By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of my favorite stories of the Bible is found in the Book of I Samuel. The people of Israel were being attacked by the Philistines, but The Lord intervened and helped them. The Prophet, Samuel, created a monument to God as a reminder to the people.
I Samuel 7:12-Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
I love the way that this verse is variously translated:
I Samuel 7:12 (New Living Translation)-Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!”
I Samuel 7:12 (Easy To Read Version)-After this Samuel set up a special stone to help people remember what God did. Samuel put the stone between Mizpah and Shen and named the stone “Stone of Help.” Samuel said, “The LORD helped us all the way to this place.”
The stone was a monument to the fact of God’s faithfulness and goodness. It was a reminder of all the enemies and trials through which the people had overcome, by the Presence of God with His people.
It was a promise that God would always help His people against any foe that might stand against them or threaten to demolish them.
When I was in the West Virginia School of Preaching, there was a period of time when my faith in the goodness of God was shaken. I faced some very difficult trials during that period of my life!
One day, a friend and I went to Wheeling to get some fish sandwiches for lunch. Afterward, we went to a used bookstore across the road. We found a very interesting and ancient book that we both wanted. (You have to remember that preachers are usually collectors of books!)
Well, Brian ended up buying it and we went back to the West Virginia School of Preaching. Later, he was looking at the book and he said, “Tabata, I think you are supposed to have this.” He walked over and handed me the volume which he had just purchased (which was published in 1831).
The book was about the goodness of God in the midst of adversity (and no, Brian didn’t know that I was struggling with my faith at times).
Written on the inside front cover was my name, in an ancient looking script.
Needless to say, that book became “MY EBENEZER.”
Friends, I want you to know that God has placed some Ebenezers in our lives to help us. Let me focus with you today about two of these memorials which stand to encourage and help Christians throughout all generations.
Baptism is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation. Indeed, in every New Testament passage where baptism and salvation are mentioned together, baptism ALWAYS precedes salvation (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 3:1-5; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:26; Colossians 2:12; Titus 3:2-7; I Peter 3:20-21).
Baptism was not something which was trivial or far off from the plan of redemption; people were not “saved” and then one day later “baptized.” Instead, he that believed and was baptized would be saved (Mark 16:16).
This is no doubt the reason why people in the first century were baptized as soon as they believed and repented of their sins (Acts 2:41; 8:12-13, 34-38; 9:18; 47-48; 16:15, 30-33; 18:8; 19:1-6; 22:16). Baptism was not scheduled for a special day (like in many modern day man-made churches); it was not a show of salvation to the world. It was that place where God promised to remove the sins of the believer who had heard the Gospel (Mark 16:15; John 6:44-45; Romans 10:17) and who had repented of sin (Acts 3:19-21).
With that in mind, look at how the Apostle Paul uses baptism when he speaks to the Roman Christians.
Romans 6:3-13-3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Paul tells these Christians who were living in sin (Romans 6:1-2) that their baptism always stands as a reminder of who they are-and who they are called to be- in Christ.
It stands as our link to the event in which we were made alive with God through Christ.
It stands as the memorial in which we were cleansed from our sins and we were blessed to rise in newness of life.
It stands as the powerful indicator of the incredible love of God which rescued us and redeemed us and reconciled us (cf. Romans 5:8; II Corinthians 5:14-21).
It stands as the testimony that God has brought us through the condemnation of sin, and that in Him we have a promise of something incredible to come.
It stands as the indicator that through God’s Holy Spirit (given to all Christians when they are baptized into Christ-Acts 2:38; Galatians 4:6) we are able to live a life victoriously over sin if we will submit ourselves to God and seek His help (Romans 8:26).
It is a reminder that if we do not remain faithful to Christ; if we choose to reject Him and return to the ways of the world without repentance, we will die spiritually (Romans 8:12-13).
What a powerful testimony baptism is!
Sadly, these Christians at Rome had not grasped these truths, and needed to be taught (or retaught) them.
Let’s remember that baptism is one of God’s great memorials!
The Lord’s Supper
The Bible teaches us that on the night Jesus was betrayed, He instituted a special memorial for His disciples. It is known as the Lord’s Supper, or the Communion (I Corinthians 10:16).
