Lesson 18


The Church Ordinances:
Baptism and Communion

[This document is available in PDF Format]     

There are two ordinances which Jesus Christ has instituted and established for His Church. An ordinance is a "prescribed practice." It is something that has been prescribed and ordered by Jesus Christ and practiced by the Church. An ordinance is something that the Church practices because Jesus Christ has told her to do so. The New Testament makes it very clear that the early Church practiced and observed two ordinances:

COMMUNION ("the breaking of bread")

These two ordinances are both mentioned in Acts 2:41-42.



The reason the Church baptizes people in water is because this is exactly what Jesus Christ has told us to do. After His resurrection and before He returned to heaven, Jesus gave this command to His followers: "Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, ___________________________ them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Jesus said it and the Church must obey it!


Today different churches baptize people in different ways. Baptism by sprinkling is done by placing a few drops of water on the head of a child or an adult. Baptism by pouring is done, as the name implies, by pouring a larger amount of water on the head of the individual. Baptism by immersion is done by placing the person completely under the water (complete submersion) and then raising him out of it. Which method is correct? Which method is taught in the Bible?

We must first understand what the word "baptize" really means. This word does not mean "to sprinkle" and it does not mean "to pour." The word "baptize" is a Greek word which means "to dip, to immerse, to plunge into something that surrounds or covers." When used of a liquid it means that an object or a person is put into or under a liquid so as to be completely covered by the liquid (totally submerged).

Open your Bible, place a dollar bill there and then close your Bible so that the dollar is no longer visible. You could now say, "I baptized this dollar bill in my Bible." Think of a sleeping bag. What would a person need to do in order to be baptized in the sleeping bag? Have you ever had an ice cream cone whose top had been "baptized"? This happens when the top of the ice cream cone is immersed or dipped into some kind of topping such as chocolate, butterscotch or cherry. These are usually called "dipped" cones.

In Acts 8:36-39 we read about the time when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized. In verse 38 it says that "they went down ____________ the ________________, both Philip and the eunuch; and he (Philip) ____________________ (immersed) him (the eunuch)." After this baptism they came "up out of the _____________" (verse 39). According to these verses, what method or mode of baptism do you think was used? Was it baptism by sprinkling, by pouring or by immersion? ______________________ Compare the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16 ("out of the ___________________").

Why did John baptize in Aenon (John 3:23)? "Because there was ___________     ___________ there." Does sprinkling require much water? ______ Does pouring? ______ Does immersion? _____


There are many people who teach that water baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. They teach that a believer in Christ is not saved and his sins are not forgiven until he is baptized in water. They would say this: "In order to be saved a person must believe in Christ and be baptized. Salvation takes place not when a person believes but when a person is baptized." Is this what the Bible really teaches?

Please read the following verses carefully and correct them (put a line through the part that is incorrect and not found in the Bible):

1)  John 3:16—"that whosoever believeth in Him and is baptized should not perish, but have everlasting life."

2)  John 6:47—"He that believeth on Me and is baptized hath everlasting life."

3)  Acts 10:43—"that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him and is baptized shall receive remission (forgiveness) of sins."

4)  Acts 16:31--"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized and thou shalt be saved."

5)  1 Corinthians 1:21--"it pleased God . . . to save them that believe and that are baptized."

According to all of these verses, what is the one thing that a person must do in order to be saved and to have eternal life? _______________________________ Faith alone is necessary for salvation. Consider a person who has believed on Christ but who has not yet been baptized (or consider a believer who dies before being baptized). Would this person be saved (Acts 16:31)? _______ There is no such thing as an unsaved believer! Water baptism is very important. It is an important act of obedience and it pictures very important truths (as we shall soon see). But water baptism does not save.

What is the one thing the devil does not want people to do according to Luke 8:12?

1. believe c. go to church
2. be baptized d. sing in the choir

Read Acts 2:41; Acts 10:43-48 and Acts 16:30-34. After reading and thinking about these verses, number the following according to the correct order:

____ They were baptized.

____ They were saved.

____ They heard God’s Word (they heard the gospel).

____ They believed on Christ.

Baptism is not something that a person does to be saved; baptism is something that a saved person does.

Write TRUE or FALSE for the following:

__________ "I want to be baptized in water so that I can be saved."

__________ "I want to be baptized in water because I am saved."

__________ "When I am baptized in water my sins will be all washed away."

__________ The moment I believed in Christ all my sins were washed away and forgiven."  See Acts 10:43.

__________ Baptism is not something that unsaved people should do; baptism is something that saved people should do."

Water baptism is only for those who have a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If a person’s sins have not been forgiven or cleansed, then he should not be baptized in water. Salvation must precede water baptism. [For a more detailed study of this question, see our paper, Does Water Baptism Save?]


Many churches baptize babies. They usually do this by sprinkling some drops of water on the baby’s head. What does the Bible tell us about infant baptism?

According to Acts 8:36-37, a person may be baptized only if he has first done what? ______________________________________________ Are babies able to do this? _____ In the New Testament, water baptism is always for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. A baby is too young to understand who Jesus really is and what Jesus did on the cross. Therefore the baby is too young to believe.

There is no example of a baby being baptized found anywhere in the New Testament.  

Another common mistake people make is to confuse water baptism in the New Testament with the rite of circumcision in the Old Testament.  Circumcision was performed on infants; water baptism was not.  Circumcision was a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. Male Jewish babies were circumcised a week after they were born.  Water baptism is for believers in Jesus Christ, whether they are men or women, whether they are Jews or non-Jews.  Even children can be baptized if they have trusted Christ as their personal Saviour.


1. I Should Be Baptized to Obey my Lord’s Command.

We have already seen that baptism is something that Jesus Christ has told us to do (Matthew 28:19-20). In Acts chapter 10 the Apostle Peter preached the gospel message to a group of Gentiles.

These Gentiles believed the message which Peter preached. In Acts 10:48 we learn that "he (Peter) __________________________ them to be ____________________ in the name of the Lord." Peter did not say, "You can be baptized if you wish, but it is not something you have to do." No, Peter commanded these believers to be baptized. Baptism is something that every believer should do in obedience to the Lord !

Another example of baptism being a command is found in Acts 2:38. Peter spoke to the multitude of Jews and he gave this command (Acts 2:38): "Be B__________________ every ________of you." Commands must be obeyed. What command does God give to an unsaved person (the first part of 1 John 3:23)?_______________________________________________ When a person believes in Christ he or she is saved and God then has another important command: Be baptized! Read Acts 2:38 and Acts 2:41. Did these new believers obey the command to be baptized?________

2. I Should Be Baptized to Present a Picture.

Water baptism is a wonderful picture of what happened to me when I was saved. The moment I was saved I was "baptized (immersed) into Jesus Christ" (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27). This is illustrated below:

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Every person is either saved ("in Christ") or unsaved ("outside of Christ"). The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "if any man be _____   ________________ he is a new creature." When a person believes in Christ, God does a wonderful thing. God baptizes him into (places him into) Jesus Christ. This means that every believer is totally identified with Jesus Christ. The believer is totally identified with Jesus Christ in His death, His burial and His resurrection (see Romans 6:3-5). Water baptism is meant to be a picture of this wonderful identification (this wonderful union) that a believer has with his Saviour because he is "IN CHRIST."

The picture presented by water baptism is shown below:

buried.gif (157935 bytes)

3. I Should Be Baptized to Put a Label on the "Can."

Have you ever seen a can in a store with no label on it? This would be a problem because you could not tell what is in the can. The label makes known the contents. The label tells you what is found inside. The label says, "I am a can of green peas. I want you to know that green peas live in me!"

Paul, because he was a believer, could say, "I (my old sinful self) am ____________________ with _______________: nevertheless I live; yet not I (my old sinful self) but Christ ______________ in me and the ______________ which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who _____________ me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). If you are a believer, Who lives in you (Galatians 2:20)? _____________ Water baptism is a wonderful opportunity for you to "put a label on the can" and let others know Who lives and reigns in your heart. The Lord Jesus Christ governs and rules over everything.  He desires that the believer enjoy His life and His position as God, as Lord and as Saviour. Are you enjoying His living presence and His governing power?  If so, then you should desire to have others know Who lives in you. When you are baptized you can share your testimony and tell others what Christ has done for you. When you are baptized you can also present a wonderful picture of what happened to you the moment you were saved (see the previous diagram). In this way you are putting a label on the can (putting a label on your life) and letting others know Who lives within.  Believers should never be ashamed of the One who has saved them (Romans 1:16).

4. I Should Be Baptized to Show That I Am Willing to Follow Jesus.

Baptism is a serious matter. Baptism is something that we need to think carefully about. In many churches today water baptism is just a religious ritual that does not mean very much. This should not be so with us. Baptism has a very important message which we should never forget.

Water baptism should be a reminder to myself and to others that I am bought with a price (see 1 Peter 1:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and that I belong totally to the Lord. I also understand that God’s purpose is to outlive His life in me so that I might be His witness in this world wherever I am (Acts 1:8).

Water baptism is for those who are "followers" of Jesus Christ (see Luke 9:22-26). In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, "If any man will come after Me, let him __________ himself (say "NO" to self), and take up his cross daily and _________________ Me." Following Christ involves two things: (1) a DESIRE ("if any man will or desires to come after Me..."); (2) a DECISION--it involves a "daily" decision to say "NO" to self and to say "YES" to the Saviour (to deny SELF). When the early Christians were baptized they were identifying themselves as followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ. Often it meant that they would be hated by the world and mistreated and mocked and persecuted. Sometimes their own family members would disown them. But they were willing to follow Jesus no matter what the cost and they were glad that they had decided to follow Him.

If you were blind and then were given sight, would you want to have your sight taken away just because some other blind people could not and would not understand? ______ Your blind friends may not like the fact that you can now see, but would this be a reason for you to become blind again? ____ Even so, God has given the believer spiritual sight and He has given him eternal life. The unsaved may not understand and may not like it, but this is no reason for us to go back to darkness and death.

Today there are people who pay a real price for following Jesus. There are parts of the world where it is very difficult to be a Christian. The person who is baptized in water should have this testimony: "I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back (to blindness and death)! I desire and I have made a decision to follow Jesus and to live for my Lord and serve my Lord all the days of my life. With God’s help I’m going to live as a Christian should. I have decided to follow Jesus no matter how difficult this is to do. I have decided to do right and speak rightly in a wrong world (society). I may lose ‘so called’ friends, or be mistreated, or be laughed at, or be misunderstood, or suffer because of Christ, but I am willing to accept these things if they come my way, remembering that I am in enemy territory.  I was once as blind in my mind as unbelievers are, because I too was once in unbelief.  Such things are really a small price to pay when I think of how much my Saviour suffered for me when He died on the cross." Were the early Christians willing to suffer for their Saviour (Acts 5:40-41)? ______ Did they do this joyfully or sadly? __________________________

Are you saved? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? When you were saved were you baptized into Jesus Christ? Have you been baptized in water? Why? Why not? Are you willing to follow Jesus? Are you willing to walk down the "road of discipleship" even though it may be a difficult road, knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ goes down that road with you (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)? Following the Saviour may seem costly and difficult, but it is worth it all!

Just before a person is baptized he usually has an opportunity to speak and to share a public testimony. As you think about your salvation and as you consider the meaning of water baptism, what are some of the things that might be good for you to share if you were giving a testimony at the time of your baptism?


(Please write out what you might say at the time of  your baptism in water)

















The Communion service is called by different names. Here are the different names and what they mean:

1. COMMUNION (see 1 Corinthians 10:16)

This word means "fellowship, participation, the sharing of a common life." Communion is not something that just the Pastor and Elders and Deacons share in, but it is something that all the believers share in and participate in. The Bible says, "for we are ______ partakers of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). It is our privilege to enjoy fellowship with our risen Lord and with one another (1 John 1:3, and compare 1 Cor. 1:9).


This name is found in 1 Corinthians 10:21--"ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s _____________ and of the table of devils." It was at a table that the Lord Jesus first instituted Communion. It was at a table that the Lord first broke the bread and passed the cup. A "table" reminds us of FELLOWSHIP (compare Revelation 3:20--"I will sup with _____ and He with _____."  Those who sit at the same table partake together of the same food. All believers partake of the same Saviour. All believers are trusting His shed blood. All believers are sharing His life.

3. THE LORDíS SUPPER (see 1 Corinthians 11:20)

On the night before He was crucified, Jesus shared in a supper meal with His disciples. After this supper Jesus instituted the bread and the cup (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).


This is a Greek word which means "giving of thanks." Before breaking the bread and passing the cup Jesus gave thanks to God (Matthew 26:27; Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24). The Communion service ought to be a special time when believers thank God for what Christ has done for them.


This is what Jesus did (Matthew 26:26) and this is what the followers of Jesus continued to do (Acts 2:42).


The Communion service was instituted on the same night the Lord Jesus was betrayed. On the very next day Jesus would go to the cross, suffer and shed His blood for us. We read about what Jesus did on this night in the gospels (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20) and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.

Notice the commands that we find in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25:

Take (v. 24)

E _____(v. 24)

This _____ in remembrance of me (v. 24).

This _____ ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me (v. 25).

The reason we observe Communion is because Jesus Christ has told us to! Jesus said it and the Church must obey it!


Like Baptism, Communion presents a very important picture. The bread is a symbol (a picture) of ____________________________________ (Matthew 26:26) and the cup is a symbol (a picture) of ________________________________ (Matthew 26:27-28). What did Jesus mean when He said, "This is My Body" and "This is My blood"? There are churches today that believe that the Communion bread actually changes and becomes the body of Christ. They believe also that the juice of the grape actually changes and becomes the blood of Jesus.

Suppose a man has a picture or a photograph of his wife. One day he shows it to a friend and says, "Look, this is my wife." What does he mean? Obviously he does not mean that this small piece of photographic paper is actually his wife. He is merely using a common figure of speech called a metaphor. What he really means is: "This represents my wife. This is a picture of my wife. When you look at this picture you will think of my wife."

This is exactly what Jesus meant. Jesus said, "This is My Body" and the meaning of these words is: "This bread represents My body. This bread is a picture (symbol) of My body. When you look at this bread you will think of My body and what I did for you when I died on the cross." When Jesus said, "This is My body," it had to be symbolic because His body was right there and separate from the bread. 

What did Jesus mean when He said "This is My blood"?


The Lord Jesus has told us why we should observe Communion. He has told us why we should eat the bread and drink the cup. He said, "This do in _______________________ of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:24, and see verse 25). God knows that people are prone to forget. We tend to forget even important things! But there is one thing that God never wants us to forget. He never wants us to forget what our Saviour did for us on the cross:


(See 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21)


(See Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5)

The communion service is a time when we think back to the cross and remember what Jesus did for us when He died in our place.


Jesus did not tell everyone to eat the bread and drink the cup. This was something that He told His disciples to do. In Acts 2:41-46 we learn that "all that _____________________ were together" (verse 44) and it was these people who were "breaking bread" (verses 42 and 46).

Before you take Communion you should make sure of these four things:

1) Make sure you are saved. Make sure that you are a believer in Jesus Christ and that you are trusting Him and what He did on the cross for your eternal salvation.

2) Make sure you know that you are saved. Many people do not have assurance of salvation. They may think they are saved or hope they are saved or feel like they are saved, but God wants us to "____________________" that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

3) Make sure you examine yourself and are ready to eat and drink in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). Parents sometimes have a rule for their children that goes something like this: "You can’t eat supper without washing your hands!" So also the believer must not eat at the Lord’s Table without clean hands. Sin and the Saviour cannot come together. A holy God cannot have fellowship with an unclean believer (compare John 13:8; 1 John 1:5-9). Before partaking of Communion the believer needs to realize this: "Apart from Christ I am dirty and I have no access to God. I cannot come to God as I am. Sin and the Saviour cannot come together. I thank God that I have a Saviour who makes me clean. I thank God that the blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing me from all sin (1 John 1:7). The only way that I can approach God is through Christ and through His cross. I need to come to God this way (through the cross) and this is the only way that I can come. Thank you Lord for making me clean. Thank you that I am able to have fellowship with a holy God. Thank you for what Jesus did for me on the cross to make this possible."

4) Make sure that you are ready to take Communion in the right way. Communion is a serious time. It is a time to think about our Saviour and what He has done for us. It is a thoughtful and a thankful time. It is not a play time. It is not a time to "have a snack." It is not a time to play with the bread with your fingers. It is not a time to lick the bottom of the cup with your tongue to get every last drop. Those who do such things are showing that they are definitely not ready to take Communion.

Should you partake of Communion? Why not talk to your parents, to your Sunday School teacher, or to your Pastor about this. Talk to someone who can help you to make the best decision about Communion. Some parents encourage their children to give a public confession of faith and to be baptized before taking Communion.  It is certainly not something to take lightly.  You need to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.


The Lord Jesus did not say how often believers should observe Communion. He said it should be done "often" (1 Corinthians 11:25-26) but He did not say how often. Some churches have Communion every week. Some have it every month. Some have it every other month. There are two dangers that churches need to avoid:

1) DANGER #1--Having Communion Too Often

If Communion is observed too often, then it is possible that the service could lose some of its meaning. The Communion service should be as meaningful as possible. When something is done too often it can become a ritual (doing something out of habit without really understanding what you are doing or why). The Communion service should always be something very special and very meaningful.  If we do observe Communion often, then we need to make sure that we make every effort to keep before our minds and hearts the significance of what we are doing, remembering our great God and Saviour.

2) DANGER #2--Not Having Communion Often Enough

If Communion is not observed often enough, then we lose the blessing of it. Also we are not obeying our Lord who told us to remember His death and to do it often (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).  We don't want to neglect our duty to remember our Lord as He commanded.

Because we do not want to miss the blessing of Communion and because we do not want to lose the meaning of Communion, our local church observes Communion about once every month (about 12 times a year). At the same time we do not want to look down upon or wrongly judge other Bible believing churches that have decided to observe Communion less often or more often than we do. 


A BACKWARD LOOK—looking back to the cross to see and to remember what the Lord Jesus has done for me by the offering up of His body and the shedding of His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 26:28).

AN UPWARD LOOK—looking unto Jesus who is presently doing a work for me as my Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34) and Advocate (1 John 2:1-2), having sat down at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 8:1).

A FORWARD LOOK—looking for Jesus (Titus 2:13) and expecting and waiting (1 Corinthians 1:7-8) for what He will do as He comes again to complete the great work of salvation which He began in me (Philippians 1:6; 3:20-21). Paul said that when believers partake of Communion they are showing (proclaiming) the Lord’s death till He _______________ (1 Corinthians 11:26). Thus Communion looks back to the cross and looks ahead to His coming again.

AN INWARD LOOK—looking at what Jesus is doing in me (1 Cor. 11:27-32; Phil. 2:13).

The believer must "E__________________ himself" (1 Corinthians 11:28). This means that I must put myself to the test. I must put myself on trial. I must examine myself to make sure my heart is right with the Lord. I must recognize that "in me dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18), but I must also recognize that I have a great Saviour who makes me clean (1 John 1:7,9)! The believer must also "J_____________ himself" (1 Corinthians 11:31). This means that I must judge myself thoroughly. I must confess any known sins and also acknowledge that I am guilty before a holy God. I must also confess that my Saviour died for me and paid the penalty for all my sin. I cannot shake hands with God (as it were) apart from Christ, but through Christ (and because of His cross) I can have access to God and I can enjoy fellowship with God. If a person fails to "examine himself" and to "judge himself," and if a person fails to come to God through the cross, then this person is partaking of the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27). He is missing out on the blessing and the meaning and the fellowship of the Communion service and God may need to chasten him (a reference to the Father's loving discipline)—see 1 Corinthians 11:30-32.

The next time you take Communion you can think about these four "looks":

1) A BACKWARD LOOK--"Thank You Lord for what You did for me on the cross."

2) AN UPWARD LOOK--"Thank You Lord that You are my Saviour, my Lord, my Helper, and my Keeper right now."

3) A FORWARD LOOK--"Thank You Lord that you are coming again, perhaps even today."

4) AN INWARD LOOK--"Thank You Lord that if I confess my sins You are faithful and just to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness." (See 1 John 1:9.)


Done only once Done many times
Done at the beginning of the Christian life Done throughout the Christian life
Key Word: UNION (identification)
See Romans 6:3-4. The believer is identified with Jesus Christ.
Key Word: COMMUNION (fellowship) See 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:28,31. The believer is able to fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Because of the cross I have a new life! Because of the cross I can enjoy the new life that I have!
I am a new creature in Christ! I need to walk as a new creature in Christ!
My STANDING (POSITION) in Christ is perfect! God sees me in His perfect Son! My actual STATE is not always what it should be. I need to "examine myself" and "judge myself" to make sure that I come to God through the cross and stay in fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 11:28-32; 1 John 1:5-9).

Some final questions for class discussion or for home assignment:

What does water baptism picture? What does Communion picture?

Who should be baptized in water? Who should not be?

Who should take Communion? Who should not take Communion?

What does water baptism do for a person? What does Communion do for a person?

Why is a person only baptized in water once? Why does a believer take Communion many times?

If you have not been baptized, why not?

If you have never taken Communion, why not?

How would you explain water baptism to a brand new believer who has just received Christ as Saviour but who does not know anything about baptism? How would you explain Communion to this person?

Go to the Next Lesson--Lesson 19

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