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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

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14. Baptism and the Lord's Supper

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index





What is the theory of transubstantiation?

The theory of transubstantiation is a Roman Catholic dogma about the Lord's Supper that reads as follows: "By the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation."

For a discussion of transubstantiation, see my Renewal Theology, 3: page 249, footnote 131.

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Do you have to be baptized in Jesus' name to be saved? My husband believes this. I thought you were supposed to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

There are alternate methods of baptism in the New Testament: that given in Matthew 28:19, "baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"; and that stated for example in Acts 2:39, "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Both forms of baptism are therefore equally valid.

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To the question, "Is it biblical to take Communion by oneself?" you answered, "There is no such thing as individual communion in the Bible. The very fact that it is called 'Communion' implies more than one person. That it is also called the 'Lord's Supper' points to its communal nature."

My question is: Based on this, would you see a problem with a family observing Communion (Lord's Supper) in their home?

If done with reverence and prayer, there should be no basic problem.

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Is it biblical to take Communion by oneself?

There is no such thing as individual communion in the Bible. The very fact that it is called "Communion" implies more than one person. That it is also called the "Lord's Supper" points to its communal nature.

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If you are not baptized by immersion but by sprinkling and have given your life to Christ and obey his word. You have the gift of prophecy and speak in tongues. Are you born again or not and do you qualify to enter the kingdom of God?

The mode of baptism is inconsequential as long as water is applied and the intent is to baptize. According to your words, you have numerous signs of a Christian walk. Fear not, and let no one confuse you in this important matter.

For more on this, see my Renewal Theology, 3: page 228.

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Does baptism have to be performed by a minister? Or can a baptism be performed by any born-again Christian to another person who wishes it?

In regard to who is authorized to baptize, there should be no requirement beyond being a Christian. Even as every believer stands under the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to "go and make disciples," so likewise every believer is commanded to baptize: "baptizing them." To hold that every Christian is called to evangelize but only certain ones are allowed to baptize is wholly contrary to the command of the Lord.

For more on this subject, see my Renewal Theology, 3: the chapter on "Ordinances," especially pages 237-8.

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Must you be baptized to have eternal life? I have not been baptized, and this is a big concern to me.

The basic matter for eternal life is not baptism but faith in Jesus Christ. Without such faith, baptism is solely an external and meaningless event. Notice the order in Mark 16:16, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." Thus belief in Christ is the primary thing. Have you made a personal commitment to Christ? This should be followed by the act of baptism.

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What is the proper way of baptism? Is it to just sprinkle or pour water on someone or to dip someone in a river? I was sprinkled with water. What would you say about my baptism?

The word baptism is simply a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma, the verbal form being baptizo. The primary meaning of the word is immersion or submersion. Hence, baptism is literally, in the case of baptism by water, a placing under the water. Let me emphasize that the matter of mode is not the critical issue. Baptisms are not invalid because some mode other than that of the New Testament is followed. Water, however applied and whatever the amount, is still a basic symbol for cleansing.

For an expansion on this and other aspects of baptism, see my Renewal Theology, 3: pages 221-241.

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  Please help me with this very real issue. According to what I'm reading in the Scriptures, a person does not have to be baptized to enter the gates of heaven. I am most concerned with this because I am in jail ministry and many convicts are unable to be baptized. One in particular has been given the death penalty and his jailers refuse to allow a baptism to take place.

The attitude of the jailers is regrettable; however, baptism is not essential. For example, one of the dying thieves on a cross beside Jesus was told by our Lord, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." Obviously there was no time for the thief to be baptized---yet he went directly to heaven. Baptism is a sign of salvation but not the reality itself.

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  Does everyone have to be baptized to be called a Christian? I am thirteen years old, and I believe and tell everyone I know that I do. I try to do everything in life the way Jesus would want me to do. But I haven't been baptized yet. Is that okay?

You are to be highly commended for your devotion to Christ. However, you need to be baptized. According to Jesus' own words, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Baptism will be a sign and seal of your belief and should not be delayed. You might inquire of a local pastor how to proceed.

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  If a child is 5 years old and wants to be baptized, should he be? If he understands the main idea of what baptizing is, or should he wait until he's older and understands more thoroughly?

