Good morning, brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our Lord be with you!
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ
It is only by the grace of Jesus Christ that we can become brothers and sisters. We were originally “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) We were “dead in our trespasses and sins”, “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air”, “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph 2:1-3). By God’s grace, we have become new creations through the mercy of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8), not based on our own merits but by the grace of God. Jesus Christ gave up his life for us on the cross to pay the price for our redemption, in order that we may draw near to God by His blood (Eph 2:13). Moreover, He has brought us peace with each other (for He Himself is our peace), so that we can be brothers and sisters in the family of God.
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household. (Eph 2:14, 19)
It is completely by the grace of God that we, who have no blood relations with each other, can become brothers and sisters. What a blessing it is to be able to walk this journey of life with family and loved ones in Christ. This blessing is found in Christ, and only in Christ can we become brothers and sisters. Without Christ, we cannot become brothers and sisters. Through God’s family, God gives us all kinds of blessings. We are no longer alone, we often receive encouragement and comfort from each other, and we also help one another to better hear and understand God’s word. The Lord Jesus established two ordinances for those who belong to God’s family, so that we may be marked as disciples of Jesus and continuously receive His grace. These two ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Baptism is a sign of belonging to the Lord, a symbol of grace, and rich in spiritual meaning. It was ordained by the Lord himself. After Jesus rose from the dead, he said to his disciples:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Mt 28:19-20)
Jesus gave his disciples authority to baptize in the name of the Triune God. What marvelous grace given to man, that God allows man to use His name in baptism, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, a declaration that the baptized has been accepted by the Triune God. Baptism is only a beginning. From that day on, the baptized believer is marked as a follower of Jesus, becomes brothers and sisters with other baptized believers, and receives God’s grace in this lifelong journey. When one is baptized, it is a baptism “into” Christ Jesus, as well as a baptism “into” the body of Christ.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4)
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13)
Baptism has significance in both our vertical relationship with Christ and our horizontal relationships with one another. It is a union with Christ, and a union with the body of Christ. By the grace of our Lord Jesus, we are able through baptism to participate in shared koinonia with Him: to die with Him, to be buried with Him, and to be resurrected with Him. Through baptism, we are also joined into the body of Christ and become brothers and sisters with those who have also died with Christ, been buried with Him, and rose together with Him. Being joined with Christ and with each other illustrates an important truth: God’s desire is for us to be united in Christ and become one body. God’s blessings are in the body of Christ, not for us to receive individually, but to receive together. A baptized believer is not a separate individual, but a member of the body. There does not exist a baptized believer who can function alone apart from the body, just as there does not exist a hand that can function alone apart from the body.
In baptism, there is a belonging and there is a joining together (koinonia). The baptized belong to Christ, and to the body of Christ. The baptized are joined together with Christ, and with the body of Christ. To belong and to be joined together is a tremendous act of grace. Those who “do not belong” and “are not joined with others” are the most pitiful people in this world. Thank God for His merciful loving kindness, that by believing in Him and through baptism, we may journey through life together living in His grace.
The Lord’s Supper
On the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, at the table of the last supper, Jesus personally established the Lord’s supper:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
The purpose of the Lord’s supper is to remember the Lord and to proclaim the Lord’s death. Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are displaying the Lord’s death so that others may see Him. The Lord said the broken bread is “My body, which is for you”, and the crimson cup is “the new covenant in My blood”. The Lord Jesus loved us so much that He gave Himself on the cross, pouring out His blood for sinners, and in doing so, accomplished the work of eternal salvation. Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, it is as though we are once again receiving the grace of our Lord. Just like baptism, the Lord’s supper has significance in our vertical relationship with the Lord and our horizontal relationships with each other.
Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing (koinonia) in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)
The sharing of the bread and cup, which represents His body and His blood, is our koinonia. You are partaking of the bread and cup not as an individual, but you are sharing in the bread and cup together with your brothers and sisters. There are not many breads, but only one bread; there are not many bodies, but only one body. We gather together at the table of the Lord and share together in the bread and the cup with thankful hearts. How good and how beautiful it is to be joined together with Christ and with the members of Christ’s body!
Brothers and sisters, we see the riches of God’s grace in baptism and the Lord’s supper. It is such grace that has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall, so that “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free”, we have been joined into one body, and each member belongs to all the others. The Lord wants us to observe these shared ordinances, because we have shared participation (koinonia) with Christ. The Lord desires to use these outward ceremonies as expressions of the fact that we are one in Christ. Hallelujah, praise and thanks be to God!