Question for all ye theologians out there

First, let me say that you are all theologians… The question is “are you a good on or not?” But I’ll save that post for another day… Or Jenn, maybe you want that post? (She’s got some great insight on that topic)

So, this is my question. I’m reading Romans again this morning and am in Chapter 6. In verses 3 and 4 Paul references baptism and being “baptized into his death” and being “buried therefore with him by baptism through death.” Now, my questions is this. Most people when speaking of baptism say that it is supposed to symbolize our union with Christ in death and resurrection (thus why lots of people like dunking baptisms). However, my confusion arises when I look at communion. It is in communion that we look at the death of Christ and share in this communion of his broken body and shed blood. So, it would seem, that we have two sacraments that share the same association, namely our relation to Jesus’ death. So, why two sacraments to “accomplish” the same thing? A side by side comparison, which I don’t have time for this morning, appears to show that the two (at least in the modern way they are explained) share a lot of commonality. Is this strange to anyone else? I know, I know… you’ve probably never thought about it… that’s cool. But I thought I’d throw it out there this morning since that is where I’m pausing to ponder on the text. What sets the two apart (beyond the obvious modes) and why do they seem to symbolize such similar associations?

Drew and Monica… I expect answers from you two ;) The rest of you feel free to join in.

14 thoughts on “Question for all ye theologians out there

  1. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ die for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,”-

    So question one – If that is the meta-narrative all central character and central event in the Bible, is it that surprising that two sacraments revolve around it?

    In my mind it breaks down into two different angles of the Cross. In the same way that Redemption and Sanctification are two other ways of looking at the Cross – both inextricable from each other, but both distinct.

    Recognition and Remembrance – Christ tells us that we are to remember his “perfect life consummated in a perfect death, burial and resurrection” (Ray…so probably really Keller) with communion.

    Identity – Baptism so far as I can understand is a question of personal recognition of identity. If at the point of baptism multiple things happen, then so be it. Later in that passage from Corinthians Paul says that if Christ had not been raised our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. We must too come to the recognition that when Christ died for us, we lost every “right” to ever claim to how good we are. Similarly we also lost the “right” to spit in God’s face by bragging about how bad we are and refusing to believe that God accepts Christ on our behalf. Baptism, the lower case d – death and lower case r – resurrection, is meant to physically represent our understanding of Christ’s actions and what that does with our identity in Him.

    Maybe that helps, and if it doesnt you can go read the end of Romans 11, because thats where you sent me when I had questions haha.

    How is hebrew going?

  2. Its like we are at Jesus’ birthday, communion is eating the cake, and baptism is more like playing in the slip and slide. Both revolve around the same event.

  3. … only at the party it started to rain and drew got struck by lightening for comparing sacraments to cake and slip-and-slides …

  4. Interesting ponderings… I’ve been thinking recently that I’d like to learn more about the sacrament of communion. I don’t suppose you have any books, articles, what-not you would recommend?

    I will say that I personally do not associate communion with my own death in the same way I associate my baptism as symbolic of my own death. Perhaps I’ve been missing the boat entirely here, but for me, baptism was sort of a one time self-focused acknowledgment of my personal identification with Christ’s death and resurrection (like Drew said) whereas communion is a bigger experience for me, if that makes sense–”I” fades into the background as I remember what Christ did, where He sits, and look for His coming again.

    I think my thoughts sort of echo what Drew said although I can’t say I entirely followed his thoughts, heh. Ryan, maybe you can interpret. =)

    But then I think I have a very elementary understanding of communion.

  5. No books (or too many books) to recommend right now.

    However, this thought is one to chew on. In the OT we have 2 sacraments that seem to mirror communion and baptism. Namely, passover (communion) and circumcision (baptism). Does looking at these help shed light on communion and baptism.

    Drew, are these cake and slip-n-slide as well? (Not mocking, really want to hear your thoughts.)

  6. At first brush, this additional thought in my head seems to mirror my original thoughts…

    Passover is a memorial of God’s provision and mercy for His people–a more general sacrament, larger than just myself. Circumcision is a personal identification that you are a part of God’s covenant people. (Again, this all coming from a rudimentary knowledge and understanding of things on my part.)

  7. i have always thought of it like Jen h. that i think of my ident. w/baptism but really only think of christ in communion. …”do this in remembrance of me” always rings in my head as take communion.

  8. lets see if i can remember anything from my galatians/romans class last semester.

    off topic: you know that the word for baptism in the greek literally translates to water baptism? here’s a QUESTION for you: with that revelation- what do we make of being “baptized” into Christ- when… you haven’t been “water” baptized?

