Many churches recognize a various numbers of ordinances within their worship services. The dictionary gives two definitions of the word ordinance that are helpful for us: (1) a rule to be followed, and (2) something believed to be ordained (or made holy).
There are two ordinances that we celebrate: baptism in water and holy communion.
This wasn’t a practice invented by Christians, but teachers had been baptizing their students for years as an outward sign of followership. Not only did various members of the Israelite community come to John to be baptized, but even Jesus desired to be water baptized (Matthew 3:5-6, 13-17).
Why would Jesus need to be baptized? Look at how Jesus replied to John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15 NLT), or in the NIV: “to fulfill all righteousness.”
Jesus came to be our High Priest. One of the requirements for the priest was “he must bathe himself in water before he puts” on the ceremonial robes that were to be worn in the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:4). Jesus also came to be our perfect sacrifice, so He needed to be like us in every single way. If Jesus wasn’t water baptized, not “all righteousness” would have been fulfilled.
Jesus was also baptized as an example for us. We, too, are priests in God’s Kingdom that need to be washed for our priestly service (1 Peter 2:9; 3:20-21).
Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.”
Jesus gave us this rule to follow for new Christians: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is also what Peter announced to the new believers on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Sometimes called The Last Supper or The Lord’s Supper, the Israelites had continued to celebrate the Passover (Exodus 12) with unleavened bread and wine—symbolizing the body and the blood of the sacrificial lamb which saved them from death.
Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, a memorial of his suffering and death, and a prophecy of His second coming, and is enjoined on all believers ‘till He come!’”
Jesus, while celebrating Passover with His disciples, showed how Passover had been pointing to His First and Second Advents (Luke 22:13-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Both of these ordinances have reminders in them of our new life in Christ:
- Water baptism is a one-time event, just as our justification (“just as if I’d never sinned”) is a one-time event. This looks back to what Jesus did on the Cross.
- Communion is an ongoing celebration “until He comes,” just as our sanctification (“saint-ification”) is an ongoing process. This looks ahead to what Jesus will complete when we are glorified in Heaven.
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can find the complete list by clicking here.