It is a special time to commemorate our unity with Christ, and with each other. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Christ at Corinth with these words:
I Corinthians 11:23-29-23 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; 24 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.” 25 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
The church at Corinth was involved in horrendous sin. Sadly, one of the sins was the denominating of the body, i.e., the church was dividing up into various sects. They were separating over their miraculous gifts (I Corinthians 12-14), as well as over the ones who taught and baptized them (I Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-12). In the context of I Corinthians, Paul introduces the teaching of the Lord’s Supper for a couple of reasons.
First, Paul points out in the immediate context that the church was in error for its’ practice of the Lord’s Supper. Notice that the word “for” in I Corinthians 11:23 is the translation of the Greek preposition gar, which means to introduce the reason for a preceding statement. In other words, Paul is launching into an explanation of what he has just said.
Notice what he had just written:
I Corinthians 11:19-22- 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
Some of the Corinthians were eating and drinking in the “church of God.”
Now please notice that Paul is not condemning their eating in a church building; rather, he is discussing turning the Lord’s Supper into a common feast and meal.
Not only that, but the Corinthians were further fragmenting because they were making sure that “some” in the congregation received the Lord’s Supper while others didn’t (or they did at different times, depending on their financial status).
Paul introduces the Lord’s Supper to teach them a much needed lesson. The Lord’s Supper was a memorial of our unity in Christ.
It is a reminder of how God has redeemed us and how we are ONE in Him.
When Paul writes of the brethren not discerning the Lord’s body, he is talking about how they are sinning by taking the Lord’s Supper while they are actively involved in dividing up the body of Christ.
William Barclay wrote:
“(2) It may also mean this. The phrase the body of Christ again and again stands for the Church; it does so, as we shall see, in chapter 12. Paul has just been rebuking those who, with their divisions and their class distinctions, divide the Church; so, this may mean that the people who eat and drink unworthily are those who have never realized that the whole Church is the body of Christ but are at variance with others. All who hold in their hearts feelings of hatred, bitterness and contempt against others, as they come to the table of our Lord, eat and drink unworthily. So, to eat and drink unworthily is to do so with no sense of the greatness of the thing we do, and to do so while we are at variance with those others for whom also Christ died.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To The Corinthians, 123 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
The Lord’s Supper was (and is) a memorial of the unity that we enjoy together in the Body of Christ.
Earlier Paul had written:
I Corinthians 10:16-17-16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
The Communion is a powerful reminder of God’s goodness, and of our unity in The Lord. When there are people actively dividing the church with false doctrine and party distinctions, they have no right partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
Is it any wonder that the Christians needed to take the Lord’s Supper upon every Sunday (i.e., every Lord’s Day)? This is the Divine pattern provided in Acts 20:7.
The simple fact is, we need to be reminded because we often forget.
Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper point back to the greatest Ebenezer of all time-Calvary.
It is here where the Son of God died for each person (I Timothy 2:6).
It was here that He defeated the powers of Satan and all his host (Colossians 2:15).
It is here that our redemption finds its’ power: for only the blood of Christ could bring us the remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
People do not have the right to remove God’s Ebenezers, my friends.
When uninspired men begin attacking God’s plans and His pattern, they are trifling with the very reminders that we need as His people.
These Ebenezers are not ritualistic and meaningless forms that we embrace: they are Divine reminders of The Lord Who has helped us and Who will continue to help us through the trials and adversities we face.
The Psalmist, when facing particularly difficult times, said that he focused on how God had helped him in the past.
These “memorials” helped him to remember that God would be faithful to help him through his present and future obstacles:
Psalm 77:10-12- 10 And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 12 I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.
Think today beloved, of the Ebenezers God has placed in YOUR life. Hold to Him; trust in Him; allow His Word to lead you and He will bring you through the fires of affliction.
When your faith begins to waver, look to Calvary, and remember the beauty of baptism and of the Communion (which point to that grand and momentous Event).
Remember as well any other Ebenezer in your life which is a memorial of God’s help and provision.
The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.