Participation in the Body and Blood of Christ

Paul warns the Corinthian believers to leave their idolatry as it doesn’t fit with being a follower of Christ. To bring the point home he talks about taking Communion.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

A little bit of a side note here:
Your church doesn’t do Communion biblically. Notice what he said about the bread coming from one loaf? Most churches have individual little square, Styrofoam bits for the bread. If you were to do Communion strictly literally it would be one loaf with pieces broken off of it. It is supposed to be wine if you’re going literal and the wine is from one cup, which being poured from one container might suffice. You’d be hard pressed to find a church that does all these things, especially in our Covid freaked out day.


Taking Communion is a participation or sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What does Paul mean by that? Does it mean you are literally eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood?

Paul uses “participation” a couple times in this chapter, which is helpful.

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Eating Jesus’ Body and Drinking His Blood

One of the main points the Bible stresses in both baptism and Communion is unity. There is unity of the believer with Christ and also unity between all those who are partaking.

It’s important to keep unity in mind here. Let’s say that the bread you eat at Communion literally becomes the body of Christ. What do you do with the leftovers?

You may laugh but this was actually a big deal in the early Catholic Church. The reason you see old depictions of priests as drunk is because they drank the leftover wine because it was wrong to throw it away. What if one piece of bread got dropped on the floor and someone stepped on it and crumbled it?

The Bible says there are many members but one body. Christ’s body has to be one. Ephesians 4 says there is “one body.” If there are little parts of the body floating around everywhere doesn’t that destroy its unity?

In the Last Supper that Jesus ate with His disciples He said “Take and eat; this is my body.” He didn’t do any Latin mumbling to convert the pieces into His actual flesh. He just broke it, gave it to them, and they ate.

When it comes to the cup He says:

“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:27-29).

He says right there this is the last time He will drink the “fruit of the vine.” He’s drinking wine; He’s not drinking blood.

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Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and John 6 “Eat My Flesh”

The Lord’s Supper or Communion is another physical thing the Church does as ordained by the apostles and the Lord Himself.

Communion is supposed to center us on the Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate the unity all believers have in Him.

So, naturally, just like with baptism, church history is filled with arguing, fighting, and even killing each other over this issue.

Fun times. Who saw that coming?

You want to know why God doesn’t have more physical stuff for the church to do? Because we’d all have killed each other off by now if He had.

There aren’t too many verses about Communion. 1 Corinthians 10-11 are the primary instructional verses about it.

The Last Supper was the initiation of it, which ties back to the Passover supper of the OT. Jesus hints at the Lord’s Supper a few times in His poke-in-the-eye style from time to time (eat my flesh!).

And that’s pretty much it. It’s a simple idea representing massive things.

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1 Peter 3:21–Baptism that Now Saves You!

There are many people who say that being baptized is what gets you in heaven. You can live however you want, doesn’t matter, as long as you got wet at an official church function with an official churchy official person your entrance to heaven is guaranteed.

This is complete nonsense.

1 John, which is all about the assurance of salvation and giving you many tests to see whether you are saved, says not one word about baptism. Curious.

What John does bring up is whether or not a new life has occurred. Are you more like Christ? Are you loving people? Are you departing from the control of sin?

Instead of dealing with the entirety of the New Testament when it comes to figuring out how to get saved or how to determine whether you are saved, people instead take one phrase out of the New Testament and call it good.

Here’s a phrase from 1 Peter that gets trotted out in this context: “baptism that now saves you.” Boom! There it is! What more do you need? Some church dude did some water stuff to me, so Bible says I’m saved!

Well, what more you need is context. “Baptism that now saves you” is not the only phrase Peter wrote.

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Baptism, New Life and How Your Mom is Probably Messing it Up for You!

Baptism is the outward physical demonstration of Gospel truth. When you believe the Gospel you are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism physically does to you what has already spiritually happened to you by faith.

“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Buried and raised up, that’s what Christ did. By faith we identify with Him in this. Baptism literally shows this happening to us with the dunking in water deal.

The significance of this new life blows by us though. Colossians 2 has some other stuff to say about this new life. We’ve already talked quite a bit about losing your grasp on your physical identity. Here’s another bit:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (2:6-7).

Baptism isn’t just this thing you do this one time and now you’re saved and all spiritual obligation is gone.

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Baptism and Unity

The essential point of baptism in the New Testament is identification with Christ. You and Christ are no longer separated. You are in Him and He is in you. You are one. A member of His body.

This is what the passages about baptism stress.

You wouldn’t know this by listening to Christians talk about baptism. Mostly it’s just arguing about how to baptize, who baptizes, what church to baptize in, how old you have to be to be baptized, etc.

Argue, argue. Fight, fight.

Let me draw this together for you the way Paul does. Read this passage. Like, really. Read it. It’s Ephesians 4:3-6:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Then he lists a bunch of things that there are only ONE of. If we’re all focused on the ONE then we can’t argue about anything!

If there were two, yeah, we could argue about which is better. But there’s only one.

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Baptism Means Losing Your Identity

I’m going to hit this one more time, mainly because Paul does.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Baptism is you identifying with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. You are raised up with Him to newness of life. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.

This isn’t a metaphor or word picture.

This is what baptism is.

The result is that you lose all grip on your identity which has so long defined who you are.

Your old you, the old man, was filled with sin and sinful desire. It lived in sin. Was bound to sin. All it did was selfish. It lived for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

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What Does Paul Mean by Being Baptized for the Dead?

1 Corinthians 15 is all about resurrection. It’s specifically talking about bodily, physical resurrection: dead bodies living again. He’s not talking about the spiritual concept of being raised up to newness of life, as in being born again.

He’s talking physical resurrection.

In the midst of this chapter Paul throws in this doozy of a verse:

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (1 Corinthians 15:29)

What in the world Paul?!

I love how the Bible throws in stuff just to see if you’re paying attention.

There are various interpretations of this verse.

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Baptism and Spiritual Gifts

Baptism is an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

Salvation is a loss of self. You are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. You lose your life to keep it. You take up the cross and deny your self.

These aren’t just high sounding metaphors. This is what the Gospel literally does to the believer. You lose yourself in Jesus Christ.

When Paul speaks of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, he has baptism as a part of the foundation.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

You should note that he’s not talking about getting wet baptism. This is the baptism into Christ idea again. This is all done by the Spirit. Note also he says we “were all given the same Spirit to drink.” The Spirit is linked with water, or at least drinkable liquid!

Baptism is immersion into Christ. The life of the believer is now about edifying the Body of Christ. Before conversion the individual was entirely filled with pride and self-serving. Salvation delivers you from this.

Love is the outflow of losing yourself.

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Baptized into Moses

1 Corinthians 10 has a unique usage of baptism. Paul is describing some of the stuff that happened to Israel as “examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”

The Old Testament isn’t just cute stories and moral tales. It’s a description of how God does a covenant and how people treat God’s covenants.

Israel was set apart by God. He freed them from slavery and brought them into salvation in their Promised Land. The beginning of their deliverance was going through the Red Sea.

The intro to salvation is baptism. Moses is a type of Christ (remember Jesus is the prophet who is greater than Moses).

It’s important to remember that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. This is stated a couple times in Hebrews.

Not everyone in the Old Covenant was saved spiritually. There were unbelieving Israelites who made it into the Promised Land. As you may recall, there were 40 years of rebellious wandering after their baptism into Moses before they made it safely into their Land. And also remember the people who went with Moses were all dead by the time they got there!

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Why Didn’t the Apostle Paul Baptize People?

1 Corinthians 1 reveals Paul’s concern over the divisions in the church of Corinth. Members of the church were fighting over who they should listen to. This was upsetting to Paul and a blatant denial of the Gospel.

Here’s what Paul says about this:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptised in my name. 1(Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptised anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel  (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)

Paul says he only baptized a handful of people. You would think, as a major apostle of the New Testament and with all the hubbub we’ve tacked onto baptism, that Paul would have been a leading baptizer. Nope, just a couple people.

Why? It seems like Paul is saying that if he baptized people it would have caused strife. You can see this clearly with a little imagination. Imagine being baptized by the Apostle Paul! Would you not brag about that?

“Ha, loser. I was baptized by THE Apostle Paul; you just had some local pastor. How pathetic!”

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What does Being Baptized into Christ Mean?

The phrase, “baptized into Christ” is used twice by the Apostle Paul. Here are the instances:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? (Romans 6:3)
for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

For Paul, baptism has gone way beyond water. He didn’t say “as many of you as were baptized into water” but baptized into Christ. This is bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.

In Acts 19:1-7 Paul asks some people if they have received the Holy Spirit. They say they didn’t know the Holy Spirit was given. So Paul asks what baptism they received. “John’s.” Paul told them about being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did. Paul laid his hands on them afterwards and they received the Spirit.

If there’s no Spirit then there was no baptism in Jesus Christ. John baptized with water; Jesus will come and baptize with the Spirit. Water is often a picture for the Spirit. Baptism has something to do with the Spirit.

Being baptized into Christ sounds like something more than getting wet. Romans 6 is talking about being baptized into Christ, fully immersed and identified with Him.

Romans 6:3-4 talk about being baptized in Christ’s death. Whoa, what’s that? Total identification with Christ. Christ didn’t just die FOR you; by faith you died WITH Christ.

Christ didn’t just rise from the dead FOR you; you were raised up WITH Him.

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Does the Bible Teach Infant Baptism?

It seems we’ve hit the time to talk about infant baptism. The reason why it’s the time is because Acts 16 has two verses in it that are used to prove that infant baptism is a biblical thing.

The two verses are:

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. (Acts 16:15)
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. (Acts 16:33)

These are used as infant baptism proof texts because it says Lydia’s and the jailer’s household was baptized. Surely there were infants in the household.

Yup, that’s the proof text in the Bible for infant baptism. Always be careful when a proof text for a subject never mentions the subject!

To extrapolate from that the idea that infants are baptized to release them from sin, or all the various Lutheran, Catholic, Reformed, and whoever else ideas of infant baptism, is quite the stretch.

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Jews, Gentiles, the Book of Acts, and Baptism

A side note from Acts 13:24 which says, “Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.” John’s baptism was specifically for Jews. It was a baptism of repentance to clean up the Holy Land and God’s chosen people for their promised Messiah. That was its purpose.

Once the Messiah came, John the Baptist decreased and left the scene along with his baptism.

Jesus came to save the world. As the New Testament continues we see Gentiles being brought in. This was the big point in Acts 10-11. Gentiles don’t do John’s baptism.

Gentiles are baptized with the Holy Spirit and water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and in most places in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We can then expect to see Gentiles being baptized to show the broadening of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no longer an Israel-centric message.

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Peter, Gentiles and Baptism

Peter jumps on the scene again in Acts 10 where he meets with Cornelius and Gentiles, showing Peter that God has called Gentiles to the fellowship.

Peter talks to them about John’s Baptism and how Jesus Christ came after that and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to do signs and wonders (10:36-38).

The Gentiles readily accepted Peter’s teaching. They received the Holy Spirit, and as was the custom in that day to show they received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues.

Peter recognized the significance and immediately understood they were saved and indwelt with the Spirit. So he says

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So, note two things: 1) they had the Holy Spirit before they were baptized and 2) they heard a message and believed it before they were baptized.

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Make Baptism Simple Again

Acts 8 is all about Philip. What’s cool about Philip is that he’s merely a deacon in the church. I don’t mean “merely” as an insult, I just mean it in contrast to being an apostle or some other prominent position.

Whether you have a low position or no position in a church, you can still preach the Gospel. Philip is cool. I look forward to meeting him.

After Philip stirs up things in Samaria, he gets in a conversation with an Ethiopian in a chariot. The Ethiopian Charioteer has questions about Isaiah 53, “Is this about the prophet or someone else?”

What a great lead in to evangelism! If only they were all that easy!

Philip informs him about Jesus Christ. Mr. Ethiopian responds,

“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Philip and the Ethiopian are apparently the only ones there on a road in a desert.

Why do I bring this up?

Frequently people say that baptism is an outward testimony, it’s “a public profession of faith,” as if that’s all it’s about.

My problem with this is that the Bible never says this once. And, like Acts 8, there is apparently only the baptizer and the baptizee. There is no public display.

I think the church likes to make baptism a display so they can advertise to people how many souls they’ve allegedly converted. And yes, I’m overly cynical. Sue me.

Now, I’m not saying that public baptism is wrong. I am saying be careful not to put the sole emphasis of baptism on something the Bible never once mentions as a part of baptism.

Baptism is between you and the Lord. It also involves the one baptizing you. It’s perfectly fine if they are the only ones aware of it.

I would also go so far as to say that anyone can baptize someone else. We’ve got this notion that only Church Official People can baptize. This thought exists because we’re institutional people and the church likes power. It’s not necessary though.

I think parents can baptize their kids. I think a kid can baptize their parent! I think a friend can baptize you. I do think there should be a relationship there that the person doing the baptism was prominent in helping the one to salvation. I don’t think it should just be some yahoo off the street. “Hey, can you dunk me in water?”

So, anyway, those are some thoughts about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Amazing how many of our practices and understandings have nothing to do with the Bible and quite a bit to do with tradition and institutional power. Be aware of that tendency and fight it!

Baptism and Simon the Sorcerer

Acts 8 about Simon the Sorcerer is another fascinating passage about baptism.

Many people in Samaria followed Simon because they thought he had the power of God. But when Philip comes to town and preaches the Gospel, they have a change of heart.

“But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”

Again, for the record, they believed and then were baptized. That’s how it goes!

Simon himself believed and was baptized. He followed Philip, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw, it was all very cool and exciting.

Peter and John are sent to Samaria to check out the new believers and to make sure everything was as they had heard.

Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Their baptism is spoken of as being partial, only in the name of Jesus. Remember they were to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They had a partial message apparently and so got partial benefits.

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Peter at Pentecost and Baptism

After Jesus ascends to heaven His disciples begin their ministry. Peter is the chief spokesman, as he is the Rock the church is built on (not in any weird Catholic way, just in a common sense “boy that sure seems like that’s what happened” way).

Peter preaches a scathing message against Israel for killing their Messiah. “What shall we do?” is the response of the audience, a great response which would melt any pastor’s heart.

Peter answers, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Note our two main themes here: forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. Baptism circles around these themes all the time.

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Baptism, the Holy Spirit, and Death

Baptism is understood by people in John the Baptizer’s day as referring to the cleansing of sin, making one ceremonially pure.

But looking forward, the Gospels show us something more is coming.

The Bible progressively reveals things. What came before isn’t bad, it was just a beginning. It’s the cute stories you hear in Sunday School as opposed to the in-depth Bible study you hopefully get at Big People Church.

You start small and build. It’s how you educate any kid. One way to look at the Bible and its progression is as a book a parent, say a Heavenly Father, writes to His kids, humanity. View Humanity as God’s kid that God is teaching. The Bible starts with pictures and illustrations and builds into doctrine.

The two fuller pictures that baptism represents are hinted at several times.

In Mark 1:8, John the Baptizer says, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The “he” refers to Jesus. The same context has John saying Jesus is better than him, he’s not even worthy to take off Jesus’ sandals. Jesus is better, so too is Jesus’ baptism.

John clearly is pointing people forward to something better, not dunking in water, but being immersed in and filled with the Spirit.

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Baptism and John 3

Nicodemus comes to talk to Jesus at night, curious about Jesus’ teaching and miracles.

Jesus seems to cut him off in mid curiosity and throws this at him, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nicodemus seems shocked by this statement, wonders how you can enter yo momma again and be rebirthed. So, Jesus responds:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Many make the leap right over to baptism here. I understand why, but part of me wonders if we’re not jumping the gun a bit.

Some think born by water and the Spirit is the same event and refers to baptism.

Others, myself included, think being born by water is flesh giving birth to flesh—babies reside in a sack of water, the water breaks upon birth, etc. In order to reside in the eternal, spiritual kingdom you need a spiritual body granted by the Spirit not physical birth.

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John’s Baptism

John’s Baptism was a baptism representing repentance, getting Israel ready for the coming of their King. It wasn’t the full revelation of what baptism was about.

This does not mean that there was something wrong with John’s baptism. Jesus asks some testing people if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. The obvious implied answer is that it was from heaven.

John’s baptism was part of the revelation of the Messiah, the prophet would come first and get people ready. John did that. This was God’s ministry for John. It was a divine and spiritual thing.

It wasn’t the whole thing though.

Paul in Acts 19 asks some people “What baptism did you receive?” Their answer was “John’s.” Paul did not lecture them for having been baptized by John or find fault with it. Instead he said “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

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