Protestants see ordinances as symbolic reenactments of the gospel message that Christ lived, died, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will someday return. Rather than requirements for salvation, ordinances are visual aids to help us better understand and appreciate what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in His redemptive work. Ordinances are determined by three factors: they were instituted by Christ, they were taught by the apostles, and they were practiced by the early church. Since baptism and communion are the only rites which qualify under these three factors, there can be only two ordinances, neither of which are requirements for salvation.
Ordinances are generally understood to be those things Jesus told us to observe with other Christians. Regarding baptism, Matthew 28:18-20(ESV) says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
As for communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, Luke 22:19 (ESV) says, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Most churches observe these two practices, but may not necessarily refer to them as ordinances.
Communion and baptism are two things that were meant to be spiritual and we made them religious. We tell people what to do, but we don’t tell them why. Then it becomes religious. Baptism is one of the primary ways we connect to the cross. It’s not about getting dunked in water, its about connecting to the cross. We have to get out of Ritual and into Sacrament, out of religious duty and into a spiritual experience. Baptism is not about a religious duty its about a spiritual experience. There is something spiritual that happens at baptism, there is a death burial and resurrection that happens that connects us with what happened at the cross and the tomb of Jesus. There is something about our born again life that is incomplete until baptism.
Romans 6:4 (HCSB) Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Water baptism it is not an entrance into Christianity. The fact that baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water, the thief on the cross
Luke 23:39-43(HCSB)39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
This self-confessed sinner came to acknowledge Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him, and he asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to life by the power of Christ’s word.
Instead we are baptized because our Lord commanded it and because we obey Him. Matthew 28:19(HCSB)“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Acts 8:12(HCSB)12 But when they believed Philip, as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
We also see that when people were being baptized, they did it calling on Jesus’ name Acts 22:16(HCSB)16 And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’, that is, they were calling upon Jesus who has all authority in heaven and earth
Matthew 28:18(HCSB)18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. The church is supposed to “call upon the name of the Lord Jesus”
1 Corinthians 1:2(HCSB)2 To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours. because it is by His authority John 1:12(HCSB)But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, that we Christians have the hope and right of forgiveness of sins and adoption as His children Romans 8:15(HCSB)15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”
The proper way to baptize in Jesus’ name is to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Here are four truths that shape the way we view baptism:
1. Baptism publicly declares your repentance.
There are many people in the South who get baptized but never repent. Maybe someone convinced you that you could accept Jesus as Savior without surrendering to him as Lord—like he was a salad bar, where you can take the parts you want and leave the ones you don’t. But all throughout Scripture, we see that to be baptized is to repent. Baptism symbolizes us walking out of the wilderness of our sin and into the new life of faith and obedience.
If your life did not radically change when you got baptized, then it was not a baptism of repentance. You just got wet in front of a bunch of people.
2. Baptism is by immersion.
There are two reasons why we submerge people.
First, that’s how they did it in the Bible. Take John the Baptist, for instance. He wasn’t standing on the shore of the Jordan River with a cup, sprinkling water on people’s heads; he brought them into the river. He was dunking people.
The Greek word for “baptism” literally meant to plunge, soak, or dip. The English translators didn’t know exactly how to translate that word (or perhaps they were afraid to take a stand), so they just transliterated it. The Greek Baptizo simply became “baptize.”
“Baptism” wasn’t actually a religious word at all. Sometimes they used it for people who drowned or ships that went down at sea. We even have a recipe for pickles recorded by a Greek physician named Nicander. He says, literally, “bapto (as in, dip quickly) the cucumber in water, and then baptizo (as in, immerse and let it soak) in vinegar.” And then he said, “Your pickle will be filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues.” (Okay, I made that last part up.)
Second, we submerge people because of what it symbolizes. When you bury people, you don’t sprinkle dirt on them. You put them into the ground. In baptism, we are being buried with Jesus. Romans 6:4(ESV)4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
3. Baptism is not a condition of but evidence of salvation.
Many people think that Scripture presents baptism as a necessary condition of salvation. I can disprove that in one story: Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him, “Today you’ll be with me in glory.” If baptism were necessary, he’d have been like, “Hurry! Somebody get a hose and a bucket!”
Romans 10:9-10(ESV) “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Confess and believe. That’s it.
Baptism is like a wedding ring. Wearing a wedding ring does not make you legally married. It demonstrates that you have a covenant with your spouse. I am no more married when I wear my ring than when I don’t. In the same way, baptism demonstrates my conversion; it’s not a pre-condition of that conversion. This is why, by the way, we only baptize after people become believers. If you get baptized before you are converted (say, as an infant), that is not an evidence of your faith. It’s evidence of your parents’ faith. Baptism is the evidence of repentance.
4. Baptism is incredibly important.
Martin Luther said the devil came to him every night “to dispute with him.” Luther said he learned two things would chase the devil away. One was to say, “Satan, I am baptized. I have left your wilderness. You have no more jurisdiction.” The other way — and I’m not sure how else to say this — was to cut a fart. Luther believed that because the devil was proud and hated mockery, cutting a fart in his face was a way of mocking him and making Satan flee. I kid you not.
