27 Jul Baptism & Communion: Q & A
With many people within our church body who have come from various backgrounds, we understand that baptism and communion can become a point of tension among believers. However, we feel that there are major practical questions to be considered of each:
What is the meaning of baptism?
Baptism is a one-time act of obedience that testifies of personal faith in Jesus Christ. It is an outward symbol that signifies an inward spiritual identification with Jesus Christ in both his death and resurrection. Baptism is for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament, immersion is the ideal means of baptism.
Who should be baptized?
Baptism, therefore, is a ceremony reserved for those who have already become believers by consciously putting their trust in Christ. The New Testament describes those who are baptized as those who have personal faith in Christ. Baptism is not a requirement of salvation, unlike repentance and conversion. It is an act of faith and a public testimony that a believer has identified with Christ in his death. It serves as a physical symbol of what has happened on a spiritual level in the believer. A careful reading of some seemingly problematic texts (e.g., Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21) does not change the basic meaning of baptism.
What is the proper mode of baptism?
Sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? While it is not possible to fully resolve the issue of the proper mode of baptism on the basis of the study of the Greek, the predominant meaning of baptizo is to dip or to plunge under water (i.e., immersion). A reading of the texts dictates that those being baptized did go down into the water and then come up out of it (Mark 1:9). The Apostle Paul alludes to the symbolic connection between the immersion method of baptism and the believer’s death and burial to sin and subsequent resurrection to new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-5). So it does seem that immersion was the mode consistently used in the New Testament.
One might question whether the method of baptism by immersion found in the New Testament must be authoritative and prescriptive, or if believers are free to be baptized by whichever method they deem best. We believe that God honors our obedience to the principles and patterns clearly stated in Scripture, and that immersion—while it may not be the only valid form—appears to be the form of baptism most consistent with what is seen in Scripture.
What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper (communion)?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” At Grace Church, we believe the Scripture leads us to view the Lord’s Supper as a memorial, a commemoration of Christ’s death. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper should be seen as a thanksgiving for, and a memorial of, Christ’s atoning death. We do not believe that Christ is physically or spiritually present in the actual elements of the Lord’s Supper.
However, in our attempts to distance ourselves from the traditional views, it can become all too easy to go to extreme measures to say that the Lord’s Supper is simply an intellectual memorial with no spiritual nourishment for us as believers. At Grace Church we believe that this ordinance was not only instituted and mandated by Jesus, but that it provides us with the opportunity of real communion with Jesus; therefore, real spiritual nourishment can and should take place. As a community of believers, we do believe that the presence of God is with us in this celebration. We have great confidence that the Holy Spirit will truly nourish us as we participate in the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance” of Christ and His sacrifice.
Who can participate in the Lord’s Supper?
At Grace Church, we have an “open table”. We believe that those who have a personal relationship with Christ may participate in the Lord’s Supper. However, it should be reserved for only those people who are believers. Membership at Grace Church is not a requirement to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us. We only ask that you be a confessing believer in Jesus Christ if you are going to participate. You do not have to be baptized to partake in the Lord’s Supper although we encourage all believers to be baptized.
What elements should be used in the Lord’s Supper?
At Grace Church, we serve Matzah and grape juice. Matzah is unleavened bread that is striped and pierced. Throughout scripture, leaven is used to represent sin. This unleavened bread is a reminder that Jesus was “without” sin. The stripes and piercings on the bread represent Jesus’ physical suffering for us on the cross as He was wounded for our transgressions. The grape juice that is served symbolizes Christ’s blood, which was shed on our behalf. We have added vinegar to the grape juice in order to produce a bittersweet taste to serve as a physical reminder of the pain and beauty of Christ’s sacrifice. This contrast should help us have a better understanding and more accurate reflection of the death and resurrection of Christ.
This excerpt was taken directly from our position papers available on our website. To read more about baptism, communion, and various perspectives on how these should be observed based on Scripture, click here.