to doubt, that infants were involved.  In Acts 16:32-34 we read of Paul and Silas imprisoned in Philippi, and the later conversion of their Jailer and his entire household. We are told that Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him [the jailer] together with all who were in his house” (v. 34). They then baptized him and his “whole household.” There is no indication that this included children, especially since “all who were in his house” heard the word which they spoke, and we are told later, in v. 34, that they had all believed in God. It was because of their belief, in response to the word they heard, that led to their baptism. Infants would not be capable of hearing the word and understanding it, and baptism in response to belief is consistent with baptism being a symbol of an inward change based on a response of faith, which an infant would not be able to make. In 1 Corinthians 1:16 we read that Paul baptized the household of Stephanas, but this is again in response to the entire household coming to faith. In 1 Corinthians 16:15 we read; “you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia” (Emphasis added).

            The Lord’s Supper: In Luke 22 we read his account of the Lord’s Supper: “19And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” In verse 19 Jesus says of the bread “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” and in Matthew 26:28 of the wine “this is My blood of the covenant.” These statements have been the source of much controversy throughout the history of the Church. We hold to the Zwinglian view that the blood and the wine symbolically represent Jesus’s blood and body; the blood and wine do not become Jesus’s flesh and blood(transubstantiation), nor is Jesus present “in, with, and under”[7] the bread and wine (consubstantiation). When Jesus institutes the Lord’s supper here in Luke 22 we see that He is holding the bread in his hands (v. 19 “when he had taken some bread… He broke it and gave it”) and declares; “This is My body.” Because Jesus took on human nature in the incarnation He could only be in one place at one time. His disciples would have seen Him holding the bread and would not have thought that this was literally His body, for they could see His body holding the bread.[8] Throughout Jesus’ ministry it was common for Him to use statements like this symbolically, and this is the best explanation for His statements about the wine and bread. We can see an example in John 6:27-59; in v. 25 we read “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”” In John 15:1 Jesus says “I am the true vine”, and in John 10:9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved”. In Luke’s account Jesus tells His disciples to “do this [partake of the bread and wine] in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19-20). We believe that we are to partake of the elements of communion in remembrance of the Lord’s body which was broken and His blood which was poured out to establish a new covenant (Luke 22:20) providing forgiveness for our sins (Matthew 26:28). We believe that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are to examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28).

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic theology : in one volume. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic theology : an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press ; Zondervan, 1994.

[1] All Scripture are from the NASB unless otherwise stated

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic theology : an introduction to biblical doctrine (Leicester; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press ; Zondervan, 1994), 974.

[3] Ibid., 968.

[4] Ibid. 968

[5] Norman L Geisler, Systematic theology : in one volume (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 2011), 1170.

[6] Grudem, Systematic theology, 967.

[7] Ibid., 994.

[8] Ibid., 993.


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