What we believe about the Ordinances (July 2013)

We believe Christ has given the Church three divine ordinances.

The term “ordinance” refers to a practice or ceremony that is commanded to be observed. Under the Old Covenant, God directed his people to keep certain festivals[i] as a perpetual[ii] memorial observance, a lasting ordinance (Exodus 12:14). From then until now, Israel continues to observe a number of celebratory feasts and rituals to commemorate[iii] God’s redemptive acts. In like manner the Church also observes services of remembrance to celebrate God’s great act of redemption under the New Covenant through the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Israel was directed to keep its ordinances, it is incumbent[iv] upon all Christians in every time and place to live up to Jesus’ directive to observe the ordinances he established.

Based upon Jesus’ direct command and personal example, The Churches of God, General Conference affirms and practices three perpetual ordinances: feet-washing, the Lord’s supper and baptism. Note the term ordinance instead of sacrament. Sacrament is not used because in its historical development it implies the imparting of saving grace. God uniquely blesses members of the family of God as they participate in these special acts of worship (John 13:17), but salvation comes only from believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Therefore, observance of the ordinances is not required for or to maintain personal salvation, nor is it a requirement for church membership in the Churches of God, General Conference. In addition any true believer in Christ is welcomed and encouraged to participate in the ordinances regardless of membership status.

The three ordinances call to remembrance the full story of salvation in Jesus’ coming, his passion,[v] and his ultimate glorification (Philippians 2:6-11). They memorialize Jesus Christ’s mission, atonement, and resurrection. They also remind believers of their own call to service, their redemption, and their ultimate victory over sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ. The following chart summarizes what constitutes an ordinance, giving the biblical foundations and showing what each teaches about Jesus and Christian living. The three ordinances complement and complete each other.

The Ordinance:                             Feet-washing                             Lord’s Supper                            Baptism

The Example of Jesus:                John 13:1-11                                 Luke 22:14-20                               Matthew. 3:13-17

The Command of Jesus:              John 13:12-17                              Mark 14:22-26                               Matthew 28:16-20

The Symbolic Reminders:           Towel, Water & Basin                   Bread & Wine                               Water
The Symbolic Reminders:           Philippians 2:1-11                         1 Corinthians 11:23-26                  Romans 6:1-7

The Theological Teaching:         Incarnation & Public Ministry        Crucifixion & Death                       Burial & Resurrection
The Theological Teaching:         John 1:1-14                                  1 Corinthians 10:16                       Romans 6:8-14

The Personal Application:          Cleansing & Humble Service        Salvation & Witness                      New Life & Obedience
The Personal Application:           Matthew 20:25-28                         Galatians 2:20                               Colossians 2:11, 12

The Formal Observance:         Each of the ordinances is celebrated by the Church in a service of worship that honors the Lord Jesus Christ and reminds believers of their great salvation.

[i] Festivals – days of celebration.

[ii] Perpetual – ongoing, continuing indefinitely without interruption.

[iii] Commemorate – to keep alive the memory of something, especially by ceremony or rite.

[iv] Incumbent – necessary for or resting on (someone) as a duty or obligation.

[v] Passion – referring to Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.