As we read the book of Acts, chapter 2, a definite sequence can be observed. All who repented and believed the gospel were water baptized and in doing so were recognized as full citizens in God’s kingdom and immediately became active members in the local Church.
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:41,42
Repentance involves a change of mind resulting in a complete change of direction – a 180 degree about-face – turning away from a self-centered life of sin and a turning to God.
Faith means believing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing Him as personal Lord and Savior, trusting in His complete redemptive work in His perfect life, His atoning death and His physical resurrection – being saved from the wrath we deserve by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Water Baptism refers to full immersion in water. Baptism does not save! This cannot be over-emphasized! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, plus nothing… minus nothing… However, those who are “saved” are immediately commanded to be water baptized, which involves a personal declaration of full identification and complete union with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
Using a sports analogy, water baptism is like putting the team jersey on, which then allows the player to enter the field of play. No one plays on the field without the uniform. So, while you may be a genuine Christian, the Lord Jesus commands you to be water baptized. Baptism is a matter of obedience as a follower of Christ. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you…”
Membership in the Local Church: Believers share a rich spiritual life together as brothers and sisters in the family of God. The Lord has established the local Church as the designated place for each baptized believer to gather together to receive the ‘means of grace’ – where the word (gospel) is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. It’s the setting for each believer to give and to enjoy Christian fellowship and support, all in a protected environment under the watchful care of His under shepherds (elders).
If we were to imagine being present to observe the events of Acts chapter 2, can you imagine someone coming to the Apostles and asking something like, “I am not wishing to be baptized but would like to receive the Lord’s Supper. Is that ok?”
I think the short answer such a person would receive would be, “No, that is not ok!”
Instead questions might be asked of this person such as “Why would you not wish to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism? Do you not believe in Him? If you do believe in Him, why would you not obey Him? Are you really a follower of Christ? If you are, why would you not wish to identify with Him in the way He has commanded?”
The Lord’s Supper is not an outreach tool for evangelism but a holy ordinance for the people of God. It is a family meal for those who are identified with Christ in baptism and members of the local Church.
In our day, the Church has adopted many non-biblical ideas and traditions in presenting the gospel. These include raising a hand, walking an aisle, praying “the sinner’s prayer” and signing a card… What do all these have in common? The answer is: None of these are mentioned in Scripture. These are man-made substitutes for the public declaration of our repentance and faith expressed in obeying the command to be baptized in water and then becoming members of a local Church. There is no doubt that today’s widespread non-biblical practices in the Christian community has led to much confusion in the minds of many. Yet the Bible is more than clear on these matters.
In the early Church, there was not such a “thing” as an unbaptized Christian. All who received God’s word (who believed) were baptized; who were then added to the Church as members; and all of these began to participate in the everyday life of the Church; teaching, prayer, fellowship and the Lord’s Supper.
Note once again the sequence found in Acts 2:
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – v. 41,42
No one fell through the cracks. There were no cracks. All who repented and believed were water baptized and added to the church in membership and then participated in the life and benefits of the local Church. I believe this is the Biblical pattern for us today.
Here is a helpful interchange found at the 9Marks website, in the form of a question and answer dialog:
Question: I’m in agreement with your explanation on child baptism. My children (ages 14 and 12) give strong evidence of saving faith, yet we have decided to wait on baptism for some of the reasons you state. The struggle I have is how this affects the Lord’s Supper. Would you also say that only baptized believers should take part in communion? We began having our children participate in communion when my son turned 12 and my daughter turned 11. If this is improper (due to them not being baptized yet), are we not then withholding the blessing of the Lord’s Supper from our believing children?
The short answer is, I agree with the fairly traditional line that you will find in most Baptist statements of faith, namely, that baptism “is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000). Baptism is the front door to the church through which you walk once; the Lord’s Supper is the family meal that you enjoy repeatedly and regularly.
So, no, I would not give the Lord’s Supper to anyone who has not received baptism. And for what it’s worth, that’s not just a Baptist position, but something that every Christian tradition has historically affirmed (Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc.). Baptism, then the Supper.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two signs given to churches by Christ to mark off those who belong to him. Who are the people of God on earth? Those who are baptized into church membership and then receive the Lord’s Supper. They are public identity markers, and they are meant to go together. They are not just individual acts, but corporate acts. It’s not just the individual saying something in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it’s the church saying something as well.
In baptism, the church declares that someone is identified with “the name” of Father, Son, and Spirit (Matt. 28:19), such that those individuals can now gather “in the name” of Christ (Matt. 18:20). In the Lord’s Supper, every member of the church declares themselves to be a part of the one body, and the one body declares every member to be a member of that one body.
Paul writes this in 1 Cor. 10:16-17, “The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for all of us share that one bread.”
In light of all this, I have two questions for you: (i) what blessing do you think you are withholding from your children? The unique blessing that the Supper offers is for individual and church to declare together that they are one body. But it seems like you deliberately mean to withhold that blessing by not baptizing your children. (ii) You refer to your “believing children.” If you are willing to confidently affirm them as Christians, why wouldn’t you ask the church to baptize them and affirm them as Christians?
