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Eight-sided baptisteries and the resurrection of Jesus

There are two rites/ceremonials acts that God has given the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both of these are simple actions that symbolize much deeper, greater realities. Singing is singing and praying is praying, but when it comes to baptism and the Supper, there’s something more than what meets the eye. There is water, juice, and cracker, but these are all symbols of something more.

And as such, they are rich, profound, and multi-dimensional and we need to be careful that we don’t unintentionally minimize them by taking one picture or one passage of Scripture and making it the picture or passage that we focus on to the exclusion of all others. Baptism must not become Acts 2:38. The Supper must not become Acts 20:7. These are important texts that teach wonderful truths --- but they are not the only Scriptures or truths on the subject. We stifle and impoverish ourselves if we treat them that way.

Among other things, both of these rites are closely aligned with the resurrection of Jesus. Romans 6:4-5 is instructive in regard to baptism and the resurrection:

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection."

It’s clear that the ceremony of baptism is predicated upon the resurrection. Part of its deeper meaning has to do with its connection to the resurrection of Jesus --- specifically, the belief that as Jesus was raised from the dead to a new life, so the recipient of baptism will be raised out of the water to a new life. Peter plainly states that baptism "saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," (1 Peter 3:21). The saving power of baptism does not reside in the person being baptized, the person doing the baptizing, or the water itself --- it is in Jesus and His resurrection! Baptism is simply the act of faith that connects us to Him.

Early Christian seemed to be especially attuned to this as some of the earliest baptisteries discovered have been octagonal in shape --- eight being the number of resurrection. (This probably arose from there being seven days in a week, making the eighth day the start of a new week and eight the number of something new). It’s not hard to see from this their association of baptism with the resurrection.

The Lord’s Supper shares a similar emphasis. Although it is a proclamation of the death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:26), the thought of the resurrection is always close by. In fact, the two are best thought of as different sides of the same coin so that even when you are focusing on one, the other isn’t far away. That’s true in this text, for the death he wants us to consider is a death that resulted in life (resurrection). Furthermore, it is a death we proclaim "until He comes," which wouldn’t be possible if there wasn’t a resurrection. And when is this Supper taken? The Lord’s Supper is taken on the Lord’s day --- the first day of the week. Now we’re back to the eighth day, the day of resurrection historically as well as figuratively.

A couple of things should be obvious from this little piece. The first is that there is a vital connection between the resurrection of Jesus with both baptism and the Supper. The bigger truth is that God has richly blessed the church with the rites of the Supper and baptism. We stifle and impoverish ourselves if we fail to explore the grandeur of these symbols and all our Father wants to communicate to us through them.

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