IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST IN BAPTISM AND COMMUNION by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
The Church has been instructed by Jesus Himself to keep two ordinances: Baptism and Communion. Earlier in the service we celebrated Baptism and later in the service we will be observing the Communion. This morning we will look briefly at both from the Bible. Why is it that we observe these two acts? Is it just ritual? Is it just tradition? I submit to you that when you truly understand what they mean, you will gain a special love for both of them. Two passages we will read – Matthew 28 and Luke 22—
Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 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.
Luke 22:17-20 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves…19 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.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
Overall Background: The two aspects of church that have lost their significance are Baptism and Communion. These two acts were meant to help us identify with Christ. Baptism was to help us individually identify with Christ. Communion was to help us collectively identify with Christ.
This morning we will briefly look at both of them so you can appreciate them in a whole new way.
BAPTISM – IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST INDIVIDUALLY
Background: Throughout the centuries Christians have disagreed over the meaning and mode of baptism. Some groups baptize primarily to wash away original sin. They think that there is something that miraculous in the water that has sacramental powers to make someone a Christian. Other groups baptize infants primarily as an initiation into the church. There are even some Protestant groups that do not claim that baptism washes away original sin but they claim that baptism includes children into the covenant God made with His people, kind of like circumcision in the Old Testament.
Who is right and who is wrong? This morning we will not call names but simply see what the Bible has to say about baptism.
1. Jesus was baptized by immersion. John the Baptizer was baptizing in the Jordan River. This was not a baptism to salvation, just repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. We know that it was a baptism by immersion because John 3:23 tells us that John “was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.”
Jesus Himself came from Galilee to be baptized. What was John’s response? Matthew 3:14 “John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Meaning: He identified with the people of Israel. He was obedient to the Father. He approved of John’s work. Later he even approved His disciples baptizing the people.
If Jesus was baptized (being perfect), you should be baptized.
2. Jesus commanded new believers to be baptized. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples many times. At His final appearance, in the presence of 500+ people, He gave them the charge to go into the entire world and preach the good news about Him. Listen to what he said in Matthew 28:18-20 18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, Meaning: Not only get them saved from their sins but make them disciples. How do you make them disciples? The very next line says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Isn’t that strange that Jesus did not tell them make disciples – going to church, praying everyday, giving their tithes but baptism.
Why Baptism? Because it is the first act of discipleship that a responsible person takes after they are saved.
3. What does it mean? Paul explains its true meaning in Romans 6. Some people think that Paul gave baptism a new meaning other than Christ. To the contrary, as more and more Gentiles were getting saved, Paul wanted to make sure that they understood the true meaning of baptism. Listen to Romans 6:3-5 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
Why does discipleship begin with baptism? Because baptism tells the world that I am united with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. I don’t have to do anything but simply reckon that it was applied to me the moment I was saved. All I have to do is now remember that I am one with Him. It is a sign that I am now cut off to the old world and have entered into the new.
For e.g. Just like Marriage—as the Bible says is 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; (Mark 10) What if I had told Nicole right after the wedding – “Okay – now you can go home and I will call you when I need you.” It is a marriage already headed for disaster.
Baptism is a reminder that now we are one with Christ.
The early church diligently baptized new believers. Samaritans in Acts 8; the Ethiopian ruler; the Apostle Paul; the family of Cornelius; and so on. By the way since the earliest church history, the church always baptized by immersion – Ephesus, Emmaus, Milan, Tunisia and on and on.
God wants your first step in the Christian life to be one of identification with Christ. He is not interested in making you a nice church member. He is not interested in making you a faithful church member. He wants your entire identity to be centered upon Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to show you the Way. He is the Way. He did not come to teach you the Truth. He is the Truth. He did not come to give you Life. He is the Life.
Application: Have you been baptized? That is your first step as a disciple. It sets the tone for the rest of your Christian life.
COMMUNION – IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST COLLECTIVELY
Background: Just like Baptism, throughout the centuries Christians have disagreed over the meaning and purpose of the Communion. Some groups think that the communion has sacramental powers where the bread and wine literally transform into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Even someone like Martin Luther, who led the Reformation, could not break away from the idea that there’s something special in the Communion. He claimed that Christ’s body is literally “in, with, and under” the bread and wine—whatever that means. Some groups think that the communion is God’s gift to the church by which he bestows grace and blessing.
There are still others who don’t think that the bread and wine become the body and blood but they are still torn over whether there is a spiritual something in the Communion or is it only a reminder?
Who is right and who is wrong? Just like baptism, lets see what the Bible has to say about communion.
1. Jesus commanded His disciples to keep the Communion. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. You can just picture it. They would have bought an approved lamb; taken it to the temple to be slain; then brought it back and roasted it; then set the table with the lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and now wine has been added to the meal. You can imagine the disciples sitting down to go over these rituals and customs but they had no idea what was about to come.
Luke 22: 17-20 17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; Notice carefully: There is a collective approach to this act. He did not individually give it to each. There is a group dynamic in play here.
Now comes the strange part—19And 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.” You can just imagine the shock in the face of the disciples 20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. No Jewish person would have ever dreamed of saying that.
2. What did Jesus mean by that? The disciples did not understand it that night but they did later and Paul explained it to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 10:16-18 16 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? Meaning: When you take part of the bread and the cup, you are connecting with the sacrifice and the death of Jesus Christ. You are reminding yourself that your life is depending upon the life of Christ. He is your life. He is your sustenance. He is your spiritual nourishment.
3. What makes this different from baptism? While baptism is our individual identifying with Christ, communion is our collective identifying with Christ. Paul explains again in I Corinthians 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. There is a communal aspect to this act. It is a family meal, where the main spiritual course is Jesus. Sadly, the Corinthians had forgotten this and were pushing and shoving at the feast. There was envy and strife and bitterness in the hearts of the people; there was sexual immorality in the church; there were marital problems; and the list goes on and on with idolatry and stealing and cursing and every evil imaginable. What they were doing in private life was simply bleeding over in their public life. Paul reminded them of the meaning of the feast and gave them a stern warning in I Corinthians 11: 29-30, 29For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Now some people have taken this to mean that there was something sacred in the Communion that killed off the people. Not true. It was no different than what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. When they lied to the Holy Spirit, they dropped dead. In the early church God allowed such radical responses to sin to send us the message that it matters when we sin in the body, the church.
The Communion is important not because there is something miraculous in it but because it reminds us that we are connected to Jesus along with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus takes it very serious when we try to attack the unity of His body.
What is the solution? Listen to I Cor. 11: 33-34 33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.
Communion binds us together in Christ. Is there anything in your heart that is evil against another brother or sister? Confess it to the Lord and make it right.
Matthew 26:30 “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Again, it is a custom to end the Seder by singing the Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118).