If a 5-year-old child says he believes in Jesus and desires salvation, there is good reason for him to be baptized. Thorough understanding is not required. Indeed, a young child's faith at that early age might be even more deeply grounded in simple but true understanding.

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  Were Christ's disciples baptized? Is there any reference in the Bible?

There is no direct record of Jesus' disciples being baptized. However, first of all, the disciples of John the Baptist were doubtless baptized by John. Some of John's disciples later became disciples of Jesus. Furthermore, we are told that the disciples of Jesus baptized many followers of Him (John 4:1-2). Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost said to the assembled throng, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). This surely presupposes that Peter and the other disciples were baptized themselves.

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  If you were baptized and backslid for 10 years and did some major sins, should you be baptized again? I have fully committed myself to the Lord and would like closure on this issue.

Baptism is a once-for-all matter. There is no record in the New Testament to a second Christian baptism. Baptism, after all, is a sign and seal of your salvation in the name of Jesus. Perhaps your desire to seek a second baptism could be provided for at a church service of rededication instead. You say that you made a personal commitment to the Lord. Why not make that publicly known in an assembly of believers? Also you speak of major sins. It is important that you guard against backsliding again. I suggest for you a careful reading and application of 2 Corinthians 7:1 -- "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

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  What Bible verses show that baptism in water does not save?

I had a couple over to my house, and I was showing them that salvation and baptism are not the same. They used Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21 to show how baptism saves you. Every time I would give them answers to their questions they would say, show it to me in the Bible. What Bible verses can I go to the next time they come over to show them that baptism in water does not save?

A helpful Scripture passage is Acts 16:30-33. The Philippian jailer asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" To this Paul replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Shortly thereafter the believing jailer "was baptized." The baptism in water did not save him; that occurred the moment he believed in Christ. Baptism that followed was an outward symbol and seal of his being buried and raised with Christ. In regard to 1 Peter 3:20, it is not that baptism in and of itself saves; it is rather "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

See Renewal Theology, 2: pages 38-39 with footnotes for discussion of Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.

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   Why do some believe that if baptized as a baby, they are automatically saved?

This view is based on the misunderstanding that baptism in and of itself conveys salvation. However, if there is no accompanying faith, baptism is null and void. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). What is needed is that when a baby comes to the age of accountability, he or she make a life changing and saving confession of Christ.

See Renewal Theology, 3: pages 229-241, on Infant Baptism.

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During communion, does the bread and wine actually change into Christ's flesh and blood?

No, but Christ is really present in and through the bread and wine. He is present spiritually as we partake of Him by faith. See Renewal Theology, 3: page 249.

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  Why in the Bible does it state that there is only "one baptism" (Ephesians 4:6)? What is its nature? Aren't there several other baptisms mentioned in the New Testament?

Paul is doubtless referring in Ephesians to water baptism as a symbol of our unity-"One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Water baptism, despite many differences in its practice, is a visible token of our oneness in Christ.

There are other baptisms: with fire (through suffering, Mark 10:39) and with the Holy Spirit (for power and ministry, Acts 1:5, 8).

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If one hasn't been baptized after they invited Jesus Christ into their hearts, can they still enter the kingdom of heaven? At what point are our names written in heaven? If baptism is an important step after salvation, why isn't it mentioned as a second step after saying the sinner's prayer?

Baptism is important as a visible sign and symbol of salvation. By faith we are baptized in Christ spiritually; baptism in water is its counterpart. Thus baptism should never be neglected, for it deepens our experience of salvation. The all-important factor is faith in Christ. For example, see Romans 10:9, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." This confessing and believing is the moment when one's name is written in heaven.

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  What is the difference between Matthew 28:19-baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and Acts 8:16-baptizing only in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Either form of baptism-"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" or "only in the name of the Lord Jesus"-is valid. The longer form expresses that to be a Christian is to enter into a new life in which all three persons of the Godhead are actively involved. The shorter form focuses on Jesus in whom all "the fullness" (Col. 1:19) of the Triune God dwells, so that baptism in Jesus' name is also a complete and valid baptism. Christ is the vital center of all baptisms!

See also Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; and Renewal Theology, 3: pages 222-23.

