Our Common Expressions of Life with Christ
Jesus never asked His disciples to remember His birth. But He did instruct them to remember His death and resurrection. He gave us two visible symbols and actions as expressions of this death and new life we share in. These two ordinances are: Baptism and Communion (The Lord's Supper).
What is the meaning of baptism?
It illustrates Christ's death and resurrection.
"Christ died for our sins ... He was buried ... and he rose again." 1 Cor. 15:3-4
"For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ." Col. 2:12
It illustrates my new life with God through Christ.
When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. The old life has passed away and a new life has begun, 2 Cor. 5:17
"By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared in His death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead ... so also we may live a new life!" Romans 6:4
Baptism doesn't make you a believer - it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not "save" you, only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding - it's the public statement of the personal commitment you made in your heart.
Why should I be baptized?
To publicly express my commitment to Christ.
"... many of the people who heard Him believed and were baptized." Acts 18:8
To follow the example set by Christ.
"At that time Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river." Mark 1:9
To obey Christ's command.
"Jesus said, 'Go then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and then teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.'" Matthew 28:19-20
When should I be baptized?
As soon as you have believed!
"Those who believed ... were baptized ... that day!" Acts 2:41
"Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the Good News about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, 'Look, here is water, Why shouldn't I be baptized right now?' Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' The man answered, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him." Acts 8:35-38
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are "perfect", you'll never feel "good enough"!
Communion (The Lord's Supper)
What does Communion represent?
The backdrop of Communion is the Passover celebration of the Jewish people. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God brought forth the release of the people though confronting Pharaoh (Egypt's ruler) with ten plagues. The increasing hardness of Pharaoh's heart refused to release the people, which led to the final plague in which the life of every male child was taken. On the night of this event God's people were to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and wipe the blood over the doorframe of their homes. By this sacrifice their homes would be "passed over" and they would be saved and set free. In the horror of this judgment upon the Egyptians, the people of God were set free and began their journey from the land of bondage to the land of promise.
This event so clearly represented the sacrificial cost involved with freedom that it was to be remembered throughout every generation in the Passover celebration. (Exodus 12:12-28)
It was during such a Passover celebration that Christ entered Jerusalem, gathered His disciples in an upper room, and revealed that a more final and far-reaching Passover was now at hand as He the Messiah, God's anointed, would be sacrificed to set all people free. The bread and wine of the Passover meal would now represent His own body and blood. Those who would receive Him would have His blood "over" their lives and the just judgment that will come to pass will pass over them. All who receive Him will be set free from the land of bondage (sin and shame) that enslaves and begin a journey towards the land of promise which is eternal life with God.
This sacrifice establishes a "new covenant" between God and humankind. The elements of bread and wine or juice represent the body and blood of Christ as the terms of this new covenant. In receiving them we can accept this covenant. (John 6; 1 Corinthians 10:16-20, 11:23-26)
How should we approach Communion?
It is a time to remember and give thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ.
"... and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 1 Cor. 11:24
"... the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks ..." 1 Cor. 10:16
It is a time to recognize our common bond with one another as the Body of Christ.
"When we drink from the cup that we ask God to bless, isn't that sharing in the blood of Christ? When we eat the bread that we break, isn't that sharing in the body of Christ? By sharing in the same loaf of bread, we become one body, even though there are many of us." 1 Cor. 10:16-17 [CEV]
It's a time to receive the life of Christ at work in us... which is able to sustain us as we finish our journey towards the fullness of eternal life with God.
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. ... For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. ... Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:35,40,49-51 [NIV]