August 28, 2020 | Prayer Guides by Various Authors
What We Believe and Why: Ordinances vs. Sacraments
DAY 21 – Introduction
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Today we begin ten days of prayer regarding ordinances and sacraments. As we begin, it is important that we understand the basic differences between the two. While these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they in fact have very different meanings and applications.
The key to both is the role of God’s grace. Ordinances are symbols or signs of His grace already received through faith in Christ, while sacraments are usually seen as a means of imparting God’s grace. Sacraments involve a supernatural work of God toward man, while ordinances involve an act of obedience of man toward God. We believe the Bible teaches that God poured out His grace toward us through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and that there is nothing further we can do to earn more or greater grace.
With this understanding in mind, we will prayerfully examine our two ordinances of communion and baptism over the next nine days. We will delve into the meaning, symbolism, and function of these as ordinances and not sacraments. Along the way, we will also point out some of the more prevalent false teachings encountered with each. Our hope is to not only equip you to discern and respond to false teachings, but also for you to rest assured in the grace God has imparted to you through His Son.
- Give thanks to God for imparting His grace toward us through Jesus.
- Pray for clear understanding of the difference between ordinances and sacraments.
- Pray for discernment, wisdom, and patience when responding to false teaching.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
DAY 22 – Communion Meaning and Methodology
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
In the above verses, the English word “communion” is translated from the Greek word “koinonia.” This word is also often translated as “fellowship.” It is important to note that this word reflects an ongoing, interactive relationship. This relationship involves our participation as part of a community, specifically as a church community. This word also includes the idea of knowing exactly what it is that joins us together in unity. For the church in Corinth then and for Richland Creek now, it is Jesus Christ that joins us together in communion.
The ordinance of communion can also be known be other names: The Lord’s Supper; The Lord’s Table; The Eucharist (simply meaning “giving thanks”). It is a fellowship of our church family by which we gather together to remember the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an act of worship and obedience rather than an imparting of additional grace. The unified participation is meant to not only draw us closer to God, but to each other.
At the heart of communion is the central truth that the body and blood of Christ were given to each of us and to all of us. It is deeply reflective and impactful, personally and corporately. We are united together as we remember His death, burial, and resurrection through this ordinance.
- Give thanks to God for giving us fellowship with Him through Christ.
- Pray for clear understanding of the ordinance of communion.
- Pray for unity of heart, mind, and accord in our church family.
1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
DAY 23 – The Last Supper, Passover, and Communion
Luke 22:14-16 “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ’With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” )
The ordinance of communion is likened to a reenactment of the Last Supper. Jesus broke the bread and poured the cup with the Apostles the night before His death, instructing them to remember His sacrifice. We observe communion in much the same way, remembering the broken body and shed blood of our Savior. It is also very significant that the Last Supper was an observance of the Passover.
This took place on the night the Passover lamb would be slaughtered. Christ was signifying His role as the once and for all Passover lamb. His sacrifice would pay for the sins of humanity for all times. Even though many still observe the Passover to this day, there is no need for further sacrifice to pay the debt of sin in our lives. Some missed that truth then, and many still miss it now, waiting for a Messiah who has already come.
Communion is symbolic of the Last Supper and the Passover. In the above verses, Jesus also promises us that He will partake of the Passover supper again in heaven. He also promises us a place at that table through faith in Him. As we partake of communion, we remember all that Jesus has done for us and look forward with great anticipation to our future with Him.
- Give thanks to God for sending Jesus as our sacrificial Passover lamb.
- Pray for clear understanding of the connections between the Last Supper, Passover, and communion.
- Pray for those who are still waiting for a Messiah to accept Jesus as the Christ.
1 Peter 1:18-19 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
DAY 24 – The Communion Elements
Luke 22:19-20 “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ’This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ’This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’”
The two communion elements of unleavened bread and a cup containing grape juice or wine have stood for generations. While there have been some slight alterations to reflect our culture and time, such as offering a gluten free option, it is basically unchanged. Also unchanged is what these elements represent: the body and blood of Christ, respectively. We believe that these elements are purely symbolic as we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us.
