I have had the honor of participating in several weddings. A few times standing as an groomsmen, once as the pastor, and once as the groom. Think back to the last wedding you attended. Likely, there were numerous symbolic events that the couple did to demonstrate to the audience their new union. You might see a couple take two candles and light one, tie two pieces of rope together, or mix two colors of sand to form a beautiful pattern in a jar.
All of those wedding activities symbolize one thing: the union of the couple. Of two becoming one.
In a similar way, Baptism and Communion do the work of uniting.
Look at how Romans 6:3-5 describes baptism
“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.”
The role of baptism is to unite us to Christ as we manifest his death burial and resurrection through our passing into and out of the water. Just as Christ died and rose again so also do believers when they are baptized. Baptism puts us mentally, physiologically, and spiritually through the experience of dying, being buried and rising again, so that we are united with him in life.
Communion does that same type of uniting work in a believer.
Question 75 from the Heidelberg Catechism:
What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?
Answer: Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as the members of our body are by one soul.
Irrespective of exactly how you understand the nature of Christ’s body in communion, you have to acknowledge that Christ’s body is at least symbolically there. Jesus said “This is my body” and “this is my blood”.
Communion is perhaps the clearest picture in our faith of the believer’s union with Christ. We are taking bread and wine that in some way represent the person of Christ and ingesting them. Christ is going inside you.
In Colossians 1:27 Paul declares that “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” What is a clearer, more vivid picture of Christ being in you than communion?
The Ordinances are remarkable practices of the Church. As we discussed last time, they have a unique ability to confirm to the believer’s soul the reality of Christ’s work. And in addition to that confirming work, they hold powerful “symbolism” in uniting the believer to Christ.
These practices aren’t filled with grace in any meritorious way. But they do indeed initiate the gracious work of confirming and uniting for the believer.
The more Christ’s work is confirmed to my soul, the firmer I hold my faith.
The more united I am to the person and work of Christ, the deeper I know my Savior.
Yes, Church is quite confusion. But, I hope communion and baptism are a bit less confusing now.