Having spoken of preaching and discipline, we come to the difficult subject of the sacraments. It is troubling, to say the least, that the sacraments, appointed by Christ as marks of church unity, are a principle cause of divisions in the church.
On the other hand, it is also true that almost everything a church believes comes to focus in the sacraments, so it is not surprising that they mark the divisions between churches and Christians. We speak of the sacraments, however, not to promote divisions, but with the hope and prayer that there may be unity in the truth.
We recognize, too, that many of our readers will disagree with what we believe and say about the sacraments and therefore ask only that they give us a hearing and prayerfully consider what we say. We promise to do the same should any respond.
What then are the sacraments? The word comes from a Latin word meaning "oath" and though not found in Scripture the word is used because each sacrament is a kind of visible, tangible promise or oath from Christ to us.
It should be clear from Scripture that the word is used to refer to certain rites (what and how many they are we will deal with later), specially given by Christ to His church. These rites are to be used in the church until He comes again (Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:26).
These rites or ceremonies are first of all symbols or signs. That is evident from the fact that Jesus calls the bread of the Lord's Supper His body, and the cup "the new testament in his blood" (that they cannot be this literally will be shown as we go on). It is also evident from the fact that Scripture calls both water baptism and the reality of the washing away of sins by Christ's blood by the same name. They are both called "baptism" in Scripture.
These symbols and signs, as all such, are given to help our faith (Judg. 6:36-40; Lk. 1:18-20; 2:12; etc.). They do that in two ways: (1) by picturing to us invisible, spiritual realities; and (2) by pointing to Christ as the complete Savior. We need them because our faith is often weak and we required to believe without seeing (Jn. 20:29; II Cor. 5:7).
Believing that there is continuity between circumcision and baptism and between the passover and the Lord's Supper, we think that the sacraments are also "seals" (Rom. 4:11). Really, the fact that they are signs means that they must also be seals.
As seals they function not only by way of picturing to and teaching us, but in doing that they are also used by God to strengthen and confirm our faith. They strengthen our faith by assuring us (in baptism) that as really as water washes our bodies, so the blood of Christ our souls, and (in the Supper) that as really as bread and wine nourish and refresh us, so Christ is the food and drink and life of our souls every day of our lives.
The sacraments are, then, a wonderful and remarkable testimony to the goodness and mercy of God, who does not spurn us but supports us in our weakness. For that reason they are necessary and our use of them an evidence of our trust in God.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 22
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA