Category Archives: sacraments

Noah gets baptized

On Sunday afternoon, we looked at Genesis 7, which tells us: “The flood is coming! Enter the ark!”. We saw that Noah’s flood is a picture of God’s coming judgment and of Jesus Christ as the only way of escape. Jesus’ salvation takes the form of an ark – an uncomfortable, smelly ark – otherwise known as the church!

I had to leave this out of my sermon because of time. But in 1 Peter 3:20-21, the apostle Peter connects the waters of the flood with the waters of baptism:

“in [the ark]… a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism… corresponds to this”

That means we can say: Noah was the first person to be baptised in the Bible.

This is interesting for at least 2 reasons:

i) it’s a great way to think about our own baptisms. Just as Noah was safe from God’s judgment waters in the ark, my baptism is here to tell me I’m safe from God’s judgment waters thanks to Christ. We need to use our baptisms more and put them to work. We’re not Roman Catholics who think baptism works magically, but nor are our baptisms meant to be a forgettable moment in our history. Our baptisms are designed to help us face the coming flood with a sense of security and confidence in Christ. My baptism points me to Christ and tells me: “you’re in the ark; you’re safe”.

ii) the first baptism in the Bible was a household baptism. The text flags this up: “Go into the ark, you and all our household” (Gen 7:1). Noah didn’t get baptised by himself. His whole family got baptised at the same time. Noah and his wife, his 3 sons and their wives. Now, clearly, his family didn’t include any infants; they were all married, after all. But it’s still striking, isn’t it? In Acts, Lydia believes and we’re told “she was baptized, and her household as well” (16:15). When the Philippian jailor believes “he was baptized at once, he and all his family (16:33). From the earliest days, God’s taught his people to raise their children inside, not outside, the covenant. That’s why we baptise the children of believers at All Nations Church Ilford. It’s not just an empty gesture, but a claiming of God’s promise to us and our children.

If you’d like to think more about bringing up our children in faith not fear, here’s a great article by a minister in Scotland called William Still.

The event of Noah’s ark and the flood is a very sobering, clarifying story. Our baptisms are designed to slot us into that story and to love Christ and his ark even more.

 

The Benefit of Frequent Communion

Human nature is funny. Sometimes the more frequently we do something, the less “special” it feels. We can enjoy “one-offs” much more than weekly routines. For example, if we celebrated birthdays every week, we probably wouldn’t enjoy them as much as we do when they come round once a year!

That fact can make us think the same with some of God’s ordinances. Maybe if we did them less often, they’d become more special. The Lord’s Supper is a good example. Some churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, some every month, but some just once a year, when they make much more of it. Maybe in your own experience, you’ve found that the more frequently you take the Lord’s Supper the “less” it means to you, so you sometimes switch off from it. But it would be funny if we took the same attitude to preaching, wouldn’t it? It’s probably true that if I preached just once a month or once a year, you’d listen better, but we can probably all tell that that’s not a good idea! That’s because the point of God’s ordinances isn’t only that they feel special; they’re doing other things to us that we can’t always quantify; just like ordinary week-night meals won’t always taste special, but they still feed me. It’s the same with the Lord’s Supper. Our experiences at the Lord’s Table will vary; sometimes there will be wonderful moments of communion with Jesus, at other times they will be more ordinary. The value of the Lord’s Supper is in giving you spiritual nutrition, not just spiritual excitement.

If you find yourself switching off at the Lord’s Table, let me encourage you to deliberately switch back on. And let me encourage you to eat and drink Christ! It’s possible to eat and drink the bread and wine with your mouth, while not eating or drinking Jesus by faith. Without chewing and digesting its contents by faith, the Lord’s Table will do us no good.

Here are 5 groups of people who’ll particularly benefit from frequent communion (stolen from this book by J. W. Alexander!):

  1. Doubting Disciples, who can’t have the certainty of God’s grace held out to them too often.
  2. Persons of Legal Views, who are prone to think they’ve earned God’s love. This mistake is best corrected by going frequently to Calvary.
  3. Backsliders, who are awakened by the call to self-examination, and melted when Jesus turns and looks on them, as he did to Peter (Luke 22:61)
  4. Lonely Ones, who need the cheering sense of fellowship, produced by this feast of brotherhood.
  5. Those in Trouble, who ten thousand times have forgotten their earthly sorrows in the joys of Christ’s presence.

At various points this year, I expect we’ll fit in to all of those categories. Praise Jesus who doesn’t let his body go hungry (Eph 5:29)!