Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the trickier questions that come up during the course of the faith journey.
A Theological Rationale:
One of the distinctives of Peine Ridge Church is weekly communion. We pray that this will be a means that God graciously uses to strengthen, refresh, and refocus the faith of our people on Jesus our sovereign Savior each week. Happily, however, the Lord’s Supper is only one of two ordinances that Jesus gave to His Church. The other ordinance is baptism.
What is the connection between these two signs of the New Covenant? Well, they have many similarities, including but not limited to the following:
- They are both instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 22:14-23).
- They are both outward signs of inward realities.
- They are both ways to express our faith in and hopeful allegiance to Jesus as Savior and King.
- They are both visible, tangible ways to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- They are both means of God’s grace to confirm and strengthen our faith in what they represent and proclaim.
One of the differences between baptism and communion that helps connect them is that baptism is done only once (being called the Initiatory ordinance) and is to be received before communion, which is to be received over and over again as the Continuation ordinance. The practice of allowing only those who have been baptized to partake of communion has Scriptural, theological, historical, and practical grounds. The reasons are as follows:
- In the OT, being circumcised (the sign which baptism partially replaces) always preceded one partaking of the Passover meal (which was partially replaced by the Lord’s Supper/Communion) (Exodus 12:43-50).
- In the clear NT passages, baptism always precedes communion (Acts 2:37-42).
- The logical flow of partaking of the Continuation ordinance before partaking of the Initiatory ordinance does not make sense;
- Nearly every church denomination has historically held that baptism is a prerequisite for communion, and many still do.
- It really is a practically beneficial way of further “fencing” both baptism (for which we require an interview for both adults and children) and the Lord’s Supper (which would follow baptism).
The point and meaning of “fencing” the ordinances is that if a non-Christian partakes of them, it is dishonoring to God, damaging to His Church, and potentially destructive to them who receive it in an unworthy and worse than meaningless way (1 Corinthians 11:23-34). Therefore, if we are to honor God, protect His Church, and love the lost, then we must do what we should to reserve these special, Christ-instituted ordinances of the Church only for those for whom we have some assurance of the genuineness of their faith. This is not easy to do. There has always been, and will always be, a tension that must be balanced between over-protecting and under-protecting.
Because baptism is a way for a church to affirm the personal faith of a person and to bear witness to the evidence of God’s saving grace in a person’s life, we believe that asking those who have not been baptized to refrain from taking communion is both wise and helpful. We hope that by doing this people will be encouraged to pursue baptism. This, in turn, will produce many more open and honest gospel conversations with people who come to the worship gatherings of PRC, since we require each person to be interviewed before being baptized.
By stating that communion is only for those who trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, which faith has been affirmed by others in baptism, we are not at all saying that those who have yet to be baptized are necessarily not saved. Rather it is a way of saying that we think it would be most responsible of us and most helpful for them if their faith is affirmed and the work of God is witnessed in them before partaking of the ordinances of baptism and communion.
A Deeper Practical Rationale:
We definitely want to make it clear that we are not saying that one is not a Christian unless baptized, nor that baptism gives an absolute assurance of salvation, but what we are saying is that baptism is one of the things (indeed, one of the most significant and special things) that Christ has given us for the Holy Spirit to work through to give some real assurance. This is in large measure due to the affirming testimony of the one who baptizes a believer and of those who both explicitly and implicitly approve of the baptism. Every person who seeks to be baptized at Peine Ridge Church is interviewed by one of the pastor-elders, who looks for adequate understanding of, real submission to, and growing rest in the gospel, as well as an adequate understanding and proper motivation for the what and why of baptism.
Furthermore, in addition to the pastors’ approval for baptism, other Christians who have witnessed the effective grace of God in the life of the person being baptized are called on to testify to these evidences of true faith and repentance just prior to the actual baptism. The Holy Spirit works through all of this to further affirm and strengthen the assurance of God’s gracious work in the believer being baptized.
Romans 8:16 and 1 John 3:24, among other passages, plainly state that the Holy Spirit gives adoptive-assurance to believers. But how does He do this? What does He work through to give this assurance? Faithful and faith-filled obedience to the Lord’s ordinances and the encouraging affirmations of fellow believers (Matthew 16:19, 18:15-20; John 20:23) are surely among some of the greatest tools in the Spirit’s toolbox of adoptive-assurance.
So, not only is this a responsible act on the part of the covenant members and leaders of a church, but it is also a beneficial act for those who desire to legitimately partake of the Lord’s Supper. Baptism, after all, is a means of grace whereby the Holy Spirit works to confirm, strengthen, and focus the faith of the one who partakes in it with faith in what it represents. This is where one of the great assuring graces of God are imparted through means. Baptism is two different expressions. It is a way for the believer who is being baptized to express to others and to God that he trusts in and submits to Christ as the One who purchased the fullness of salvation for them because of grace. It is also a way for God to express to the believer who is being baptized that He will ever remain faithful to His covenant promise to grant the fullness salvation to them because of His grace for them in Christ.
From Abstract of Principles:
“XV. Baptism. Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus, obligatory upon every believer, wherein he is immersed in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as a sign of his fellowship with the death and resurrection of Christ, of remission of sins, and of his giving himself up to God, to live and walk in newness of life. It is prerequisite to church fellowship, and to participation in the Lord’s Supper.”
From The London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1644:
“XXXIX. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed upon persons professing faith, or that are made disciples; who upon profession of faith, ought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (Matt. 28:18-19; John 4:1; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38, 8:36-37)”
From John Gill, 1757:
“We believe, That Baptism (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of Christ, to be continued until his second coming; and that the former is absolutely requisite to the latter; that is to say, that those (Acts 2:41, and Acts 9:18, Acts 9:26) only are to be admitted into the communion of the church, and to participate of all ordinances in it, (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36, 37 and 16:31-34 and 8:8) who upon profession of their faith, have been baptized, (Matthew 3:6, 16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) by immersion, in the name of the Father, (Matthew 28:19) and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
In summary, Baptism is done once, soon after first trusting in Christ, as the sacrament of Initiation, and it is a clear marker of who is spiritually and eternally united with Jesus by faith. Communion, however, is done often and repeatedly (in our case, every week!), by those who are still trusting in Christ, as the sacrament of Continuation. It is a sign and means of growing in spiritual communion with Christ by faith. Because we believe these statements to be theologically and logically true, being found in Scripture and throughout history, we are led to require that a person be baptized before they partake of communion.
We know that the view we take is not popular today. We also know that the brief explanation here is not comprehensive. However, we hope that this information is clear and helpful for you as way of showing the importance we put on baptism and communion, the care we have for Christ’s church, and the concern we have for the lost people whom we are seeking to engage with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
- What PRC believes about Baptism:
- It is one of two ordinances that the Lord Jesus Christ has given to His Church, and thus it would be sinful for us to reject, ignore, diminish, or change the meaning, importance, or obedience to it (Him) in any way. We believe that all (and only) true believers in Christ should be baptized, though not necessary for salvation (that is, justification), with water by submersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It is a symbolic representation of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection as what cleanses sinners from the impurity, guiltiness, and consequences of sin. It is an open confession of personal faith in and identification with Christ as the only Lord and Savior. And it is a real means of grace through which God works to impart His sanctifying, strengthening, confirming, and preserving graces as it visibly and tangibly preaches the gospel to all those who partake in it by faith in what it signifies. We believe that baptism is the initiatory ordinance of the church and that communion is the continuation ordinance. Because of this, we believe that baptism should be partaken of before communion. This practice of allowing only those who have been baptized to partake of communion has Scriptural, theological, historical, and practical grounds. br>
Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 3:21–22; Acts 2:38–41; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35–38; Romans 6:1–11; 1 Corinthians 1:17
- It is an ordinance of the NT Church instituted by the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:19). As such, those Christians who get baptized are doing so to glorify God in an act of obedience.
- It is an outward sign of being united with Christ and belonging to the New Covenant community.
- As such, those Christians who are submerged in water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit are giving a meaningful expression of their repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord.
- As such, it signifies being united with Christ (especially in His death, burial, and resurrection so as to walk in newness of Life apart from the reigning power of sin surrendering ourselves up to God (Romans 6:3–ff, esp. vv. 3–5) and having been washed clean from our sins by faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Acts 22:16).
- As such, it also points to the reality of our union with the people of God. Baptism, being the initiatory sign of being inside the New Covenant, means that it also signifies being a real part of the New Covenant community. (This is why baptism is required for covenant membership in a local church.)
- It is a means of grace by which the Holy Spirit actually imparts grace both to those who are baptized with faith and those who witness it by the same faith. As such, by the blessing of what Christ accomplished in His saving work, the Holy Spirit of God works through baptism as an instrument of imparting His sanctifying, strengthening, confirming, and preserving grace as it visibly and tangibly preaches the Word to those who partake of it with faith in what it signifies and to those who witness it with the same faith.
- It does not justify us before God. We are justified (declared innocent and righteous) ONLY by God’s Grace through faith (which always involves turning from our sin and our own “goodness” to trust fully) in Jesus Christ alone as Lord and Savior because of His perfect life, His sacrificial death for us on the cross, and His glorious resurrection from the dead.
