Rituals and Worship

There are differences among Baptists with respect to the steps leading up to baptism. Some Baptists, believing that there is some kind of link or association between baptism and salvation, encourage people to be baptized immediately upon their profession of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Most Baptists, however, while believing baptism to be a necessary step of obedience and one that should not be unduly delayed, do not consider baptism to be inherently necessary for salvation. Many of them think it best that a period of time be given to basic instruction in the Christian faith and to the expression of new life in Christ through speech and behavior. Then, upon evidence of being born again, and only upon such evidence, a person should be baptized.

The second ordinance observed in the Baptist tradition is the Lord's Supper. Whereas baptism is an initiatory rite and to be experienced but once, one is to participate in the Lord's Supper throughout the rest of life. The Lord's Supper recalls "the last supper" that Jesus shared with his disciples shortly before his death, and, through the symbols of broken-bread and wine (or grape juice), focuses on Christ's suffering and death (Luke 22:7-22). The emphasis is on remembering the person and work of Christ, and prayerfully reflecting on his significance for one's own life. Thus, there is a continual need to participate with other Christians in this rite throughout one's life. Associated with this, there is also a future-oriented dimension in that Christ indicated that he would share a meal with his followers again when he returns in the future (Matthew 26:29; 1 Corinthians 11:26). Baptist churches vary in the frequency with which they celebrate the Lord's Supper, with the most common intervals being quarterly, monthly, or weekly.

In addition to the rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper, Baptist churches ceremonially celebrate such events as the dedication of infants, marriage, reception into church membership, ordination to vocational Christian ministry, and death.

Study Questions:
     1.     Describe the difference between sacraments and ordinances. Why do Baptists view the Lord’s Supper and Baptism as ordinances?
     2.     What can be said about the relationship between ordinances and graces?
     3.     What does it mean to be “born-again”? How does baptism exemplify this?
     4.     Why is infant baptism seen as invalid?
     5.     What does the Lord’s Supper commemorate? How is it enacted?

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