March 4 - 10
God's Assurance in Baptism and Communion
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Mark 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21; John 13:1-20; Rom. 6:3, 4; Matt. 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
MEMORY TEXT: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: Baptism, foot washing, and the Lord's Supper, more than being mere church functions, are holy ordinances, because God Himself has established them and confirmed them by His command and promise. Through these sacred ordinances God's Spirit seals His assuring promises on the believer's heart.
THE DIVINE ORDINANCES ARE ESTABLISHED IN GOD'S WORD. They assure the believers of the Lord's faithfulness to His covenant promises and build up their faith in Him. But they have no redemptive meaning or effect in themselves. They function redemptively only when the believers exercise faith in the Word of God.
We do not accept that an ordinance is a ritual that in and of itself imparts grace and effects salvation. This is contrary to biblical teachings. The proper administration of the holy ordinances, as appointed by Christ in Scripture, constitute a genuine mark of the true church.
This week we will study how the holy ordinances serve as symbolic acts to express a covenant relationship with our risen Lord. We will learn about the assurances He provides for us in these ordinances. May this study help us to experience His cleansing and sanctifying power.
Compare the baptism of John the Baptist with Christian baptism. Mark 1:4, 8; Matt. 3:11.
While there is a substantial continuity between the baptism of John and that of Christ's apostles regarding repentance and forgiveness of sins, the new aspect of Christian baptism was the impartation of the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit was promised by Israel's prophets as a sign of the Messiah's presence (Isa. 11:1, 2) and of the arrival of the Messianic age (Isa. 44:3; Joel 2:28, 29). John the Baptist presented the long-expected King and His gift of the Spirit to Israel (John 1:31).
How did Peter introduce baptism to his listeners on the day of Pentecost? Acts 2:38-41. (Compare Matt. 28: 18-20.)
Peter announced that the "outpouring" of the Spirit of God would from then on be united with water-baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." This "outpouring" of the Spirit is synonymous with the "baptism" of the Spirit (Acts 1:5). Peter's message is that baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit come simultaneously for the believer.
How did Jesus indicate that water baptism and spiritual baptism are inseparable? John 3:5. (Compare Titus 3:4-7.)
This union was promised to a repentant Israel in Babylon (Ezek. 36:24-27). It was the core of the new covenant promise for a cleansed people. Only after Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead could forgiveness be united with the fullness of the Spirit. Christ alone can offer these two great gifts: the removal of our guilt and the bestowal of His Spirit. The gospel offers both gifts together when we place our trust in Christ as the Son of God (see Gal. 3:2, 5; Titus 3:4-7). Christ Himself is the one who baptizes us with His Holy Spirit (John 1:33) after cleansing us by His blood (1 John 1:7).
How did Peter compare baptism with the deliverance of Noah's family? How was baptism a "saving" event? 1 Pet. 3:20, 21.
Peter refers to the waters of the ancient Flood as a "type" (NKJV) or "figure" of baptism. He recognizes a correspondence between the Flood and Christian baptism in that both effected a cleansing from sin and evil. The New Testament calls baptism a "washing away" of the believer's sins (Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5). The baptismal water represents the shed blood of Christ that saves a sinner (see 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 1 John 1:7). To this salvation believers respond with the "answer" or pledge of a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:21), and they receive from God in baptism a "clear conscience" (1 Pet. 3:16).
What reference to assurance in baptism do you see in Mark 16:16 with regard to the last judgment? (Compare Heb. 10:22, 23).
Baptism is presented in the New Testament as an anticipation of the last judgment. In baptism the believer dies with Christ and then rises with Him to life eternal: "If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him" (Rom. 6:5, 6, NIV). "Death" accounts in Scripture for the ultimate verdict on sin. Christ's death on the cross is the point of orientation in each baptism! By faith and baptism the believer accepts Jesus' death as his or her own death before God. In baptism the believer "has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24) and is now "in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17). If you believe this wonderful assurance for future glory as a child of God (Rom. 8:17), there can be no fear for the last judgment. "Fear" belongs to those who are still in the state of a "slave" (Rom. 8:15).
What is God's redemptive part in baptism? Rom. 6:3-6.
