Wineskins Archive

January 13, 2014

AfterGlow: Sacraments and Sacrelige (Jan – Jun 1995)

Filed under: — @ 4:34 pm and

by Phillip Morrison
January – June, 1995

We were friends who preached at different churches in the same city. We completely misunderstood each other. I thought he belittled the importance of baptism by insisting that it was “not essential to salvation but was necessary to please God.” He thought I preached baptism as the foremost item on a list of merits to be presented to God at the judgment.

I was surprised to learn that he attached great importance to baptism. He was surprised to learn that I believed in salvation by grace through faith.

A lady was thrilled by my announcement that the Lord’s Supper would be served before rather than after the sermon. She could arrive early, do her “sacramental duty,” skip the “unimportant” parts of the worship, and get an early start on her Sunday afternoon at the lake.

How did baptism ever become such a battleground? Or the Lord’s Supper such a ritual?

Among the many evidences of Jesus’ incomparable love, two are especially significant: his symbolic death and resurrection when he was baptized by John and his actual death and resurrection outside Jerusalem’s walls. Our observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are intense and appropriate responses to that love.

What older versions of the Bible call communion, later versions call participation. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Participation is clearly an appropriate description of what happens in baptism as well (Romans 6:3-8).

The first-century church at Corinth bore an uncanny resemblance to the twentieth-century church we know: so many of the squabbles in both revolve around baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Isn’t it time to forget the peripheral and focus on the truly important? Does it really matter who did the baptizing and what formula was recited? Does God really care about the number of communion cups, or whether the wine is fermented or unfermented?

The real question is whether, in being baptized, I share in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. And the burning issue in the Lord’s Supper is whether my eating and drinking is a participation in his redemptive sacrifice.

I know a community church which structures one of its Sunday services around the Lord’s Supper for the benefit of those who desire that weekly participation in the Savior’s sacrifice. And I know another church which has traditionally practiced sprinkling for baptism, but which now offers immersion for those who wish to symbolically join Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection.

Thank God that people of good will are taking Bible study seriously and wanting their belief and practice to be shaped by the Word! Let us join them in both studying the Word and testing our own faith and practice by that divine standard. Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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