The Significane of Spiritual Symbols

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  11 : 23-26
Subject: Lord's Supper; Baptism; Ordinances; Symbols, Spiritual

Symbols are used everywhere in the world and in fact some languages began with nothing but symbols, and the words developed later. Symbols today include many that are recognized world-wide. When you see the Apple icon you cannot help but see the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products. The American Flag, the stars and stripes, speaks to all inhabitants on earth of The United States of America. The Nike swoosh reminds us of all the products that company sells. If I mention the name "Flo" I'm sure your mind goes to a famous insurance company. Symbols are very important and always have been.

What about symbols in the Bible? God used them with His people throughout history. When the Hebrew people had been granted a victory over an enemy, the Lord on occasion told the people to erect stones as a remembrance. He told them that when their children asked what the stones meant, they were to share with the rising generation the mighty power and gracious love of God toward His people.

Look at Joshua 4:1-7: "And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying: Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight. Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, What do these stones mean to you? Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever. (NKJV)

The Lord intended for the people to understand the value of symbols. He desired that the stones be a reminder to each generation of what the Lord had done for His people.

In fact, Jesus used terms to describe Himself in the New Testament that are basically symbols declaring His nature. He is described as "the door,” "the light of the world,” "the bread of life,” and in numerous other ways. The purpose was to help us understand Him better and to grasp His purpose.

When the Church was established, God gave us two symbols or ordinances that we are to use as reminders of God’s nature, grace and will for us. One of those symbols is Baptism and the other is The Lord’s Supper.

In Matthew 28:18-20 we read: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Amen. (NKJV)

He declared that we are to baptize those who trust Him as Lord and Savior. Baptism does not save the person but is a symbol on the outside of what the new believer has experienced on the inside. This symbol is a testimony of the death of the old man and the new life that Christ has given. Every new believer is to be baptized in obedience to the command of the Savior. Surely, since this is a command of our Lord, it must have tremendous significance to us today.

Also, note 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (NKJV)

Believers are told to observe The Lord's Supper until the Lord returns. For 2,000 years God's people have been obeying this directive from our Savior. Certainly something we are told to continue until He returns for us is very significant in the eyes of God and ought to be important to us.

Today we have baptized three people who have trusted Jesus as their Savior. What a joy it is to stir the baptismal waters and rejoice in the commitment of these who have recently trusted Jesus for salvation. In a few moments we will receive the Lord’s Supper. To celebrate both of these ordinances, these divinely ordained symbolic acts, on the same Sunday morning is a delight and joy for me and I'm sure it is likewise a blessing for you.

Before we take part in the Lord’s Supper I want to share with you four things that these symbolic ordinances reveal to us. We must never forget why we do these things.

Perhaps you have heard the story of the wife who was cooking dinner one day and placed a ham in the oven. Before she put the ham in to cook, she cut off part of the ham on both ends. The husband was in the kitchen helping his wife prepare the meal and he said, “Honey, why did you cut off that perfectly good ham before placing it in the pan?” His wife said, “My mother always did that and I suppose it makes the ham taste better. Actually, however, I don’t know why. I will call her and ask her why she did it.” So she called her mother and asked about the issue. Her mother said, “Why, dear, I cut off the ends from the ham because that it was my mother always did. I’m not sure why she did it.” So, the daughter called her grandmother and explained the situation and asked why she had cut off the ends from the ham. The grandmother said, “Sweetheart, when your grandfather and I were raising a family, we were quite poor. I only had one pan and it was too small for a ham to fit, so I cut off the ends.”

Sometimes people continue to do things without stopping to appreciate why they are doing them. That may be okay if you are cooking a ham, but it is not appropriate to do this when doing God’s business. The Lord gave us these two ordinances because they were extremely important. So let’s look at why they are so important…

I. They Point to a Place

Both Baptism and The Lord’s Supper point to the cross – the fix our attention upon the Calvary. We must never forget that without the cross we are eternally doomed because we are still in our sins. Yet, Christ went to Calvary to redeem us and once we turn from and sin and accept Him we walk in new path with a new life.

R.G. Lee was a great preacher from another generation. I am reminded that he always wore a white suit when he preached. My wife and I were privileged to take our two children to hear him preach the great sermon, Payday Someday, at a Southern Baptist Convention many years ago. There is a story told about Dr. Lee that makes a point today. On one occasion he was in the Holy Land and asked to be able to go up on top of Golgotha – Calvary. It was not permitted, but somehow he got permission to go up and stand on the top of the hill where Jesus was crucified. He stood there on top of that hill and looked out over Jerusalem and he began to weep. The guide who was with him asked, “Sir, have you been here before?” Dr. Lee answered, “Yes, I was here 2,000 years ago.”

