Baptism and communion are the two ordinances that Christ gave the church. While both of them are symbolic to some extent, both have profound spiritual significance in terms of benefits and consequences.
We learn from 1Corinthians 11:29-30 that by taking communion in an unworthy manner, we eat and drink damnation onto ourselves, not discerning the Lord’s body. Paul went on to say that was the reason many in the church were weak and sickly, and many were dead. The elements (bread and juice) are symbolic, in that they represent the Body and The Blood of Jesus. Communion itself however, obviously, has great spiritual significance.
The same is true of Baptism. Unfortunately, Baptism has been reduced to a mere symbolic act. It is widely taught in many denominations that Baptism is “a public demonstration of faith”. While it can be, in and of itself, that is the one thing the Bible doesn’t say about baptism. Our lives are to be (lived as) a “public demonstration of faith”.
My main contention to Baptism being reduced to a “symbolic act” is Jesus Christ was not inclined to accept or espouse Symbolism over Substance. HE sought a repentant and contrite heart as opposed to honoring HIM with one’s lips while their heart was far from them.
It is difficult for me to imagine, that Christ Jesus, who railed against “religion”, or the rituals and traditions of men (with Pharisees etc) would instruct us to perform a “ritualistic” or symbolic act if that is all there was to it.
This bad Christianity going around prefers symbolism over substance. So many “Christians” prefer a symbolic salvation that puts their name on Heaven’s roll but their natures are still unregenerated and bound by sin. Whatever happened to the literal transforming power of the Cross that turns a deadbeat into a hard worker, a thief into an honest man, a drunk or drug addict into a sober, responsible person? Whatever happened to “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have past away, behold all things become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Symbolism over substance, lip service over life service, name tag over nature change, taco shell over hamburger meat… however you look at it, it all comes down to a bad Christianity. It is void of true sincerity and godly living. The sweet fragrance of a holy life devoted to a living Christ is replaced by the the stench of dead formalism and hypocritical churchgoing. Hypocrisy itself can be defined as symbolism over substance.
The real substance of the Christian Values and Jesus Teaching is explained away by liberaltheologians and false teachers, Pharisee who will stand in judgement for their “smooth sayings” and damnable heresies. They may not blatantly deny but they subtly imply any real or substantial power in the Cross. But folks, did you know tht Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was actually and literally to destroy the works of sin in your life? Read the whole chapter of 1 John chapter 3. “His name shall be called Jesus for He will save his people FROM their sins”- not IN their sins! Matthew 1:21 Do you really think that God would send His son Jesus to die such a painful death for just symbolism?