This past Sunday I was given the opportunity to deliver the communion meditation, that part of the service where we pause to reflect upon and rejoice in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. This opportunity would also occur on the same day our associate Hmong ministry would be baptizing ten new believers. Thus I felt this would be a good opportunity to discuss how the sacraments of Baptism and Communion are inseparably linked together.
While both are pilgrim rituals through which we identify ourselves with the Lord who redemptively identified himself with humanity, each is a unique phase of the same journey.
The practice of Communion was established at the Lord’s Supper when Jesus took the bread, as it says in Luke, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
And then taking the cup, he said “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
In the bread is the sin-atoning death of Jesus. In the cup is the abundant life of his new covenant. Christ’s death and Christ’s life. As often as we take this bread and cup throughout our journey of faith, this Communion practice helps us to remember and proclaim to observers that our lives are to be identified by Christ’s death and Christ’s life. But before we can live out that journey, we must first begin that journey.
Paul speaks of this journey’s beginning in Romans 6 where he writes “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
The act of Baptism, of being immersed and then emerging, is meant to mimic or mirror Christ’s death and resurrection. By being immersed into water, we are being buried into Christ’s death, so that the death he died is a death that covers us. And by emerging from the water, we are rising into the life for which he was raised. We die to sin through the death that Christ died so we may rise to life through Christ’s resurrection. As Paul’s words conveyed, we do this Baptismal practice so we might “walk” in life’s newness, thus beginning this journey of faith.
While it is through the continual practice of Communion we are reminded and proclaim that our lives are to be identified in Christ’s death and life, it is at the one-time practice of Baptism we declare that our lives will henceforth be defined by Christ’s death and life.
Baptism marks the beginning of this journey in Christ; Communion keeps us on this journey in Christ. Baptism is not simply a one-time event that exists in our past; it echoes throughout our life through Communion. Christ’s death, which we receive each week in the bread, is the death into which we were immersed; and Christ’s resurrection, which we drink each week in the cup, is the new life for which we were raised. The practice of Communion ripples out from the practice of Baptism.
Why does this all matter? Understanding the connection these sacraments share clarifies their mutual purpose. They clarify how this covenant we have with Christ must remain rooted in Christ. They do not make it difficult to have access to Jesus; they give sanctifying structure to that access. A structure that is meant to conform us to Christ. These sacraments shape in us the type of covenant relationship God designed to share with his people, one that through Christ’s death may encompass those who will embody Christ’s life.