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The Church - The Church's Ordinances


Evangelical Protestants prefer to use the word ordinance rather than sacrament because the word sacrament carries the connotation of it conveying grace. Charles Ryrie defines ordinance as “an outward rite prescribed by Christ to be performed by His church.”[1]

The New Testament only speaks of two ordinances prescribed by Christ to be performed by His church.

The Lord’s Supper
In three of the Gospels we find that Christ instituted this ordinance on the eve of His crucifixion. When instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus commanded His followers to continue observing the ordinance until His return (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). Paul, in his epistle to The Corinthian church also wrote in some detail about this ordinance (1 Cor. 11:23-32).
Throughout church history, there has been much debate over the meaning of this ordinance. Following, I will make mention of the four views held as to its meaning. I will expand slightly on the view this author holds.
(1) Transubstantiation. This is the Roman Catholic view which teaches that the bread and wine literally change to the body and blood of Christ. As the believer partakes of the elements, he literally partakes of Christ, who during the mass is being sacrificed for the atonement of sins. Grace is conveyed to the partaker.
(2) Consubstantiation. This was the view held by the reformer Martin Luther. Today, most Lutherans hold to this view. This view teaches that the bread and wine don’t change into the body and blood of Christ but rather that Christ is present “in, with, and under” the elements. Believer’s partake in order to have their sins forgiven and for their faith to be confirmed as they receive them by faith.
(3) Reformed. Held primarily by Presbyterians and Reformed churches, this view teaches that although Christ is not literally present in the elements, He is present spiritually. Partaking of the elements conveys grace to the believer.
(4) Memorial. This view is held by Baptists, Mennonites, Plymouth Brethren, and other denominational and non-denominational churches. This view teaches that Christ is not present physically or spiritually in the elements. When the believer partakes of the elements, he is simply commemorating the death of Christ. No grace is conveyed or imparted to the believer. The elements are figurative only and although there is no real physical or spiritual presence of Christ in the elements, it is a time when the believer is in communion and spiritual fellowship with His Lord, memorializing His death. It is a rite in which believers acknowledge and demonstrate their faith in the death of Christ. This is the view I hold because in my opinion the other views present a number of problems that cannot be reconciled with the New Testament’s teaching on the ordinance. Paul Enns states, “The memorial view has much to commend it in the Scriptures. An examination of the passages reveals the significance of the Lord’s Supper. It is a memorial to His death (1 Cor. 11:24, 25): the recurring statement, ‘in remembrance of Me,’ makes this clear, the bread symbolizing His perfect body offered in sin-bearing sacrifice (1 Pet. 2:24) and the wine His blood shed for forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7). It is a proclamation of the death of Christ while waiting for His coming (1 Cor. 11:26): it involves a looking back to the historical event of the cross and an anticipating of His return in the future (Matt. 26:29). It is a communion of believers with each other (1 Cor. 10:17): they eat and drink the same symbolic elements, focusing on their common faith in Christ.”[2]

Baptism
Personally, I prefer to use the term “believer’s baptism” since in my opinion it better expresses the ordinance. We find the origin of this ordinance in Jesus’ command better known as The Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded Christians to make disciples and baptize them. This verse, as well as many others deliberately establishes an order in the execution of this ordinance. All these verses that I will enumerate clearly indicate that before an individual is to be baptized, that individual must have become a believer, thus my preferred term of “believer’s baptism.” In other words, baptism follows a person’s act of repentance and his exercise of faith (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15; 16:14-15; 18:8).

When a believer is baptized, he is identifying himself with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is an outward public declaration of what has already occurred inwardly. Romans 6:4-5, although speaking of Spirit baptism helps illustrate the meaning of this ordinance. Some have asked why one must make his declaration public in this fashion. Because Christ died a very public death in order that we might be reconciled to God. He died publicly, we declare publicly.

It is important to note that the Bible does not support the view or doctrine known as “baptismal regeneration.” This view of baptism teaches that the result of baptism is the remission of sin and as the name of the doctrine states; a person after baptism is regenerate or born again. Scripture clearly teaches that a person is not baptized in order to be saved but rather that he is baptized because he has been saved, therefore the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is inconsistent with the clear teaching of the New Testament.


[1] Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), p. 149.
[2] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), p. 362.

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