The old covenant given to the nation of Israel through Moses, in the words of the writer of the book of Hebrews, “had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary [the tabernacle]… various washings, and fleshly ordinances” (Hebrews 9:1, 2, 10). But Christ, “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Thus (with the penalty of sin having been forever paid) Christ did not perpetuate the Old Testament system of countless ceremonies, but established only two ordinances for His church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are called ordinances because Christ Himself ordained them.
Unlike those manifold ordinances given to Israel, many of which could only find their fulfillment with that nation when it was in the land and possessed its own tabernacle or temple, the two given to the church by Christ are simple and adaptable to multiplied millions of new believers. They provide:
1) An entry rite, rich in the symbolism of the great Christian truths, which would symbolize the entrance of a person into the church;
2) A fellowship rite which would regularly call to the believer’s mind the essentials of the faith, his ongoing fellowship with Christ, and one which would challenge the believer to re-consecrate himself to His Lord with renewed service and devotion.
39-1 The Baptism of John the Baptist
The mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so, John the Baptist and Jesus were second cousins (Luke 1:36). John the Baptist must not be confused with John the apostle. John the Baptist was beheaded in A.D. 28 by Herod Antipas, while John the apostle outlived all the other apostles (dying in A.D. 99) and was the writer of the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the book of Revelation. Let us consider these elements in the career of John the Baptist:
1) John’s birth announcement (Luke 1:13-17). When Zacharias entered the temple alone to burn incense, an angel spoke to him, “Do not be afraid.” This broke a silence of over four hundred years from God (and His angels and prophets) to the Jewish people. The angel announced to Zacharias that he would have a son, to be named John, who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”, the Christ who was to come (Luke 1:17; cf. Malachi 3:1).
2) John’s mission (vv. 1-4). John was selected by God, from before his birth, to be the one to announce the coming of the Messiah (Luke 1:13-17). Isaiah the prophet, in 700 B.C., prophesied of a “voice” that would come from the Judean wilderness and desert, announcing the arrival of the long awaited messianic kingdom (Isaiah 40:3-5). Isaiah spoke of straightening the crooked places in preparation for the great King. Thus John the Baptist had the task of pro claiming that the Messiah’s kingdom was imminent and that all should make their hearts ready by repenting of their sins (vv. 1, 2).
3) John’s identity (Mark 9:11-13). The Old Testament closes with the book of Malachi, which predicts the coming of the Messiah and His messenger (Malachi 3:1-3). Christ and the angel both affirm that John fitted the “Elijah” description as the announcer of the Christ, at His first advent, when John went before Christ “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17; cf. Mark 9:13).
4) John’s baptism (v. 6). John’s baptism was an outward washing by water depicting an inward cleansing of the soul by repentance. John preached repentance in preparation for Christ’s coming; he warned of the awful consequences of unforgiven sin (vv. 2, 10, 12). He preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), and multitudes responded. They confessed their sins and came for baptism. The exact manner of John’s baptism has been debated for many centuries. The Greek word baptizo means “dip” or “immerse,” and symbolized that God forgave and washed away the sin of the one who repented and confessed to God. This baptism was not yet “into Christ” since the Savior had not yet died for man’s sins (Acts 2:37, 38)
5) John’s warnings:
a) To the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees he spoke with special force, calling them a “brood of vipers” and warning them that they too were sinners (v. 7).
b) To the casual listener he said that repentant people must “therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (v. 8).
c) To those who relied on their Jewish birth he said that God could raise up other children of Abraham from stones (v. 9).
d) To the crowds who procrastinated he spoke urgently, saying that the farmer, God, has the ax ready to chop the tree, Israel (v. 10).
39-2 The Baptism of Jesus
John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, had surely told him at least part of the story concerning Jesus’ birth and its angelic announcements (Luke 1:35-45). He also must have known that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, the prophesied birthplace of the Christ (Micah 5:2). A heavenly voice instructed John that the Christ would be positively identified by a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit, descending like a dove and remaining on Him (John 1:33; Mark 1:10, 11; Isaiah 11:2). This final identifying sign appeared when Jesus came to John for baptism (vv. 16, 17).
1) It was Jesus who came to John to be baptized (v. 13). Christ is an example to all believers. The rule of courtesy has always been that the lesser walks over to the greater; the one seeking mercy seeks out his master. Jesus did not wait for John to come to Him, but in humility He came to John to be baptized. As He said, “Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). Because He was not a sinner, Jesus did not need to repent. He came to be baptized because it was the right thing to do in order to identify Himself with the God-seekers in the land.
2) Jesus actually was baptized by John (v. 15). If Christ submitted to baptism by John because it was the proper thing to do, how much more important it is that every convert to Christ “follow the Lord” in baptism when we, as sinners now cleansed, have been plainly directed to be baptized (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is a picture of the believer’s faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4, 5). Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward cleansing.
39-3 The Baptism of the Believer
(Acts 2:41, 42)
On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, and were obedient to follow their Lord in the ordinance of baptism. Water baptism does not cleanse us from our sins. Water baptism is an outward symbol of inward cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19). The apostle John said, “To Him [Jesus] who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5, 6).
1) Baptism is the ordinance signifying public entrance into the church (v. 41). The words “were added” mean that those baptized were added to the assembly of believers, the church. Water baptism was open to all believers, giving them their first opportunity to obey their Lord. and Savior Jesus Christ. Beginning on the Day of Pentecost, baptism took place immediately after their profession of faith in Christ as their personal Savior; “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized” (v. 41).
2) Those baptized “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (v. 42). Therefore they continued to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
3) Christ commanded His church to disciple those whom it baptized (Matthew 28:19, 20). Water baptism became the initiatory rite of the new faith. Those receiving baptism were to be discipled.
4) Baptism is to be performed “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this way the Christian becomes identified with the local church and Christ, who is the head of the church. The church is itself a microcosm (small model) of the total body of Christ.
5) Baptism symbolizes our burial with Christ, and our newness of life with His resurrection (Romans 6:4, 5).
6) The thief on the cross was saved, though never baptized. “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This example of a person being saved without baptism explains how Paul could write, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:11-17).
7) Water baptism was commanded to all who trust in Christ (Matthew 28:19). Note that it is Christ’s command. He allowed Himself to be baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15); likewise we are to obey and follow the Lord in baptism.
39-4 The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper was Christ’s adaptation of the Jewish Passover feast for His church (vv. 12¬-14). The Passover was primarily for Israel; it looked back to the deliverance from Egypt and forward to the dying of the Messiah – the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of all (Jew and Gentile) who would believe.
1) Partaking of the Lord’s Supper allows us to look back to Christ’s death to save sinners, and forward to His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26).
2) The broken bread represents Christ’s body, broken on the cross for our sins (v. 22).
3) The cup represents Christ’s “blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (v. 24). Jeremiah 31:31-34 describes this new covenant, in beautiful words, as someday being made with Israel and Judah; this will occur in the future (Romans 11:26, 27). Christ here extends it in the present to “many” – to all nations.
4) When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we must examine ourselves. This does not mean that we are to try to remember all of our sins that we have committed since the last Lord’s Supper, nor to abstain from the Lord’s Supper until we feel worthy. It means just the opposite. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to Him. He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), not in remembrance of your sins. We do not come to the Lord’s Table to dwell on our sins, we are to practice 1 John 1:9 before we come to the Lord’s Table: “If we [Christians] confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we come to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are to focus our thoughts on Christ’s broken body when He bore our sins and shed His blood that cleanses us from all sin. This memorial is to be repeated “till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). “But let a man examine himself’ (1 Corinthians 11:28). The partaker of the Lord’s Supper must examine his own heart and be assured that he truly is “in Christ,” that he truly repents of his sins, and that the blood of Christ has covered his guilt. The Lord’s Supper should never be taken casually, in haste, or merely as a formal religious ceremony (I Corinthians 11:27-31).
5) The Lord’s Supper is His, not ours. Jesus said, “This is my body…My blood” (vv. 22-24). The invitation comes directly from Jesus to the obedient believer.
6) The Lord’s Supper signifies the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover (Mark 14:15, 16). The Lord instructed Israel that each family was to take a lamb, as specified by the Lord, kill it in the evening and roast it over the fire. Using hyssop, they were to apply the blood to the two side posts and the crossbar (lintel) of the door to each house. This prefigured the time when God’s Lamb would bleed and die on the cross for our sins.
Partaking of the Lord’s Supper should promote a spirit of repentance and worship. The Lord’s Supper is a time of the richest spiritual blessing, where we experience true communion in the fellowship of His love with other believers, for “in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right had are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Master Outline 39 – The Ordinances of the Church
 With the penalty of sin having been paid for forever, did Christ perpetuate the Old Testament system? YES or NO. Explain.
 What are two (2) ordinances Christ himself ordained?
 What two (2) rites do these ordinances provide?
 The mother of John the Baptist was what relative to Mary?
 Who was the first to learn of John’s birth?
 What was John’s mission?
 Describe John’s baptism.
 What did John preach?
 What is the definition of the Greek word, “BAPTIZO?”
 What were the four (4) main points of John’s warning?
 How was John told he would know the Messiah?
 Did John go to Jesus to baptize him? YES or NO. Explain.
 Why should we as believers be baptized?
 Baptism is a ____________________ ____________________ of an
 Baptism shows our _________________ to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 What did Christ command the church to do with those it baptized?
 What does Baptism symbolize?
 Since the thief was never baptized was he saved? YES or NO. Explain.
 Whose command is it for us to be baptized?
 Why did Jesus observe the Lord’s Supper?
 Partaking of the Lord’s Supper looks back to what and forward to what?
 The “Broken Bread” represented what?
 What does the “cup” symbolize?
 Why must we examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper?
 The Lord’s Supper is ours not His. TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 Partaking of the Lord’s Supper should promote what two (2) things.