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Summary: What do we believe about the Lord’s Supper at First Baptist Church?

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Our church says: “The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church memorialize the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and anticipate His second coming.” Jesus commanded His church to perform the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s

Supper. Here, Paul gives instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper.

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In England, from 1555 to 1558 (the reign of bloody Queen Mary), 288 Protestant Reformers were burned at the stake. Of these, 1 was an archbishop (Thomas Cranmer), 4 were bishops, 21 were clergymen, 55 were women, and 4 were children. Why were they burned? There was one central issue: the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

As we look back at these people being martyred for what they believed about the Lord’s Supper, we need to understand that many people have been martyred for what our church says we believe regarding both baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because of how intertwined church and state were at the time. If a person wouldn’t submit to the teaching of the state sanctioned church, that also was seen to mean that they had rejected the state’s authority over them.

When Felix Manz was drowned in 1527 in Switzerland for being a Baptist, the court records said, “They do not allow Infant Baptism. In this way they will put an end to secular authority.”

Being Baptist was a capital crime because it was seen as treason against the secular authority. With the Lord’s Supper, it was similar. When the Catholic daughter of Henry the Eighth, Mary, ruled England, an attack on Roman Catholic doctrine was considered an attack on the crown.

The 288 reformers who were burned at the stake during Queen Mary’s reign did not accept a teaching regarding the Lord’s Supper called transubstantiation - the idea that when the priest blessed the elements, the literal flesh and literal blood of Jesus was present in the elements.

I mention this to show there was a time when baptism and the Lord’s Supper carried meanings some considered worth dying for and some considered worth killing for. Happily, in our history as Baptists, we’ve never been on the killing side. But we have been on the dying side.

Because of what we believe about the Lord’s Supper. We believe the Lord’s Supper is . . .

1. A symbolic reminder of Christ’s sacrifice - v. 26

Some insist on a special presence of Christ in the elements based on John 6:53-58. But Jesus makes it clear in John 6:35 that His intent is to portray salvation as being through faith in Him, the Bread of Life.

We don’t believe the Bible says the elements turn into the flesh and blood of Christ. We believe the bread symbolizes His body that was broken through His sacrifice; that the cup symbolizes His blood shed as He paid for our sins; and that Christ is present as we partake of the Lord’s Supper but in no different way than He is every time we gather.

2. A symbolic reminder of God’s grace.

Some call the Lord’s Supper a “sacrament” but we call it as an “ordinance.” A sacrament is “a rite that results in God’s grace being conveyed to the individual.” All Christians believe that the cross is the source of God’s grace - but some teach that God’s grace is accessed by means of sacraments. Whether they recognize two sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) or seven, like the Catholic church (Baptism; Confirmation; Communion; Confession; Marriage; Holy Orders; and The Last Rites), they are seen as means of grace.

The idea is that of making sure there is more grace on one side of the scales than sin on the other side. Through the “sacraments” a person can access grace to counter the negative effects of sin.

An ordinance refers to something done in obedience to a command. We aren’t baptized or partake of the Lord’s Supper to receive grace, but because we have already received grace. There is only one “means of grace” - faith in Christ’s sufficient sacrifice for our salvation.

“We have gained access by faith into this gracein which we now stand.” - Romans 5:2 (NIV)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . .”- Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not “means of grace” but celebrations of grace.

3. A symbolic reminder of our common salvation.

Those who hold the view that the Lord’s Supper is a “means of grace” believe an earthly priest or minister is a mediator between God and men. That through his blessing, a sacrament becomes a means whereby a person receives the grace from God provided by the cross.

But we believe that there is only one mediator between God and man - Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). By His sacrifice, He has provided grace for all to access by faith (Ephesians 2:8). We believe in the “priesthood of the believer” (1 Peter 2:5; 9), that the “ground is level at the foot of the cross,” and partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper portrays this truth.

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