The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 30: Of the Lord's Supper - Commentary

...s the basis, which created His mystical body, the Church. The Church is composed of born-again believers who make up the Universal Church of Christ. As we partake of the Lord's Supper in the gathering of God's people, we are united not only to Christ but also to each other, as a family of believers, meditating upon the work of Christ and receiving the benefits of that work from Him. We are drawn together by that singular sacrifice which made us the family of God.

Benjamin Coxe, the father of Nehemiah Coxe, one of the framers of the Confession, observed the four following things on 1 Corinthians 10:16-17:

1. True believers rightly receiving this Holy Sacrament, are thereby assured of their partaking of the benefits of Christ's death.

2. All they who do outwardly receive this Sacrament do therein make an outward profession of receiving Christ crucified, and partaking of the benefits of Christ's death.

3. This Sacrament does teach and assure all true believing communicants, that they being many persons, are yet one mystical body, because they are all partakers of one and the same Jesus Christ, of whose body the bread is an ordained token and pledge in this Sacrament.

4. They who join together in outward receiving of this Sacrament do both join together in the profession of the same faith in Christ, and also do profess themselves to be (in the judgment of charity, which they now mutually profess concerning each other) fellow members of the same mystical body, as being all fed with the same spiritual food.[2]


§2 Only A Memorial Of That One Offering Up Of Himself By Himself

  1. In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ's own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
    1. John 19:30; Heb. 9:25-28; 10:10-14; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25
    2. Matt. 26:26-27, 30 with Heb 13:10-16

The Roman Catholic View

The Mass is the heart of the Roman Catholic religion and liturgy, by their admission. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the following designation for the Lord's Supper:

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church's whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this Sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of Sacraments; the Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.[3]

Therefore, if their doctrine of the Mass and the Eucharist (as they most often call it) is proven wrong, their whole religion and worship are proven wrong. The Eucharist is the center of Roman Catholic worship, therefore, if someone wants to refute Roman Catholicism, it is necessary for them to deal with this Sacrament as Roman Catholics understand it. Roman Catholics understand that the Eucharist is not only a memorial, but it is actually an unbloody sacrifice. They believe that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood when the priest speaks the words “this is my body” (Latin: Hoc est corpus meum). Although the bread still tastes like bread and the...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper - Commentary

...

Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper

What does it mean that the ordinances are positive institution? What is the difference between the Reformed and Roman Catholic understanding of the Sacraments? Who may administer the ordinances?


§1 Ordinances Of Positive And Sovereign Institution

  1. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. 2
    1. Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25[1]
    2. Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:13-17; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor. 11:26; Luke 22:14-20

Baptism and the Lord's Supper are two ordinances or Sacraments which the Lord Jesus by sovereign authority instituted and commanded us to observe. Now, what does the word “positive” mean in the sentence “positive and sovereign institution”? Does it mean something that is happy and good, over against something negative and bad? No, that is not the contextual meaning of the word. Rather, by “positive institution” or “positive command,” the Confession means an institution or a command that is not inherently moral. A person who has not read the Bible or heard of the God of the Bible, still knows that murder is wrong and lying is bad. But, can it be argued that they know that not being baptized is sin and not partaking of the Lord's Supper is sin? Obviously not. So, these things, just like the command of Genesis 2:16-17 in the Garden, are things which are not inherently moral, but become moral when God commands them. They are things that are good because commanded, in contrast to pure moral laws that are commanded because they are good. The Lord Christ, by His own power and authority, established two ordinances for the New Covenant people of God. But, what do we mean by ordinance or Sacrament? A.H. Strong writes, "By the ordinances, we mean those outward rites which Christ has appointed to be administered in his church as visible signs of the saving truth of the gospel. They are signs, in that they vividly express this truth and confirm it to the believer.”[2] They are the only visible signs which God has given His people to show the truths of the Gospel with. He has not allowed us to use image of any of the blessed Persons of the Trinity (see here), but has given us the bread and wine, and the waters of baptism as signs which symbolize the truths of the Gospel.

