For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26
Every church practices local customs that might distinguish it from another congregation. For one church it might be the tradition of closing the service by gathering in a circle to hold hands and sing the doxology. For another it could be the habit of sharing a meal following the service. One church meets in a cathedral; another in a living room.
Yet every congregation should baptize adherents and observe communion. These were commanded by Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:24–25). Each proclaims Christ. For those who heard Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, baptism was the rite of initiation that identified them as followers of Christ. Those who were baptized “were added to their number that day” (v. 41). Unlike the repeated washings that were a common feature of Judaism in Peter’s day, baptism was a one-time experience for the Christian. It signified the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–4). Later in one of his epistles Peter described baptism as a pledge (1 Peter 3:21).
Many scholars believe that when the early disciples “broke bread” in their homes, they observed communion. Communion was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. Jesus transformed the traditional Passover celebration by distributing the bread and wine among His disciples, charging them to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we remember how He gave Himself for us. We also look forward to His return. When Jesus distributed the cup, He told His disciples: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). The Lord’s Supper is both for meditation and proclamation.
Apply the Word
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not local customs that a congregation observes; they belong to the whole church. Not every church observes them with same frequency or in the same way. If you are uncertain about the way your church observes these ordinances, consider discussing the subject with your pastor or a trusted church leader.