In other words, what I hear you saying is, you’re willing to have the church affirm them as believers through the Supper, but you’re not willing to have the church affirm them as believers in baptism. I’d encourage you to give both of the ordinances to your children, or neither. The ordinances are not meant to be divided, where we give one but not the other. Most Paedobaptists do, I understand (giving baptism but withholding the Supper for a time), but you didn’t pose your question to a Paedobaptist! I hope this is helpful.
Worship is the expression of praise, glory, thanks, honor, submission and devotion and is to be given to God alone. All else is idolatry. Therefore, Reformed worship is intentionally God-ward, celebrating all that He is and all that He has done in creation and redemption. Worship is not about our feelings or ‘worship experience’ and therefore is not devised according to what will attract or satisfy the sinner. God alone is our target audience in worship. It is for God, about God, and focused solely upon God. We recognize that if God is pleased it does not matter who is displeased, and if He is displeased, it does not matter who is pleased.
Triune in Orientation
God has revealed Himself in creation and especially in the Bible. Biblical worship recognizes we worship the one true God who is eternally existent in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of our worship is shaped by this revelation.
Biblical worship is based upon a covenant relationship. Not everyone can legitimately call Him ‘Father’ but only those in covenant relationship with Him. We also recognize that this relationship is made possible only by the sin bearing, atoning cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ in His death for us, and the perfect obedience and righteousness He achieved for us in His life. Based on the sure foundation of Scripture alone, justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
Regulated by Scripture
God determines how He will be worshiped and He has not left us to guess what that involves. The Regulative Principle of Worship acknowledges that we are to do only those things in worship which God has commanded in His Word. We are not free to innovate, revise, or supplement the elements of worship commanded by God in Scripture. We are to be careful to do according to the mandates laid out for us.
Sober, Yet Joyful
The Bible makes it clear that worshiping God is a highly serious matter and yet Christians ought to do so with reverent and overflowing joy. Worship is not a concert for man’s enjoyment. Preaching is not a public speech to dispense information or to entertain. Preaching is a central component of our worship. God addresses His people through the reading and proclamation of His word, and His people respond in faith, thanksgiving, and praise.
A Holy Dialogue
Worship in the Bible was a dialogue between God and His covenant people, and so should it be in churches today. Our service begins with God addressing His gathered people in His solemn call to worship. Hearing His call, we respond with joy. God reveals His holy Law and we recognize our guilt and confess our sins. God pronounces His word, and we believe and renew our commitment to Him. He serves His people a family, covenant meal at His Table and we believe His gospel promise and feast on Him. As we turn from sin and trust the finished and perfect work of the perfect Savior alone, He assures us of His full pardon. We respond with thanksgiving and praise. Our worship ends with God addressing His children with words of benediction. This dialogue between God and His assembled covenant people is the rhythm of worship in Scripture, and it shapes the structure of our liturgy every Lord’s Day.
Thomas, from Wyoming was a first time guest in our worship service yesterday. He took time to write an email describing his experience with us. I thought I would share it with you as it is a strong encouragement to us all to continue to pursue purity of worship:
Pastor John, Brother in the Lord,
What a wonderful experience! I can honestly say that it was one of the purest Worship Services I have ever had the chance to share. No filler, no patronizing, no waffling……. just the Truth. Praise God!
When I am back (in the Phoenix area) with my wife, we both look forward to experiencing King’s Church again. I told her all about it over the phone… it was an honor to sit under your very accurate teaching.
And, what a lovely and complete package your bulletin, etc. is!Clear, simple, classy and to the point…….much like your sermon today.
You mentioned C.H. Spurgeon this morning and I had just read one of his devotionals on Alistair Begg’s site the other day that spoke to the same theme you were on. He used the example that God does not put Grace or Salvation up on some pedestal that we then have to climb up to reach. He further used the example of the Samaritan; who did not simply leave the wine and oil and wish the injured traveler well. He DID the WORK himself. God does the work of Salvation Himself. Great analogy.
Hopefully, I may be in a position soon to help your ministry with more than prayers, as I see a little ‘Spurgeon’ in you and can only hope that the growth of King’s Church could mirror his work. I prayed this morning for growth in your church there…..and His church worldwide. But, I will keep you and your mission in prayer and will share and include friends back home in that endeavor.
But the real hope I have, not of this world but as the Bible would describe it, is the expectation that we have eternity to spend together sitting at the feet of and worshiping our Lord. Together.
Part 1: An overview of various creeds found within the pages of the Bible as well as a particular focus upon the Apostles’ Creed, showing its history and profound significance in the life of the Church.
Part 2: The Apostles’ Creed has been used as a means of preparation for water baptismal candidates since the late 2nd century AD, becoming an officially recognized creed around 700 AD. This is the second of two messages showing the Biblical basis for the remaining statements of the creed.
While John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible, it is fair to say that in the Old Testament, the most well-known words are found in what the Jews call the Sh’ma, found in Deuteronomy 6:4. There in English we read these words, “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This is nothing less than a creed for the people of Israel that was recited daily. It clearly affirms mono-theism – the belief in one God.
