Inspired Counsel Regarding Communion and Baptism as It Relates to Home Churches
Editor’s Note: Has it been some time since the members in your home church participated in the communion service? Have you wondered exactly what counsel is given about who should perform the service and how it should be done? Who can baptize new converts that come into your church? In this article, we have compiled statements from the writings of Ellen White about the importance of these services and also about the details of the communion service, so that your home church can gain the blessing promised if we sincerely perform these services.
What purpose does foot washing serve?
“The Holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord. As the Savior’s humiliation for us is remembered, thought links with thought; a chain of memories is called up, memories of God’s great goodness and of the favor and tenderness of earthly friends. Blessings forgotten, mercies abused, kindnesses slighted, are called to mind. Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brethren, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it. Our thoughts are not thoughts of self-complacency, but of severe self-censure and humiliation. The mind is energized to break down every barrier that has caused alienation. Evil thinking and evil-speaking are put away. Sins are confessed, they are forgiven. The subduing grace of Christ comes into the soul, and the love of Christ draws hearts together in a blessed unity.” The Desire of Ages, 650,651.
“This ordinance is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service. While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed.” The Desire of Ages, 650.
What is the purpose of the communion service?
“But the Communion service was not to be a season of sorrowing. This was not its purpose. As the Lord’s disciples gather about His table, they are not to remember and lament their shortcomings. They are not to dwell upon their past religious experience, whether that experience has been elevating or depressing. They are not to recall the differences between them and their brethren. The preparatory service [foot washing] has embraced all this. The self-examination, the confession of sin, the reconciling of differences, has all been done. Now they come to meet with Christ. They are not to stand in the shadow of the cross, but in its saving light. They are to open the soul to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. With hearts cleansed by Christ’s most precious blood, in full consciousness of His presence, although unseen, they are to hear His words, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’ John 14:27.” The Desire of Ages, 659.
Should some be excluded from participating in the ordinances of the Lord’s supper?
“Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat?” Evangelism, 277.
“The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons He has given in washing the feet of His disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil-surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance preceding the Lord’s Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of spirit that will lead him to wash his brother’s feet. It is not in God’s plan that this should be deferred because some are considered unworthy to engage in it. The Lord washed the feet of Judas. He did not refuse him a place at the table, although He knew that he would leave that table to act his part in the betrayal of his Lord. It is not possible for human beings to tell who is worthy, and who is not. They can not read the secrets of the soul. It is not for them to say, I will not attend the ordinance if such a one is present to act a part. Nor has God left it to man to say who shall present themselves on these occasions.” Review and Herald, May 31, 1898.
When should the foot washing take place?
“This ordinance of feet washing was made a religious service.…It was given as something to test and prove the loyalty of the children of God. When modern Israel observes the sacramental ordinance, this ceremony should precede the partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s death.” The Faith I Live By, 299.
Should men and women be separate during the foot washing?
“Brethren and sisters have not always moved as judiciously as they should in washing feet, and confusion has been caused. It should be introduced into new places with carefulness and wisdom, especially where the people are not informed relative to the example and teachings of our Lord on this point, and where they have prejudice against it. Many honest souls, through the influence of former teachers in whom they had confidence, are much prejudiced against this plain duty, and the subject should be introduced to them in a proper time and manner.
“There is no example given in the Word for brethren to wash sisters’ feet;[* See Appendix.] but there is an example for sisters to wash the feet of brethren. Mary washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. (See also 1 Timothy 5:10.) I saw that the Lord had moved upon sisters to wash the feet of brethren and that it was according to gospel order. All should move understandingly and not make the washing of feet a tedious ceremony.” Early Writings, 117.
What should be used during the communion service?
“The broken bread and pure juice of the grape are to represent the broken body and spilled blood of the Son of God. Bread that is leavened must not come on the communion table; unleavened bread is the only correct representation of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing fermented is to be used. Only the pure fruit of the vine and the unleavened bread are to be used.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.
How often should we perform communion?
“Today quarterly meeting was held in the church. Willie spoke from Isaiah 50:10,11. In the afternoon the Lord’s supper was administered, preceded by the ordinance of feet washing. The celebration of these ordinances is the fulfilling of the command, ‘If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.’ What a place is this for hushing controversies, for forgiving those who have done us any injury. This is the time, if one has anything against his brother, to make it right, to settle every difficulty. Let there be mutual forgiveness. Let no strange flame be brought to the altar. Let no malice, no hatred, be cherished by those who meet round the communion table. Let high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, meet together as those purchased by the blood of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21,119.
“The salvation of men depends upon a continual application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper was not to be observed only occasionally or yearly, but more frequently than the annual passover. This solemn ordinance commemorates a far greater event than the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. That deliverance was typical of the great atonement which Christ made by the sacrifice of His own life for the final deliverance of His people.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.
What example do we have, from the early Advent movement, of who took care of church affairs when there was no pastor?
“At this time the Seventh-day Adventist Church was without pastors. The work was young, with 4,500 members; the needs of the 160 churches were cared for by local elders and deacons. The thirty-two ordained and nineteen licensed ministers were spread out over the seven conferences, carrying on the evangelistic thrust. The
Review and Herald, with its weekly visits to the homes of those who subscribed, served an important pastoral role.” The Progressive Years, by Arthur White, 266.
What should be considered when someone wants to be re-baptized?
“It is this baptism of the Holy Spirit that the churches need to-day. There are backslidden church-members and backslidden ministers who need re-converting, who need the softening, subduing influence of the baptism of the Spirit, that they may rise in newness of life and make thorough work for eternity. I have seen the irreligion and the self-sufficiency cherished, and I have heard the words spoken, ‘Except ye repent and be converted, ye shall never see the kingdom of heaven.’ There are many who will need re-baptizing, but let them never go down into the water until they are dead to sin, cured of selfishness and self-exaltation until they can come up out of the water to live a new life unto God. Faith and repentance are conditions, essential to the forgiveness of sin.” Bible Training School, April 1, 1906.
What should be considered when baptizing new members?
“There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them. The principles of the Christian life should be made plain to those who have newly come to the truth. None can depend upon their profession of faith as proof that they have a saving connection with Christ. We are not only to say, ‘I believe,’ but to practice the truth. It is by conformity to the will of God in our words, our deportment, our character, that we prove our connection with Him. Whenever one renounces sin, which is the transgression of the law, his life will be brought into conformity to the law, into perfect obedience. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The light of the Word carefully studied, the voice of conscience, the strivings of the Spirit, produce in the heart genuine love for Christ, who gave Himself a whole sacrifice to redeem the whole person, body, soul, and spirit.” Evangelism, 308, 309.
“The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism. It should be understood whether they are simply taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, or whether they are taking their stand on the Lord’s side, to come out from the world and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Before baptism there should be a thorough inquiry as to the experience of the candidates. Let this inquiry be made, not in a cold and distant way, but kindly, tenderly, pointing the new converts to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Bring the requirements of the gospel to bear upon the candidates for baptism.
“One of the points upon which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with. Are they vain in dress? Do they cherish pride of heart? The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel requirements will demand a decided change in the dress.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 95, 96.
Who is empowered to baptize?
“When one goes out as a physician, gospel teacher, and canvasser, he should be fully empowered to do the work of a minister. When under his labors souls accept the truth and give evidence of true conversion, he is to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And such workers should have the sympathy and cooperation of those who remain at home.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 213.