Skip to main content

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]

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.


Popular posts from this blog

On Affirmations of Faith

The dictionary defines affirmation as, “The assertion that something exists or is true. Something that is affirmed; a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.” Affirmations imply knowledge, understanding, certainty, and conviction. Affirmations mean very little unless they reach to the point of identification and involvement. Knowing what one believes and why is a must for every genuine Christian, in fact, it is a biblical mandate. An Affirmation of Faith is no affirmation at all unless God and His truth have become experiential and they have utterly gripped you. Superficiality and confusion as to what we believe are at the root of moral and spiritual calamity in Christian experience, and of weakness and worldliness in the life and witness of the church. I know, what is true of many is not representative of the entire Christian community. Knowing where we ought to be (we learn that in Scripture) and getting there requires us to first take stock of where we cur

The Existence of God - Naturalistic & Biblical Arguments

Charles Ryrie states that traditionally there have been two lines of argument used to demonstrate the existence of God, the naturalistic and the biblical arguments. [1] Here I will evaluate those that fall within both the naturalistic as well as the biblical arguments. Naturalistic Arguments Dan Story contends that  “it doesn’t take much reflection for us to realize that we exist, and we did not create ourselves. And since that’s true, it’s easy to figure out that something or someone besides ourselves brought us to be. And with a little more reflection, we can also see that the entire universe came to be in one of three possible ways: (1) it created itself; (2) it has always existed, and therefore had no Creator; or (3) it was created by something or someone outside of itself.” [2] Cosmological Argument A well-established philosophical principle is ex nihilo nihil fit (Latin meaning, “from nothing, nothing comes” ). The idea or point of the principle is that you ca

The Doctrine of the Trinity

Benjamin Warfield defines the Trinity as follows, “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” [1] Chafer states, “The Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence—so completely united as to form one God. The divine nature subsists in three distinctions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” [2] Geisler, in giving the meaning of Trinity, he states, “ It means that God is a triunity: He is a plurality within unity. God has a plurality of persons and a unity of essence; God is three persons in one nature. There is only one ‘What’ (essence) in God, but there are three ‘Whos’ (persons) in that one What. God has three ‘I’s’ in His one ‘It’—there are three Subjects in one Object.” [3] The Athanasian Creed clearly sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, “That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their pe