The sacraments Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Reformed Worship
Defining terms Sacraments (sacramentum) Tertullian (c. 200) Military oath; oath of allegiance East, Mysteries (mysterion) – actions with a hidden meaning Rites, Ordinances, Ceremonies
Signsof the Covenant • God often attaches signs to his promises • Noah (Genesis 9) • Abraham (Genesis 17) • To confirm, guarantee, seal the promises • The sacraments–confirmatory signs attached to divine promises
Gen 9:11-12 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
Gen 9:16-17 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. … This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.
Gen 17:7-8 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations … to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings … and I will be their God.
Gen 17:10-11 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
Signsof the Covenant God establishes covt w/ Abr. Promises blessings Gives him sign of circumcision as a seal of the covt promises A guarantee that God will fulfill his promises
Rom 4.11a [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised….
Signsof the Covenant Baptism and Communion, signs of the new covenant Attached to the promises of the covenantas seals As such, they’re a confirmation/guarantee that God will fulfil his promises
Acts 2.38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
Matt 26:27-28 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Word and Sacraments Sacraments not the only means of grace The Word chief means of grace Sacraments subordinate to and serve the Word
Word and Sacraments Appended to the Word as seals Derive their meaning and life from the Word Cannot exist without Word Same grace given through both Word and sacrament
Ex. 24.7-8 Moses took the book of the covenant & read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, & we will be obedient.“ And Moses took the blood & sprinkled it on the people & said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."
Ex. 24.9-11 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. … they beheld God, and ate and drank.
Word and Sacraments Why are the sacraments necessary? Why did God add them to the Word? To seal, confirm his promises Does they need confirmation?
Word and Sacraments Necessary for our sakes Our faith is weak; assailed with doubts; lack assurance Visible supports that build up our faith, remove doubts and uncertainty
Word and Sacraments Not superfluous or unnecessary Bolster our weak faith Assurance is good and desirable
John Calvin “If God chooses to add anything to his Word, it ought not to be regarded as a virtue to reject this addition as superfluous. It is no small insult to God when his goodness is despised in such a manner.... Let us, therefore, learn to embrace the signs along with the Word, since it is not in the power of man to separate them.”
John Calvin “For seeing that we are so weak that we cannot receive him with true heartfelt trust, when he is presented to us by simple doctrine and preaching, the Father of mercy, disdaining not to condescend in this matter to our infirmity, has been pleased to add to his word a visible sign, by which he might represent the substance of his promises, to confirm and fortify us by delivering us from all doubt and uncertainty.”
Robert Bruce (1554-1631) You get a better grip of the same thing in the Sacrament than you got by the hearing of the Word. That same thing which you possess by the hearing of the Word, you now possess more fully. God has more room in your soul, through your receiving of the Sacrament, than He could otherwise have by your hearing of the Word only.
What then, you ask, is the new thing we get? We get Christ better than we did before. We get the thing which we had more fully, that is, with a surer apprehension than we had before. We get a better grip of Christ now, for by the Sacrament my faith is nourished, the bounds of my soul are enlarged, and so
where I had but a little of Christ before, as it were, between my finger and my thumb, now I get Him in my whole hand, and indeed the more my faith grows, the better grip I get of Christ Jesus. Thus the Sacrament is very necessary, if only for the reason that we get Christ better, and get a firmer grasp of Him by the Sacrament, than we could have before.
Word and Sacraments The same Christ is given in both … not another Christ or a better Christ When the Supper is joined to the Word, we receive the same Christ better
Sign and thing signified • A sacrament has two parts • Outward, visible sign • Spiritual grace signified • Union between sign and grace signified by it • Distinguish, not separate
Larger Catechism 163 A. The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ's own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.
WCF 27.2 There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
Sign and thing signified • Two questions to ask: • What is the sign? • What does it signify?
Sign and thing signified • The sign of: • Baptism – washing with water… • Lord’s Supper – bread & wine • The reality signified? • Ultimately, Christ and all the saving benefits of the new covenant
Means of Grace Sacraments are means of saving grace God employs them as means through which Christ & his saving benefits are applied to the elect
Shorter Catechism Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption? A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.
Shorter Catechism Q. 92. What is a sacrament? A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
Shorter Catechism Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation? A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.
Means of Grace • Christ and benefits of salvation are given through means of grace • Through these means, they are: • represented/signified, • sealed/confirmed • and applied/conferred/ communicated to believers
Means of Grace Sacraments are signs, but not empty or bare signs Union between sign & what is signified Signs are means through which the grace signified is given
Means of Grace Holy Spirit uses the means of grace to apply salvation The “grace promised” is “not only offered but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Spirit” through these means (WCF 28.6)
Means of Grace • Means of salvation: • Only for the elect • Only through faith • Only in God’s appointed time • Reformed view vs. Ceremonialism
Means of Grace • Means of salvation: • Cer. For all who receive them • Ref. For the elect alone • Cer. Coincides w/ its administration • Ref. Need not coincide w/ its admin. • Cer. Independent of faith • Ref. Only through faith
Sacraments and faith The role of faith Christ & his saving benefits are received through faith alone No saving benefit can be received apart from faith
Sacraments and faith Contra ex opera operato Not salvation by ceremony Necessity of faith, necessity of the Word Rom. 10.17 – “faith comes by hearing…”
Sacraments and faith Faith receives what is presented by the sign Apart from faith, no saving benefit is received For believers the sign & what’s signified go hand in hand
Three Reformed Views “The Reformed view” vs. Roman Catholic or Lutheran Defined negatively not positively Confusion over what is “the Reformed view”
Three Reformed Views • More than one Reformed view • 3 Common Views • Memorialism (Zwingli?) • Parallelism (Bullinger) • Instrumentalism (Calvin, Knox) • Illustrate with Lord’s Supper
Three Reformed Views • Memorialism: • An aid to the memory • Enables mind to recollect & contemplate significance of Christ’s death • Focuses on “Do this in remembrance of me”
Three Reformed Views • Parallelism: • Symbolizes outwardly what Spirit does inwardly • Two realities are parallel to each other • Defines as “a visible sign of an invisible grace”
Three Reformed Views • Instrumentalism: • Sign doesn’t merely symbolize (as in parallelism) • The grace signified is given by means of the sign • It is a means of saving grace • We receive Christ, not mere symbols of him
Three Reformed Views • The Supper does not merely: • Remind us of our redemption (memorialism) • Or represent our redemption (parallelism). • It makes us recipients of the benefits of our redemption
Baptism Baptism is a sign of forgiveness & cleansing The sign signifies washing away of sin by the blood of Christ The promise is presented in baptism; held out to faith
Luke 3.3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.