    So, with this paradigm the purpose of baptism is to be able to even experience union with Christ. Communion, on the other hand, I feel serves more for the purpose of our remembrance of what Christ did on the cross.

    we were buried with him THROUGH baptism.

    we aren’t buried with him through communion (i could be proved wrong in this)

    Unfortunately many people say this view undervalues the importance of faith.

    “The NT consistently views the believer’s baptism as part of a complex of events, including especially faith, repentance, and the gift of the HS. I suggest, therefore, that when Paul refers to water baptism here, he does not intend it to be seen in isolation but as part of this larger complex of conversion events. When we come to Christ in faith, God gives us his Spirit and we submit to water baptism. And this complex of events- not water baptism by itself- brings us into union with Christ and the salvific events of his death, burial, and resurrection.

    Either my post has gone off the deep end, or maybe I’ve badly patched together an argument for the importance of baptism in order to reach unity with Christ.

  9. oh, i didnt end that quote…

    - its from Encountering the Book of Romans, Douglas J. Moo (he does a not so great job of putting together various views of different parts of the book of romans)

  10. edit to my own post (cause it won’t let me!)

    - not all “baptism” in the greek is water baptism- I just meant that it is SPECIFIC to THESE verses. According to Moo, it isn’t really argued that Paul meant anything OTHER than water baptism in these verses.

  11. oh, haha- lastly- if you wouldn’t mind ryan, can you explain how circumcision can be compared to baptism? I just don’t see it :-p

  12. I’ll comment on the baptism~circumcision bit because my mom and I have had discussions about this. As new Presbyterians, heh, we have been wrestling over the past few years with the Presbyterian belief in infant baptism. From what I understand, it is considered an indication that the infant is a “child of the covenant family” and thus born into a sort of privileged position though still in need of saving grace and a personal death and rebirth at a later point that is not guaranteed.

    But even apart from the whole infant baptism issue… Circumcision was a symbol that you were a part of God’s covenant people; so too with baptism, it is a symbol that you are entering into God’s covenant. Not sure if that helps at all… I recently heard a talk on this that helped me a lot, but it’s too much to write here.

  13. Ah! Infant Baptism!!!! One of my favorite topics. Jen H., here is a great book on the topic, The case for covenantal infant baptism.” You can find it in out “recommended books” section.

    But, yeah, you have the gist. In the OT circumcision identified (a sign) you as part of God’s covenant people and in the NT baptism (a sign) indicates the same thing.

    Also, consider Col 2.11-12. It seems to indicate the relationship between baptism and circumcision.

    Finally, Jen H., if infant baptism is the only thing holding you back from being “presbyterian” then I wouldn’t worry too much about it as it is a non-essential. Presbyterians believe is salvation by grace through faith (baptism doesn’t save). Timing of baptism and mode of baptism are secondary issues. Mode, even more so…

  14. I don’t even know where to start. All of you have said so many brilliant things. I guess I’ll go back to Ryan’s original question: “why two sacraments to “accomplish” the same thing?…What sets the two apart (beyond the obvious modes) and why do they seem to symbolize such similar associations?

    First, I’d be interested in all of your thoughts on 1 Corinthians 10. Both sacraments are mentioned there and are employed, by way of reminder, as a means to effect the Corinthians’ perseverence. My guess is that this chapter will help us a great deal.

    Now for my answers.

    Why two sacraments to accomplish the same thing?
    All I will contribute to this incredible discussion is something that I observe in Jesus. He seemed to employ as many relevant word pictures as he could find in order to explain the gospel to people. Should it surprise us, then, that he also employs multiple action pictures in order to demonstrate the gospel to people? The sacraments, among other things, are dramatizations of the gospel, and Jesus seems to like having more than one scene is his dramas.

    What sets the two apart…?
    Of course, many things could be said here, but I’ll mention only one major distinction for now.

    The end of baptism seems to point us to the Lord’s glorious resurrection and its implications for our sanctification. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

    The end of communion, however, seems to point us to the Lord’s glorious second coming. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor.11:26; italics mine).

    The one (baptism) is a personal participation in his death; the other (communion) is a corporate proclamation of his death. The former (baptism) is done once, demonstrating the finality of our death to sin and the efficacious nature of our initial profession of faith; the latter (communion) is done many times, demonstrating the necessity of our perseverence in the faith.

    As many better theologians have said, “Baptism guards the front door of the church; Communion guards the back door.”