I like the imagery Paul uses in his letter to the Roman Saints as he teaches them about sin, grace, justification and salvation. He contrasts the actions of Adam and Christ and parallels them with death and life. Sin, or transgression, brought death into the world – and us. Grace through the Atonement of Jesus Christ brought life, both spiritual (hope and light, and the promise of an eternal life) and physical (resurrection), back into the world. But we come unto Christ by symbolically dying – dying to sin – and being born into new life, a life of faith, hope and light, through grace. Grace, brought to us through the Saviour’s Atonement, is the physical and spiritual life-giving power. We show respect or gratitude for having been saved from death through this grace (symbolised by our baptism) through the Sacrament. We are no longer dead, but alive – our faith in Christ has brought us back to life. (See Romans 5 & 6).
The Sacrament is both symbolism and souvenir – it is a reminder that we have been brought to life through the grace of Christ; that rebellion (wilful sin) has been put to death in us. We remain alive by continuing to follow God. Going back to rebellion against Him in any form (not following His prophets, knowingly doing wrong, being unforgiving – anything that goes with the Natural Man) will ‘kill’ us again. First, it makes us sick, and if persisted in – if it becomes habitual in us – then we will die spiritually. The Sacrament reminds us that we are palace citizens, and have promised to obey the king. We remind ourselves of our part, and our Saviour’s part. It is a symbol of life. It is our memory of love, sacrifice, things put behind, and things to come. (See especially Romans 6, and also Mosiah 27: 24-26 and 3:19).
As we continue to sincerely do this act, our lives become sanctified (holy); we become more and more alive – alive to God and to our true selves; alive to life – real, true life. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Until we are alive in Christ, we haven’t known real life; we have been living only a shadow of it.
Further reading: John 6:27-58 – Jesus as the symbolic bread of life.