The ordinances

By Ordinances we mean those outward rites which the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to be administered in his church as visible signs of the saving truths of the gospel until his Coming again. They are signs in that they visibly declare the death and resurrrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only ground of the participants’ reconciliation to God, a reconciliation effected prior to his taking part in the ordinances. They are rightly described as a special means of grace — but do not constitute a means of special grace! They are specific commands of the Lord to his church and there is great reward in obedience to them. These ordinances are two in number, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and they are to continue until the end of the age. Their outward elements retain their natural substance throughout. There is no saving power inherent in the water of baptism nor any organic change in the bread and wine at the supper. The two ordinances are of equal importance and it is contrary to scripture to give one more prominence than the other. Their meaning determines their necessary order. Baptism is set at the commencement of the life of faith and discipleship, and is at once a confession of and testimony to this new life begun. The Lord’s Supper follows, as the continuing memorial of the source of the new life entered into by the disciple. To reverse the order of these ordinances removes much of their significance.