Jesus quotes the Sh’ma in Mark 12 (v.29):
28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”
29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;
30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’
31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
Even in our own day, one Jewish theological website refers to the Sh’ma as “the centerpiece of the daily morning and evening prayer services and is considered by some the most essential prayer in all of Judaism. An affirmation of God’s singularity and kingship, its daily recitation is regarded by traditionally observant Jews as a biblical commandment… It is recited at the climactic moment of the final prayer of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and traditionally as the last words before death. Traditionally, it is recited with the hand placed over the eyes.”
Through the many centuries of Israel’s history, the regular, repetitive reciting of the Sh’ma has kept many generations of Jews away from the gross idolatry that surrounded them. That was not always the case, of course, and yet this creed was used to keep Israel distinct and separate as God’s people.
When we come to the New Testament, Romans 10:9 outlines a simple creed of the early church – “Jesus is Lord.” The verse reads, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”
To get the full impact of what this entails we need to understand something about what it meant to live in the Roman Empire in the first century.
The Romans were polytheists, believing in many gods and all people in the Empire, without exception, had to acknowledge the divine nature of the Emperor, Caesar. There was an affirmation to affirm – two simple words, “Kaiser Kurios” which meant “Caesar is Lord.” As and when demanded, this creed had to be affirmed by all under Roman rule. Not to say this could well mean instant death. Many Christians were fed to the lions and wild animals in the Coliseum in Rome because of their stubborn, heroic refusal to recite this simple affirmation to Caesar.
This scenario is so foreign to us in our day and time that perhaps I have to spell it out so that we all grasp the true reality of all this. As they entered the dreaded arena, the Christians had only to say two words and they could live: “Kaiser Kurios” – “Caesar is Lord”. Instead they proclaimed, “Iesous ho Kurios” or “Jesus is Lord”, and paid for the privilege with their blood.
Story after story could be told of the brave Christians who, under the certain threat of death, would not renounce their Master, men and women who would not bow their knee to Caesar, acknowledging him as a god. Instead, they confessed the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It therefore meant something… really meant something, to recite this early creed.
1 Corinthians 12:3
This is the historical background for the statement in 1 Corinthians 12:3 – “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” This early creed “Jesus is Lord” was therefore supremely precious to the people of God. Allegiance to the creed was a matter of life and death. The Christians would rather die than, by their words, renounce Jesus Christ.
This confession of the Lord Jesus was admittedly basic and it is very evident that as Christians grew in their knowledge of God and of Scripture, so their creeds and confessions expanded and grew, and over time, became more broad and comprehensive. As novel (new) ideas and heresies spread in and around the church, the true Christians needed to expand the vocabulary of their creeds in order to stem the tide of the false doctrines.
1 Corinthians 8:6
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, affirms the monotheistic foundation of the Sh’ma while also acknowledging the full deity of Christ. Jesus is the Lord, Creator and Sustainer of all things.
“There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” – 1 Corinthians 8:6
Here we see a confession that affirms our unity in Christ between Jews and Gentiles.
The Apostle Paul writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
While physical differences remain in that males remain males, females remain females, and the ethnic distinctions of Jew and Gentile and color still exist, the dividing wall of hostility between them has been broken down and abolished forever (Ephesians 2:11-18). Though we are not all not identical, we are all one in Christ Jesus. While there are still Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, no division between these two groups should exist in the church. We are united in Christ.
1 Timothy 3:15
Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3 were a confessional statement against the raging heresies of the day, as well as an affirmation of the truth:
“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He (God) who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.” – 1 Timothy 3:16
Concerning this verse, Pastor Tom Hicks writes, “This confession was written as the church faced a number of additional heresies, including Gnosticism, Asceticism and Paganism. It confronted these newer heresies even as it also confronted the older errors of Judaism. We learn from this that the older errors don’t go away, which is why the church must keep adding to its confession. The church needed to confess that Christ is Lord, contrary to Judaism. It needed to declare the full humanity of Christ over and against Gnosticism. It needed to affirm the sufficiency of Christ’s work to save, contrary to Asceticism. And it needed to confess that God is one, over and against the polytheism of Paganism.”
From the Garden of Eden to our own day, truth has always been under attack. Throughout Israel’s history and through to the time of the early Church, God has used the short creeds and confessions found in Scripture as a means to keep the faithful sound in doctrine.
“When we think of the Protestant Reformation, we immediately think of the act of Biblical preaching as the means whereby the Gospel was established in the life of the Church. While a very true statement, it is not a complete one.
It was when not only idolatry and falsehood were removed from the worship service, but when in its place, Biblical, Gospel truth shaped the week by week liturgy (order of worship) of the Church, that the people truly ‘got the message.’
Each time the people gathered to worship God, with on purpose thought behind it, each element of the Reformed worship service was intentionally devised to reveal both Law and Gospel – the reality and consequences of our sin and the perfect work of the perfect Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, the common people were able to gain a fuller and growing comprehension of the greatness of their salvation, and even more importantly, the greatness of their Savior God.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, the two together: preaching and liturgy (order of worship) brought Reformation in the Church.”