Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion) are two ordinances practiced on a consistent basis at Redemption Church. We will soon be celebrating baptisms on Easter Sunday, April 16. We occasionally get questions about them and wanted to take a moment to answer them here.
What is Redemption’s official statement of faith regarding baptism and communion?
Here it is, per our membership documents:
We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordained by the Lord Jesus himself. The former is connected with entrance into the new covenant community, the latter with ongoing covenant renewal. Together they are simultaneously God’s pledge to us, divinely ordained means of grace, our public vows of submission to the once crucified and now resurrected Christ, and anticipations of his return and of the consummation of all things.
What do we use to answer questions about baptism and communion?
The Scriptures are our ultimate and final authority for answering questions about these practices. Additionally, looking back at the traditions and practices of the church throughout history can help inform us in places were the Scriptures don’t say much. Finally, we seek to apply wisdom to our context, considering the implications for our community and mission when there may be aspects that the Scriptures don’t address or when historic church practices are mixed.
What is baptism?
At Redemption, we practice baptism by immersion, whereby a believer is immersed in water and raised back up.
Baptism symbolizes a number of beautiful things, including belonging to Christ, being ‘born again,’ and being cleansed of sin (for more, see the sermon, “The Beautiful Meaning of Baptism”).
Does getting baptized make me a Christian?
No. We become Christians by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ. Baptism should follow conversion but doesn’t cause conversion.
If I’m a Christian, should I be baptized?
Yes. The Scripture both commands Christians to be baptized (Acts 2:38) and assumes that Christians will have been baptized (Romans 6:1-4).
When we read Acts, which tells the history of the early church, we consistently see people putting their trust in Jesus and then getting baptized. Baptism is both an act of obedience to Jesus and a beautiful symbol.
Why should I want to be baptized as a Christian?
Christians should want to be baptized for at least four reasons. First, baptism provides a clear statement to the surrounding world that we are identifying with Christ. It’s an appropriate separator, that seeks to distinguish the people of God.
Second, baptism provides a clear entry point into discipleship. By identifying with Jesus in baptism, we’re saying we want to continue to follow him throughout our lives.
Third, the baptism process brings us into shepherding relationships (if we don’t already have them) with pastors and elders who can speak into our lives and help us grow.
Finally, baptism contains beautiful imagery that reminds us of precious gospel truths. For more about this, view the sermon,“The Beautiful Meaning of Baptism”.
What if I’m a young child who believes in Jesus? Should I still be baptized?
Various Christian traditions answer this question differently and even pastors and elders at various Redemption congregations would answer this differently. At Redemption Gateway, however, our elders encourage children who love Jesus to wait until becoming teenagers to be baptized (read our full paper explaining this here).
I was baptized as an infant. Should I be baptized again?
Once again, various Christian traditions answer differently. The answer at Redemption is, it depends on what you believe happened at your baptism.
If you believe your baptism as an infant saved you, then you should repent of that view and be baptized as a Christian who is placing your confidence in the finished work of Jesus Christ through his life, death, and resurrection.
If you believe your baptism was your entrance into the covenant community of the church, find meaningful attachment to it, and can make a theological case for it, then you don’t need to be baptized again.
If you believe your baptism was a meaningful thing for your parents and/or family but not for you personally, then you should consider being baptized as a believer.
Do I have to speak publicly if I get baptized?
No. At Gateway, we give those being baptized an opportunity to share their story or have a pastor read their story or have nothing shared at all. Stories encourage those in attendance, but it’s not required. (You can see videos of past baptisms here).
But what if it’s embarrassing that I haven’t been baptized after all these years of following Jesus?
It’s not an uncommon situation. But we’d lovingly encourage you to humble yourself, repent of your pride, and experience the joyful celebration of baptism. The more you learn about what baptism symbolizes, the more this experience will mean to you.
Will Redemption Church baptize infants?
No. While infant baptism has been a practice throughout much of church history, we believe in baptizing those who give a thoughtful confession of faith.
What if I really want to have my infant or small children baptized?
At Redemption, we do not practice infant baptism. Rather, we practice Child Dedication, where parents publicly commit to raise their children in a God honoring way.
What is communion?
Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper) is the commemoration of our continuing fellowship with Jesus through the bread and cup (wine or grape juice).
What distinguishes baptism and communion?
Of course, the symbols are different (immersion in water vs. eating and drinking). Additionally, baptism is connected with entrance into relationship with Jesus and the new covenant community, while communion is connected with ongoing covenant renewal.
In other words, baptism is the symbol of entry into relationship with Christ and his church. Communion is the symbol of ongoing relationship with Christ and his church.
Who should take communion?
The most basic answer, like with baptism, is: Christians.
The Lord’s Supper is for those who love the Lord Jesus and eat and drink in his memory while “proclaiming his death until he comes again” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Interestingly, the norm throughout the Scriptures and church history was that only baptized Christians could participate in the Lord’s Supper. This makes sense given the symbolism involved — baptism is the starting point, while communion is the continuation.
Thus far at Redemption, we have not limited communion to baptized believers. However, we think there is significant wisdom in following the pattern that the historic church has consistently practiced.
If a person is willing to identify publicly with Jesus in communion, he or she should also be willing to identify publicly with Jesus in baptism.
If I haven’t been baptized, should I take communion?
As is hopefully clear thus far, we hope that those Christians who take communion and have not been baptized would make plans to be baptized at the next opportunity. We will not exclude you from the table. But we will ask you to wrestle with why you are willing to follow Jesus in one area (communion) but not another (baptism).