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A Backdrop for the Sacraments: Union With Christ

In his book Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners, Dane Ortlund highlights the biblical reality that the "immovable truth" at the center of every Christian is that they ahve been united to Christ. One key to understanding the ongoing significance of baptism and the Lord's Supper and elevating them from ritual to something much greater is by understanding that we have been united to Jesus whom these signs point to. Such that we are not going through physical motions without taking part in the relationship which they invite us to reflect on, rely on, and rejoice in, all in real-time. 


Both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper serve to ongoingly enhance your understanding of, love for, and real-time fellowship with Jesus Christ.

The sacraments are precious means of grace that signify the benefits of the gospel, confirm its promises to the believer, and visibly distinguish the church from the world. The Lord Jesus instituted two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for faithful observance by the church until his return. (Sovereign Grace Statement of Faith)

“As the preaching of the word makes the gospel audible, so the sacraments make it visible, and God stirs up faith by both means. Sacraments therefore function as a means of grace on the principle that, literally, seeing leads to believing." J.I. Packer.

1. Baptism

Baptism is an initiatory, unrepeated sacrament for those who come to faith in Christ that pictures their remission of sins and union with Christ in his death and resurrection.Through immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit  the believer publicly proclaims his faith in Christ and signifies his entrance into the body of Christ. Although commanded by Christ and a true means of grace, grace is not so inseparably tied to baptism that no one can be saved without it, or that everyone who is baptized is thereby saved. (Sovereign Grace Statement of Faith)

Some reasons behind our practices:

  • We baptize those who have professed their faith in Christ.
    • The consistent pattern in Acts is that those who “received the word” and repented from their sins were baptized. (Acts 2:38, 2:41, 8:12, 8:36, 9:18)
  • We immerse them in the water.
    • The original word for Baptize indicated dipping or plunging for the purpose of washing. 
    • Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch looked for a larger body of water to be baptized in (Acts 8:36-38). Lydia was baptized in a river in Philippi where she heard the first gospel from Paul (Acts 16:13-15).
  • We don’t baptize infants.
    • The New Testament lacks any instance of an infant being baptized. When Acts refers to entire households believing and being baptized, we understand this as male and female adult servants and that children were not typically included in the title of “household” at the time.
  • We don’t equate baptism with salvation though the two experiences ought to go together when possible.
    • Repentance and baptism are tied together and believers should be baptized in obedience to Christ’s command for us to baptize disciples. However, baptism in and of itself does notsave. The thief on the cross is a clear example of the reality that Jesus himself was aware that not being baptized wouldn’t prevent the thief from being with him in paradise.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11 ESV)

Whether participating or observing, part of the purpose of baptism is to remind us and enable us to further understand how closely we have been united to Christ. None of us have ever suffered on a cross and paid the debt of our sin, and yet because we have believed in Christ and displayed that in baptism, it is fully true that we have died WITH him and been raised WITH him. 

Baptism is a sort of full-contact sport where we see and feel and get our bodies involed in mimicking Christ's death and resurrection so that we can know that that death has happened to us spiritually. The death in which we experienced is no less real than the breath we have to hold as we enter the water or the water we dry off our bodies afterwards. Jesus has been so gracious to give us this gift— something visible that stirs our faith and aids us in believing those unseen realities. 


2. The Lord's Supper

In the Lord’s Supper, the gathered church eats bread, signifying Christ’s body given for his people, and drinks the cup of the Lord, signifying his blood shed for our sins. As we observe this sacrament with faith and sober self-examination, we remember and proclaim the death of Christ, commune with him and receive spiritual nourishment for our souls, signify our unity with other members of Christ’s body, and look forward to the Lord’s triumphant return. (Sovereign Grace Statement of Faith)

Like baptism, so much has been said, written, debated and spoken on that there is little to add here. In fact, very few things in church history have been so vehemently opposed, so intently and carefully studies, and so improperly practiced. Nonetheless, here are some reasons behind what we practice:

  • We celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly
    • The regular "breaking of bread" among the believers at acts hints at the taking of the Lord's Supper. This was a regular occurence, thus we are convinced that there's no better or more fitting way to celebrate this sacrament than at our main gathering where the majority of the church is present on Sundays.  
  • Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is for believers.
    • Jesus called us to take this supper in remembrance of him which is not simply recollecting something he did in history but is partaking in faith, remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
  • We take the Lord’s Supper with a mixture of sobriety and gladness
    • The Lord’s Supper puts in our hands the reality that Jesus’ death was both real and bloody. “His blood was the payment, his life was the cost” as the song says. So sobriety is in order. This isn’t to be taken lackadaisically like some subpar snack.
    • Equally true is the reality that there has been a sacrifice, there has been payment. Hallelujah! Not to mention that there is a wedding feast to look forward to which the Supper points us to. 
  • We do not take the Lord’s Supper alone
    • Part of the benefit and the way in which the Lord’s Supper stirs our faith is by realizing that we have the same Savior and we are communing with him together. You could argue that there is benefit to doing this alone, but it doesn't seem that that was Jesus’ intentio as he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples and instituted the Lord's Supper as he broken the bread and passed the cup to his friends.
  • We do not believe that we are eating the physical body of and drinking the physical blood of Jesus.
    • Jesus, as a resurrected man and still fully God is seated in heaven. He physically cannot be two places at once. The wafers aren’t pieces of his body. BUT…… the traditional reformed view is that Jesus is really and truly present in this meal, communing with us.

