Water, Bread, and Wine

2 Weeks of Pagan Christianity

The roots of many denominations can be traced to differences in understanding concerning the sacraments. There are volumes that have been written on these issues. Chapter 9 is a brief overview of the history behind these practices and the changes that have developed over the years.

Baptism

  • Infant baptism or believer’s baptism
  • Immersion or sprinkling

A few points from the book:

“In the early church, converts were baptized immediately upon believing. Baptism was the early believer’s initial confession of faith in Christ.. .a visible sign that depicts our separation from the world, our death with Christ, the burial of our old man, the death of the old creation, and the washing of the Word of God.”

In the second century, it began to be “taught that baptism must be preceded by a period of instruction, prayer, and fasting.”

“Today the “sinner’s prayer” has replaced water baptism as the initial confession of faith.” Not that there is anything wrong with the prayer, “however it should not replace water baptism as the outward instrument for conversion-initiation.”

The Lord’s Supper

  • Love feast or sacred rite
  • Loaf or wafer
  • Wine or juice

A glimpse at what the book said:

“For the early Christians, the Lord’s Supper was a festive communal meal…taken in an atmosphere of joy and celebration. By it, they proclaimed Christ’s victorious death and His future coming.”

Over the years, “the Lord’s Supper became a sacred ritual which required a sacred person to administer it. It became shrouded in a religious mist. Viewed with awe, it was taken with glumness and completely removed from the communal nature.”

Obviously this is an extremely brief summary of all that could be said about the sacraments. While the book gives an interesting outline of the history of these practices, it is also only a brief overview, although a good starting point for those interested in further study of the history of the sacraments.

What strikes me is how simple this seems, yet how much doctrinal ink and division has occurred over these two practices. Over the years, we have demonstrated a great ability to complexify and ritualize the simple practices seen in scripture.

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14 thoughts on “Water, Bread, and Wine

  1. Grace, What a topic. As a pastor I get many varied and heated arguments for both when people attend a church I serve. One in particular cannot stomach the thought of infant baptism. I have the problem here that there are other things that a let slide so this one is the main object of the faith journey. Seems so infantile to focus our spiritual energy on only one facet of the ritual we call Christianity. I can see where both forms of baptism are at times the most appropriate.
    On the subject of communion, man I wish we could call it a celebration. I have yet to have a requests for it at a funeral, which by the way I approach as a celebration. The feeling on Sunday at the communion service you would swear by the music and the atmosphere that we were at a funeral. I am at a loss as to how that might be overcome. Pastor WaynO

  2. I am right with you, WaynO…and Grace. This compact post shines a bright light on what should be simple acts of obedience, allegiance and thanksgiving.

    I think that many of us looking at things like Simple Church or Missional Orders or the missional-incarnational impulse are looking to take back the simple faith and return the sacred to every moment we live.

    It is a challenging thing to embrace and respect the experiences of the Church throughout history, on one hand, and still believe it is important to allow the Holy Spirit to correct its course from time to time.

    May we, God help us, embrace the challenge.

  3. You know what I like to do?

    I like to go to the story and buy some bread and juice (I’m not 21, so I don’t even bother with getting wine – and I don’t think it really matters). Then I get a friend and I hike up to the cross on top of a hill in my city. I stand up there with my friend and I talk to them. I watch God’s creation. I wait for the cross lights to come on. I might pray with my friend. Then we take the bread and juice. THAT’S communion.

    I did a similar thing with my family the night before Christmas. It was wonderful.

    I guess I’m expressing that I don’t think communion, or baptism for that matter, is about me and God. It’s about me, my family and friends, and God.

  4. As a Presbyterian, I practice infant baptism. I must confess, however, I’m more than a bit uncomfortable with it. I do it more out of tradition than Scriptural mandate. The texts used to support infant baptism are quite weak.

  5. Let me ask you this: why do you need scriptural pretext to dedicate a baby to God?

    See, the point of a sacrament is that it’s an physical/visual symbol of an invisible choice. In this sense, it’s not the choice of the child dedicating it’s life, but the choice of the parent’s dedicating their lives to helping the infant grow up in God’s way. I hope to one day baptize my new born – but I also will encourage them to get baptized at an age when they make the decision.

    The real uncomfortable part comes when you have parents who dedicate their lives to helping their children, and then they don’t. Have you ever taken your time to confront a parent about that? Because THAT is what should make you uncomfortable.

  6. Hi
    I disagree with the statement, “however it should not replace water baptism as the outward instrument for conversion-initiation.” If you read Rom 10.9 and 10, also 1 john 1.9, basically they say if we believe and confess, he is faithful to forgive of sin. I am not saying that baptism should be done away with. Just that can be used at conversion or later as outward sign to others.

  7. Responding to what WaynO wrote;

    On the subject of communion, man I wish we could call it a celebration. I have yet to have a requests for it at a funeral, which by the way I approach as a celebration. The feeling on Sunday at the communion service you would swear by the music and the atmosphere that we were at a funeral. I am at a loss as to how that might be overcome.

