The Ordinances of the New Testament

The ordinances of the New Testament include Baptism, Communion, and Foot Washing. The Lord Jesus established them shortly before His ascension and He left them for His Church to follow. He said the following words to His disciples: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Baptism

In His last instruction, the Lord Jesus told His disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:15-16).

Even Jesus, our great example, was baptized (see Matthew 3:13-17). He was not the only one baptized, but through His disciples He also baptized others. “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized… (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)” (John 3:22 and 4:2). Through the words: “He who believes and is baptized,” Jesus compels all believers to be baptized. He gives His apostles the commission to proclaim and carry out the ordinance of Baptism. And they obediently fulfilled the commandment of their Lord. In his first sermon after Pentecost, Peter said: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” (Acts 2:38). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized…” (verse 41).

Baptism, however, is only for believers: “He who believes and is baptized.” Infant baptism does not make a person a Christian. One must be born again. According to scripture, only then is a person ready to be baptized.

Communion

In Matthew 26:26-28, we read the following words: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’. Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’”

In this holy hour, our Lord introduced Communion and commanded His followers to continue to observe this ordinance. We see how the first church obediently followed His command and example: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Paul proclaimed this message about the ordinances of the Lord to each of the churches where he preached. To the Corinthians he said: “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; and when He had given thanks, He broke it…” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). And the churches observed these ordinances, for, “when the disciples came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7). This ordinance of the Lord is to be kept “till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Just like the act of Baptism, Communion is a formal activity with a deep spiritual meaning. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” said Jesus in Luke 22:19. We also celebrate Communion to remember the Lord. He leads us back to Calvary, where His body was broken, and His blood was spilled for us. The bread is a symbol for His broken body and the juice of the vine is a reminder of the blood that was poured out. In this ceremonious event we proclaim the death of our Lord. We were not given any directions as to how often or when we should partake in Communion. The Scriptures simply say: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Foot Washing

Foot Washing was also established and commanded by the Lord just as Baptism and Communion were. He gave an example for us to follow (see John 13). There is no doubt that Jesus actually washed His disciples’ feet. And we cannot do a better job of explaining the command of Foot Washing than to use the same words that He spoke: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). With these words, Foot Washing became a command for Peter to follow. In verses 12-17 we read: “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’”

Our Lord gave us an example. And isn’t the main purpose of an example for it to be followed? Jesus said: “You also ought to wash one another’s feet,” and thereby He commands His example to be followed. Is it not our duty to follow Jesus in every aspect? In addition to this, He says: “Blessed are you if you do them.” He promises to bless us when we follow His command.

The true followers of Jesus should joyfully believe and follow all the teachings of their Lord instead of rejecting them and trying to argue against them. The word of our Lord: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” should be reason to follow each of our Lord’s commandments.

E. Martin

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