Last evening the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “14. The Lord’s Supper” and “15. Water Baptism” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Four attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we considered the sheet on “The Sacraments” that I’d given out in a previous meeting; Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer; and we closed with lunch. The contents of the sheet follow, supplemented by a few comments by me, which are italicized.
A sacrament is a ceremony instituted by Jesus Christ and observed by Christians as a sign of God’s grace or as a means for them to receive God’s grace in their lives. Like other Protestants we recognize two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Roman Catholics recognize seven). Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of his betrayal (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and he commissioned the eleven to baptize converts before his ascension to Heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). Here is what the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador says about the two sacraments.
14. The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements of bread and fruit of the vine, is the symbol expressing our sharing the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26), and is enjoined upon all believers “until He comes.”
15. Water Baptism
Water Baptism is an outward sign, seal or expression of an inward death, burial and resurrection, signifying the believer’s identification with Christ, in that he has been planted in the likeness of Christ’s death, raised by the might of His power to walk in newness of life, yielding his members as instruments of righteousness unto God as those who are alive from the dead. It is not a saving ordinance, but is essential in obedience to the Gospel. Baptism, according to Scripture, should be administered by single immersion, and according to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19.
I explained that we’d consider 15. Water Baptism before 14. The Lord’s Supper because a person is usually baptized in water as a sign of his or her becoming a Christian before he or she begins observing the Lord’s Supper as a Christian.
Although there is agreement among Christians that baptism is connected with the beginning of the Christian life and of one’s initiation into the church, there is disagreement about what it means, whom it should be done to, and how it should be done.
“Water Baptism is an outward sign, seal or expression of an inward death, burial and resurrection.” Two passages which indicate that baptism symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection are Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12. “It is not a saving ordinance.” The reason for this assertion is that some Christians hold that baptism is a saving ordinance, Roman Catholics holding that it saves by itself and Lutherans holding that faith is a prerequisite. Some passages which seem to support their view are Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:21. However I understand those passages to show that baptism symbolizes our being cleansed from sin rather that to affirm that it cleanses us from sin. Although recognizing that the passages seem to connect water baptism and salvation, the others in our group agreed with me.
Although some churches baptize the children of believing adults as well as the adults, we limit baptism to believers, those who have met the conditions for salvation—repentance and faith. In the New Testament water baptism was administered to believers when or shortly after they made a profession of faith. Some passages in Acts describing this are 2:41, 8:12, 10:46-48, 16:14-15, and 16:32-33. Those who affirm infant baptism note that the last two of those passages refer to the baptism of households, but there is no indication that those households included children.
“Baptism…should be administered by single immersion.” Although historically baptism has been done by immersion (dipping the subject under water), affusion (pouring water on the subject), and sprinkling (sprinkling water on the subject), in the New Testament it seems to have been administered just by immersion. As well the symbolism of the believer’s union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection seems to require baptism by immersion.
I noted that “Baptism…should be administered…according to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19” was probably included in 15. Water Baptism because of the insistence by Oneness Pentecostals that baptism should be in the name of Jesus rather than in the name of the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord’s Supper
“The Lord’s Supper [consists] of the elements of bread and fruit of the vine.” Christians disagree on the relationship between the elements and the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We believe that the elements just symbolize his body and blood (see the next paragraph), but Roman Catholics believe that they actually become his body and blood when the priest says “This is my body” during Mass (their name for the Lord’s Supper), a view called transubstantiation. They believe that when this happens Christ’s sacrifice is repeated and that grace is imparted to those present. Although Lutherans don’t believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ, they believe that his physical body and blood are present “in, with, and under” them, a view called consubstantiation.
“The Lord’s Supper…is the symbol expressing our sharing the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26).” Theologians identify additional things symbolized by the Lord’s Supper, including the benefits of Christ’s death (Matthew 26:26-28), spiritual nourishment (John 6:53), and the unity of believers (1 Corinthians 10:17).
Although Protestants generally agree that because the Lord’s Supper is a sign of being a Christian only those who believe in Christ should participate in it, some theologians argue from the meanings of baptism and the Lord’s Supper that only those who are or plan to be baptized should participate in the Lord’s Supper and some churches restrict participation in it to their own members and/or specify a minimum age for participating in it. We practise what is called “open Communion” (“Communion” is another name for the Lord’s Supper), which means that all believers present are invited to participate. However often the pastor encourages us to examine ourselves before participating, as Paul told the Corinthians to do (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). We had an interesting discussion of this paragraph. For example, we considered whether Communion should be observed in children’s services, concluding that it shouldn’t be.
Ordinarily the pastor or other leader who officiates at a church’s worship service should officiate at the Lord’s Supper too. However there doesn’t seem to be any reason why only leaders should distribute the elements and our church invites different members of the congregation to share in distributing them.
In the original Lord’s Supper a single loaf of unleavened bread and a single cup of wine were used. However often substitutes are used that retain the symbolism; our church uses wafers and small glasses of grape juice.
Throughout much of church history most of the church has celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week. However since the Reformation many Protestant groups have celebrated it less often; our church celebrates it once a month.