The Sacraments

In my last post I wrote about the importance of the Word of God as one of the means by which the Lord sanctifies his covenant people. Today I would like us to turn our thoughts to the second of the ordinary means of grace: the sacraments. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives an excellent definition in its answer to the question, What is a sacrament? 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.

 

First of all, we are told it is an holy ordinance that has been instituted by Christ. In other words, some pastor didn’t say, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we give out bread and wine during the worship service? It will be a really neat way to remind people of what Christ did for us on the cross!” Man does not have the authority to determine how to worship the living God, only God can decide that (Ask Nadab and Abihu how their novel idea for worship worked out in Leviticus 10:1-3). Christ himself instituted Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as legitimate ways for His people to worship Him in Spirit and truth.

 

Secondly, sensible signs are used in this means of grace. Not sensible in terms of rational, but sensible in terms of our five senses. While images are expressly forbidden in the worship of God, God has condescended to us in these two ordinances alone, to use the signs of bread and wine (in the Lord’s Supper), and water (in Baptism) to aid us in our worship of God. It would be good to mention that even here; the Word of God is of utmost importance in explaining to us the meaning of these sensible signs as God is worshipped by His people.

 

Thirdly, it is Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, [that] are represented, sealed, and applied to believers. We see portrayed (represented) in the sacraments, Christ’s sacrificial death (in the Lord’s Supper), and the cleansing of sin that was the result of His death (in Baptism). Along with that we are given His promise (seal) that he will redeem all who believe, and sanctify (apply) those who are truly His children.

 

Last of all, we see that the sacraments are not justifying ordinances, but sanctifying ordinances. The sacraments are used by God for the benefit of those who have already been justified, or in the case of the children of believers, those who will one day be justified if they believe the Gospel. May the Lord continue to grow us in His grace for our good and for His glory.

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2 Comments

  1. Branson said,

    March 4, 2009 at 2:18 PM

    Just a quick note to say I’m glad you’ve started this again. Lately I’ve really been missing having you around to hash out ministry discussions, and this has been a nice reminder of the basics God has given us. Hope the family is well.

    Keep Soaring.

  2. Sandra A. said,

    March 5, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Wow, it is a shame I just now came to your site! Yet our Father is gracious and I am greatly encouraged to read all you have written in one sitting.
    Thank you for giving us an opportunity to reflect on our glorious GOD. You give him much glory and honor and we, your friends and “brethren and sistren” benefit.


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