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  Is it a sin to take communion if you have not been baptized by immersion in water?

Perhaps the question should be, "Is it a sin to take communion if you have not been born again?" In that case, it would be better not to take communion. Baptism by immersion is important; but more important, indeed critical, is the matter of being a believer in Christ whether baptized or not.

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  Should you be baptized in Jesus' name only? I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My brother-in-law says you should be baptized in Jesus' name only. Is this true and does
it make a difference?

The historic formula for Christian baptism is that found in Matthew 28:19: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Since the New Testament period, the church has regularly practiced triune baptism.

In the Book of Acts baptism was performed in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ" (2:38). At a later date the Samaritans were "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (8:16); thereafter the Caesareans were "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (19:5). Other references to baptism in Acts do not specify the formula, but presumably in those instances also it was done likewise in the name of Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus.

Both formulas, accordingly, are found in the New Testament and either of them may properly be used in a baptismal ceremony. The fact that the early church in Acts did not practice triune baptism is sufficient basis for the church today, despite centuries of baptismal practice, also to baptize in the name of Jesus only. Either practice is surely valid.


See my Renewal Theology, 3:138-139 and 222. Also in Renewal Theology, 2:286-87, there is an earlier discussion of this matter -- especially footnote 48 -- in regard to extreme Trinitarian and "Jesus only" [Pentecostal] views.

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   Why do you say that the elements do not become the body and blood of Christ?

In response to your words about the Communion not being the body and blood of Jesus, I have looked in the four Gospels and cannot find any place that says other than "This is My body….This cup is the new covenant in My blood." So it must be His body and blood. Why again do you say it was otherwise?

Let me clarify by saying the following: At the Lord's Supper as we partake of the elements of bread and wine, we partake spiritually of Christ. The bread and wine are important because they symbolize Christ. In that sense Jesus called them His body and blood. Indeed, when Jesus said, "This is my body…my blood," He was obviously speaking symbolically because He was not the bread and wine He spoke about: He sat at the table with them. Further, not only are the bread and wine symbols of Christ but also by partaking of them physically the believer has an opportunity to gain a deeper spiritual experience: the appropriation of physical bread and wine leading to a deeper spiritual appropriation of Christ. There is indeed a correspondence between the physical and the spiritual. At the same time that we physically partake of the bread and wine and receive these elements into our bodies, we likewise partake of Christ spiritually so that He has fuller entrance into our souls and spirits.

See my Renewal Theology, 3:249, especially footnote 131, for various views of the significance of the body and blood of Christ.

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  How frequently should the Lord's Supper be observed by the church? Are there any regulations or examples of when to do it in the New Testament?

There are no regulations in the New Testament about how frequently to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Paul does speak of "often" in the familiar words, "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). But Paul did not specify how often. Neither did Jesus say so. He simply declared it was to be done in the future. As far as the early church goes, the first believers "were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42). In as much as "breaking of bread" probably refers to the Lord's Supper (or to a meal climaxing with the Lord's Supper), this demonstrates regular, frequent observance. Moreover, later on the text reads, "day by day…breaking bread from house to house" (verse 46). Also in the book of Acts, there is a noteworthy reference to the breaking of bread "on the first day of the week" (20:7). This of course would parallel our Sunday, and it is an example but certainly not a regulation. So we have possible examples in the New Testament of daily and weekly celebrations of the Lord's Supper. Practically speaking, any time is good so long as adequate spiritual preparation can be made for it.

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  Can my husband administer the Lord's Supper to our family?

Concerning the administration of the Lord's Supper, there is no New Testament specification. Indeed, since members of the early church broke bread "from house to house" (or "in their homes"), it is likely that the head of the house would give the leadership. In most cases, it would surely be the husband. He would administer the Lord's Supper to all gathered in the home. So there is good precedent for a husband today to lead his family in the observance of the Lord's Supper.

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  In whose name should a Christian believer be baptized? In Jesus' name? Or the Trinity? Does it really matter?

All recorded baptisms in the Book of Acts (2:38 and thereafter) are done in the name of Jesus only. According to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, baptism is to be done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, biblically speaking, it does not matter which form is used. What is basically important is that the one who is baptized be a true believer.

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