These two ordinances are to be continued to the end of this world. In the case of the Supper, this could be seen in 1 Corinthians 11:26. We proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore, since He has not yet come, we should celebrate the Lord's Supper. Furthermore, His coming will be at the end of the age (Matt. 13:36-43). Therefore, as long as this present age goes on, the people of God ought to proclaim the Lord's death through the cup and the bread. As for baptism, the Lord, before ascending to His rightful throne, commanded us:

Matt. 28:19-20 ​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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

An important part of discipleship is the baptism of believers. Therefore, as long as people believe, baptism should be practiced. As long as the Lord Jesus receives new disciples, baptism should be observed. After t...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...p? How long should the sermon be? How long should the service be? How many songs do we sing? How often should the Lord’s Supper be administered? These are circumstances of worship, not elements or parts. Concerning the elements of worship, Tim Challies writes:

Said simply, the elements of worship are the “what” of worship - the parts that are fixed according to Scripture. Examining the New Testament will show the elements that are permitted and commanded by Scripture. These include reading Scripture, prayer, singing, preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper.[20]

We will discuss the elements of worship in paragraph 5 of this chapter. The elements or parts of worship is what worship is. The elements of worship define the corporate worship of Christ's Church. They are the essence. On the other hand, the circumstances of worship, Challies writes:

The circumstances of worship are the “how” of worship - the conditions that determine the best way to worship God within the structure provided by the elements…The Directory of Worship for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church states, “The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given his church a large measure of liberty in this matter.” While there is little freedom in the elements of worship, there is great freedom within them according to circumstances. However, as with every area of life, this freedom must be exercised cautiously and in a way consistent with Scripture.[20]

The circumstances of worship are those things which we could do without. While on the other hand, the elements or parts of worship are the things which we could not do without. If prayer or preaching is removed from the service, then an element and not a circumstance of worship is removed. But if, for example, the service starts at 12 o’clock instead of 10 o’clock, or a church decides to no longer use the beamer, then there is no change in the elements of worship, but merely the circumstances. Derek Thomas observes:

Thus, the regulative principle as such may not be invoked to determine whether contemporary or traditional songs are employed, whether three verses or three chapters of Scripture are read, whether one long prayer or several short prayers are made, or whether a single cup or individual cups with real wine or grape juice are utilized at the Lord’s Supper. To all of these issues, the principle “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) must be applied.[2]

It is in the circumstances where the most differences are found in those churches which hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship.

Who Can Worship God Perfectly?

Christ the Lord was the only Man who has worshiped God perfectly “in spirit and truth.” We all fall miserably short. God demands perfect worship, but we are unable to give God His due. Like all His Ten Commandments, no one can keep them perfectly, because they do not merely concern outward things, but they deal with the heart. Therefore, the Regulative Principle should drive us to the Lord Jesus and we should beseech Him to teach us through His Word and Spirit about how we ought to worship the Triune God “in spirit and truth.” We should pray that we may be further sanctified to worship God more truthfully. Even those who hold to the Regulative Principle are able to sin in not worshipping God truly with their heart. The elements and parts of wor...


A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

... the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  • Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  • Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  • Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  • Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  • Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  • Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the Sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s promise assures us there is basic, fundamental unity between the sign and the thing signified. The water and the Spirit cannot be divided.” (p. 16, from The Federal Vision, edited by Steve Wikins and Duane Garner)
  • Paedofaith – Some Federal Vision theologians claim that covenant children are regenerate from the womb. Basically, Christian parents receive Christian and thus believing children from God. “God gives us children with faith. Covenant children begin life as believers, not in need of conversion, but endurance (cf. Heb. 10:36). They should be received and raised as children of God.” (p. 18, from Mark Horne, Why Baptist Babies?)
  • Although it was really nice to know about all the different positions about infant baptism, the author seeks to directly combat one position and that is the Westminster position (positions 4 and 5). It’s not like from the earliest days of infant baptism that the church understood it was the sign of the Covenant of Grace, or that it did not wash away sin. That is clearly not the case.

    The old churc...