Last week, I wrote about the Lord’s Supper and how at the heart of this meal is a picture of unity. The week prior, I wrote about baptism, and how it is presented in Scripture, in all its depth of meaning related to the forgiveness of sins. In both cases, faith is the critical ingredient. If faith is not connected to baptism, then baptism does not result in the forgiveness of sins; if faith is not attached to the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, then it benefits nothing.
Additionally, faith is proven through love, so if you are partaking of the Lord’s Supper and failing to truly love the Christians in your midst, then again, the Lord’s Supper benefits nothing, and in fact, is actually a hazard (according to 1 Corinthians 11:30).
Today, I would like to draw out why this is so critical to understand. It is especially important to understand because of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21-23.
May they all be one,
as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us,
so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one,
so the world may know You have sent Me
and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Jesus is very clearly asking here for His people to be unified. But this request is clearly connected to a very specific result. That result is stated, “so the world may believe You sent Me.” This implies that the unity for which Christ prays is a visible unity. And it also implies that it is wider than just unity within one, single, isolated, local church. He asks, “May they all be one.”
Thus, the existence of denominations–especially denominations that publicly squabble about who’s right and who’s wrong and why–is a clear rebellion against Jesus’ prayer in this text. (I wrote extensively on this topic here.)
But what does this have to do with baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
I’m glad you asked. You see, denominations are often created because of different understandings of these two sacraments (or ordinances, if you prefer). And denominations will claim, “We’re the true church because we believe rightly when it comes to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
In fact, some Baptists (particularly some Southern Baptists) have this worked out so that even though they might claim otherwise by their speech, they are inadvertently showing that they believe themselves to be the only true Christians by their ecclesiology (doctrine of the church).
(I focus my attention on Southern Baptists here because it is what I know; the denomination is in my bloodstream, and I never plan on changing that; more on that next week.)
You see, a lot of Southern Baptists teach that the only admissible form of baptism is believer’s baptism, and if you were baptized as an infant, you need to get rebaptized as a believer. And, if you visit some Southern Baptist churches as someone who was baptized as an infant, they will bar you from the communion table because you’re not a Christian if you weren’t baptized as a believer. (Even Baptists who allow members of other churches to partake of communion with them will often not allow those baptized as infants to partake.)
One wonders if they realize that they are acting as if baptism saves?
The problem, though, is that they insist vocally that salvation only happens by someone who is at least twelve (usually) placing his/her faith in Jesus. But if someone who was baptized as an infant can’t partake of communion–giving thanks for what Jesus did for them (eucharist)–then Baptists must think that their form of baptism is what accomplishes salvation. Essentially, “You can’t be thankful for salvation if you weren’t baptized right.”
It’s fine to fence the communion table, though if there are beefs in the church, more fencing of communion should be happening than probably is. In truth, a lack of faith will result in no benefit and no problem (though cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22); the main problem is a claim of faith with no visible love. However, cutting off true Christians from the table because they don’t believe exactly the same thing you do is a sign of pride and sectarianism.
We should be unified at Christ’s table because of our shared baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Baptism and the Lord’s Supper must cease being things that divide Christians. We must show the world that we are united as Christians so that they will come to believe in Jesus as well.
Our bickering and squabbling do the opposite. Our judging of others for their slightly different theological views does the opposite. Our divisions and lack of love do the opposite (cf. John 13:34-35).
Let’s practice living in love with members of different denominations so that the world can see that we truly do love one another.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.