The History of the Ordinances of the Church – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

It’s Wednesday, April 15, 2020 and you are listening to COVID-19 # 25.


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Our WORD from the Lord comes from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26,

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Today I want to have a word with you about: The History of the Ordinances of the Church

The History of the Ordinances of the Church

Which Ordinances – Baptism, Lord’s Supper?

Christians are commanded to share commonly – acknowledge “one baptism” (Ephesians 4;5) and celebrate the Lords supper together (1 Corinthians 11:18, 21, 33).

These ordinances have been the focus of much dispute and division in church history. Disputes of centered on both the number and the nature of the ordinance has to be practiced by the church.

Roman Catholic Church – sacraments as a means of grace.

From the fifth century to the 12th century there was not an agreed on a number of sacraments. Numbers ranged from two all the way to 30 or more.

Since the 19th century the Roman Catholic Church has it acknowledged seven sacraments.

  1. Baptism
  2. Eucharist
  3. Confirmation
  4. Confession and penance
  5. Marriage
  6. Ordination of the priesthood
  7. Extreme unction (last rites)

Quakers and Salvationist (The Salvation Army)

These groups maintain that no ritual ordinance should be observed today, not even baptism in the Lord supper. They teach that these actions were meant for the first believers only and we’re never intended as continuing observances for the church.

Rufus Jones wrote the following about George Fox, founder of the Quakers:

“His house of worship was bare of everything but seats. It had no shrine, for the Shekinah was to be in the hearts of those who worshipped. It had no altar, for God need no appeasing, seeing that he himself had made the sacrifice for sin. It had no baptismal font, for baptism was in his belief nothing short of immersion into the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a going down into the significance of Christ death and a coming up in the newness of life with him. There was no communion table, because he believed that the true communion consistent in partaking directly of the soul’s spiritual bread – the living Christ.”

Some Baptist: Foot Washing

Some Christians have maintained the foot washing should be regarded as a third ordinance. Among these are a number of Old Regular and Regular Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Grace brethren, and a few other groups. Citing evidence from John 13:13 to 15, they construe Jesus example not just as a lesson about humility; instead, they have taken this to mean that Jesus intended the ritual to be continued by Christians. No historical evidence exists for the practice of foot washing by the early church.

Contemporary Evangelical Indifference

Discussions like these are far removed from the concerns of evangelical churches today. Christ’s command in to baptize is either ignored or minimized in the teachings of many churches. The participation in the Lords supper seldom celebrated in many congregations.

But surely if Christ has commanded something, his followers have no authority to alter his command – either by adding to it or by ignoring it.


Historically Baptist were never in danger of ignoring Christ ordinances. Rather, the baptism of infants has caused many of the debates and divisions in the history of Christian churches.

The Rise and Development of Infant Baptism

Proponents of infant baptism argue that first century Christians performed infant baptism, but they must admit the New Testament evidence is not present.

In the writings of the Didache, Letter of Barnabas, and The Shepherd of Hermes, second century documents that all reflect church practice in that time, know nothing of infant baptism.

Church history does show that infants were being baptized by the time of her Tertullian.

In the latter half of the third century, Origin believed the baptism of infants to be an apostolic practice.
The rise of infant baptism was thought to secure forgiveness of sins for the baptizee without fail.

By the Council of Carthage in 418, anyone who taught against infant baptism was anathematized.

In the sixth century the Emperor Justinian made infant baptism mandatory throughout the Roman Empire.

Historical significance of the recovery of believer’s baptism

The recovery of baptizing only believers did not take place until the 16th century, when some people, particularly the evangelical in Anabaptist, began to reject the validity of infant baptism.

The reformation lead to a re-appreciation of the radical nature of Christian conversion. Conversion did not result from a right of infancy or from membership within a particular political entity. It resulted from a self-conscious profession of faith in God’s justifying work in Christ.

The reaffirmation of the authority of scripture in the clarity of the gospel lead to a surprisingly wide rejection of the bishop of Rome’s authority.

As the gospel of justification by faith alone spread, the impossibility of justification without faith quietly challenge the practice of indiscriminately administering baptism in the Lord supper to everyone belonged to a particular political entity, whether city, nation, or parish.

The doctrine of the visible church composed of only baptized regenerate is the hallmark of Baptist.

In what sense baptism as a means of grace

The Roman catholic church teaches the baptism conveys God’s grace in and of itself, remitting all sin, both original and actual.