The elements are what they are, and do not somehow become the actual body and blood of Christ. This belief is known as transubstantiation. There is no biblical basis for this concept, and it seems rather absurd in light of the above verses from Luke. Jesus did not offer His body to eat and blood to drink to the Apostles at the Last Supper. The bread and wine did not supernaturally become flesh and blood, but are instead representative of these things. Remember, communion is an ordinance and not a sacrament.
Jesus offered a “new covenant” for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. We are promised forgiveness of sin and eternity in His presence. The communion bread is symbolic of His sinless life, His body broken by death, and His resurrection. The cup symbolizes His atoning blood, poured out for the remission of sin. Let us partake of these elements in obedience and worship to remember His matchless love for us.
- Give thanks for the “new covenant” God has given us through Christ.
- Pray for clear understanding of the communion elements and what they represent.
- Pray for discernment, wisdom, and patience in interactions with others who believe that communion is a sacrament.
John 6:35 “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’”
DAY 25 – Communion Frequency and Participation
1 Corinthians 11:26-27 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
Since we believe communion is an ordinance and not a sacrament, how often should we observe it and who should participate? Well, the Bible is only clear on the “who” part of communion. As far as the frequency, some take the language of 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 to suggest that it should be every time our church comes together. We believe that the frequency of communion is not mandated biblically and is therefore open to interpretation. We choose not to observe this every Sunday partly because we are cautious to avoid this important act of worship and obedience becoming rote or routine.
The Bible is very clear about who should participate in communion. First and foremost, communion is meant for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. Secondly, the “unworthy manner” in verse 27 above covers much spiritual ground: unrepentant sin, unforgiveness toward others, without prayer or self-examination. Christians who partake unworthily are still under God’s grace, but open themselves up for judgment and chastisement concerning these unworthy things. Of course, this judgment and chastisement is meant for reconciliation.
However often we observe the ordinance of communion, we are proclaiming Christ’s death, even until His return. We are to examine our own hearts, minds, and motives before coming to the Lord’s Table. In this, we honor and glorify the Lord for saving us from sin and death.
- Give thanks for the ordinance of communion and for our church family.
- Pray for clear understanding that there is no biblical mandate for the frequency of communion and the liberty to apply this differently among churches.
- Pray for clear understanding that communion is for believers, and that we are to examine ourselves before participating.
1 Corinthians 11:28 “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
DAY 26 – Baptism Meaning and Methodology
Acts 8:36-38 “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ’If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ’I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”
The Greek word baptizo in the New Testament means to submerge or immerse, and in this context, to do so in water. This is not describing a sprinkling or pouring of water, but a complete covering. Acts 8 not only tells us about the practical meaning and method of baptism, but also who is qualified.
When the Ethiopian asks “What hinders me from being baptized?” Philip answers with the biblical qualification for baptism: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Baptism is not a part of our salvation; it is a part of our sanctification or discipleship. Baptism is to follow a true conversion to faith in Jesus. This is why we do not believe that infant baptism is biblical. This is why we also encourage those who are unsure if they were saved before a previous baptism to be baptized again with assurance of their faith.
The same Greek word for baptism can also refer to the process of dying fabric. Think of a dull, bland fabric being immersed in a rich and colorful dye. When the fabric is brought back up, it has been transformed. This is a good and memorable illustration of how we are transformed the moment we place our faith in Christ, and how baptism is a picture of that moment.
- Give thanks to God for giving us the ordinance of baptism.
- Pray for clear understanding of what baptism means and how it is done.
- Pray for the lost people in your life to come to faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and for God to prepare you to share the Gospel with them.
Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
DAY 27 – Water Baptism vs. Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Mark 1:7-8 “And he preached, saying, ’There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”
John the Baptist was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 10:10). Part of his mission was to perform water baptisms, which would take on greater meaning after Christ’s resurrection. Water baptism is an ordinance, not a sacrament. There is nothing supernatural about the water or being immersed in it. No additional grace is imparted to us through the baptismal waters. God’s grace has already been given through faith in His Son Jesus. So, what does John mean when he says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit?” This is important to grasp as false teaching about this leads to confusion.
