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Baptism the Door to the Lord?s Supper.



The Argument From The Importance of the Lord?s Supper.

Some of-those, who teach that baptism need not precede the Lord?s supper do so because they hold a view of the Lord?s supper quite different from that of the New Testament. Thus Professor Seeley (in his "Ecce Homo") has told us that our Lord instituted a sort of "club dinner," in which his friends were asked to remember him. The theory requires us to forget much that our Lord said at the last supper?as, for example, "This is my body," and "This is my blood"; but Professor Seeley found no serious difficulty here. Many other writers join him in presenting the Lord?s supper in this secular light. In order to do so, they trim away some of our Lord?s expressions recorded in the Gospels as not genuine?that is, as not convenient?and pronounce some expressions of the other books of the New Testament later accretions, of no authority for us. Now, if I believed that our Lord intended to institute a mere club dinner, I should not regard baptism as prerequisite to it. The chief prerequisites to a club dinner are those social qualities which render a person "clubable" and a good appetite.

Dr. Norman Fox (in his two booklets, "Christ in the Daily Meal" and "The Invitation to the Breaking of Bread"; so, also, McGiffert, "The Apostolic Age," pages 69, 70) is an able representative of the view that our Lord, at the last supper, intended to make all meals commemorative of his person and his death, and not to institute a special commemorative meal. Dr. Fox infers from this premise that baptism cannot be a prerequisite to the Lord?s supper, for every meal, partaken in a proper spirit, is to him the Lord?s supper. The conclusion may be granted if the premise is proven, for it is difficult to think of our Lord as wishing to make baptism a prerequisite to every meal. Had he done so, it would be necessary to compel every convert to fast until baptism could be administered. But the premise does not appear to me to rest on any solid support.

It is the purpose of Dr. Fox to bring all meals up to the level of the Lord?s supper, and not to depress the Lord?s supper to the ordinary level of the present daily meal. But this is impossible. The mind is so constituted that it seeks to attend to certain definite things at certain definite seasons, and we cannot force it to attend to all things at all seasons. The holiest mind distinguishes the common and the uncommon, the secular and the religious, the material and the spiritual, in our duties and observances. If a man should try to make every day a commemoration of the Declaration of Independence, he would end by having no Independence Day. If a man should try to make every day a New Year?s Day, he would end by having no New Year?s Day. It has been proposed to abolish the Sabbath by making every day a Sabbath; but no one has ever succeeded in carrying the proposition into practice, and the effort, were it made, would result only in the secularization of the Sabbath, and not in the sanctification of the other days of the week. A poet has sung that "every place is holy ground"; but we cannot make every place holy in the sense in which Galilee and Jerusalem and Calvary are holy, except as we cease to think of them as holy. Even so, the effort to make all our meals suppers of the Lord would leave us without any Lord?s supper.

Moreover, the New Testament clearly gives us a special meal in the Lord?s supper. Our Lord instituted it, not at a common meal, but at the paschal supper, a very uncommon meal. He has suggested to us thus the analogy between the paschal supper and the Lord?s supper, the one pointing forward to "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," and the other pointing back to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," and both meeting in harmony "in the night in which he was betrayed." Moreover, the apostle Paul distinguishes sharply between the common meal and the Lord?s supper: "What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?" "?If any man is ?hungry, let him eat at home."

But many, who do not agree with Professor Seeley or Dr. Norman Fox, deem the Lord?s supper of relatively slight importance, and regard it as "a mere ceremony," "a mere emblem." I think that a large share of the sentiment in favor of unrestricted communion springs from the feeling that the communion, after all, is not of very great consequence. Thousands of good Christians have recoiled from the papal doctrine of transubstantiation and the awe with which the Roman Catholic beholds the wafer, to the opposite extreme of easy apathy in the presence of the holy bread and wine.

In answer to these three typical views, which tend to unrestricted communion, I present the Lord?s supper, as I have presented baptism, as a ceremony, but not "a mere ceremony"; as an emblem, but not "a mere emblem." Between these inadequate views and sacramentarianism, which I abhor, there is a wide continent of rich truth, which we should by no means overlook. I, therefore, present the Lord?s supper as containing elements of spiritual truth and power similar to those which I found in baptism. 1. It preaches the cross: "Ye proclaim the Lord?s death." 2. It offers to the believer a touching memorial of the entire person and work of Christ, and especially of his sacrificial atonement: "Do this in remembrance of me." "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins." 3. It is a symbol of God?s covenant with his people: "This is my blood of the new covenant." 4. It presents Christ as the nourishment and life of the soul: "Eat all ye of it"; "Drink all ye of it." 5. It is a prediction of the second coming: "Ye proclaim the Lord?s death till he come." 6. It is a prediction of our future glory with Christ: "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father?s kingdom." 7. It is a symbol of the fraternal unity of those who partake of it: "We, who are many, are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread." This ordinance, therefore, contains a precious freightage of Christian truth.