Lutheran as catechism said, “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Calvin, echoing Augustine, called baptism “the visible word.”

The Council of Trent (1545-63) anathematized anyone who taught the baptism confirmed grace only to those who had faith.

The Presbyterian and reformed understanding has treated baptism as a sign and seal of God’s grace.

Among Baptist, baptism has never been treated as an essential conduit for God’s grace. Rather, they have regarded it as a command given to new believers and therefore the normal means for marking and celebrating their salvation.

Baptism is a visible sermon, informed by the word, and entirely dependent on God’s Spirit to create the spiritual reality it depicts.

Baptism is only an outward sign of an invisible change that takes place in the heart and life of a person who believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he died in their place.

The Lords Supper

Baptism has not been the only ordinance beset by controversy in the history of the church. The Lord supper and its nature in effects have been variously construed. These various interpretations help us to understand how the Lord supper has brought controversy to the church.

  1. Transubstantiation

This doctrine was fully developed and conformed by Thomas Aquinas at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the doctrine of Transubstantiation describes the Lord Supper as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ.

Aquinas argue the substance of the bread and the celebration of the Eucharist changes into Christ physical body, while the substance of the wine changes into his physical blood.

The Eucharist is understood to be a real and effective “unbloody sacrifice.” All who partake of it, aside from those who have committed a mortal sin, receive God’s grace.

Catholics believe that merely witnessing a Mass counts as a participatory act worthy of that grace.

  1. Consubstantiation

Consubstantiation denies the literal and essential transformation of the bread and wine into Christ essence, but it proposes the body and blood of Christ join together with (“con” being the Latin prefix for “with” ) the substance of the bread and the wine at the Lords table.

Lutheran theologians have described the body in the blood of Christ as “in, with an under” the physical bread and wine.

As Luther’s small catechism teaches, “What is the sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and drink, instituted by Christ himself.”

This doctrine of consubstantiation continues to be the teaching of Lutheran theologians.\

  1. Spiritual Presence

John Calvin taught that Christ really is present in the supper, but his presence is not physical, as the Roman Catholics and Lutherans taught, but spiritual. This spiritual presence is perceived and profited from by faith, not by the physical senses.

Apart from faith the supper is not effective.

As the Westminster Confession puts it, Christ body and blood are “really, but spiritually, present in the faith of believers.”

  1. Memorial

Of the four views of the Lord’s Supper detailed here, only the Supper as memorial is universally accepted. Advocates for the other three positions go beyond the Supper as a memorial, but no one denies that this is the aspect of the Lord supper.

Paul wrote, “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Zwingli taught that the Lord supper is a representation of Christ sacrifice but only in the symbolic sense of proclaiming it again.

Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

There appears to me to be no hint sacramentalism found in the Lord supper.

In what Sense is the Supper means of Grace?

Among Baptist, the Lord supper has not been regarded as an essential conduit for God’s grace. Rather, it has been regarded as a command given to new believers, and therefore the normal means of marking out those who have been separated from the world and given fellowship with Christ. Like baptism, the Lord Supper presents a visible sermon, and is entirely dependent on God Spirit to create spiritual communion between God and believers that it depicts.

Charles Spurgeon mid-nineteenth-century catechism well represents this view. In answer to Question 80, “What is the Lords Supper?” Spurgeon wrote:

“The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by Jesus Christ; wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to his appointment, his death is shown forth, (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporeal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

Communion: Closed, Close, or Open?

Baptist have disagreed about what faithfulness to Paul’s exhortation in first Corinthians 11:27-31 employees.

Three positions have arose:

  1. Closed Communion (also called strict Communion)

   This first view was held by many Baptists, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, and among Landmarkists in the 19th and 20th centuries. They taught that only members of the local congregation celebrating the Lord supper should be allowed to participate in the supper when celebrated by the church.

  1. “Close” Communion.

   This view was a position advocated throughout Baptist history – but advocated more widely in the late 18thand early 19th centuries in the wake of the evangelical revivals – they would say that all of those believers have been baptized as believers are welcome to the Lords table.

         3. Open Communion.
   This position has also been advocated throughout Baptist history (Example by John Bunyan). Becoming a dominant view in the 20th century, advocates that all who know themselves to be trusting in Christ for salvation, regardless of whether they have been baptized as believers, are welcome to the Lords table.

   As always, I’m in touch, so you say in touch.

   Robert Cook (former President of the King’s College) would always say, “Walk with the King today and be a blessing.”