    It helps me to think about it more in terms of a wake, than a funeral.

    In I Cor. 11:23-26 Paul used two word to describe the Lord’s Supper; “rememberance” in vs. 24 (anamnasis–a commemoration, memorial, reminder–same word used in Heb. 10:3) and “Proclaim” or “show forth” in vs. 26 (katagglellete–announce, proclaim, laud or celebrate [Rom. 1:8], tell thoroughly [Col. 1:24-28].

    In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of His suffering, burial and resurrection and the fact that He is away from us, but has promised to come again. There are elements of sadness in this.

    At the same time we can also announce/proclaim and even laud (wonderful old word, that) the reality of His victory over death and what that means to us, the many wonder-filled incidences in His life and the way in which he delivers us from all our infirmities, and the future reality of Christ’ ultimate victory over every enemy or “authority” and our appearing with Him, and the healing of all creation. That should give us reason to jump up and down in joy and praise!!

    Tom

  8. What do you make of 1 Cor 11:27-34 then?

    “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

    So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”

    First of all, it seems as though the communion is to be taken seriously, and second, it’s not just about a feast (though nothing is said of celebration).

    I interpret this to mean that you’re not supposed to simply substitute your breakfast with the communion- it is set apart, sanctified and holy. You shouldn’t be hungry when you come to take it.

    Although, I do think it can be taken anywhere (eg. up a hill as suggested earlier), it doesn’t just have to be a Sunday morning.

  9. I don’t think those of you that are married considered the marriage ceremony just symbolic now…

    And then I am sure there must have been some elements of tradition and/or personal embellishments that added to the occasion. I do not see any reference at all to a wedding ceremony in scripture. No indication of what constitutes a sacred binding of two into one. It seems greate leeway is allowed. I don’t see anyone trying to deconstruct Christian wedding traditions in any emergent circles…

    Yet, one does not think such a ceremony is sacred & spiritual & binding.

    Baptism is mentioned but how it is to be performed not outlined in detail.

    Communion is covered in detail however.

    I was sprinkled as an infant on the 8th day of my entrance into this world. Baptized Catholic. Immersed again 20 years later as a confession of my new-found faith. Now I would not say one rite canceled out or negated the other. And I will also not argue if grace was transmitted & what that spiritual impact truly was.

    Hosing off my siblings with the hose during hot summer days did not imply baptism. Or jumping into my aunt’s pool. Eating wine, bread & cheese or crackers not Holy Communion. Certainly we can enjoy such activities for what they are, but I am not convinced we can minimize the sacred value of the rite as it is done in response to the pattern or command or the manner it is set apart from the ordinary. I understand the artificial ‘stuff’ built up around such rituals, but I am not sure adapting a more casual attitude corrective at all…

  10. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord”

    What’s the unworthy manner Paul is talking about in the context of Corinthians? He’s making a note, not about the elements, but about the people who are gathered. The rich in Corinth are treating the poor differently. The rich are not recognizing the Body of Christ. See 1 Cor. 10:15ff.

    Paul means we take community seriously, and communion is a celebration of community, with Christ and with others. Somehow we’ve turned the very feast of community, celebrating and honoring our unity, into a source of disunity over arguing what happens with the bread and wine.

    We take the incidentals serious and forget about the core practices. We’ve been distracted into chaos.

  11. “On the subject of communion, man I wish we could call it a celebration. I have yet to have a requests for it at a funeral, which by the way I approach as a celebration”

    I’ve never been to a funeral in which communion was served, but it is my understanding that most Christians around the globe do partake of communion at the funeral service.

    MB

  12. Alex ask;

    So is it a feast or is it a symbolic act?

    Yes.

    Patrick wrote;

    What’s the unworthy manner Paul is talking about in the context of Corinthians? He’s making a note, not about the elements, but about the people who are gathered. The rich in Corinth are treating the poor differently. The rich are not recognizing the Body of Christ. See 1 Cor. 10:15ff.

    Exactly. And, yes to all of your post.

    T

  13. I’m kind of late in posting here but figured I would put in my 2 cents. I agree with Volkmar that Communion is both a feast and symbolic act.
    I also think it is important just to remind us , I don’t believe it matters how you partake of this “symbolic feast” as much as people would have you think.
    I think the important part is that we REMEMBER. I know for myself , Communion is often a time of jarring my memory about who I am , who Jesus is, what I have done , what I deserve and what great love God has poured out on me as a person and us as the church. I think it is at the same time a celebration and mourning because when I realize who I really am , it breaks my heart to think that Jesus could care at all about me. So , this “memory” makes me very happy and at the same time rips the heart right from my chest .
    Sorry , haven’t read the book probably won’t . I’m sure it is very interesting and I think you all are doing a great job in reviewing it .
    Peace be with you all .

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