By Ron F. Hale, Minister of Missions, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN
With the voice of experience and the education of a scholar, Dr. W. A. Criswell shares the following definition:
The word ordinance, as we use the term in the church, refers to a religious rite ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon his authority and institution, and following the practice of the apostles, we receive the ordinances of the church from his and their gracious hands. The word ordinance in the Old Testament represents something prescribed, enacted, and usually refers to a matter of ritual. For example, according to Exodus 12:14, the Passover was “an ordinance forever”; that is, a permanent institution. The word ordinance in the New Testament is a translation of four different Greek words. Although not technically referring to just the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, I like the translation of the Greek word paradoseis in I Corinthians 11:2. “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” That is what we are to do, faithfully and scripturally and perpetually.
–W.A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1980), 199.
Dr. William W. Stevens differs with Dr. Criswell and writes that the word paradoseis should be translated “traditions” instead of ordinance (William W. Stevens. Doctrines of the Christian Religion. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1967, 324).
Southern Baptists have historically observed two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Primitive Baptists and a few other groups recognize footwashing as a third ordinance by means of a literal interpretation of John 13:12-17.
Although the word is not mentioned, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 define the two practices that we teach as ordinances:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.
Southern Baptists have steered clear of the term sacraments in reference to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The word “sacrament” implies a magical or mystical supposition stemming from a “transfer-of-grace” premise. Seven sacraments make up the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, and they include baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.
Southern Baptists totally reject sacramentalism through which the church dispenses grace. Dr. Roy T. Edgemon teaches us that grace is conferred directly from Christ to the believer. There is no intermediary of any kind, whether priest or substance (Roy T. Edgemon. The Doctrines Baptists Believe. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1988, 117).
With an understanding that the ordinances are symbolic, we should never minimize the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Although they are not essential for salvation, they are necessary for our spiritual growth and obedience because we are asked to do them by our Lord and Savior.
By Dr. Page Brooks, Chaplain for the Louisiana National Guard, Assistant Professor of Theology and Islamic Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Founding Co-Pastor of the Mosaic Church in New Orleans
Throughout the Bible we see where God sometimes leads individuals into the desert to teach them some powerful spiritual lessons. Whether it was the Israelites, John the Baptist, or Jesus Himself, the desert experience was always powerful in bringing to life spiritual truths.
I had my own experience in learning spiritual lessons in the desert, but this particular trip was because of my role as a military chaplain while I was deployed to Iraq in 2010. I serve as a chaplain with the Louisiana National Guard and deployed with the 1-141 Field Artillery out of New Orleans, Louisiana. We served in two locations of Iraq during the year. In the first part of our deployment we were stationed in Tallil, near the Kuwaiti border. Our soldiers performed convoy operations all over Iraq, starting from our base in Tallil. The second half of the deployment we were stationed in the International Zone, Baghdad. We provided security for areas of the International Zone and the US Embassy.
Though we went through loss of life and other difficult situations, I had wonderful deployment. I loved being with my soldiers and ministering to their needs. In the midst of the incredible ministry with the soldiers, God not only used me to touch their lives, but God used them to teach me a few lessons of my own that I would use when I returned to the States as I returned to my teaching ministry and church plant.
Robin Foster, Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Perkins, OK
In discussing the restoration of integrity in church membership, there has been a great resurgence in the biblical practice of church discipline. Not that many Southern Baptist churches are initiating this biblical practice in their churches (personally I don’t know of any in our association), but there has been a grand discussion and even a resolution on church discipline (http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=1189) offered at the 2008 SBC convention concerning this vital ministry to help a wayward brother or sister find their way back to Christ and full fellowship with the body. I for one applaud this and hope it will take root and continue to grow. But, as a pastor, I believe there is a bigger concern with how we accept members in the first place. In other words, can we take care of any issues before someone becomes a member of the church? It is my contention that many problems in our churches today are the result of poor admission traditions that have been practiced by our churches for at least the last 100 years.
The typical custom for accepting members among Southern Baptist churches is for a candidate to walk forward during the invitation. Of course the normal questions are asked: “Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins?” and “Where and how were you baptized?” all the while checking the person for a pulse on their wrist. While this parody is a bit of tongue in cheek, unfortunately, this short method of Q & A is often used as the congregation sings several verses of “Just as I Am.” If the candidate correctly responds to both questions, the pastor then turns to those attending that morning (unfortunately, in most cases, some voting are non-members) for a vote on accepting this person as a member in good standing of the church. In a sizable number of cases, the person has no idea of the church doctrines, covenant, order, or responsibilities of church membership. What is most tragic is that the person says yes to these questions as a matter of rote and may not truly understand the gospel or salvation. After all they were baptized as a kid, right? Surely they are saved. Unfortunately, I am finding more and more that people are looking to their baptism as their point of salvation, rather than to their conviction of sin before a Holy and Just God, seeking His mercy and grace through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus. Continue reading