This past Sunday at Disciples Road we observed the two ordinances that God has given the church: the Lord’s Supper and believer’s baptism. The Lord’s Supper points us to Christ’s death. Believer’s baptism points us to His resurrection. Each ordinance hinges upon a right understanding of its symbolism. If we don’t get the symbolism, the reason for the ordinance will be lost upon us.
The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper isn’t hard to understand. The bread symbolizes the body of Christ, that physical, human body that hung dead on the cross for the sins of the world (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19). The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ, the blood that coursed through that body, the blood that has the power to cleanse sin (Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20). As Christians eat the bread and drink the wine, we proclaim Christ’s death until He returns (1st Corinthians 11:23-26).
The symbolism of believer’s baptism isn’t complicated either. However, Christians seem to have more trouble grasping it. Baptism is a two-fold object lesson. First, it shows what has happened in the Christian’s earthly existence. Second, it shows what has happened in the Christian’s eternal existence.
Concerning the earthly existence, when the Christian goes under the water he publicly says, “I am now dead to my old, sinful way of living” (Romans 6:1-3). When he comes up from under the water he publicly says, “I am now alive to walk in the newness of the Christian life” (Romans 6:4, 6-7, 11-23).
Concerning the eternal existence, when the Christian goes under the water he publicly identifies himself with Christ’s death and burial (Romans 6:4). When he comes up from under the water he publicly identifies himself with Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:5, 8-10). You see, by submitting to baptism, the believer says, “Because Jesus died and arose from the dead, my body will one day be resurrected as well, and I will enjoy my resurrected body throughout eternity.”
But it is that symbolism involving the Christian’s earthly existence that I want to deal with a little more. Christian, what if the minister who baptized you caught you committing a sin and said, “You are certainly not living up to your baptism.” You would probably ask, “What do you mean?” He would reply, “When you went under the water that day you were saying, ‘I am now dying to my old, sinful way of life.’ When you came up from under the water you were saying, ‘I am now alive to walk in the newness of the Christian life.’ But what you are doing right now looks like your old way of living, not the newness of the Christian life.” How would that make you feel? Would it drive home the point that getting baptized is a BIG deal? Would it remind you that the Christian is supposed to shun sin and live differently than the rest of the world?
Perhaps it would do us good if every Christian was required to wear his baptismal certificate around his neck. That way we could be constantly reminded of exactly what it was we committed to when we got baptized. Maybe us pastors need to carry copies of those certificates around so that we can pull them out whenever we see a Christian sinning. That would make for an interesting experiment, wouldn’t it? My guess is, it would cut down on the rate of sin quite a bit.