This morning we celebrate the two ordinances (orders) Jesus instructed the church to follow: Baptism and Communion. They both serve the purposes of identifying a person with Jesus Christ and with the church. These two ordinances are one of the unique or distinctives of a Bible following Baptist church.
This morning I am so excited to be celebrating the baptism of three of the younger people in our church. We have a high school student, a college student, and a graduate student – Callie Grupa, Justin Leonhardt, and Wis Valdez.
At sports events, we get excited and cheer for our teams and our kids. We want to see them win every week. Today, you can be the Bills Mafia or the Yankees Bleacher Creatures. To cheer for Callie, Justin, and WIs as they take this step of faith and publicly proclaim their allegiance to Jesus Christ as Savior. They are putting on the team jersey or jacket and letting everyone know where they stand. With you and I and the rest of the church. This is a team celebration!
I hope you will applaud and cheer “amen” to show them that this is even more important than the performances, good grades or other awards they may achieve at school. Today they are putting a stake in the ground and not turning back. They are showing us all that they are committed followers of Jesus Christ. They are publicly identifying with the team.
Baptism is clearly seen in Scripture as a way to tell the world that I’m a Christian. It is not the way we are saved. Every time someone was baptized in the Bible, they had already trusted Jesus as Savior. This is a symbol or act of obedience. Jesus commanded His followers to go into the world, preach the Gospel, baptize new believers, and disciple them in the faith.
Baptism also illustrates unity with Jesus Christ. Just as He died for our sins, was buried, and then rose again, Each person will be lowered into the water in a picture of death to sins, burial, and then rising to new life in Christ. It is a picture of our Salvation in Jesus Christ
READ Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12
Baptism also illustrates unity in the Church. Everyone who joins the church, must be baptized in the same way after trusting Christ as Savior. This is the example we have from the New Testament: salvation and then baptism. In Acts 2 we read “So those who received his word were baptized and there added that day about three thousand souls.”
READ Ephesians 4:4-5
Baseball season is in full swing and some fans are actually allowed to attend live games this spring. Does anyone know my team? The Yankees, are known for their blue pinstripes and distinctive NY symbol. You are associated to the team and connected to New York when you wear your Yankees hat, jacket, or jersey. Fans wear them because they know this identifies them as being a fan of their favorite team. In this simple way the fan identifies with his team.
Because of the popularity of the Yankees and the NY symbol (you either love them or hate them) people around the world wear Yankees hats. They may not all be true baseball fans – they may just want to connect with New York or America.
A similar phenomenon happens in Christianity. It is not simply a matter of saying that you are a Christian, rather it is you proclaiming that you understand what Christ did for you. That’s communion. It is a way of saying not only that you are a Christian, but you reflect on and appreciate the suffering of Christ at the Cross.
Jesus Christ bled and died on the cross, paying for your sins and mine. He suffered and died in our place. When we eat the bread, we remember his body broken for us. When we drink the cup, we remember his blood poured out like a spotless sacrificial lamb on the altar. Jesus suffered in our place and He wanted the church to remember that our salvation came at a tremendous cost. His life! We cannot treat our salvation lightly.
READ Galatians 2:20
In taking communion you proclaim your willingness to suffer with Christ. Modern American Christians don’t think very much about suffering for their faith. It seems almost incomprehensible to them that any form of pain or even embarrassment could possibly come their way just for being a Christian. But each time you take communion, you proclaim your willingness to suffer along with your Lord. You are showing your team colors. This all may be changing, by the way, very soon with some of the new federal and state legislation surrounding the equality act. There will be a higher cost to being a Christian and holding to biblical truths.
Real fans will tell you: just wearing the hat doesn’t make you a fan. Real fans stick with the team through thick and thin. Good seasons and bad seasons. They aren’t jumping on and off the band wagon every year. The Yankees are off to their worst season start since 1997. That was before my second son Will was born and became a Yankees fan and also part of the Massaro family. But the Bronx Bombers are having a rough time. Do real fans bail on them? No, they stick it out and hang on to hope for the rest of the season.
Real Christians tell you the same thing about those who take communion. If you genuinely believe, if you are genuinely willing to suffer for Christ, if you are genuinely walking the walk, obeying God’s Word, then you are a genuine Christian. If you are a genuine Christian, communion is deeply meaningful. If you’re a fake fan or a fraud, it is just an empty ritual.
So perhaps you can measure your faith by what communion means to you: is it your identification with your Lord Jesus Christ, or is it just something we do once a month? It’s hard to tell from the outside, but you know. And so does God.
Communion and baptism are the only two specific ordinances or orders Jesus gave the church to follow. Both have to do with identifying with Jesus Christ and identifying with the church – the body of Christ. They do not change our relationship with God. We are not saved or forgiven by either of these actions, but we declare our allegiance to Jesus, we proclaim our alliance with the church and others believers, and we proclaim the Gospel: His death, burial, and resurrection.
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving.