We believe it is important to uphold the scriptural practices of the early church. Therefore, we hold to the practice of water baptism and the regular taking of communion. We do not believe that either of these practices is essential for salvation, but that they serve as a demonstration of our living faith in Christ.
An ordinance is the outward sign we have faith in our covenant relationship with God (Romans 4:11). We consider an ordinance to be a visible demonstration of an invisible reality. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox prefer the use of the term “sacrament” because this term is associated with being a means of grace. While a sacrament is seen as a means of grace, an ordinance is a practice that merely demonstrates the participants’ faith. We do not call them “sacraments” because we believe these rituals are outward expressions of faith, rather than impartations of God’s grace. At The Well Fellowship, we recognize two ordinances (as do many Protestant churches): baptism and communion. Both ordinances were instituted by Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 22:14-20) and are specifically for the covenant community of faith.
It is important to understand the symbolism of water baptism in order to grasp its significance. The New Testament tells us that the washing with water symbolizes the washing away of our sin (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16). The act of literally being placed under the water symbolizes being dead and buried with Christ (Romans 6:3-7, Colossians 2:11-12). Only when we identify with Christ in His death and burial can we be raised out of the water to share in a spiritual resurrection to newness of life. There is also significant symbolism in the water itself. In the Old Testament, water often symbolized the judgment of God. For example, during the flood most of humankind was consumed by the waters of God’s judgment while Noah and his family passed through. Noah and his family were not any less sinful or deserving of God’s judgment than those who were consumed by God’s wrath. Instead, God showed great mercy to them and saved them by His grace. In 1 Peter 3:20-22, Peter calls the flood a baptism and compares it to the baptism we experience in the Christian community. Being underwater during baptism symbolizes the fact that a person is rightly under the judgment of God and only God by His mercy and grace can bring him through that judgment and save him. This salvation, of course, is through faith in Christ, who is our ark.
The Lord’s supper or communion is an act of worship and a ceremonial meal in which we remember and renew our covenant relationship with God (vertical) and our brothers and sisters in Christ (horizontal). Jesus instituted communion on the day the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed (Exodus 12:14-20, Matthew 26:17-30) signifying that He would be the true Passover Lamb. As the Passover celebration was to remind Israelites of their redemption from Egypt, so communion is to remind us of our redemption from the death and forgiveness of sin (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This covenant meal is our regular renewal of faith and recommitment to the Lord. This is why we should examine our hearts before partaking of communion. We often hear people speak of recommitting their lives to the Lord. We should keep in mind that this is what we do every time we take communion. We remember His sacrifice and love for us.