Christian baptism is a sacrament commanded by Jesus, by which Christians make a public confession that they have repented of their sins and committed themselves in faith to Jesus as their Saviour and Lord (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38,41; 9:18; 10:47-48; 18:8; Rom 10:9). The Bible speaks of people going into the water to be baptized (Acts 8:38, Matt 3:16), but it gives no detailed description of the act of baptism. The original meaning of ‘baptize’ was ‘dip’ or ‘immerse’, suggesting that believers were immersed in water.
As Jesus preached the message of the kingdom, those who accepted his message and entered the kingdom showed the genuineness of their faith and repentance by being baptized. The disciples of Jesus, rather than Jesus himself, did the baptizing (John 3:22; 4:1-2). Just before he returned to his heavenly Father, the risen Christ told his disciples to make more disciples and to spread the good news of his kingdom worldwide, baptizing those who believed (Matt 28:19). The book of Acts shows how the early Christians carried out his command (Acts 2:38,41; 8:12,35-39; 10:47-48; 16:13-15,31-33; 18:8).
Baptism was so readily acknowledged as the natural and immediate consequences of faith that the New Testament links the two inseparably. The object of saving faith is Jesus Christ and what he has done through his death and resurrection. Paul, the great interpreter of Christian belief and practice, saw baptism as more than just a declaration of faith; he saw it as having meaning that is tied up with the unique union that believers have with Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
According to Paul’s teaching, baptism is an expression of union with Christ in dying to sin and being raised with Christ to new life. When Christ died and rose again, believers died and rose again, so to speak. They demonstrate this in their baptism, but they must also make it true in practice. They must live as those who are no longer under sin’s power (Rom 6:1-11; Col 2:12).
Baptism is also a witness, or testimony. It declares that believers are cleansed from sin (Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21), given the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47, 1 Cor 12:13) and introduced into the body of Christ, the church (Gal 3:26-28, 1 Cor 12:13).
Peter, like Paul, interprets Christian baptism in relation to the death and resurrection of Christ. He sees judgment and salvation pictured in baptism, as they were pictured in the flood of Noah’s time. Christ died to bear God’s judgment on sin, but he rose from death to new life. Through him believers are cleansed from sin and made sharers in a new and victorious life (1 Peter 3:20-4:1).
The community that believers enter through their conversion is of divine, not human, origin. It is not a club, but the kingdom of God. Believers are therefore baptized not in the name of a human cult-figure, but in the name of God (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 1:13). The early preachers constantly kept this in mind. Paul, for example, preferred someone else to baptize his converts, to avoid the appearance of building a personal following (1 Cor 1:14-16). Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ, and he alone is their Lord (Acts 2:38;8:12; 10:48; 19:5; Rom 10:9)
If you desire to be obedient to Christ in baptism this can be arranged at a time that is convenient for you. It is up to you where you would like to be baptised – such as a private pool or a nearby beach. Please contact one of the Ministry Team to discuss and make arrangements for your baptism.
Dedications of parents and/or children
This is a special time when parents and the church body dedicate themselves to be examples of faith in Christ and to teach their child the mighty deeds of God (Psalm 78:1ff) and to do all they can to maintain the christian doctrine and beliefs. One important difference between a dedication service and a baptism is that it is the parents themselves, and not the baby who make the promises. The parents publicly agree that they want their child to love and serve God and they promise to provide a Christian upbringing, free from harmful influences.
A Baby Dedication is a ceremony in which believing parents, and sometimes entire families, make a commitment before the Lord to submit a child to God’s will and to raise that child according to God’s Word and God’s ways. The church as witnesses has a support role in this.
Christian parents who dedicate a child are making a promise to the Lord to do everything within their power to raise the child in a godly way, prayerfully until he or she can make a decision on his or her own to follow God. Parents who make this vow of commitment are instructed to raise the child in the ways of God, and not according to their own ways. Some of the responsibilities include teaching and training the child in God’s Word, demonstrating an example of godliness, disciplining according to God’s ways, and praying earnestly for the child.
Please contact one of the Ministry Team to discuss and make arrangements for the dedication of your child.
In both the New Testament and the present day church, the Communion is known by a number of names. Paul calls it the “supper of the Lord” (giving rise to the term “the Lord’s Supper”), because Christians keep it on the Lord’s authority and in his honour (1 Cor 11:20). Paul speaks of it also as a communion, meaning an act of fellowship, or sharing together, in Christ (1 Cor 10:16). Luke calls it the breaking of bread, referring to part of the meal as a shortened title for the whole (Acts 2:46; 20:7). Another name, the Eucharist (from the Greek word for ‘thanksgiving’), refers to Jesus’ act of giving thanks for the bread and wine (Mark 14:23; 1 Cor 11:24).
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper while eating a Passover meal with his disciples the night before his crucifixion (Luke 22:8,12,15). During the meal Jesus took some of the bread and wine from the table and passed each in turn among his disciples, inviting them to eat and drink and to continue to do this in remembrance of him. The bread and wine were symbols of his body and blood, which he was to offer on the cross as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:26- 28; Isa 53:4-6,10). God had once made a covenant with Israel and sealed it with blood (Exod 24:6-8). Through Jeremiah he promised a new covenant, one that would bring forgiveness of sins and give new life through the indwelling Spirit (Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 36:26-27). Jesus established this covenant, his blood sealed it, and the supper he instituted is a reminder of its meaning to those who believe in him. The Old Testament system, having reached its fulfillment, is replaced by the new covenant with its unlimited blessings (Matt 26:28; 1 Cor 11:25).
When the Israelites observed the Passover, they reminded themselves that their lives had been saved only through the death of the Passover lamb. When Christians celebrate Communion, they remind themselves that they have eternal life only through the death of Christ (1 Cor 11:23-24; 5:7).
Christians celebrate Communion not only in remembrance of Christ’s death, but also in anticipation of his return. When that day comes, bread and wine will no longer be necessary. Christ and his people will be together for ever in the triumphant kingdom of the Messiah. In that day there will be far more blessed fellowship between Christ and his people, likened to a heavenly feast with new wine (Matt 26:29;Luke 22:16,18; 1 Cor 11:26).
The Practice of the Early Church
From the earliest days of the church, Christians joined regularly to eat the Lord’s Supper. It seems that at first they ate it as part of their ordinary meals on a daily basis (Acts 2:42,46). Later they ate it less frequently, perhaps weekly (Acts 20:7), but the practice of combining it with a common meal continued for some time.
These common meals were called love feasts, and were occasions when the rich could show love and fellowship by sharing food generously with the poor. At Corinth, however, many of the rich greedily ate their own food, without waiting for others to arrive and without sharing it with others. Instead of being a love feast, it was a selfish feast. Instead of being a supper in honour of the Lord, it was very much a supper for themselves (1 Cor 1:20-22, Jude 1:12).
Paul reminded the Corinthian church that if Christians make a mockery of Communion through wrong behaviour, they bring judgment on themselves. They must therefore examine themselves and correct any wrong attitudes. (1 Cor 11:27-34).
Far from being a cause of division among Christians, Communion should be something that binds them together. Christians demonstrate their unity in Christ as they share in the same bread and the same wine. They show that they are united with each other and with Christ in one body (1 Cor 10:17,11:18-21). Eating bread and drinking wine together during Communion is more than just a remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death. It is a spiritual sharing together in the body and blood of Christ, a fresh enjoyment of and proclamation of the benefits of his death. It is not a time of mourning, but a time of joyful fellowship with the risen Lord (1 Cor 10:16; 11:26, John 6:48-51; Acts 2:46-47).
Communion is therefore an important part of worship in the church. It is enriched when fittingly combined with prayers, singing, preaching, the reading of the Scriptures and instruction in Christian teaching (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:26; Col 3:16).
The Practice at Gladstone Church of Christ
At Gladstone Church of Christ all who have responded to Jesus as expressed in the Scriptures are welcome to participate in Communion. It is held weekly and is an important part of our meetings together. Although it is symbolic, this does not mean it is something to be taken lightly. Each of us needs to examine ourselves before taking part, not to see if we are free from sin or shortcomings, but to ask ourselves if the truths set forth in Communion are at least something of a reality in our own lives. We need to be sure we are not partaking in a careless or unthinking manner.
There is a richness of symbolism in Communion that embraces every aspect of the Christian life. If we take part in Communion with some understanding of this, it is certain that as well as remembering the Lord as He asked us to, we will receive grace that strengthens our walk with Him.
As the symbol of the body of Jesus we use normal bread but also offer a gluten-free alternative. We use a non-alcoholic juice as the symbol of his blood.