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Sermon #2337[i] Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Three Gospel Ordinances
Text: Acts 2:41-37
Subject: Baptism, Church Membership
And The Lord’s Supper
The title of my message tonight is Three Gospel Ordinances. You will find my text in Acts 2.
On the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter preached the gospel to a great multitude. He simply told them the wondrous story of redemption accomplished and grace performed by Christ, and proclaimed the fact of Christ’s glorious exaltation and dominion as Lord and King of the universe. He preached with the power of the Holy Spirit upon him. When he had finished, 3,000 men and women had been converted by the grace of God. They were all baptized and added to the church in one day!
(Acts 2:41-47) “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (43) And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (44) And all that believed were together, and had all things common; (45) And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (47) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
In this passage the Holy Spirit shows us three things which characterized these early believers, three things which were tokens of God’s grace upon his people at Jerusalem.
1. Baptism — “They that gladly received his word were baptized.”
2. Church membership — “There were added unto them [the church] about three thousand souls.”
3. The Lord’s Supper.— “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
I want to preach to you about these three very practical things: — Baptism, — Church Membership, — and the Lord’s Supper. I trust that God the Holy Spirit will make this message a source of profitable instruction and edification to you. We are going to examine what the Word of God has to say about our responsibilities as believers to the ordinances of the gospel. These are things which should be of great interest and concern to every believer. They are matters about which every local church needs to be informed and well established.
We recognize the fact that the church of God is made up of all true believers in every age. God’s elect are his church. Some are in heaven, and some are on the earth. But we are all one body in Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:15-16; 5:25-27; Hebrews 12:22-24).
(Matthew 16:18) “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
(Ephesians 1:22-23) “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
(Ephesians 3:15-16) “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”
(Ephesians 5:25-27) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
(Hebrews 12:22-24) “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
We also recognize that the New Testament places great emphasis upon the importance of the local church (Matthew 18:20; 28:18-20; 1 Timothy 3:15).
(Matthew 18:20) “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
(Matthew 28:18-20) “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
(1 Timothy 3:15) “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
1. The great commission was given to and is carried out by local churches.
2. Local churches support, maintain, and send out pastors, missionaries, and evangelists to preach the gospel.
3. Local churches administer the ordinances of Christ.
4. The local church is a family, a brotherhood, a body of believers, united together in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).
(1 Corinthians 12:25-27) “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (26) And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. (27) Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
5. And every local church should be a miniature of the church universal (Ephesians 2:20-22; 4:1-7).
(Ephesians 2:20-22) “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (21) In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (22) In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 4:1-7) “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (2) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (3) Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (7) But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
Š Christ is the Head of each local church.
Š Upon his ascension, he received gifts for men, yea for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Among those gifts he received for his church, are pastors according to his own heart.
(Ephesians 4:11-16) “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Proposition: Our relationship to the church of Christ is a matter of obedience to Christ himself.
Š It is a great privilege and blessing to be a part of a true gospel church.
Š With this great privilege, we assume a great responsibility.
Š Our relationship with the church of Christ, in great measure, reveals our relationship to Christ.
Obviously, I cannot begin to explain all that the Bible teaches about Baptism, Church Membership, and the Lord’s Supper in a single hour. But that is not my intention. I want to simply give you a brief definition of these three things and encourage you to honor our Lord by faithful obedience to him in these three areas.
Baptism is the believer’s public confession of faith in Christ. It is not meritorious. It has no saving efficacy. It cannot regenerate, wash away sin, or even sanctify. It is a confession of faith, no more and no less.
NOTE: Let me give you a basic principle of biblical interpretation. If you want to know what the Bible teaches about a specific doctrine, go to that place in the Bible where that doctrine is taught and explained. Romans 6 explains the meaning of believer’s baptism.
(Romans 6:1-11) “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (7) For he that is dead is freed from sin. (8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (9) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. (10) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (11) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Baptism is a symbolic picture of the gospel. Ananias said to Saul, after he had seen the Lord, heard his voice and believed, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Obviously, he did not mean that the waters of baptism could wash away sin! Only the blood of Christ can do that. He put away all the sins of God’s elect, which were imputed to him when he died as our Substitute (Hebrews 9:26). But baptism is a picture of our sins being washed away by our Savior’s blood. We are buried with Christ, symbolically, in baptism, because we died with him and were buried with him when he bore the wrath of God as our Substitute. Baptism has nothing to do with the accomplishment of salvation, but it is a symbolic figure of salvation’s accomplishment by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the sinner’s substitute (1 Peter 3:21).
(1 Peter 3:21) “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”
Baptism is the believer’s public identification with Christ and his people in this world. When God saves one of his elect, the one who has been saved separates himself from unsaved family and friends by his baptism. His baptism says, “I was lost and blind, groping about in the darkness of false religion. But now God has saved me by his free grace in Christ. And I want all to know that this sovereign Christ is my Savior and Lord and his people are my people.”
Baptism is the believer’s public avowal of commitment to Christ as Lord and the glory of his great name. As we have been raised together with Christ representatively (Ephesians 2:5-6) and raised from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ by the power of his grace (John 5:25), we rise up out of the waters of baptism declaring to all the world that we will henceforth walk with our Lord in the newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Many reasons might be given why all believers should be baptized, but for the sake of brevity I will simply give here three reasons for our baptism.
