Two Ordinances: Baptist and Communion | Baptist Distinctives

Lesson 5: Two Ordinances: Baptism and Communion

We are looking at the Baptist distinctives through use of the acrostic B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S. We have discussed the B – our view on the Bible, the A – the autonomy of the local church, the P – the (individual) priesthood of the believer. We now come to the T – two ordinances.

Definition: An ordinance is an authoritative rule, law, decree, or command. In Christianity it is a symbolic act or ceremony, commanded (thus ordained) by Christ. It is to be distinguished from a sacrament, which is a visible sign that imparts grace or symbolizes the impartation of grace. The difference is very significant. We practice the immersion of the believer in water and observe the Lord’s Supper because we have been commanded to do so by Christ. Such ceremonies do not confer or secure additional grace. The ordinances do not aid in one’s salvation.

Baptists recognize and practice two local church ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.


1. Why do we baptize?

Christ clearly commands believers to be baptized and to baptize others. The NT pattern is belief followed by baptism. All believers should be baptized.

Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

2. Why do we baptize by immersion?

ü Because of the meaning of the word baptize. Baptize is actually a Greek word which was transliterated into English. The translation of baptize is actually “to immerse.”

ü Because of the symbolism of the act (Romans 6:4-5). Baptism is an act which symbolizes the believers acceptance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as provision for the washing away of sin.

ü Because of the practice of the early church, which was obviously immersion (see such passages as Matt 3:6, 16; Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39, etc. The clearest picture of NT practice is found in Acts 8:26-40).

ü Because there was a perfectly good Greek word for “sprinkling,” and it is not used here.

Those who practice infant baptism see it as a continuation of the OT rite of circumcision, which initiated a believer’s son into the covenant community. Some traditions (e.g., Lutheran, Roman Catholic) believe infant baptism washes away original sin, but other traditions (Reformed, Presbyterian) see infant baptism as more of an initiation. Most Baptists see a significant difference between OT rituals and NT ordinances. Baptism is not the continuation of the rite of circumcision.

3. Who is a proper candidate for baptism?

One must be a believer in Christ, i.e., one who has accepted by faith the death, burial, and resurrection of the Jesus as the means of washing away his sins. Further, it’s wise for a church to instruct the believer regarding the meaning and purpose of baptism, and to allow enough time between one’s profession of faith and baptism to insure that the profession of faith is genuine. It’s counterproductive to baptize those who show no signs of genuine conversion.

4. Why do we not baptize infants?

Since infants cannot believe, they are not legitimate candidates for baptism. There is no NT example of infants ever being baptized. While it is true that whole households believed and were baptized in the book of Acts, there is no indication that such baptisms included infants. One must believe before being baptized, and since infants cannot believe, they should not be baptized.

5. How necessary is baptism?

ü It is not at all necessary for salvation.

ü It is a commandment of Christ; therefore, it is necessary for obedient Christianity.

ü It is also necessary for membership in a Baptist church. Baptists are convinced that baptism was part of the membership procedure in the New Testament church.

Sometimes people ask if they must be baptized again if they were baptized in a different church. The answer is normally no. If they have been immersed in water after salvation and understood the Biblical teaching regarding the ordinance, most Baptist churches do not require re-baptism.[1] If one has been sprinkled as an infant, one has not been baptized in a biblical manner. Such a person needs to be baptized for the first time, not re-baptized.

Baptists obviously believe that baptism is pretty important. It’s not necessary for salvation, but it is a necessary step of obedience and the initiation into the church.

The Lord’s Supper

Texts: Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-31

What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) is a ceremony or ritual designed to remind believers of the death of the Lord Jesus. The believer should also take time during this ceremony to evaluate his own spiritual condition, confessing and repenting of sin if necessary. The Lord’s Supper should be a serious time of reflection and worship, producing joy and thanksgiving in the believer’s life.

Baptists believe that the Lord’s Supper does not impart grace to the participants. Believers should participate, but the ceremony does not aid or strengthen one’s salvation.

Although we are told to observe the Lord’s supper until He comes again, we are not told how often the Lord’s Supper should be observed. Thus all schedules in this regard are simply part of the tradition of a particular church or denomination. Most Baptist churches conduct the Lord’s Supper at least once a month.

What is the form of the Lord’s Supper?

· The elements consist of unleavened bread and grape juice (or wine).[2] These were the elements of the Passover meal, which was what Jesus and the disciples ate at the Last Supper.

· The bread signifies the body of Jesus and the wine/juice signifies his blood. Eating the elements suggests accepting or identifying with Christ. See John 6:53-54.

· The bread and the wine/juice are not, and do not become, the actual body and blood of Christ.

· The ceremony is symbolic in nature. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the elements of the supper actually transform into the literal body and blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation. Lutherans believe that Jesus is somehow mystically present with, under and around the elements, although they retain their original physical properties. This idea is called consubstantiation. Baptists believe that the elements are symbolic, illustrative and representative of Christ’s broken body and shed blood.

Who should partake of the Lord’s Supper?

· Those who have trusted Christ’s death for their salvation. Without that basis, the Lord’s Supper is a meaningless rite. Communion is for believers only.

· Those who are in right relationship with the Lord and with fellow believers. Self-examination is an important aspect of this ceremony. Those who detect sin in their lives should confess and repent so that they can participate.

· Communion is a local church ordinance. That is, the church is responsible to administrate it. Individual believers should not serve it at home, at camp, in a hospital or elsewhere. The church as a body participates in communion when it comes together. If one is not a member of a church, he has no business partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

  • Most Baptist churches practice either closed or close communion. CBC practices close communion.
    • Closed communion: only members of the serving church may participate.
    • Close communion: any believer may participate whether he is a member or not.
    • Open communion: there is no restriction put on participation.
  • Some Baptist churches emphasize that one must have been baptized before participating in communion. This follows Jesus’ command to make disciples, baptize them, and then teach them to obey what Jesus taught.

4. What are the benefits of the Lord’s Supper?

  • Believers are drawn to focus on what the Lord has done for them.
  • Believers are confronted with the need for self-examination, confession and repentance.
  • Believers are forced to keep short accounts of themselves and their relationships to the Lord and to others.
  • Believers are reminded of the Lord’s sacrificial death and his imminent return.

Conclusion: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important ceremonies that the local church administrates. Believers should understand these ordinances and make sure they are participating in them in a biblical manner.


1. Define transubstantiation. The belief that the elements of communion actually turn into the body and blood of Jesus.

2. Why don’t Baptists baptize infants? Because we believe in believer’s baptism. Infants can’t believe.

3. Why do Baptists insist that baptism is by immersion? That’s the meaning of the term; the NT pattern seems to be immersion; the symbolism involved suggests immersion.

4. How often should a church practice the Lord’s Supper? As often as they see fit. Some churches do it weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

What is the difference between a sacrament and an ordinance? A sacrament confers grace, i.e., one is saved or in some way helped through participation in the rite. An ordinance does not convey grace. It is symbolic and memorial only.

[1] There are some Baptist churches that are very concerned about the kind of church one is baptized in. If the baptizing church does not meet certain requirements, some Baptists churches will re-baptize people.

[2] All wine in the NT was fermented wine, even “new wine,” the wine Jesus made from water, and the wine served at the Last Supper. Drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper was a major problem in Corinth (1 Cor 11:30). If they were drunk at communion, then the wine must have been fermented. However, most modern wine would pass for strong drink, which the Bible forbids. Norman L. Geisler, “A Christian Perspective on Wine Drinking” Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March 1982.