Paul affirms that God acts in a redemptive way in the baptism of a genuine believer. The believer is baptized "into Christ Jesus," meaning "into His death." He or she is now "united with Christ" in His death. Paul testifies: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20, NIV). He further affirms God's act: "He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgive-ness of sins" (Col. 1:13, 14, RSV).
It is fitting that today's subject follows yesterday's study on baptism and precedes tomorrow's study on the Lord's Supper. This ordinance of humility looks back at baptism and looks forward to the Lord's Supper. We have accepted Christ as our Savior and Lord and have experienced the cleansing of His blood at baptism, but in our Christian walk we stumble. This ordinance of humility allows us to come to Christ in a special way to experience His cleansing grace to wash away our sins. It serves as a continuous reminder after baptism that we always stand in need of Christ's assurance of cleansing and renewal.
Our participation in this ordinance not only hearkens back to our baptism but prepares us also to meet our Lord in the celebration of His Supper. "This ordinance, preceding the Lord's Supper, fulfills the injunction that all should examine themselves so as not to participate in that meal 'in an unworthy manner' (1 Cor. 11:27-29)."Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . p. 196.
How did Jesus affirm that He indeed wanted His disciples to wash each other's feet as He washed their feet?
John 13:14 _______________________________________________________
John 13:15 _______________________________________________________
John 13:17 _______________________________________________________
The vast majority of Christians today ignore Christ's definite command to participate in this ordinance of humility which He Himself established. It is often dismissed as an ancient practice that has no relevance to us. Thus many miss out on its deep spiritual significance and rich spiritual blessing. This ordinance of foot washing reminds us of Christ's condescension as He took the form of a servant, giving Himself in loving service to others. It points to Calvary as the culmination of His ultimate act of condescension. It represents a cleansing of the heart, resulting in a true fellowship of forgiven believers with their Lord and with one another.
How can we ever be puffed up with pride when we contemplate our humble Savior! The Creator of the universe bending low to wash even Judas' feet! "In My kingdom the principle of preference and supremacy has no place. The only greatness is the greatness of humility. The only distinction is found in devotion to the service of others."The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
|How does Christ's example teach us true humility? John 13:12-14. How does participating in the ordinance of foot washing give you assurance of God's forgiveness and restoration?|
What is the significance of Christ's institution of the Lord's Supper in place of the Passover Feast? Matt. 26:26.
The Passover commemorated Israel's miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Exod. 12:27-30, 43-46). "The ordinance of the Lord's supper was given to commemorate the great deliverance wrought out as the result of the death of Christ. Till He shall come the second time in power and glory, this ordinance is to be celebrated. It is the means by which His great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds."The Desire of Ages, pp. 652, 653.
What do Christ's words "this is My body" and "this is My blood" signify? Matt. 26:28; Isa. 53:10; Jer. 31:34.
Jesus understood His mission on earth in the light of the prophecy of Isaiah 53. He therefore viewed His self-sacrifice as an atoning death for the forgiveness of sins for many. He also fulfilled the predicted "new covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31-34, which was a covenant of forgiveness in the shedding of His blood. Christ's significant words do not point to His flesh or His blood as isolated substances, but point to His atoning death (see 1 Cor. 11:26).
What is the meaning of "eating" the body of Christ and "drinking" His blood during the Lord's Supper? 1 Cor. 11:26.
The significance of these words is found in sharing in the blessings that flow from the sacrificial death of Christ. Partaking of the emblems means to "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." It means to abide in Him now and to live eternally with Him (see John 6:53-56). Taking Jesus' words literally would misinterpret His meaning (see John 6:60). He gave His disciples a clue in verse 63. The Holy Spirit helps us to grasp their redemptive significance.
|How does the presence of your Host at His Supper make you feel welcome
and give you assurance?
"The holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven." And "Christ is there to minister to His children. All who come with their faith fixed upon Him will be greatly blessed."The Desire of Ages, pp. 650, 656.
How did Christ indicate that the symbolic acts of the Lord's Supper are connected with present and future salvation? Matt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26.
By partaking of the meal, the believer not only exercises faith in Christ's substitutionary death but also receives its sanctifying power and hope through the Holy Spirit. "In partaking with His disciples of the bread and wine, Christ pledged Himself to them as their Redeemer. He committed to them the new covenant, by which all who receive Him become children of God, and joint heirs with Christ. By this covenant every blessing that heaven could bestow for this life and the life to come, was theirs."The Desire of Ages, pp. 656, 659.