Š First, our Lord did it (Mark 1:9-11).
Š Second, our Lord commands it (Mark 16:15-16).
(Mark 16:15-16) “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (16) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Š Third, every believer’s conscience requires it (1 Peter 3:21).
We cannot follow Christ’s example, obey his Word, or satisfy the requirements of our renewed consciences until we have been immersed in the name of our Lord.
2. Church membership
Church membership is the believer’s fellowship and communion with Christ in his body. Many think little of church membership. Many who claim to be believers are not identified with, or committed to, any local church. But in the New Testament men and women who followed Christ, by one means or another, applied for and obtained membership in local churches. They publicly identified themselves with and committed themselves to the church of God. Paul “assayed to join himself to the disciples” at Jerusalem, and was publicly received by them into the church (Acts 9:26-31). Phoebe was recommended to the fellowship of the church at Rome by the apostle Paul (Romans 16:1).
Church membership is restricted to believers only. A local church is a body of believers, voluntarily united together in the name of Christ for the glory of Christ, the furtherance of the gospel, the salvation of God’s elect and mutual edification.
The fellowship of believers in a local church is vital to their spiritual welfare. Our individual spiritual growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is in many ways dependent upon our relationship to and fellowship with the body of Christ. Believers need the fellowship of other believers. We all need encouragement from others. We need the strength of our brethren. We need one another.
Some years ago, a wise old pastor went to visit a member of his congregation who had been neglecting the worship of God, with the hope of encouraging his erring brother to be steadfast in the faith. As the two men sat by the hearth chatting, the pastor raked out one of the red-hot coals. That coal, lying by itself, apart from the other burning coals, soon grew cold. The pastor picked it up in his hand and held it out to his friend, saying, “One coal by itself cannot burn very long. It needs the heat of many, or its fire will die.” The neglectful man, with a tear in his eye, said, “I get the message. Thank you. I will be in my place next Sunday.” And he was. Church membership is vital. You and I simply cannot exist without the ministry of the Word and the fellowship of God’s saints in worship.
Basically, membership in a local church involves three things.
1. Church membership is an openly avowed, public commitment to the body of Christ (Philippians 2:1-4). It is like a marriage ceremony. Without inward commitment the ceremony is nothing. But for a woman to move in with a man who will not make a public commitment to her is an act of desperation, or folly, or both.
If we are committed to the family of believers to which we belong, we enjoy their company, pray for their spiritual well-being, give to meet the needs of the family, serve the family’s interest, speak well of the family members and promote the family’s interest. Let each one of us see that we live up to our professed commitment.
2. Church membership gives us the privilege of communion and fellowship with the body of Christ. — “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). The fellowship of God’s people in public worship is most delightful and blessed because in the fellowship of God’s saints we find fellowship with Christ (Matthew 18:20). Our Savior still walks in the midst of the golden lampstands and makes himself known in his churches (Revelation 1:12, 13, 20).
Who can estimate the value and privilege of being a member of a local church where Christ is honored by the unity, peace, fellowship and love of the saints? If God has given us such a privilege, let us jealously guard and promote the unity of the Spirit, the bond of peace and the fellowship of love he has given (Ephesians 4:17).
Church membership is much more than having your name on a church register. It is commitment to the body of Christ. It is communion with Christ in his body.
3. Church membership is care for the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:24-27). God’s people care for and take care of one another. Within the local church family, believers look out for one another’s welfare.
They seek opportunities to help, encourage, comfort and cheer one another. But this kindness, affection and care extends beyond the local assembly. It reaches out to God’s saints wherever they are found (Hebrews 13:1-3).
3. The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is the believer’s blessed remembrance of Christ. One of the greatest, most blessed privileges we have in this world is that of coming together at the Lord’s Table to celebrate our redemption in Christ, by eating the bread and drinking the wine in remembrance of our Savior. The Lord’s Supper is not a pompous religious ceremony, shrouded in mystery and performed with pageantry. It is a very simple, but very precious, picture of our redemption by Christ. Every child of God needs to know the meaning and significance of this blessed ordinance, so that he may receive it, enjoy it and profit by it to the fullest possible degree (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Our Lord Jesus gave us this ordinance as a perpetual symbol and picture to remind us of himself and the work he performed on earth as our Representative and Substitute (Luke 22:7-20). Knowing that he would be physically absent from his beloved church for some time he left us a picture of himself, to remind us constantly of his great love for us. Each time we break the bread and drink the wine, we “show forth the Lord’s death” (1 Corinthians 11:26), proclaiming to ourselves and to all who see us observe the ordinance the redemption of our souls by the death of Christ in our place. Like baptism the Lord’s Supper is a picture of the gospel.
The basis of our faith is the Word of God alone. We must add nothing to it and take nothing from it. We must obey every precept of the Word, follow every precedent of the Word and reverently observe every ordinance of the Word. It is our responsibility to obey Christ and keep his ordinances exactly as he gave them. We need never fear doing what our Lord has commanded us to do. Let us all make it our business to obey and rejoice in these three gospel ordinances of baptism, church membership and the Lord’s Supper.
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — Tuesday Evening — (06/30/05)
Merton Evangelical Church, London, ENG — (SUN – 05/28/17)