Sacraments reveal a story — a story of God’s love made visible.[1] They are “sign-acts,” like a kiss received from a loved one — a visible sign of invisible grace.[2] By God’s love, he has made it possible to be reborn into his divine family, as symbolized in baptism, and to be continually fed with divine food, as symbolized in the Lord’s Supper. God is the catalyst of the sacraments — like a mother giving birth to a baby and then feeding the child from herself — it is his work, his sacrifice and his love that is being revealed through these holy mysteries, inviting us to respond in faith.


Baptism is explained by Jesus, rather crassly, to Nicodemus in John 3 as a sort of amniotic fluid of the Holy Spirit (3:3-6). We enter the kingdom of God by means of a rebirth, not by our own merit or intellect (3:10), or human passion or plan (1:13), but through water and Spirit. Earlier, John calls it a “birth that comes from God” — a gift of becoming “children of God” (1:12-13).

Water plays a significant role in the biblical narrative, and, at times, Jesus closely associates water and Spirit (John 4:13-14; 7:37-39). It’s as though he’s making the point that there is water and then there’s God’s water. The Triune God brought forth the first creation from the waters (Genesis 1:1-2), he cleanses that creation in the flood (Genesis 6:13, 17-24), delivers Israel from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:21-22), sustains his people in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6), heals Naaman in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:14), and in that same river announces the second creation in the humanity of Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34).[3] Like a tributary, our narrative flows into God’s narrative through baptism. We are healed and sustained — freed from the bondage of Adam’s fate and recreated into the humanity of Jesus.

In accordance with baptism’s story of divine birth through water and Spirit, The Wesleyan Church affirms one baptism, either as a believer or an infant.[4] While believer’s baptism emphasizes the sacrament as a token, or sign, of one’s profession of faith, infant baptism emphasizes the sacrament as a sign of God’s profession of one’s identity: “You are my dearly loved [son/daughter], and you bring me great joy” (Mark 1:11). Certainly, an infant does not comprehend the immensity of their baptism in that moment, but praise God his grace is not dependent on one’s capacity to understand it. Just as a child is expected to mature, choosing to live up to the family name they were given at birth, both the baptized believer and infant will be expected to live up to an even greater name — the name of Christ.

There is only one baptism because God’s work does not need do-overs. The mystery of baptism is God’s grace to identify us with himself without assurance that we will always live up to our new identity. We may fail, we may even run away, but this is why we are baptized in the local church. Through baptism, we take on the commitment of God’s community. When we stumble, we have brothers and sisters to hear our confession and assure us of God’s forgiveness and restoration. When we run away, we have a family that will chase after us and call us back to the baptismal life we were reborn into.


After the birth of every child, the mother is quick to feed her baby the necessary nutrients to survive in their new post-womb reality. From where does she offer such sustenance? — from herself.

Likewise, God offers his children sustenance from himself, “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people” (Mark 14:24). By the Spirit, God gives us himself, in Jesus, at the table. Ordinary bread and ordinary cup, when handled by the Spirit, become for us sustenance from God (Genesis 1:29; 2:8-9, 16-17), bread from heaven (Exodus 16:1-5, 13-18), edible words of God (Ezekiel 3:1-3), a meal of blessing (Genesis 14:14-20), a covenant meal in God’s presence (Exodus 24:11), and a meal in which we taste and see Christ (John 6:35-58; Luke 24:30-31) and are sent to feed a hungry world (John 21:9-12, 15).

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist (which simply means “thanksgiving”) — an appropriate title for a meal that physically reveals the story of God’s love. The meal is also called The Lord’s Supper, certainly referencing Jesus’ institution of the sacrament at his last Passover meal, but more significantly pointing to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), the day we long for with great anticipation when Jesus will be united with his bride, the church, once and for all. God’s table is set time and time again, welcoming us to a divine meal through which we receive divine strength in order to participate with God in his divine work.

Sacraments reveal the story of God and simultaneously are a means of grace for entering (and remaining in) that story. By God’s Spirit, we are reborn into his divine family by the Spirit witnessed in baptism and nourished by his divine food at the table, transforming us into the glorious image of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and our brother, so that the whole world might witness the love of the Father through the lives of his children.

Daniel Rife is the director of liturgy and formation at College Wesleyan Church, Marion, Indiana.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • God has made it possible for us to be reborn into his divine family. This rebirth is not achieved by merit, intellect or human passion. Baptism symbolizes this rebirth which includes these two facets through which this occurs. What are the two means in the sacrament of baptism? (John 3:5)
  • The Wesleyan Church embraces the sacrament of baptism. What does baptism symbolize and signify? (paragraph 242, “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022.”)
  • God provides sustenance from himself for his children through the sacrament of communion. When we participate in the act of Holy Communion, we receive grace and divine strength to participate in God’s kingdom work. How does understanding communion this way help bolster your faith in Christ?
  • Sacraments are a means of transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Why is this transformation important to God’s kingdom work?


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

[1] James F. White, “Introduction to Christian Worship” (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2000), 175.

[2] White, 175.

[3] Jesus can be understood as the primordial sacrament — “the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). The Sacraments find their ultimate meaning and significance in the reality of Immanuel, God with us.

[4] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 31.