|Catechism Sec. 17: The Special OrdinancesPDF Print VersionQ75. What is baptism?A75. Baptism is a special ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ1, to be to the person baptised, a sign of his spiritual union with Him - in His death, burial and resurrection2, 3 - to walk in newness of life4, 5.
Notes: The answer, which is based on Spurgeon’s, has been simplified.1. Matt. 28:19, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.2. Rom. 6:3, Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?3. Col. 2:12, Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.4. Rom. 6:4-5, Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection5. Gal. 3:27, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.Comments:1. This is one of the two “special ordinances” of the church, different from hearing the word and prayer, in that they were instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs. The paedobaptists regard these as not only signs, but also seals, whereas the Bible teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). In Romans 4:11, circumcision was a sign which, to Abraham in particular, was also a seal (authentication) of the righteousness imputed to him before his circumcision.
2. A physical and visible sign points to an internal and spiritual reality. Baptism signifies our union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. It is also a declaration that we desire to walk with Christ in newness of life.
Q76. To whom is baptism to be administered?A76. Baptism is to be administered to all those who credibly profess repentance towards God1, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ2, 3, and to none other.Notes: The word “credibly” replaces “actually”.1.Acts 2:38, 41, Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.2. Mark 16:16, He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.3. Acts 8:12, But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.Comments:1. Only converted people, i.e. those who have repented and believed, are to be baptised. Regardless of whether you are from a pagan background or a Christian background, you should get baptised when converted. Baptism does not save, for salvation is “by grace, through faith, in Christ alone” (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:17 cf. Luke 23:42-43). A saved person would want to be baptised in obedience to the Lord’s command (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:38, 41).
2. While baptism should take place as closely as possible to the time of conversion, only those who show a credible profession of faith should be baptised. In the New Testament, professing believers were baptised immediately because: (i) the apostles had the gift of discernment to determine who were saved (Acts 5:1-11); (ii) it was a time of persecution when discipleship was very costly (Acts 8:1-3); (iii) the people met often such that there were more opportunities to know one another (Acts 2:46). Today, a credible profession of faith may be determined from the person’s understanding of the gospel, experience of conversion, obedience to the Lord, and commitment to God’s people. Practically, all these can be assessed only when the person attends church regularly, get to know others, and shares about his life.
Q77. Are the infants of professing believers to be baptised?A77. The infants of professing believers are not to be baptised because there is neither command, example, nor clear inference in the Holy Scriptures for their baptism1-3.1. 2 Tim. 3:16-17, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.2. Rev. 22:18-19, For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.3. Prov. 30:6, Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.Comments:1. Paedobaptists acknowledge that there is no command for, or example of, infant baptism in the Bible, but they argue that infant baptism is taught indirectly. For example, they claim that “the promises of God” extend to their children based on such passages as Acts 2:39, 1 Cor. 7:14; Acts 16:15, 31. These passages, however, speak of those who believe, and not of infants (Acts 2:39 cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 16:32, 34; 1 Cor. 1:16 cf. 16:15). The Acts 2:39 passage is about the specific promise of receiving the Holy Spirit, without which none will be saved (cf. Rom. 8:9). It applies to all believers - “as many as the Lord our God will call”. Paedobaptists also claim that children of believers are “under the covenant of grace” and should receive the covenant sign of baptism in the same way that infants in the Old Testament were circumcised. However, the Bible shows that the covenant of grace encompasses those capable of making a profession of faith, not of infants (Heb. 8:10-12). Of course, elect infants who die in infancy and the mentally handicapped are also saved by Christ’s death, but that is not our concern here. Baptism is a new sign of the new covenant. Circumcision in the Old Testament was a type of regeneration in Christ, not of baptism (Col. 2:11-12). In theology, a “type” cannot be fulfilled by an “anti-type” that is another external sign, but a spiritual reality.
2. We do not regard infant baptism as biblical baptism. A person who has been “baptised” as an infant should consider getting baptised when converted, “to fulfill all righteousness”, i.e. to do what is right and pleasing before God (Matt. 3:15).
