Paula raised an interesting question. If we change something from a symbol to a sacrament, does that completely change the purpose for observing it?
First, I don’t even care for the word “sacraments”. It is a word that reeks of religious ritualism and making the Lord’s Supper and baptism into mere rituals we observe so we can mark a box on a checklist: “Yep, we’re a real church” is a grotesque mockery. That doesn't mean we shouldn't engage in these symbols of the gathered church because Rome and others have turned them into something they were never intended to be. Just the opposite. We should baptize new believers as a glorious expression of the change that God has wrought in them. The Supper should be an integral part of our regular gatherings, not because that makes us more pious but because it is such a wonderful expression of fellowship. It shouldn’t be something that is done as a ritualistic passing of crackers. The Supper is a time of fellowship and an act of proclamation. How can we truly say we are “proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes” by nibbling a cracker that is passed around in a room full of relative strangers?
Both the Lord’s Supper and baptism are symbols of something else. They are not the end in and of themselves, nor is there a magical transformation based on an incantation made by an ordained clergyman. Pagans eat bread and drink wine and they bathe on occasion so the elements are not inherently the “main thing”. It is what they represent and the place that they hold in the community of believers that is the “main thing”. This is a potential issue in a lot of areas. For example, if you cover your head because you consciously recognize it as a Scriptural command with real meaning and purpose that goes beyond just an external, that is great. If you cover because it is just a cultural thing you do or just for the sake of covering, that is replacing what it symbolizes (submission) with the symbol itself (the covering).
“Do this in remembrance of Me” becomes “Do this for the sake of doing this”. The symbol becomes the place of emphasis. This is why we have endless fights over the mode and recipients of baptism, over the frequency and form of the Lord’s Supper in spite of the utter lack of specifics on mode in the New Testament. We are never told to ritualize the Lord' Supper. That is again a holdover from Rome, a means of separating the clergy from the laity and controlling people through the threat of withholding the Eucharist.
When we use terms like “means of grace” and “real presence”, we lose focus on where Christ placed His focus. Was the focus of the Last Supper on the bread and the cup? No, it was on the upcoming cross and the call to the disciples to love and serve one another. Does Paul focus on the form and the (non-existent) liturgy? No, Paul is concerned with the nature of the fellowship and the purpose for gathering. The “real presence” is in the fellowship of God’s people. Where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there among them (Matt 18:20). Not where two or three are gathered around a table with the elements, there I am among the elements.
The same holds true with the other “sacrament” of baptism. Baptism is done in response to being born again, symbolic of the internal change that has happened. It represents the renouncing of sin and the desire to walk as He walked. Baptism is not a rite of passage or an inherently effectual ceremony. As Alan Knox has pointed out, the emphasis in the New Testament is not on water baptism at all. It is on the spirit baptism of Christ.
If we gather for the purpose of "sacraments" instead of the "sacraments" being something that is part of what we do when we gather, we have the order backwards.