Assemblies of God 16 Fundamental Truths
#6: The Ordinances of the Church
Baptism in Water
The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus, they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life. (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48; Romans 6:4)
The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—is the symbol expressing our sharing of the divine 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 on all believers “till He comes!”
The Lord Jesus instituted and commanded obedience to observe Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, and Water Baptism. Rev Wong instructs.
The Lord Jesus instituted Holy Communion during the Passover meal with His apostles just hours before He died on the cross. Every year the Jews commemorate the nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Breaking the bread and raising the cup of wine, Jesus commanded the disciples to celebrate their deliverance from sin by his impending death. He urged, “Do this, in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Christians in the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper with a fellowship meal before it but abandoned this practice due to disunity and misbehavior of some church members. Some were too drunk to see the purpose of the communion service while others were too hungry to care. Today, the elements that are involved in the Holy Communion are the bread (usually a small biscuit) and wine or grape juice served in tiny cups. The bread represents Christ’s body given in death and the juice signifies His blood poured out as a sacrifice on the cross.
What should occupy our thoughts during Holy Communion to make the experience a meaningful one?
- Ponder the significance of Christ’s atoning death. To redeem us from sin and its penalty, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) By partaking the communion, we identify ourselves with Christ in His death and resurrection, which promises that we too will have victory over sin and every kind of evil.
- Thank God for the fellowship (Greek: koinonia). It is through Christ’s atoning death that reconciliation between man and God, and man with his peers, is accomplished. Our fellowship is with the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus also commanded, “Love one another, that the world may know that you are my disciples.” This love is the evidence that the church in in fellowship with God and with one another.
- Confess and repent of sins. The Apostle Paul sounded a stern warning for “not recognizing the body of the Lord”In 1 Corinthians 11:29. Some wrongly interpret that it refers to biting the bread! In the context of 1 Corinthians 11 and 12, Paul was correcting abuses of the Lord’s Supper within the church, which he referred to as Christ’s body. (1 Corinthians 12:27) Those who are guilty of sin are to repent of them at the Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper offers believers an opportunity to make things right with one another.
Holy Communion is a time for believers to reflect, be grateful, and repent. Christ commanded the church to observe it frequently until His return. At the communion, we follow Christ’s example in declaring our commitment to do God’s will. One should not miss or avoid the Lord’s Supper but look forward to a time of spiritual renewal.
Is Water Baptism Optional?
Baptism has long been a point of tension and even division among churches. Some churches require a person to be re-baptized to become a member, while others welcome into their fellowship anyone who confesses to being a born-again Christian. Parents warn their church-going sons and daughters not to get baptized until they reach adulthood. In their minds, a person is not actually converted to the Christian faith unless he or she goes through the rite of baptism. Even among Christians who confess to be born-again, there is a general reluctance to take the step of baptism. Some have delayed it for years believing it is ‘good to have but not necessary.’
This postponement stands in stark contrast with New Testament evidence and all of Christian history. The apostles and faithful Christians after them saw baptism as an act of obedience to Christ’s command in Matthew 28:19,20. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” They baptized all who repented and followed Christ as Savior and Lord right away.
Peter commanded the thousands in his audience to “repent and be baptized”. (Acts 2:38) This means that baptism in water is to follow a decision to turn away from sin and to turn to Christ in faith. When this is happening to a person, then baptism in water is his public declaration to the community that he has died with Christ and also has been raised with Him to walk in new life. For this reason, immersion in water accurately symbolizes following Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. A favorite chorus that accompanies water baptism is ‘O Happy Day’ and rightly so as the occasion truly calls for a celebration.
The Bible teaches that water baptism is for believers only. In Mark 16:15, faith precedes baptism. The Samaritans baptized after “they believed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” in Acts 8:12. The Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip for water baptism after he accepted Christ as the Messiah. Cornelius’ household believed, were baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and praised God. Despite these wonderful experiences, they did not think that water baptism now is unimportant and unnecessary! The Philippian jailer and his family believed the word of God preached by Paul and Barnabas and were baptized right away. (Acts 16:31) All these examples show us that water baptism was never a difficult decision to be delayed or left out altogether.
For the person who is truly born again, water baptism is not only a public testimony, but also the pledge that he or she will continue to live a new life in the power of the risen Christ.
About Rev Winnie Wong
Rev Winnie Wong, an Ordained Minister of The Assemblies of God of Singapore, is a National Representative of Global University in Singapore, and an assistant editor of the AG Times. She regularly preaches in Mandarin and Cantonese, and finds time to teach English to inmates who desire to complete their secondary education. Rev Wong has also co-authored 7 Cultures of the World books: Latvia, Georgia, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Uruguay, and Guyana.