What about John 6 and eating flesh and drinking blood? Yes, what about John 6. A misunderstanding of John 6 such as that of the Catholic church will result in believing that we are actually eating the body of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ. However, a proper understanding of John 6 can speak directly to our greatest need as we eat and drink: faith. 

In John 6, Jesus fed over 5000 people and those people follow Jesus simply because they wanted some more food, not because they acknowledge him as God in the flesh doing mighty works. So to correct them, Jesus gives then a modified history lesson. In the days of Moses, God sent down bread called manna to give life-sustaining nourishment for his people while they were traveling in the wilderness where there was no food. Then Jesus compares himself with that bread and says, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV) 

Jesus compares believing in him like getting life-sustaining bread that satisfies and fills you or water that quenches your thirst. Okay makes sense enough..But then he goes on to say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:47-51 ESV)

So is he saying we need to eat his flesh like bread somehow? That’s exactly what the Jews listening to him asked:
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:52-57 ESV)

The eating and drinking that Jesus is talking about simply put is believing…all you have to do is believe… but believing may be more intense of an act than we might have thought— it is so involved and so real and so necessary that it’s compared to eating and drinking Jesus’ own blood and body.

Let’s apply that specifically to the Lord’s Supper. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10 as he’s correcting the Corinthians for butchering the intentions of the Lord’s Supper, he says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16 ESV). This is no mere eating and drinking, this is participation—in Jesus' sacrifice, his offering of his life for ours. In other words, when you became a Christian, you accepted Jesus sacrifice, you took and ate of the bread of life. It was so real and so involved it’s like you feasted on Christ. BUT that trust and that act of faith which is likened to eating and drinking doesn’t stop happening. Particularly so when you are taking, tasting, swallowing real things which in the process of you are communing with the risen Christ himself. 

We are brought face to face with the wonder of God's grace and mercy towards us each and every time we take the Lord’s Supper, by the power of his Spirit giving us eyes to see that though this is bread and this is juice … Oh, but it’s not simply that when we consider the realities of  the Savior who is present with us as we take part in them.

Corporate Application:

  1. Let’s emphasize the spiritual realities of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
    In a word that claims what is true is only what is right before our eyes with no supernatural influence, one of hte strangest things we do on a Sunday is worship an unseen God including saying that he is really present in the Lord's Supper in a mysterious and spiritual way. As odd as it may seem, we must emphasize these things to remain true to all that these sacraments were intended to be. 
  2. Let’s make new disciples and baptize them
    Baptizing and receiving the benefits of that visual display of the gospel is dependent on people hearing the good news of Christ, believing it, being saved and baptized. Jesus commissioned us to be making disciples and baptizing them. We know that this is dependent on God's sovereign choice, but "how can they believe if they have not heard?" Picture the person you most long to be saved walking into the water to be baptized— could that be possible? Could it become reality? May it be so, by God's grace and your witness. 
  3. Let’s work hard to see ourselves as part of a whole
    We live in a world that values self-dependence, self-determination, and being unique which makes it hard for us to know that we belong as one member of a body, one part of the whole, one person among a people set apart for Christ. We take the Lord's Supper together but even in doing so, it's difficult to know that we share all of these joys in common and that our bond in Christ is not trivial but eternal. 


  1. Reflect on the memory of your baptism. What does Romans 6 say about the realities behind baptism? 
  2. Search the words "In Christ" or "With Christ" in the Bible. What do you find there about your identity (what is most fundamentally true about you) and about Jesus' involvement with you?



  • Understanding Baptism, Bobby Jamieson
  • Believer's Baptism, Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright
  • Understanding the Lord's Supper, Bobby Jamieson
  • The Lord's Supper, Robert Letham 



A TASK FOR THE MUSICALLY GIFTED: In my searching, there are very few songs specifically about baptism. Considering the fact that much of our morning on Sunday was celebrating the joys and significance of baptism I'm ashamed to say that I haven't found one yet- Does anyone feel up for writing a song?