Jamie Lavery

Foundational Truths - Ordinances

In the seventh in our series studying Elim’s core beliefs, Jamie Lavery explores the ordinances. 

Jesus gave the church two ordinances: water baptism, which is part of our initiation into the Christian faith and the life of the church of Christ, and the Lord’s Supper, or communion, which is our ongoing remembrance of his death with thanksgiving.

These are described as ‘means of grace’ through which we experience and know both the presence of God and his work through the Holy Spirit, so that we are sealed, sustained and built up in our faith.

They become what they are because of the gospel.

They make visible what we proclaim in words and help us understand and comprehend the promise of the gospel that they hold.

John Calvin, quoting Augustine, said: “A sacrament is a visible word, because it represents the promises of God as in a picture, and places them in our view in a graphic bodily form.”

He also said: “We may call them mirrors, in which we may contemplate the riches of the grace which God bestows upon us.”

As we share in the ordinances as the body of Christ we see the gospel demonstrated and know afresh its benefits.


The first ordinance is water baptism of believers.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and make disciples, he told them to do so by baptising those who believe in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

It is an important part of us coming to faith, as we publicly declare that we follow Jesus and belong to his church.

Water plays an important role in Scripture.

For example, Genesis opens with watery depths. God delivers Israel through the Red Sea; Israel enters the Promised Land through the Jordan river; water is used in Old Testament purification; and Jesus is baptised in the Jordan as the fulfilment of those promises.

When we believe and are then baptised, we are immersed in water as one immersed in Christ and his salvation, leaving the old and coming up new, as one cleansed and purified.

Through the Holy Spirit we experience that reality as a seal on us, therefore every believer is to be baptised in water.

The Lord’s Supper

The second ordinance is the Lord’s Supper.

Before his arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover meal and took the bread and cup of wine, giving these a fulfilled meaning – the new covenant that he was bringing about through his death and resurrection.

In sharing the Lord’s Supper together, we remember and proclaim the heart of the gospel, which is that Christ died for our sins.

We worship and give thanks for his work on our behalf.

We share together as Christ’s body and we enjoy communion with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit at his table. We also look forward to his return when we feast with him.

In this visible act we are reminded of and experience his grace afresh, that he loved us, gave himself for us and bore our sin, guilt and wrath. Because of Christ, we are forgiven and made right with God. We are given new life and accepted.

Sharing the Lord’s Supper is to be as central a part of our gathering as anything else; our songs of praise, prayer, preaching and sharing coffee together each week.

The ordinances: what Elim believes

We believe in the baptism of believers by immersion in water in obedience to the command of Christ, and in the commemoration of Christ’s death by the observance of the Lord’s Supper until his return.

Why the ordinances matter

• They are a means of grace through which we experience and know God’s presence
• They make visible the faith which we express in words
• They help us understand the promise of the gospel

Jamys Carter is an Elim minister and academic.

First published in the March 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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