1 Corinthians 1:17
- While we do not have to be baptized in order to be forgiven or to go to Heaven, we should still do it. Baptism is commanded by Jesus (Matthew 28:16–20) and exemplified by Jesus (Matthew 3:13–17), and the New Testament clearly shows that it is a normal and necessary part of fully participating in Christ’s Body, the Church.
Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 3:21–22; Acts 2:38–41; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35–38; Romans 6:1–11; 1 Corinthians 1:17; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21
- Articles to Read and Questions to Ask:
- Of Understanding2:
- Does your child clearly and rightly understand the gospel?
- What do they believe about God (esp. His absolute rule over all of His creation, supreme worth above all of His creation, and perfect holiness that separates Him from all of His creation)?
- What do they believe about sin? Do they know why is sin sinful?
- Do they understand that Hell is the deserved experience of God’s wrath forever and ever? Do they see God’s justice and righteousness in this?
- What do they believe about grace?
- Do they believe that Jesus is truly man and truly God? Do they know why these two things are so vitally important?
- Do they understand the necessity of Jesus’ inherent sinlessness, perfect obedience, substitutionary death, and powerful resurrection?
- Do they grasp the concept of faith alone?
- Do they see Jesus as both Savior and Lord?
- Are they hoping for the promises of God only in Jesus? (Promises such as forgiveness, acceptance, transformation, and everlasting Life with God).
- What do they believe about Baptism?
- Do they think it justifies them? Do they know that they are forgiven by God only by faith in Jesus’ person and works?
- Do they see getting baptized as an act of obedience? Do they see it as a privilege?
- Do they see what the symbolism of Baptism points to?
Do they understand how Baptism is a means of grace?
- What do they believe about Communion?
- Do they think it justifies them? Do they know that they are forgiven by God only by faith in Jesus’ person and works?
- Do they see partaking of Communion as an act of obedience? Do they see it as a privilege?
- Do they see what the symbolism of Communion points to?
- Do they understand how Communion is a means of grace?
- Does your child display a relational/social maturity such that you are confident that they are seeking to be baptized not merely due to peer pressure or family pressure?
- Is your child intellectually and emotionally mature enough to understand how motivation works in their hearts?5
- Is your child mature enough to make a public profession of faith?6
- Does your child pray without being told to?
- Do they have a respect and love for the Word of God?
- Does your child confess sins without being found out?
- Are they burdened by the hurts of others, especially the lostness of others?
- Are they exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in any noticeable and growing way?
- Have you noticed any change in them?
- How have you witnessed true growth and change?8
- In what ways have you seen/experienced genuineness of faith and repentance in your child?
- Does your child delight to be with the people of God?
- Do they long for the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth?
- Do they have what seems to be a genuine desire to know and please the Lord?
1These questions are not exhaustive or comprehensive. Nor do they provide a perfect or fool-proof test to determine the genuineness of your child’s faith or certainty of their salvation. Rather, they are meant to aid you in discerning the readiness of your child to be baptized. [go back]
2This is about clear and right understanding, not perfect understanding, let alone perfect articulation. [go back]
3This is important, in part, because after being baptized, one should begin to regularly partake of Communion as the continuation ordinance of the New Covenant. [go back]
4There are different kinds or aspects of maturity. Time, experiences, individual nature, environment, and intentional teaching by parents all can be used by God to produce maturity in children. [go back]
5While none of us can know our own hearts perfectly, the question here has to do with the awareness and understanding that our heart’s values and desires shape our decisions. [go back]
6This is done by giving a verbal testimony just prior to being baptized and/or in the act of being publicly baptized in front of witnesses. Note too, that shyness is not necessarily a sign of immaturity. But being willing and committed to a public profession in spite of shyness can be clear sign of maturity by God’s grace. [go back]
7By “Spirituality” we mean the evident work of the Spirit of God in the heart, mind, and life of a person. [go back]
8Though not absolutely necessary, nor always evident, positive changes that seem to go against their natural bent of sinfulness or personality are most helpful. Examples: (1) If your child is generally and excessively whiny but starts becoming more and more thankful and happy, this could be a sign of the Spirit’s regenerating work in them. (2) If your child is quick to become angry but starts becoming more patient, this could be a sign of the Spirit’s regenerating work in them. (3) If your child is prone to defensiveness and deflection when confronted with their sin but starts genuinely accepting their fault, humbly showing remorse and confessing their sin, sincerely asking for forgiveness, and/or confessing without being caught/confronted, this could be a sign of the Spirit’s regenerating work in them. [go back]