Dr. Lee was pointing out that his sins were on Christ when our Savior died on the cross. Baptism reminds us of His death and resurrection, and the Lord’s Supper reminds us also of body that suffered and His blood that was shed at the cross. Never let us think that the two ordinances we are taking part in today are mere ritual. No, a thousand times, no! We are going back in our minds and hearts to the old rugged cross where Jesus died for us.

II. They Point to a Price

As we rejoice in the baptism of these dear people today and as we have The Lord’s Supper spread before us this morning, we are looking upon symbols that point to the price of our redemption. There is no cheap grace, for it cost the Savior the most horrible suffering ever known to man. You might suggest that many people have suffered gruesome deaths, and you are correct; however, no perfect person ever died on this earth except Jesus. The result of sin is death, and we all deserve to die. Jesus, however, never sinned – not once. That is, by the way, the greatest miracle in the Bible. That a man could walk this earth for thirty-three years and never sin against God is a miracle above all others.

When Jesus died at Calvary, the sin of the entire world was placed upon Him. We cannot imagine what that was like for our Lord. The pure, holy, perfect Lamb of God accepted the filth, degradation and wickedness of all people of all time when He died on the cross. As we participate today in these ordinances, let us regard them as being on holy ground. We are taken back in remembrance to recall the awful price paid for our evil lives. We cannot take part in this today without, if we are truly thinking of the purpose, without being overcome with sadness for our sin and gladness for our Savior.

III. They Point to a Power

Look upon the experience of baptism and think of all that it means in regard to the power of God. In baptism we visualize the death of the Savior and His resurrection. Those of us who are saved are recipients of the power that took away our sins and buried them in the ocean of God’s forgiveness, and we are part of the power of God that raised up Jesus from the dead. We have a new life – a new birth!

The resurrection of Jesus is the most powerful thing that God ever did. Yes, even the creation of the universe pales into insignificance when compared to the resurrection of our Lord. Jesus died with our sins on Him – He became sin for us. Yet, He was raised from the dead in an act of incredible power – and we are told that His resurrection is the first-fruit of all those who shall be raised. His resurrection is the assurance of our resurrection.

Now listen carefully, the God of heaven of raised up Jesus from the dead has all power and can do all things. He is in you in the person of the Holy Spirit. You are endued with divine power beyond your wildest imagination. These ordinances are meant to remind us that we are winners, not losers. Sometimes in this world, with its own manner of honoring evil, we as God’s people appear to be beaten down. The world laughs at us and mocks us. Evil sits upon the throne of this world and looks down with an evil sneer upon the righteous. Did not Agrippa do that with Paul? Think of Paul’s death at the hands of Nero. Do you think that godless emperor gave two seconds of consideration to Paul, the Apostle? No, he cared not. But God never left Paul. He was with him in his hour of trial. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Where is Nero now? Yes, and where is Paul? Ask Paul and He will tell you as recorded in Romans 8:31-39: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NKJV)

Nothing can ever separate us from our Lord. You are living in victory. These ordinances remind us who we are and whose we are!

IV. They Point to a Promise

Let me hasten to finish by pointing out that Baptism and The Lord’s Supper point to the promise that Jesus is coming for us. Being raised up out of the water is symbolic of our resurrection by the Lord. The bread and cup in The Lord’s Supper, we are told, are to be continued until He comes! He is coming again. We have the promise of God.


Sir John Bowring was a naturalist, linguist, statesman, financier, and author. This gifted man was at one time the governor of Hong Kong. He could write in thirteen different languages and dialects.

On one occasion when John Bowring was in the Orient, he was gazing at a tract of land which had been devastated by an earthquake. He noticed the tower of a church standing among the ruins, and on the top of the tower a cross. The sight of that cross prompted him to write these words:

"In the cross of Christ I glory,

Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;

All the light of sacred story

Gathers round its head sublime."

We turn back to the cross today, and we remember the place, the price, the power and the promise that is all wrapped up in the death of our Lord, His resurrection, and His coming for us one day in the not too distant future. Now, before we receive The Lord's Supper, let us rededicate our lives to Him. We do not dare take the bread to our mouth or the cup to our lips in an disrespectful manner. Do you need to recommit your life to Him? Come now. And, for anyone today who has never trusted Him by turning from you sins and believing upon as Lord and Savior, this is your hour - you day - your time - to receive Him.