Moreover, in partaking of the Lord?s supper, the Christian performs in act of faith and receives a refreshing of his faith, a brighter manifestation of God to his soul, since God always manifests himself to men in proportion to their faith. As I said of baptism, so I say of the Lord?s supper?that, while it is neither a channel of grace nor a condition of grace, it is a means of grace. Faith is the only channel of grace and the only condition of grace; but faith leads to action, and all acts of faith are means of grace. Nor do I deem it unreasonable to suppose that Christ makes a special and abundant manifestation of himself to those who partake of his supper in faith. Is it not natural to expect that he will honor with a special display of his presence the memorial meal which he founded, and at which he is the host and his people the guests?

There is a doctrine of "the real presence" which the Baptist may hold, because it sets forth his personal experience. The phrase "the real presence" has been used to affirm the real presence of the flesh and blood of Christ in the bread and wine. But there is no reason for limiting its use in this manner. The Baptist, who rejects with loathing the doctrine of the physical presence of Christ in the supper, knows of his spiritual presence; and that, after all, is the only "real presence" for which he is concerned. There are two kinds of spiritual presence of Christ of which the Scriptures speak. First, there is his omnipresence as God, his immanence in his universe, so that he is in every place, even where we forget him and see Him not. But, again, there is a presence of manifestation. He is everywhere; but often, like Jacob, we awake from some carnal slumber and say: "Surely Jehovah is in this place, and I knew it not." At other times he is so manifest that "our hearts burn within us." It is for this presence of manifestation that we pray when we ask him to be with us. It is this that he has promised his assembled people: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." It is of this that the disciple is conscious at the Lord?s supper:

" How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
where everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores."

The disciple, therefore, need only consult his own experience to find an answer to those who plead for unrestricted communion on the ground that the Lord?s supper is a mere club dinner, a mere daily meal, or a mere vague emblem.

The Argument From the Natural Relation of the Two Ordinances to One Another.

Dr. Norman Fox, deeming every daily meal the Lord?s supper, not unnaturally denies that baptism logically precedes it: "Is there in fact any logical relation between baptism and the memorial eating? The breaking of bread is in order to-an assistance towards-a remembrance of Christ. Like kneeling in prayer or lifting the voice in praise, it is a physical act to assist the spiritual exercise. Now, if it be proper, for an unbaptized person to remember Christ, why should he not break bread to assist such remembrance? Why should lack of baptism forbid one?s breaking bread in order to remembrance of Christ, any more than it would forbid his kneeling in prayer or his playing on a harp to assist his soul to praise? Baptism has no logical antecedence to the breaking of bread, any more than to kneeling or singing." If I believed the premise which Dr. Fox urges?that Christ intended to institute no memorial meal other than the daily meal, and that he intended it to do nothing more than to bring him to the thoughts of his disciples?I should conclude that "baptism has no logical antecedence to the breaking of bread, any more than to kneeling or singing."

But, we have already found in the Lord?s supper special characteristics which set it apart from the daily meal and elevate it into the class of Christian ordinances. Now, things which belong together as members of s class are related in thought to the other members of the same class as they cannot be to objects belonging to other classes. Jupiter is related in thought to Mercury as it is not to the Sultan of Turkey or to Mount Hood. The Capitol at Washington is related in thought to the houses of Parliament as it is. not to a pine tree or a bottle of rose-water. The President of the United States is related in thought to the President of France as he is not to the Atlantic Ocean or the Alhambra. If we should try never so earnestly to follow Dr. Norman Fox in his effort to give baptism only such a relation to the Lord?s supper as that which it sustains to preaching, to praying, and to singing, we should succeed only as he has succeeded, by forgetting the unique character of the ordinances as ordinances, or else by blinding ourselves to a necessary law of classification. We should probably not succeed at all. The moment we should classify the two as ordinances and as forming a group by themselves, we should see that baptism necessarily sustains a relation to the Lord?s supper which it does not sustain to preaching, praying, and singing; and having determined this point, we should readily perceive that the logical relation of baptism to the Lord?s supper is that of precedence.

