Baptism and the Lordís Supper
71. What is symbolized
by baptism? What is the proper mode of baptism?
a. Institution of baptism: Christ
instituted baptism after His resurrection (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:16).
The two sacraments in the new covenant
are parallel to the two sacraments in old covenant (OT): baptism replaces
OT circumcision (Col 2:11-12) and the Lordís Supper replaces OT Passover
Like the OT, both sacraments are simply
signs of spiritual truths and have no direct effect on the salvation of
b. Symbolism and Meaning:
(1) Cleansing and purification:
(2) Identification with the death
The Bible clearly represents purification
and cleansing as the essential element in the symbolism of baptism (Eze
36:25; Jn 3:25-26; Ac 22:16; Titus 3:5; Heb 10:22; 1Pe 3:21).
Baptism symbolizes spiritual cleansing
through forgiveness and renewal (Ac 2:38; Heb 10:22).
That is why John the Baptist refused
to baptize Jesus because Jesus has no sin (Mt 3:14-15).
(3) Entry into the church:
In OT baptisms (Heb 9:19-20), the sprinkling
of blood symbolized the identification of the worshipper with the victim
offered in sacrifice as his representative; now the use of water in baptism
symbolizes the identification of the believer with Christ on the cross
Our baptism express our acceptance
of the forgiving power of the death of Christ and our own identification
with the death that he suffered for us. ("baptized into His death")
Baptism expresses symbolically our
burial and being dead to the world and dead to sin (Ro 6:7).
Baptists believe that baptism also
symbolizes resurrection. But a careful reading of the Bible shows that
resurrection is not a symbol of baptism. In Ro 6:4-5 and Col 2:12, it is
"baptism into death" while the new life is the consequence of faith
but not part of baptism.
(1) OT: OT baptisms were all sprinklings
(Nu 8:7; Ps 51:7; Eze 36:25; Heb 9:10,13). None of the present modes symbolizes
This is based on similarity of baptism
with OT circumcision and baptism of the Holy Spirit. In OT circumcision,
a person is admitted to the chosen people of God. Through baptism of the
Holy Spirit, a person is admitted as member of the invisible church. Through
water baptism, a person is admitted as member of the visible church. Thus,
baptism is also a sign of commitment.
(2) Johnís baptism: It is one of
repentance (Mt 3:2,6; Ac 19:4), and cleansing of sin (Jn 3:25-26). The
mode is unknown but most likely following the OT tradition of sprinkling.
(3) Jesus did not prescribe a certain
mode of baptism, and the Bible never stresses any particular mode.
(4) Greek words: baptizo
employed by Jesus and baptisma can mean immersion, pouring, or sprinkling.
(5) NT baptisms: There is not a
single case of baptism mentioned in the NT of which we are sure that it
was baptism by immersion. However, there are many examples in which immersion
(6) Baptists hold strongly that
the only proper mode of baptism is by immersion because they believe that
baptism symbolizes burial and resurrection. This interpretation of the
Bible is inaccurate.
d. Requirement for participation:
Conclusion: The mode of baptism is
not an essential matter of faith. Any mode is acceptable.
e. Infant baptism:
(1) Support for infant baptism:
Adult baptism had to be preceded by
a profession of faith (Mk 16:16; Ac 2:41; 16:31-34). This is the only prerequisite.
A professed believer should not be required to wait before baptism.
(2) Objection to infant baptism:
It is visible manifestation of accepting
the children of believers into the church and into the new covenant, just
like Jewish children are accepted into the OT covenant through circumcision.
NT supports the inclusion of children (Mt 19:14; Ac 2:39; 1Co 7:14). Whole
households were baptized, likely including some children (Ac 16:15,33;
(3) Many churches practise infant
baptism while many others do not. Both have biblical support. As this is
not an essential point of faith, each church should adopt their own practice.
72. Is the
Lordís Supper merely a symbol to remind us about the death of Christ?
a. Name: "supper of the Lord"
(1Co 11:20), holy communion (1Co 10:16), "eucharist" from Gr. eucharisteo
meaning to give thanks or to be grateful (Mk 14:22; Mt 26:27; 1Co 10:16;
Baptism is only for believers (Ac 2:41)
but children do not have faith. There is no command to baptize children
in NT. NT does not record any clear occurrence of infant baptism.
b. Institution of the Lordís Supper:
Christ instituted the Lordís Supper during the Last Supper at Passover.
c. Jewish celebration of Passover
has two meanings:
(1) memorial of deliverance from
bondage in Egypt; similarly, the Lordís Supper is a sign of the deliverance
from the bondage of sin and death
(2) sign of and renewal of covenant
sealed with sacrificial blood; similarly, the Lordís Supper is a sign of
the new covenant (salvation by faith) sealed with the blood of the Lamb
of God (1Co 5:7)
d. Additional Symbolism:
(1) representation and proclamation
of the Lordís death (1Co 11:26): remembrance (1Co 11:24)
(2) believersí participation in
the crucified Christ
(3) unity (oneness) of the believers
as we share the one body of Christ
(4) representation of the effects
of spiritual eating and drinking as giving life, strength, and joy
e. Meaning of remembrance:
(a) "Godward" reference: the petitioning
of God to "remember" Jesusí atoning death and thus show mercy to his people.
By using the phrase "in remembrance
of me" instead of simply "to remember me", Jesus probably intends it to
have two meanings:
(b) "humanward" reference: reminding
believers to "remember" their deliverance through Jesus.
f. Means of grace:
Traditional teaching follows interpretation
(b) but Jewish tradition supports interpretation (a).
g. Meaning for our lives:
(1) Past: Christ died for
us to redeem us: our Faith; we are to receive grace and blessings
from God through the participation of the eucharist
The Lordís Supper is a means of grace
because the sacrament renews our spirit and brings us closer to the presence
Some believe Christ has a mystical
"real presence" in the Lordís Supper (not supported by the Bible), such
as the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans. At the other extreme, some (following
Zwingli) believe that the sacrament is merely a symbol with no spiritual
(2) Present: we are of one
body with brothers and sisters and should love them: our Love; we
were in the bondage of sin but now we are in the bond of love
(3) Future: we partake the
Lordís Supper until Jesusí second coming (1Co 11:26): our Hope;
we joyfully look forward to sharing the feast in heaven with all our brothers
h. Requirement for participation:
No willing participants should be rejected,
provided that they understand the meaning of the sacrament. Any believer
should be encouraged to participate, even before baptism.