This type of “baptism” is referring to salvation. When we trust in Christ, we are covered or sealed by the Holy Spirit. In this sense we are immersed in the Holy Spirit, our sins forgiven and our eternity assured. This can be confused with the term “filled with the Holy Spirit” and can lead to false teaching. This term most often refers to the Spirit working in someone before the giving of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2. It does not mean or imply that someone can obtain a greater form of grace or somehow be “more saved” than others. False teaching on this can also lead people to believe that they have to have a readily observable supernatural gift or ability (often speaking in tongues) to truly be saved.
Water baptism is an outward, visible representation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that occurs the moment we trust in Christ. It is an ordinance of obedience, worship, and identification as children of God.
- Give thanks to God for sealing us with Holy Spirit.
- Pray for clear understanding of water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray for biblical wisdom and patience in our conversations with others regarding baptism and any false teaching.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
DAY 28 – Christ, Our Pattern in Baptism
Matthew 3:13 “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.”
Jesus began His public ministry in a very public way when He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. If we had any doubts about whether baptism was salvific (leading to salvation) or if it imparted additional grace, those doubts are erased here. Jesus is sinless, so water baptism cannot be salvific. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s grace, so water baptism cannot add further grace.
John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized, and Jesus responded by saying, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Baptism for Jesus was part of God the Father’s plan for Him. It was a piece of the larger puzzle that was necessary to complete. The Son honored the Father through obedience, giving us a pattern to follow and imitate.
Christ is our pattern as we live our lives for Him. It is good for us all to strive to be more like Him. While we cannot do most of the things Jesus did, baptism is one of the things we can do as He did. We can observe this ordinance through obedience, knowing that it is part of God’s plan for us, and that He is glorified through it.
- Give thanks to God for giving us Jesus as our pattern to follow.
- Pray for clear understanding that baptism does not save us from sin or impart additional grace.
- Pray for biblical understanding and endurance as we seek to live for Christ in all we do.
Matthew 3:16-17 “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
DAY 29 – The Symbolism of Baptism
Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
There are 3 main things baptism symbolizes. First, and most obvious, is Christ’s baptism (see Day 28). We can be baptized in the same way as Christ was, going completely under the water and then rising back up out of the water. This is done in obedience and identifies us with Him.
Second, baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The immersion into the water is a picture of His death and burial. One is lowered into the water with assistance by simply letting their knees relax, trusting the baptizer and the water to do the rest. They are fully covered, or buried, by the water. When they rise back up, they again are trusting the baptizer and the water to raise them. This is a picture of His resurrection to life.
Third, baptism symbolizes our salvation. The moment we trust in Jesus, He takes our sins upon Himself, dying over 2000 years ago to pay our debt with His blood. Also at that moment, He gave us the Holy Spirit as our seal and helper. Going under the water is a picture of our dying with Christ as our sins died with Him. Rising up from the water is a picture of the “newness of life” as we became a new creation. Baptism is a reflection of our transformation in Christ.
- Give thanks to God for how baptism symbolizes so much about Jesus and how He transforms our lives.
- Pray for clear understanding of all that baptism symbolizes.
- Pray that our lives would be worthy reflections of God’s love and grace toward us.
Romans 6:10-11 “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
DAY 30 – Baptism and the Great Commission
Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”
We believe the Bible teaches that baptism is a part of our discipleship, or sanctification. The concept of being disciples who make disciples is core to who we are as a church. We recognize baptism as an ordinance and not a sacrament. We also recognize it as a command from Jesus Himself.
The Great Commission verses above are Christ’s marching order for His disciples. They are just as true now as they were right before He ascended to Heaven. We are commanded to share the Gospel all over the world, to baptize believers, and to continue in discipleship. Baptism is an outward expression of the inward grace we have been given. This expression is sometimes seen as a bridge between salvation and discipleship. While this can certainly be true, we must understand that baptism is not needed for salvation and does not have to immediately follow a profession of faith. It should follow at some point as we trust the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As a church, truly loving God and loving others requires obedience to His Word and all He commands. God has poured out His grace toward us all through His Son. Nothing we do, say, or believe can earn us additional grace. We must follow as He leads in obedience, trusting Him in all things for His glory.
- Give thanks to God for the Great Commission.
- Pray for clear understanding of salvation, baptism, and discipleship.
- Pray that we would obediently follow God’s commands, trusting in Him for all things.
1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”