Summary: A brief explanation of the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Two for ONE
A. Every so often we have the opportunity to combine baptism and the communion into the same service. We are going to do that again today. Today we get the two for one special.
Almost everyone loves the promotional … get two for one. If you could get two dinners for the price of one, you would go out to eat today. If you could buy two cars for the price of one, you would be on the lot this afternoon. The church also has a two for one special. It has two do with the two lasting ordinances Jesus gave the church to demonstrate ONENESS OF OUR FAITH IN THE WORLD’S ONE TRUE LORD.
B. There were two practices central to the early church. The church was so devoted to these two practices that they called them “sacraments”. The idea of a sacrament is that it is something ordinary, but God uses it as a vehicle for something extraordinary.
For example, Baptism uses ordinary water, but something sacred is going on in Baptism. In Communion, at the Lord’s Table, we use an ordinary piece of bread and cup of juice but it symbolizes something sacred.
C. Something ordinary becomes a window that you can look through to see something extraordinary that God is doing. These sacraments point us toward God and hold us there long enough to feel the presence of God.
At the heart of these two ordinances is the story that God is writing in the world and most importantly inside of us.
D. God is at work in the world to reconcile all things to Himself. Paul says in Colossians 1:19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things in earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.
God is doing a work of reconciliation. Why? Because sin has ruined the story. There is a gap that stands between God and me. The story of the Gospel is the God of the universe acting on behalf of the world to close the gap, forgive sin and reconcile the universe to Himself.
E. Sometimes we have a hard time grasping the reality of that work. We are hard pressed to understand the depth of the forgiveness God offers. Jesus wanted his followers to be clear on this – so He gave the early church two practices to bring clarity. These two gifts are from God and serve a unique purpose. They work in concert with each other. One proclaims that Jesus died for me and the other that Jesus lives in me.
They both are acts of association and allegiance.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were not casual religious observances. People were baptized and received communion as public acts. They did so knowing of the possibility of long term consequences. The very act of participation would put people under a stigma in the first few centuries of the church. Initially as seen in the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus were expelled from the synagogues and sometimes chased out of town. Sometime later in the first century, people would lose their jobs and sometimes their lives. There are hints of these pressures in the books of 1 Peter and Hebrews.
F. For the next few moments, I want to clarify the meaning of these two ordinances.
Baptism is a one time event of association. Baptism is Christianity’s initiation rite. Now, it’s far more than that, as we’ll see in a moment, but it includes with it the idea that once a person admits his sin and turns to Christ for salvation, some public step has to be taken to show the world that this man or this woman is now a Christ follower.
G. When Jesus was growing up, the practice of baptism had been around for a long period of time. Although the term "baptism" is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites (or Mikvah - ritual immersion) in Jewish laws and tradition have some similarity to baptism. In Jesus day, if a Gentile decided to become a part of the Jewish community, that conversion of faith could be expressed through the act of baptism. It was a way of saying, “this person, who has been an outsider, is now a part of the family”.
This idea that was practiced by the Jewish faith spread, and in Jesus’ day, we see it practiced in the life of John the Baptist. The reason he is called John the Baptist is because he baptized people in the Jordan River as an act of association. Here was a community of people waiting for the kingdom of God. Their solidariy was expressed in the waters of baptism. John was not a “Baptist” in the denominational sense. Jesus did not have other cousins like Simon the Methodist or Elieazar the Episcopalian. It was a way for the Israelites to say: