The Plea For The Ordinances Of Christ

W. Terry Varner
March 19, 2017

The term ordinance may seem peculiar to our thinking but it means “an authoritative order, an injunction, a piece of legislation.” The church has no ordinances, but Christ has three: (1) Baptism, (2) the Lord’s Supper, and (3) the Lord’s Day. The three ordinances have great teaching value to the Christian. They are remarkable symbols which relate to Christ, the believe, and the world.

The gospel of Christ has three facts of the gospel—the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I declared to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried,and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4, emp. added). Each of the three ordinances of Christ memorializes one or more the facts of the gospel.

Paul Ranks Three Facts as “First of All.” What he means is that they are the most important. It would have been strange if these memorials had not been established to perpetuate and magnify these three gospel facts.

The Lord’s Supper. Observe the first fact: “Christ died.” Occasionally someone will say, “Today we observe the Lord’s Supper to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.” There are a number of things wrong with this statement: (1) I am not certain celebrate should be used in connection with the Lord’s Supper. The word identifies a joyous, jubilant occasion. (2) The Lord’s Supper emphasizes only one fact of the gospel, namely, the death of Christ. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). The Lord’s Supper is a memorial and a proclamation of the death of Christ participated in as a sacred and impressive memorial on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 20:7).

Baptism. Observe the second fact of the gospel: Christ was buried.The monument that attests to His burial is baptism. Baptism, while a command, is also a memorial that pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:1-4, emp. added). Today, when you witness a scriptural baptism, you have pictured before your very eyes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

The Lord’s Day. The third fact of the gospel is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.The first day of the week, also known as the Lora’s Day, is the memorial of the resurrection of Jesus (cf. Mark 16:9; Ps. 118:22-23). To the Jews the Sabbath, also known as Saturday, was a memorial of the Passover and their leaving Egypt. To the Christian the first day or the week, or Sunday, is a memorial of the day Christ was raised from the dead. Each year for fifty-two times, Christians faithful to God’s word celebrate the resurrection of Christ (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

Conclusion: Concerning these three ordinances, someone has suggested that (1) Baptism is a test of the loyalty of the penitent believer, (2) the Lord’s Supper is the test of the loyalty of a Christian, and (3) the Lord’s Day is a memorial of the resurrection of Christ. It is a time to rejoice and be glad (cf. Mark 16:9; Ps. 118:19-24).