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

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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 ordinances and commandments of positive and sovereign institution. They have been instituted and commanded by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver and are therefore to be obeyed and continued in His church to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20; 1Cor. 11:26). What does it mean that the ordinances are of positive and sovereign institution? It means that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are moral commandments which are added to the moral law already existing. They are not things which of themselves are moral, but they are moral because they have been instituted and appointed by the Lord Jesus. They are given to us as a law, which the Lord Jesus Christ, by His power and authority as Head, King and Lawgiver of the church  has  instituted. Finally, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only ordinances under the New Covenant which the Confession speaks about. Christ has given us only to ordinances which we ought to obey, not seven Sacraments according to Roman Catholic teaching.


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...


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

... and praise the Lord for what Jesus did for us on the cross.


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 wine tastes like wine, yet in actuality, there is a change in the substance of the bread and wine. Thus, the doctrine of Transubstantiation (see paragraph 6 below), which means the change of the substance from one to another. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).[4]

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine,152 fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts of the Creator. the Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering.[5]

Thus, as the bread and wine change into the substance of Christ's body, the priest offers the sacrifice of Christ anew, although in an unbloody manner, through which the people receive remission of sins. In other words, this sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory and is repeated. So, instead of the Lord’s Supper being merely a memorial of that once for all sacrifice, it is actually a propitiatory sacrifice of Christ in an unbloody manner again and again. What is even worse, this propitiatory sacrifice is not only offered on behalf of those living and partaking of the Eucharist but also on behalf of the dead in Purgatory. The Catechism again:

As sacrifice, the ...


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

... 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 an...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

...ment

We conclude with Q&A 108 and 109 of the WLC:[15]

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the Sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

The Third Commandment

Exod. 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

See also Deut. 5:11.

General Observations On The 3rd Commandment

The third commandment calls us to not dishonor God and the things of God. We understand that by the “name of the LORD” is not simply meant the tetragrammaton (יהוה), but rather more fully as God and the things belonging to Him. Any shallow Bible reader will understand that in the Bible names are important. They are not merely there because they sound nice, but they have meaning. A name points beyond a designation to the nature and the person Himself. For example, in the Great Commission our Lord says that the disciples should be baptized in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The singular “name” here of the three persons of the Trinity refers to their unity and common Being. It refers to Their nature, character and authority. Likewise in the Third Commandment, the Name which is not to be blasphemed and not to be used irreverently does not merely refer to words like “God”, “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”, “Yahweh” or “OMG”, but rather it refers to all things pertaining to God. In Exodus 34:5-7 God came down to Moses and “proclaimed the name of the LORD.” But how did God do that? Verse 6-7 tell us—by proclaiming His excellences and attributes.

The third commandment forbids and says that God abhors “all profaning and abusing of any thing whereby God makes Himself known”[23] (Keach’s Catechism, Q&A 61). This includes speaking disrespectfully of God and of the things of God, not taking God seriou...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

... they who profess the gospel and obedience unto God may be called visible saints.


All Christians are saints. It's not a title special which the Pope places on some people who were “holy.” Being a saint, contrary to the usual meaning of the term, does not mean being perfect, but it means being someone who is set apart by God for holy use. Everyone who professes the true faith of the Gospel may be called a saint and welcomed as a brother or sister. Obviously, some professing believers will be just that—professors of the faith, but not possessors of the faith. They are welcomed into our fellowships, receive the Sacraments unbeknown to us that they're actually not true believers. We cannot look into peoples’ hearts, but we must listen to what comes out of their mouths and what their conduct is. Those who participate in church fellowship, but are not true believers, will certainly have some restraints because of the preaching of God's Word. This is the case for example in 2 Peter 2:17-22 (see here). Some of them may remain professing believers until death. Some will fall away from the church and go into other religions or atheism. Some will come to true repentance and faith in Christ. But the fact is, such professing believers, should be treated as believers unless their mouth or their lives prove otherwise.

1Cor. 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Paul writes to a local church of God which is located in Corinth, but his words apply to the universal church as well. Paul did not have special insight into who is a true believer and who is not. He took people at their word and judged from their conduct if they're true believers or not. Some were successful in deceiving him (e.g. 2Tim. 2:10, 16). He is writing to those who are sanctified in Christ. They have been set apart in Christ for God. They are made unique, not because they were unique, but God by bestowing His grace upon them has made them unique. Therefore, if they're sanctified they are to be known as those who are sanctified by the title “saints.” They are called by God to be saints. They are called to be sanctified in Christ by the Spirit. Here we see a simple congregation, who certainly was not free of error, being unhesitatingly called saints by Paul. He did not apply this title to particular persons alone, but to all those who are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and who “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The same is true of the believers in Rome (Rom. 1:7). We may distinguish certain people for their work for the Church or the impact that they had, but “saint” is not the word for that, as all members of the New Covenant are saints by calling.


§3 Christ Always Hath Had, And Ever Shall Have A Kingdom In This World

  1. The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name. 3
    1. 1 Cor. 1:11; 5:1; 6:6; 11:17-19; 3 John 9-10; Rev. 2; 3
    2. Rev. 2:5 with 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:14-15; Rev. 18:2
    3. Matt. 16:18; 24:14; 28:20; Mark 4:30-32; Ps. 72:16-18; 102:28; Isa. 9:6-7; Rev. 12:17; 20:7-9

There are no churches with no doctrinal ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

.../strong. See also chapter 29 on this question.

