Baptism & The Lord's Supper


1. The Meaning Of Baptism
Water Baptism
What Is The Meaning Of Baptism?
2. Baptism And Salvation
Acts 2:38
Acts 22:16
I Peter 3:18-21
Titus 3:5
3. The Significance Of The Lord's Supper
A Memorial Observance
A Symbolic Observance
A Continuing Observance
A Church Observance
4. The Observance Of The Lord's Supper
Sincere Appreciation
Brotherly Consideration

This booklet is taken from the messages taught by Richard W. De Haan on the Day Of Discovery television program. Richard was president and teacher of Radio Bible Class from 1965 to 1985.

Managing Editor: David Sper
Cover Photo: Mike Forrest
©1982,1994 RBC Ministries--Grand Rapids, MI 49555 Printed in USA

To begin our study on the ordinances of the church, I would like to focus your attention on baptism. In the first two lessons we will explore its meaning and its relationship to salvation, then we will consider what the Bible teaches about the Lord's Supper.

You may have noticed that I referred to baptism as an ordinance--not a sacrament--of the church. I did so for a very definite reason. There are those who, in using the term sacrament to apply to baptism, view it wrongly as a means of imparting some special grace. I realize that there are some who use the word sacrament without any such intended application. However, because of the wrong connotation given the term by others, I prefer to call baptism an ordinance rather than a sacrament.

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When the word sacrament was first applied to baptism in the latter part of the second century AD, it was associated with some erroneous ideas that had been drawn into Christendom from the Greek mystery religions. The converts from paganism were accustomed to having cleansing ceremonies for spiritual purification, and they began to think of baptism as a means by which the stain of sin was removed. These former pagans had been involved in practices they had looked on as having special powers, so it was only a small step for them to view the waters of baptism as possessing redemptive value.

Constantine, the Roman emperor who made Christianity the state religion in the fourth century, reportedly postponed his baptism until he was on his deathbed. We presume that he hoped all his sins would be washed away just before he died.

By the 12th century, as many as 30 different rites and ceremonies were being practiced in the church. These were called either "mysteries" or "sacraments." That number, of course, has been gradually reduced, but the term sacrament has been retained. And for many it still refers to something that provides a special means of grace. These people therefore think of salvation as a combination of faith, good works, and the sacraments. The biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone has been lost to them.

Yes, sacramentalism is still with us today. Because of the misleading connotation attached to the word sacrament, I repeat my conviction that we should be very careful to refer to the ordinances rather than the sacraments of the church. So important is it that we make plain the way of salvation by grace through faith--apart from works or ritual--that even in our terminology we must avoid giving the impression that baptism has any saving power.

I would never baptize anyone who had the idea that doing so would wash away his sin. If I were the pastor of a local church and someone requested to be baptized, I would first ask him if he knew its meaning. I'd make sure he understood that it has no saving power whatever. I would then want to hear from his own lips a clear testimony that he has recognized what the Lord Jesus accomplished for him at Calvary through His sacrifice for sin, and that he has placed his trust in Christ, and in Him alone, for salvation. Being assured of that, and satisfied that he recognized baptism as an ordinance rather than a sacrament of the church (that it has no redemptive value), I would gladly encourage him to be baptized.

In this series of lessons we will discuss only two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, rather than the so-called "seven sacraments of the church." There are those who insist that baptism, confirmation, penance, the partaking of the bread and the wine, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction are all to be recognized as sacramental. They therefore look on each of these observances as a means by which supernatural grace is received. According to this belief: