Sacraments Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Sacraments in Scripture</span></strong></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Scriptural instances of acts ordained by God</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The Bible never uses the word &quot;sacrament&quot;&nbsp; which in Greek means mystery, but it does clearly refer to acts that are ordained by God. While the gospel sacraments are New Testament ordinances, sacraments or sacramental activities are found throughout the Old Testament. God often used material means to convey his promises to people.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 9:13</a>, John Calvin talks about the sacrament of the rainbow appearing to Noah.</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 12</a>, After the Exodus, the Israelites were told to celebrate the Passover, a meal of remembrance.</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">The tabernacle itself was filled with physical objects offering material means by which faith was understood and lived (the altar of burnt offering, incense, the Table of the Presence).</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Baptism was practiced in the old covenant as an act by which proselytes (especially women who could not be circumcised) were inducted into the Jewish faith community.</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 3:3</a>, John the Baptist practice &quot;a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins&quot; at the Jordan.</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Mark 1:8</a>, People flocked to the wilderness for this physical sign of a new life. Jesus also went there to be baptized by John, who had promised One to come after him who &quot;will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Mark 1:10-11</a>, At Jesus&#39; baptism, three remarkable things happen: the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove, and the Father speaks, &quot;You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.&quot; These three actions describe the heart of the meaning of baptism: grace from heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and adoption as sons and daughters in Christ.</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 28:19</a>, Baptism serves as a kind of bookend to Jesus&#39; life and ministry. At one end stands his baptism by John. At the other end, before Jesus ascends, he commands the disciples to &quot;go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.&quot;&nbsp;Jesus&#39; baptism now becomes a Trinitarian baptism because the fullness of the gospel has been made known through his death and resurrection.</span></li><li><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Acts 2:38</a>,&nbsp;After his great Pentecost sermon, Peter declares whathis audience should do: &quot;Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,&quot;&nbsp;showing how baptism is the outward sign of the inner reality of faith and new life in Christ.</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Romans 6:4</a>, The power of baptism&nbsp;is such that Paul appeals to it as the means by which we know we now live a new life in Christ. &quot;Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.&quot;</span></li></ul><p><strong><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="heading-sm">Instituted Meals</span></span></strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="body-copy">The Lord&#39;s Supper or Communion (or Eucharist), was instituted by Christ at his last meal with his disciples.&nbsp;It is significant that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder (<a href="">Luke 22:7</a>). Jesus thus ties this sacrament to the main sacramental meal of the Old Testament, a remembrance of and participation in Israel&#39;s liberation from Egyptian slavery. Around this venerable meal he builds a new sacrament that signifies our liberation from sin and death by his cross and resurrection.</span></span></p><ul><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">Matthew 26:17-30</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">Mark 14:12-2</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">Luke 22:7-20</span></a></li></ul><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">It&#39;s clear from Acts and from Paul&#39;s epistles that the Lord&#39;s&nbsp;Supper became a central and regular feature of Christian worship.</span></p><ul><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">Acts 2:42, 46</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">Acts 20:7, 11</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">1 Cor. 10:14-17</span></a></li><li><a href=""><span style="font-size: 16px;">1 Cor. 11:23-2</span></a></li></ul><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">An i<span class="body-copy">mportant feature of the Lord&#39;s Supper is the fact that it is a meal of remembrance: &quot;Do this in remembrance of me.&quot; However, it&#39;s crucial to understand that this remembrance was not merely an act of recalling a past event. Remembrance in Scripture is identifying oneself with that particular act. The Passover feast was meant not just to recall the event, but &quot;so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt&quot; (<a href="">Deut. 16:3</a>). It was an act not only of recalling, but of participating in that Exodus community. So too, the remembrance of the Lord&#39;s Supper means that p</span>articipants identify themselves as those redeemed through the shed blood and broken body of the Lord.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Communion Paul&#39;s extensive discussion of the Lord&#39;s&nbsp;Supper in 1 Corinth<span class="body-copy">ians 11 revolves around its abuse. While meant to be a meal that united believers in Christ (<a href="">1 Corinthians 10:17</a>), it had become a meal of disunity (<a href="">1 Corinthians 11:17-22</a>). Parti</span>cipants in the Lord&#39;s Supper must discern the body of Christ (particularly its unity) so as not to &quot;eat and drink judgment against themselves&quot; (<a href="">1 Corinthians 11:29</a>).</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Eucharist Another important biblical feature of the Lord&#39;s Supper is its eschatol<span class="body-copy">ogical focus. Jesus says he will not eat it again &quot;until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God&quot; (<a href="">Luke 22:16</a>). Paul writes that in this meal we &quot;proclai</span>m the Lord&#39;s death until he comes&quot; (<a href="">1 Corinthians 11:26</a>). The Lord&#39;s Supper points to its fulfillment in the &quot;marriage supper of the Lamb&quot; at the end of time (<a href="">Revelation 19:9</a>).</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="heading-lg">Reflections on Sacraments</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Word and sacrament are bound tightly together. Without the Word the sacrament becomes an empty act. Without the sacrament, the Word becomes a mere idea in the mind. When Word and sacrament function together, we have the whole of the gospel for embodied persons.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">The sacraments have beco<span class="body-copy">me, unfortunately, a point of division in the Christian church. The main divide is roughly between those who understand the sacraments to actually convey spiritual reality (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and, with some differences, Lutheran, Anglican, and non-Zwinglian Reformed) and those who see them as mere symbols, pointing to spiritual reality without actually imparting it. It&#39;s interesting to note that those who understand the </span></span><span style="font-size: 16px;">Lord&#39;s</span><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy"> Supper as actually conveying spiritual reality typically celebrate it far more often. Also, if baptism is merely a symbolic act of one&#39;s faith commitment, it can be</span> experienced more than once, while if it in some way conveys new life in Christ, it is once and for all.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">If we do underst<span class="body-copy">and that the sacraments perform what they say, then how do we understand them to relate to faith? Most Christians would hesitate to say that the sacraments, in and of themselves, confer salvation. One way to understand the relationship of faith to sacraments is that we do not believe in them, as though they save us, but that we believe in Christ through them. In this sense they serve as &quot;handles&quot; for our f</span>aith to grasp.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&quot;When faith exists as a struggle t<span class="body-copy">o believe . . . when the whole life of feeling is dead, when nothing is left but a stark loyalty to God. . . then the sheer objectivity, even the express materialism, of sacrament gives it a value that nothing</span> else can have.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Temple, William.&nbsp;<em>Nature, Man, and God</em>.&nbsp;Macmillan 1935, p. 491.)</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&quot;Do you ask what new thing we get in a sacrament? I say we get Christ better than we did before: we get a better grip of Christ now.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Robert Bruce, 17[th] century Scottish preacher, quoted in MacGregor,&nbsp;Geddes.<em>&nbsp;Corpus Christi</em>.&nbsp;Macmillan 1959, p. 181)</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&quot;I don&#39;t partake because I am <span class="body-copy">a good Catholic, holy and pious and sleek. I part</span>ake because I&#39;m a bad Catholic, riddled by doubt and anxiety and anger: fainting from severe hypoglycemia of the soul.&quot;&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 14px;">(Nancy&nbsp;</span><span class="body-copy-sm">Mairs, quoted by Yancey,&nbsp;Phillip.&nbsp;<em>What&#39;s So Amazing About Grace?</em>&nbsp;Zondervan 1997, p. 190)</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Luther was heard to cry out when sorely besieged by doubt, sin, and the devil, &quot;I have been baptized!&quot;&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">[We must] &quot;reclaim the worship practices of an embodied faith, the bath and the feast that demonstrate Christ&#39;s real presence in a world grown weary of mere words.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Andy Crouch, from a book recommendation on&nbsp;Christ, <em>Baptism, and the L<span class="small-caps">ord&#39;s</span> Supper</em>.&nbsp;Intervarsity Press, 2004.)</span></span></p><p><span class="heading-lg">Affirmation of Faith about Sacraments</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Belgic Confession, Article 33</span></strong>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">We believe that our goo<span class="body-copy">d God,</span></span><br /><span class="body-copy">mindful of our crudeness and weakness,<br />has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us,<br />to pledge good will and grace toward us,<br />and also to nourish and sustain our faith.<br />God has added these to the Word of the gospel<br />to represent better to our external senses both<br />what God enables us to understand by the Word<br />and what he does inwardly in our hearts,<br />confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us.<br />For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible,<br />by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.<br />So they are not empty and hollow sig</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">ns to fool and deceive us,<br />for their truth is Jesus Christ without whom they would be nothing.</span></p>