Ordinances Of The Church

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

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. 

Water Baptism

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).  

Communion

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

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Not How But Who

This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34). 

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant! 

Love Securely

Jesus is journeying toward the Cross. On Thursday, it’s His last opportunity to impart His most important thoughts to His disciples. He is about to be arrested, and everything is about to go sideways for the disciples—“this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!”—and Jesus needs to prepare them with the truth they will need to sustain them through this. 

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says (Luke 22:15).  

So Peter and John are sent to make arrangements for the Passover meal, but one of the arrangements that they overlooked was the host duties—washing the feet of each guest, anointing them with perfume, and giving them a welcoming kiss. 

As they are eating dinner, Jesus makes four important statements:

  1. “One of you will betray Me”
  2. “All of you will abandon Me”
  3. “I will rise again and restore you”
  4. “I have prayed for you”

These statements get the disciples arguing about who’s going to betray Jesus—“It’s not me, is it?!”—and over how faithful they are—“I would never abandon Him!” Ultimately they begin to argue over who is the greatest disciple among them. 

Jesus not only explains to them how the servant is greater than the master in God’s sight (Luke 22:24-27), but He then becomes the living example of that when He washes their feet (John 13:1-5, 12-17). 

Here’s an important principle—Only secure people can lovingly serve others. 

Insecure people don’t like to serve others because they feel they are being misused, or taken advantage of, or that others will look down on them. 

Jesus “knew” (John 13:1, 3) how much power His Father had given Him, making Him secure enough to serve. Security really means, “I am loved by God, and I know who I am in Him.”

Jesus served out of love: the profound love that He knew His Father had for Him. He gave His disciples the same mandate: Serve others out of love for Me and show the world that you are My disciples (see John 13:34-35).

When Jesus ate this last supper with His disciples, He instituted a remembrance celebration that we now call Communion. The root word is “commune” which the dictionary defines as a “conversation with profound intensity and intimacy.” 

This is the type of intimate relationship Jesus had with His Father, and this is the type of relationship He calls us to with Him. The broken bread of Communion reminds us that Jesus can make whole any broken area that would keep us from communing with Him. The cup of Communion reminds us that Jesus can instantly and fully forgive any sin that would keep us from communing with Him. 

Jesus set the example—we are to commune with our Heavenly Father through the way He made by His broken body and His shed blood. It’s out of this communion that we are empowered by His love, and then feel secure enough to serve others in love too. 

Love For A Traitor

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Just a couple of hours before He would be arrested and so cruelly mistreated, Jesus had one last meal with His disciples. The meal began after Jesus had assumed the lowest of all positions, and washed all of His disciples’ feet.

Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:27)

Do you realize that this “all of you” included Judas the traitor?

Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was there. He ate the bread and drank the wine of the first Communion. Jesus washed Judas’ feet. The traitor was right there when Jesus said, “This is My Body broken for you. This is My blood spilled for you.”

But it’s even heavier to think that He also said to me, “Drink of this cup, Craig.”

For Jesus surely saw my sin and my betrayal before He went to the Cross. I was the traitor, and He washed my feet. I betrayed Him by my sin, and He told me to eat and drink the reminders of His suffering for me.

How can I ignore such wondrous love?

How could I ever treat lightly such a sacrifice?

How could I ever hang on to my betraying sins in light of the forgiveness He purchased for me?

Jesus loved me—the traitor, the betrayer—and died for me. What a beautiful Savior!

My friend Dilip has released his debut album The Great Reversal (I hope you will buy this amazing CD), but I love the words of his song Beautiful Jesus:

All my words cannot describe just how beautiful You are
Earthly love cannot compare to the Perfect Love that bled and died
Beautiful Jesus, I stand in awe of You
Beautiful Jesus, I’m captivated by Your wondrous love
So I bow my knee, humbled by this mystery
How can it be? King of Majesty, You rescued me
You gave it all for me
More than I could ask for
All I ever need is You, Jesus, Lover of my soul
 
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