For how long does the risen Lord guarantee His promise of future glory? Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:16.
The Lord's Supper connects the past with the future, the Cross with the Second Advent. The certainty of a glorious future for the saints is based on the redemptive validity of the death of Christ. "It is only because of His death that we can look with joy to His second coming. His sacrifice is the center of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith."The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
What should be your present concern in preparing for Communion? 1 Cor. 10:14; 11:27-32.
Many of the Corinthians had perverted the spiritual significance of the sacramental meal by a disregard for Christ as the Host, and by humiliating the poor (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Paul rebuked them by reminding them that whoever partakes of the Lord's Supper "without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:29, NIV). We may see in the phrase "the body of the Lord" two levels of meaning: (1) Christ's self-sacrifice; (2) the church community. Paul is primarily recognizing the infinite sacrifice of Christ as the Host of the Communion table, and he considers a disregard of its holiness an "unworthy manner" that makes such a partaker "guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27). Paul indicates that the Host is, at the same time, also the Judge of each partaker (1 Cor. 11:31, 32). To receive the blessing from the cup of the Lord, "a man ought to examine himself" (11:28).
FURTHER STUDY: Read these texts to see what light they shed on our topic of the sacred ordinances: Ps. 51:2; Rom. 6:4, 5, 11, 17; 1 Cor. 10:1-12; 2 Cor. 5:14; Col. 3:12; Heb. 6:2, 6; 10:29. Read about the indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer in Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 5:5.
Read chaps. 71, "A Servant of Servants," and 72, "In Remembrance of Me" in The Desire of Ages. Read chaps. 14 and 15 about the divine ordinances in Seventh-day Adventists Believe....
Martin Luther said: "We must draw strength and comfort from it when our sins or conscience oppress us, and we must retort, 'But I am baptized! And if I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.'" The Large Catechism, in The Book of Concord. T. C. Tappert, ed. (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress Press, 1959), p. 442. Compare this with Ellen White's assurance to baptized believers: "These candidates have entered into the family of God, and their names are inscribed in the Lamb's book of life."Ellen C. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1075.
"The salvation of men depends upon a continual application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ."Ellen C. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1090.
SUMMARY: The sacred ordinances are sanctioned by Christ's example and authority. They serve to initiate and renew the assurance of eternal life. More than mere symbolic rituals, they are the appointed means of grace through which God gives His effective testimony of faithfulness.
Ruthie Papay has spent the past 18 years in prison. Although she had become a Christian, she had never let go of her anger and bitterness toward those who wronged her. Her relationship with God and with others was rooted in legalism rather than love.
In letters to her I encouraged her to look to Jesus for the power to forgive others and love them. And I asked my prayer partners to pray for her.
Six months later I received a letter from Ruthie. She was a different woman. Instead of bitterness and hatred, her letter was filled with praise to God. She was living in the same bleak cell, surrounded by the same angry people, yet she had found love and forgiveness in her Friend Jesus.
"I wish I could get out of [prison]," she said, "so I could become a missionary!"
Rejoicing over the change in Ruthie's life, I wrote back to her. "Do you realize that you are in a . . . larger mission field than many of our missionaries?" I shared with her my philosophy that most of us are already in the mission field where God wants us to work.
Ruthie's letters sparkle with hope and joy in Jesus. Other prisoners and staff members notice the change in her life. Some come to her for counsel with their problems, and many have taken an interest in studying the Bible with her. But Ruthie's greatest joy came the day her mother accepted Jesus as her Savior and was baptized.
The prison's policy makes it difficult to place religious books in the prison library. But whenever Ruthie's "book box" becomes too full, she places her books in the library for others to read. And in this way she gets books into the prison that otherwise would have been refused.
Ruthie has had as many as 20 women studying the Bible with her at a time. She gladly helps anyone who wants to find answers to their spiritual questions.
No one knows if or when Ruthie will be released from prison. But now that she understands that her mission field is a prison in Ohio, it's easier to wait for God's next call.
Pray that God will use Ruthie to touch the lives of many prisoners and staff members with whom she has contact and that through her they will find forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus.
Ruthie Papay is an inmate in an Ohio prison. Lynn Rose works at the General Conference.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
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Last updated January 25, 2000.