Yesterday at church I heard a great message by Nathan Busenitz on Ecclesiastes 11-12. After the message we celebrated communion and it was a great reminder of the Church as community. We celebrate many things as the covenant community when we participate in communion and also in baptism. Both are expressions of the covenant community to the world. The Lord’s Supper is an expression of celebration and baptism is an expression of the gospel to the world. This blog is a follow up to The Church as Community.
The Lord’s Supper: The Community Celebrates Christ Together
Christ Himself established the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of Jesus giving Himself up for us which is done in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). This memorial is of the establishment of the new covenant and the forgiveness it brings (Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20). The Lord’s Supper is a meal (Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7-8). At a large church, it can be hard to eat a meal all together, but that is why we ought to be extra intentional on those Sundays. We ought to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and get together with friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, those you know and those you don’t know. After the service we ought to share a meal together as a community and celebrate the gospel.
The Lord’s Supper is an opportunity to look forward to fellowship with Jesus and His people in the kingdom when He returns (Lk 22:16,18). We look forward to the Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19). Yes, the Lord’s Supper ought to be a time of solemn repentance, but it is also a time of great joy. As a covenant community, we greatly look forward to the day that “like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder” we say, “Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure” (Rev 19:6-8).
The Lords Supper is a sharing/participation in the blood and body of Christ (1 Cor 10:16). The Lord’s Supper testifies to the unity of the covenant community that we as Christians have in the body of Christ (1 Cor 10:17). The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of Jesus’ death until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26). Therefore, just as it is important to take part in the Lord’s Supper in a holy and reverent manner it is also just as significant that you participate in the Lord’s Supper joyfully.The Lord’s Supper is a celebration and proclamation of King Jesus’ return.
Baptism: The Gospel Proclaimed to the World through Community
First, the rite of baptism is designed for believers who have repented and put their faith in God and in His Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:1; 4:17; Mk 1:15). Baptism is often defined as a “baptism of repentance” (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). In the book of Acts baptism is intimately associated with personal faith (8:12-13; 10:43-48a; 18:8; 19:4-5). Baptism is also associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit (11:17). The gift of the Holy Spirit legitimizes baptism, not vice versa. A baby has no means of given testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit. A baby has no means of confession and repentance. The baptism of infants is not a baptism of repentance. Baptism is a sign of the covenant community of believers and a proclamation of the gospel of repentance.
Secondly, baptism is an essential part of Christian discipleship. Baptism is mark of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and is therefore intimately connected with discipleship. Baptism is done in the context of discipleship. After all, this was the pattern of Jesus in John 4:1. Making disciples and baptism are connected. On a personal level, those who have believed in Jesus and repented of their sin are to be baptizes as part of their Christian discipleship. While there may be a period of instruction between conversion and baptize there ought to be no obstacle in the path of a person who is genuinely saved, understands baptism, and desires to be baptized. Baptism marks the new lifestyle and new kind of discipleship that are characteristics of the covenant community.
Thirdly, the mode of John’s and Jesus’ baptism was most likely that of immersion. The Greek root word group baptize refers to dip or immerse (Josh 3:15 LXX: Ruth 2:14 LXX; 2 Kgs 5:14). Christ Himself is said to have come “up immediately from the water” subsequent to his own baptism (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10). The Gospels suggest that the fact was that immersion was the mode of baptism in the early Church. Through full immersion the covenant community demonstrates the gospel for all to see.
Fourthly, theologically, water baptism presupposes spiritual regeneration. In Acts 10:47, Peter states, “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” In Acts 11:17, Peter states, “Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?” Thus the Holy Spirit and His work of spiritual regeneration is what legitimizes the experience of baptism, not the other way around. The Holy Spirit as the seal of the covenant community in baptism.
Fifthly, the role of baptism in the local church. Baptism is the sign of the covenant community. Baptism makes those who have publicly declared not only their belief and commitment to King Jesus but it marks their active role within the covenant community. The baptism of the Spirit calls men to a newness of life. Clearly in Romans 6, Paul’s argument for spiritual baptism is the illustration of physical baptism. The body going under water illustrates death and the body arising illustrates life. As Christ died and was raised, the New Covenant saint is dead to sin and raised to life through the baptism of the Spirit (6:5-7). Paul states that when the Spirit baptizes and indwells believers “the Spirit…will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom 8:11). The newness of life that the Spirit provides however is not a merely manifested in individualism but the new life is manifested and is lived out in the context of the local church. Paul states the immediate result of the baptism of the Spirit is the community, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). Thus all believers are united together as a result of the individual baptism of the Spirit into the local body of Christ (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; Eph 4:4-5). Hence as a body of those who have experienced the Spirit’s baptism, members of Christ’s body are “subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21) as they are “filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).
The ordinances are opportunities for the covenant community to celebrate and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we express the covenant community as we celebrate and proclaim the gospel through the ordinances?