We have found already that the two ordinances have a large body of meaning in common, while yet each presents some special phases of truth, and also presents the truth common to both in a light of its own. In general, baptism sets forth the beginning of the Christian life, and the Lord?s supper its sustenance. The key thought of baptism, so far as it relates to the recipient, is a burial to sin and a resurrection to holiness; the key thought of the Lord?s supper, so far, as it relates to the recipient, is the perpetuation of the Christian life by feeding on "the Bread of Heaven." As Dr. Alvah Hovey well says: "The former speaks of change from one spiritual condition to another, from moral pollution to moral purity, while the other speaks of growth, progress, power, in a present condition. ?For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.? ?As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye proclaim the Lord?s death till he come.?"

Hence, in the New Testament, baptism is administered to each disciple but once, while the Lord?s supper is administered many times; for life begins but once, while it requires many reinforcements of food for its furtherance.

Hence; also, in the New Testament, baptism is linked to faith as the first formal and ceremonial expression of it, while the Lord?s supper never has this position. Thus in the great commission we are directed to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them." Observe here the intimate association of discipleship with baptism as the confession of discipleship. The practice of the disciples was strictly in keeping with this feature of the commission, and they always administered baptism as the first formal symbolical act of the believer, while the Lord?s supper followed it. On the day of Pentecost, "they that gladly received his word were baptized." Afterwards "they continued steadfastly in the apostles? teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and the prayers." The people of Samaria, "when they believed Philip preaching good tidings, were baptized, both men and women." Such was the universal rule, exemplified in the case of Cornelius, of Saul of Tarsus, of Lydia and her household, of the jailer and his household, of Crispus and his household, and of "many of the Corinthians" who believed with him; when these persons believed, they were baptized. The rule has no exceptions. We do not read that any persons believed and received the Lord?s supper. To quote the words of Dr. A. N. Arnold ("The Scriptural Terms of Admission to the Lord?s Supper"): "In no case is it said, ?Then they that gladly received the word came together to break bread?; or, ?Who can forbid bread and wine, that these should not east the Lord?s supper, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?? or, ?Believing in God with all his house, he sat down at the table of the Lord, he and all his straightway?; or, ?Repent and receive the Lord?s supper; every one of you?; or, ?When they believed the preaching concerning the kingdom of God, they broke bread, both men and women.? In no case are they described as receiving the Lord?s supper immediately after their conversion, or as receiving the Lord?s supper first and baptism afterwards."

If this precedence of baptism to the Lord?s supper were a mere accident or an adjustment of practice to local and temporary circumstances, it would not necessarily be a guide to us. But it is based upon a profound reason. It is based upon the significance of baptism as related to the significance of the Lord?s supper. For us to reverse the divine order would be to reverse the meaning of one ordinance or of both. We might do it lightly, if we regarded baptism as the mere dedication of a babe by means of a drop of water, or a mere initiation of an older person into the church by the same means. We might do it lightly, if we regarded the Lord?s supper as a mere club dinner, or a mere daily meal, or a mere vague religious emblem, with no special message for the observers or the participants. But so long as we recognize in baptism and the Lord?s supper that which the Scriptures find in them, we shall not willingly change the order of precedence which the Scriptures establish.

It may be said, in answer to these biblical proofs of a definite order of precedence, that the eleven apostles who were present at the last supper may have been unbaptized, since the Gospels contain no express record of their baptism. To grant this would not disturb my argument. Baptism must have been instituted by some unbaptized man or men. It must have had a beginning. The apostles were appointed for the express purpose of laying the foundations of Christianity, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." If, therefore, it could be shown that they were unbaptized, because baptism did not yet exist, and that they were the divinely commissioned administrators of both baptism and the Lord?s supper, this would render only more remarkable the fact that they themselves established and maintained the logical and reasonable order of the ordinances, and always placed baptism at the beginning of the new Christian life, and the Lord?s supper after it, because the one is the symbol of the beginning of the new life, and the other of its sustenance.

But it is not probable that they were unbaptized. Two of them, at least, had been disciples of John the Baptist, and probably all the rest came from his school. He was sent to prepare a people for the fuller revelation and the greater demands to be made by the Messiah, and when we observe the alacrity with which they left all and followed the new Teacher, we cannot avoid the inference that their souls had thus been prepared. But John baptized his disciples, and also pointed them to Him who was to come. Christ himself was baptized by John, "in order to fulfill all righteousness," and it is in the highest degree probable that he would instruct them to follow his example, if they had not been baptized already. Moreover, he heal them baptize his own disciples, and this would render it reasonable to suppose that they had been baptized. The words of Peter, in which he describes the mean to be chosen in the place of Judas, are quite in accordance with these indications: "Of the men, therefore, which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection."

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