Q78. How is baptism rightly administered?A78. Baptism is rightly administered by complete immersion of the person in water1, 2, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit3, and by one who is authorized by the Lord4, 5.Notes: We have added the last clause to the answer. 1. Matt. 3:16, When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.2. John 3:23, Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.3. Matt. 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.4. John 4:1-2, Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples).5. Acts 8:38-39, So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.Comments:1. The word translated “baptism” is derived from the Greek word “baptizo”, meaning “to dip, to immerse, to submerge”. It is different from “rhantizo” which means “to sprinkle”. The examples of baptism in the Bible support immersion, since both the person baptised and the person baptising had to enter much water (Matt. 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:36, 38-39). Furthermore, only immersion is capable of visibly representing death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:4). We reject sprinkling, pouring, and partial dipping of the body as the biblical way of baptising. The water used in baptism may be still or running, clear or muddy, and fresh or salty.2. Baptism is to be performed in the names of the three Persons of the Godhead. The instances of baptism done “in the name of the Lord” in Acts 8:16; 10:48 and 19:5 simply means “after believing in the Lord”. They are not a description of how baptism was carried out, but why baptism was carried out. Since the special ordinances are visual proclamations of Christ, ministers of the gospel have a responsibility to administer them. That responsibility, which is from the Lord through the church, may be delegated to others (John 4:1-2).
Q79. What is the Lord's supper?A79. The Lord's supper is a special ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ1, to be to the persons partaking, a sign of their spiritual union with Him - by faith receiving His body and blood symbolized in the bread and cup2 - for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace3, 4.Notes: The answer has been completely re-written to conform with the answer of Q75, but couched in the plural form. Also, “cup” replaces “wine”. 1. 1 Cor. 11:23-26, For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.2. 1 Cor. 10:16, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?3. John 6:53-57, Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.4. John 15:5, I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.Comments:1. Just as baptism was given to the church, so also the Lord’s supper (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23). It is abused when carried out for the bride and groom during a wedding, or by Christian students staying in a hostel. The normal order is that baptism should precede the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:41-42). In baptism, the subject is passive but resolves to actively walk in obedience with the Lord. In the Lord’s supper, the subject actively takes the elements but is passive in receiving spiritual nourishment from the Lord.
2. The bread used may be leavened or unleavened, flat or round, sweet or plain. The word used is “bread”, not “wafer” (although the Chinese Bible translates it as “wafer” or “biscuit”). The Passover of the Old Testament was a "type" of the regenerating work of Christ in sinners, not of the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 5:7). The Bible uses the word “cup” (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25) and the expression “the fruit of the vine” (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). The latter is a general term covering grape juice that is fresh as well as fermented (i.e. wine). Its deliberate usage with regard to the Lord’s supper show that we should be careful about using wine, and should feel free to use unfermented fruit juice. Focussing too much on the details of the ordinances, and missing out on what are being symbolized, will lead to the the error of the Pharisees - legalism. Note that the symbolism of “one bread” is better than the cut-up pieces of bread used in many churches (1 Cor. 10:17 cf. Luke 22:19). On the other hand, there is no need for the “one cup” used in many churches because, at the institution of the Lord’s supper, the content of the cup was divided (Luke 22:20 cf. 17).
Q80. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?A80. Those receiving the Lord’s supper must examine themselves, making sure that they have - the understanding to discern the Lord’s body1, the faith to feed upon Him2, and the life of repentance, love, and new obedience3-5 - lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves6.Notes: We have considerably altered the form of the answer while retaining the substance.1. 1 Cor. 11:28-29, But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.2. 2 Cor. 13:5, Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.3. 1 Cor. 11:31, For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.4. 1 Cor. 11:18-20, For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.5. 1 Cor. 5:8, Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.6. 1 Cor. 11:27, 29, Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.Comments:1. Some churches practice “open communion”, allowing all and sundry to partake. Some practise “closed communion”, allowing only members of the church, or of the same denomination, to partake. Our church practise “restricted communion”, i.e. allowing “baptised believers who are not under discipline in any church”, while personally inviting visiting believers of paedobaptist conviction to partake. 2. To derive spiritual benefit from the Lord’s supper, the mind, the affection, and the will must be engaged - (i) the mind in understanding the broken body and shed blood of Christ; (ii) the affection in having faith in Him; (iii) the will in repentance for past sins, present love for God’s people, and future obedience to Him. The “past, present, and future” is with respect to the Lord’s supper while it is in progress. The Roman Catholic Church teaches “transubstantiation”, claiming that the elements turn into real flesh and real blood as they are taken in. The Lutherans believe in “consubstantiation”, i.e. that Christ is with, in, or under the elements. We believe that the elements only symbolize the flesh and blood of Christ, while Christ is present spiritually with His gathered people (Matt. 18:19-20).
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