I am often asked what the EFCA believes about the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What we affirm biblically/doctrinally is addressed in our Statement of Faith.
- We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
We believe that one is saved by faith in Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone. There is no salvific efficacy in the ordinances. However, when participated in/by faith, these ordinances are the God-ordained means of spiritual growth and edification. In this sense although they are not “the means of salvation,” they are considered “means of grace.” Like the preaching of the Word, corporate worship, prayer and our fellowship with other Christians, these ordinances are means God uses to strengthen us in our faith, i.e. through participating in/by faith, believers are confirmed and nourished in the faith.
Here is a summary of the EFCA position on the ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, highlighting/summarizing what we affirm and what we deny, which comes from Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America (pp. 181-182):
To summarize our understanding of the ordinances, our Statement affirms:
- Christ has given his church two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the practice of these ordinances is an essential distinguishing mark of a church;
- these ordinances are signs, that is, visible and tangible expressions, of the gospel, and as such they serve to strengthen our faith—”confirming and nourishing the believer”;
- the signs (water in baptism, the bread and grape juice or wine in the Lord’s Supper) must be distinguished from what they signify (God’s saving work in the gospel and Christ’s presence with us); [n. 79. Thus we deny baptismal regeneration and the doctrine of transubstantiation.]
- the practice of these ordinances does not save us, and we receive spiritual benefit from them only when they are celebrated in “genuine faith” in Christ.
- the ordinances serve to separate the believer from the world and to give a visible designation of those who belong to the body of Christ.
Our Statement denies that:
1. either baptism in water or participating in the Lord’s Supper is the instrumental cause of regeneration;
2. the grace of God is automatically and effectually conveyed through the administration of the ordinances themselves.
In addition, our Statement does not prescribe the “time” or “mode” of baptism (allowing for both credo- and paedobaptist practices) nor does it define the precise manner in which Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper (allowing for a variety of historic Evangelical views).