As for the sign or signs of the covenant, I argue in chapter 29 that the signs of the New Covenant are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Circumcision is not replaced by baptism, rather, circumcision is fulfilled by circumcision of the heart. Need I mention, that therefore, only those in the New Covenant are entitled to the Covenant Sacraments and promises?

Conclusion

First things first, I must ask for forgiveness because I said that I would like to keep this short, but failed miserably. I actually enjoyed this study of Covenant Theology that took me something like a month or more to finish writing [aside from later repeatedly updating it]. I had to revisit a lot of books that I've read on Baptist Covenant Theology to check how things were. I tried to use the Scriptures and explain the Scriptures as much as possible, since I believe often with the study of Covenant Theology, I do not hear much Scripture but names of men who have stood on both sides (Westminster and 1689), while that is great and encouraging, I wanted to focus on the Scripture. Not to deny that I've benefited a lot from reading Owen obviously and made me stronger 1689 Federalist than I was beginning this study.

What sets 1689 Federalism apart is our insistence that the Covenant of Grace was not established, enacted and “cut” any time before the death of Christ. The Covenant of Grace did indeed exist since Genesis 3:15, but it did exist in the form of a promise, not an established covenant. Every covenant of God did shadow and typify it and contained promises concerning it, but was not an administration of it. The Covenant of Grace was established, ratified, enacted and "cut" in the blood of Christ and in the New Covenant. We believe that the Covenant of Grace was established and cut in the New Covenant, thus, the Covenant of Grace is the retroactive New Covenant. Lastly, this is diagram is from Pascal Denault's work which represents the 1689 Federalist understanding of the Covenant of Grace as being revealed by farther steps but was concluded and established in the New Covenant/Testament.

1689 Federalist Covenant Theology Diagram

 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

(Jeremiah 31:31)

[updated 19/07/2018]


Footnotes

  1. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by Samuel Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which was apparently supplied by the Westminster Confession of Faith 1646.
  2. ^ Wikipedia. Covenant Theology
  3. ^ Theopedia. Covenant
  4. ^ Nehemiah Coxe in Nehemiah Coxe & John Owen. Covenant Theology: From Adam To Christ. Edited by Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, Francisco Orozco. (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005). p. 36.
  5. ^ Cited in Recovering A Covenantal Heritage: Essays In Baptist Covenant Theology. Edited by Richard C. Barcellos. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2014). p. 230, n. 10.
  6. ^ Arthur W. Pink. The Divine Covenants. (Memphis, TN: Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2011). p. 26.
  7. ^ Richard C. Barcellos. Getting the Garden Right: Adam's Work and God's Rest in Light of Christ. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017). pp. 56-66.
  8. ^ Coxe, Covenant Theology. pp. 36-37.
  9. ^ Richard Barcellos. The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2016). p. 53.
  10. ^ Pascal Denault. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: : A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Bap...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...ise signifies the fact that we are walking in newness of life with Christ our Lord, because of His resurrection and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is also signified by water baptism is the cleansing of sins. It is not the water, but the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin. But we are to go into the water to publicly identify with our Lord and show the spiritual realities in the physical, divine ordinance of water baptism.

Signs And Seal Of The Covenant

It is said in the Westminster Confession 28:1 that baptism is “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace” and in 27:1 that the “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace.” The 1689 omits these two things in their respective chapters, but does this entail a denial and rejection of these things? It does entail a denial of some aspects, but not an entire denial. Baptists reject that baptism functions as a seal of the Covenant of Grace, rather, it is the Holy Spirit who is named to be the seal on believers in the New Testament. The same is true for the Lord's Supper; it is not a seal of the New Covenant, but the Holy Spirit is the seal. But we do believe that the holy ordinances do function as signs of the New Covenant.

In 1689 Federalist understanding, the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant before it was formally established in in the blood of Christ. In contrast, in Westminster Federalism, the New Covenant is an administration of the Covenant of Grace. Westminster Federalism teaches that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace. But the Covenant of Grace reaches its final administration and revelation in the New Covenant. But we, 1689 Federalists, deny this. We believe rather that the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace was revealed in these covenants and the blessings thereof given to the elect, but not because of the covenant they found themselves in, but because they believed the promise. We believe that the Covenant of Grace, prior to the cross, existed in promise form, and not an established covenant. As John Owen famously said, “Believers were saved under it [the Mosaic Covenant], but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.”[18] See more on 1689 Federalism and the case for it in chapter 7.

Signs

What do we actually mean by a sign and a seal? A sign is something visible which points to inward and spiritual realities. The rainbow was the visible sign of the Noahic Covenant, it functioned as a token (“Something serving as an indication, proof, or expression of something else”[19]) that God will not destroy the earth by water again (Gen. 9:13-17). Circumcision functioned as a visible sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which symbolized the need to be cleansed from sin through blood spilling. For Abraham, it was a sign and a seal of the faith which he had prior to circumcision (Rom. 4:11). The Sabbath functioned as a visible sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It functioned as a sign that God had set His people apart (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). There is no sign mentioned in connection with the Davidic or the New Covenant explicitly. But the throne would probably fit as a visible sign for David that he will always have someone from his posterity to sit on it and rule over Israel. As for the New Covenant, we only have two “positive and sovereign institution[s]” (1689 28:1). I admit from the start that we have no text in the New Tes...