Here’s the point: You need power to resist Satan, and baptism is much more pleasant for those around you than Luther’s alternative.
When people ask me, “What’s the big deal about baptism? It’s just a ritual. It doesn’t change anything,” Let’s Look at Jesus’ baptism.
Matthew 3:13-17(ESV)13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
When Jesus was baptized, he heard the affirmation of God and was filled by the Holy Spirit. No big deal? Seems pretty significant to me. Jesus is about to go into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This affirmation of the Father will become the core of his resistance against Satan. He can say, “The Father has declared over me his love, and that love is going to give me the strength to withstand Satan.” His body may be in the wilderness, but God is his home.
Your baptism functions like that, too. Your baptism is like a flag you put in the ground that signifies for you and to everyone else that you have left the wilderness of sin where Satan rules and entered the promised land of obedience where God rules. Satan has no more jurisdiction
Moses was commissioned by God to be the deliverer of His people. He went before Pharaoh and requested the people to be let go so they may worship the Lord. Exodus 5:1(HCSB)Later, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, “This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: Let My people go, so that they may hold a festival for Me in the wilderness.”
Pharaoh refused (“he hardened his heart”) and began to oppress the people of Israel even more. Exodus 7:2-4(HCSB) You must say whatever I command you; then Aaron your brother must declare it to Pharaoh so that he will let the Israelites go from his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you, but I will put My hand on Egypt and bring the divisions of My people the Israelites out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.Then began the cycle of the ten plagues. Moses requested that Pharaoh release his people, Pharaoh refused, God sent a plague, Pharaoh “repented,” and God removed the plague. After the final plague (the death of the firstborn), Pharaoh finally agreed to let the children of Israel go. Exodus 12:30-32(HCSB)30 During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead. 31 He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, “Get up, leave my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship Yahweh as you have asked. 32 Take even your flocks and your herds as you asked and leave, and also bless me.” But then he had another change of heart and chased after them with his army. Exodus 14:5-8(HCSB)5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about the people and said: “What have we done? We have released Israel from serving us.” 6 So he got his chariot ready and took his troops with him; 7 he took 600 of the best chariots and all the rest of the chariots of Egypt, with officers in each one. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out triumphantly.That’s when the great scene of deliverance occurred as God parted the Red Sea, allowing the children of Israel to pass through safely, but drowning Pharaoh and his army under the sea.Exodus 14:21-31(HCSB)21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.
23 The Egyptians set out in pursuit—all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen—and went into the sea after them. 24 Then during the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian forces from the pillar of fire and cloud, and threw them into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve and made them drive with difficulty. “Let’s get away from Israel,” the Egyptians said, “because Yahweh is fighting for them against Egypt!”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal depth. While the Egyptians were trying to escape from it, the Lord threw them into the sea. 28 The waters came back and covered the chariots and horsemen, the entire army of Pharaoh, that had gone after them into the sea. None of them survived.
29 But the Israelites had walked through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the power of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in Him and in His servant Moses.
The exodus from Egypt, though a real, historical event, prefigures the saving work of Christ for His people. What God did through Moses was to provide physical salvation from physical slavery. What God does through Christ is provide spiritual salvation from a spiritual slavery. However, our slavery isn’t like that of the Israelites in Egypt. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, but we are all slaves to sin. As Jesus said to the Pharisees,
John 8:34-36(HCSB)34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.
Pharaoh let the Israelites go and gave them all the riches of Egypt, then he had a change of heart and sent his choice warriors in their best chariots after them.
The Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians until they came to the red sea. How many of you have your past chasing you?
The Egyptians were drowned in the sea after the Israelites made it to the other side after they came out, Egypt means bondage! We need to drown some Egyptians here today!!
When you go into the water you leave those bondages in there you come up free from those bondages.
Romans 6:6-7(HCSB) For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.
So the parting of the Red Sea not only finalized God’s redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt, but it also prefigured the greater spiritual reality of God’s redemption of His people from slavery to sin through the work of Christ.
Before we are baptized we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation Romans 3:23 (HCSB) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected to assure our place in heaven 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (HCSB) Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 that He was buried,that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
We then turn to Jesus, asking Him to forgive our sins and to be our Lord and Savior, and the moment we do that we are born again, our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ.
Romans 10:9-10(ESV) “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” At this time we are qualified to be scripturally baptized.
At the baptismal, we let ourselves be completely immersed in the water. This is the burial with our Lord; we are baptized into His death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin.When we are raised out of the water, we are resurrected—raised to our new life in Christ and to be with Him forever, born into the family of our loving God.
Romans 6:11(HCSB)11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Christians have been commanded to be baptized, and we should do so out of obedience to, and love for, our Lord Christ Jesus John 14:15 (HCSB)15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.