Monday, March 03, 2008

The Church and Its Ordinances – Sermon Outline

Introduction: When I was a child, I learned the old saying that is illustrated with the hands: “Here is the church, and here is the steeple. Open the doors, and here are the people.” The old saying is misleading, however, because the church is not the building; rather, it is the people inside the building. We will see the relationship between the church and its ordinances.

1. The Church

The word “church” in our English translations of the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word “ecclesia” from which we get the words “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.” The word “ecclesia” existed before the church was established. It always referred to an organized assembly of people. The same word is used in Acts 19:29-41 to refer to a secular assembly of people in a theater. In the New Testament in reference to the church, the word always refers to the local church, the institution of the church, or the universal church assembled in heaven. The universal church does not yet exist because it cannot at this time be assembled. As the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states, the universal church “includes all of the redeemed of all the ages.” Jesus mentioned the church twice: Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:15-18. In Matthew 16:18-19, He referred to the institution of the church—“the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (NKJV). Jesus was speaking to Peter, an individual, in verse 19 when He said, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The personal pronoun “you” is singular as a Greek word in this verse. Individual Christians have authority to do certain things, such as to share the gospel, thus using the keys of the kingdom. In contrast, Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17 talked about church discipline and then said the following in verse 18: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In verse 18, the personal pronoun “you” is plural in the Greek, thus indicating that the church, the group, has authority in some areas such as church discipline. Two other areas in which the church has authority are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

2. Baptism

An ordinance is a ceremony ordered/ ordained by God, but it does not convey saving grace. In contrast, a sacrament is a ceremony believed to convey saving grace. Southern Baptists observe two ordinances, but they do not believe that sacraments are valid. The mode of biblical baptism is immersion. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch went down into the water, and they came up out of the water (Acts 8:38-39). Romans 6:3-5 describes baptism as a symbolic identification with Christ and an illustration of the fact that Christians have died to their old lives and raised to walk in newness of life. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message clarifies the meaning of this ordinance: “It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.” The burial of the old life is a once-for-all-time action, as is being raised to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. Thus, the eternal security of the believer is clearly pictured by baptism. When a Christian is baptized in a church or setting where the people are taught that salvation can be lost, then the symbolism is lost and such a baptism is invalid. Local churches are the administrators and authorities for baptism. Philip was an officer of the church at Jerusalem when he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. Churches frequently delegate the performance of baptism to their pastors, who are also frequently charged with the examination of candidates. The church, however, is the administrator, and thus churches can decide to allow other members besides their pastors to perform baptisms and examine candidates for baptism. Believers are commanded to baptize new believers (Matthew 28:19), and new believers are commanded to submit to baptism (Acts 2:38). If a believer refuses to be biblically baptized (immersed), then he is being disobedient to God’s command, and he should not be allowed to participate in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in a Southern Baptist Church until he is baptized. This point about baptism is clarified in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message: “Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.”

3. The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper proclaims His death until He returns to earth, and it should not be desecrated by unconfessed sin and disobedience. Paul discussed the desecration of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30: “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. 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. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” This passage has implications for church discipline. If it is known that a church member is continuing to engage in a serious sin such as adultery and has refused to repent of that sin after the steps of Matthew 18:15-17 have been applied, then that church member should not be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper clearly was observed in biblical times as a church ordinance. Paul stated that the Corinthian believers had “come together as a church” and had “come together in one place” (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20) when it was observed. Paul quoted Jesus in saying that this ordinance should be done “in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Thus, it is an ordinance, and churches should be obedient and observe it on a regular basis. Three ways to observe the Lord’s Supper are prevalent in Southern Baptist Churches:

a. Open Communion: Any Christian, regardless of his beliefs or the beliefs of the group that baptized him and regardless of whether or not he has been biblically immersed, may participate.

b. Close Communion: Southern Baptists and other Christians of like faith and order may participate. They must have been scripturally immersed. This view is the view that I believe to be correct, and it is the view that is expressed in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

c. Closed Communion: Only members of a particular congregation may participate.

Conclusion: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are intimately related to each other and to the local church.