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Doctrine of the Church: The Marks of the True Church (Right Administration of the Sacraments)

April 9, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Topic: Doctrine of the Church Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:14–17, 1 Corinthians 10:21, 1 Corinthians 11:23–30


  • 1 Cor 10:14–17,21
  • 1 Cor 11:23–30

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 25 Article 4

Review/ Introduction

Last week we started speaking about the marks of the true church.

As was shared last week, it is very important to understand the implications of these marks.

These are the criteria by which a church is to be tried and tested and confirmed as being truly part of the catholic church.

In our day, there seems to be churches all around – and most people think that simply because the word “Church” is in the name, then it must be a safe Church.

But, as we are learning, we want to be careful. In order to be a true church, there must be 3 marks.

  1. The pure preaching of the gospel
  2. The right administration of the sacraments
  3. The right exercise of discipline.

If these things are managed according to the Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church

  • Then hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.

This is often misunderstood.

There is, today, a tendency or understanding that we have to find the perfect church.

  • By perfect, we are to understand that the church must be in full agreement with whatever the person wants

No, if we truly understand the purpose of the marks of the church, then we will understand the purpose is:

  • Not to glorify man by teaching what he wants to hear, by the tickling of the ears. (2 Timothy 4)
  • But to glorify God – first and foremost.
  • And to grow together in the unity of Christ for the perfecting of the saints.

The decision to attend a local church is a decision to serve and not to judge.

  • It is a decision to worship God in obedience.

Once it is reasonably established that this church or that church is a true church of Jesus Christ…

Once it is reasonably established that a church is the most sound church in an area that one can attend…

  • It is to be joined for the sake of seeing the Church of Christ advance.
  • We do not remain critical and aloof from her.

So, you see how very critical it is for a proper understanding and a proper response and a proper use of the marks of the Church.

  • A Christian must have, as their primary goal, the glory of Christ and the purity of the Church and the advancement of the Church in this world.

To determine whether a particular church is sound, is a true church:

  • We must first know that they are preaching the pure gospel.

If a different gospel is being preached, then so also:

  • A different Christ is being preached.
  • A different Spirit is being preached.
  • A different God is being preached.

For example:

  • If a church preaches that one can resist Christ…
  • If a church preaches that Christ can only hope that you choose Him…
  • If a church preaches that God is not sovereign and almighty…
  • If a church preaches that not even Christ can overcome your faith…
  • If a church preaches that you must take the first step towards your salvation…
  • If a church preaches that you have a free will that God cannot turn…
  • If a church preaches that God desires all men to be saved but just can’t quite accomplish His own will…

Then that church does not have the 1st mark of a true church.

Then that church is preaching a false gospel.

The 2nd Mark of a True Church

The right administration of the sacraments.

The sacraments are and must be bound to the Word.

If the sacraments are separated from the word, the sacraments become mystical in their usage.

The sacraments are given to the church:

  • as a means of grace for which we are to grow
    • in the knowledge
    • in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sacraments remind us:

  • of the teaching of the Word
  • of the exercise of faith
  • of the faithfulness of God
  • of the gospel of Christ
  • of our duties as covenant keepers

There are only two sacraments given by Christ:

  • Baptism
  • The Lord's Supper.

These sacraments may only be dispensed by a minister of the word, lawfully ordained.

  • Only an ordained minister is given authority to dispense the sacraments as they are given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
  • Any other conducting baptism or communion is doing so unlawfully and against the good and necessary understanding of Scripture.


Baptism is commanded by Christ in Matthew 28.19:

  • Triune baptism is required.
  • Profession of faith is required of adults.
  • Child baptism is required by believing parents.

Baptism is about making disciples of all the nations:

  • Baptism does not, in and of itself, save.
  • Baptism does not, in and of itself, regenerate.

The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is commanded Acts 2.42.

The breaking of the bread is in reference to the Lord's Supper.

  • in which practice they continued steadfastly.

The Lord’s Supper requires:

  • Baptism by a true church of Christ
  • Membership in good standing
    • In a like-minded true church of Christ
  • Knowledge and understanding of the Lord’s body, the elements, the symbolism, the meaning

The Purpose of the Sacraments

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 27

The purpose of the sacraments are to represent Christ and His benefits, which He gives:

  • to his people,
  • to confirm our interest in him,
  • to put a visible difference between those that belong to the church and the rest of the world,
  • to solemnly engage them in the service of God in Christ according to His Word.

In each sacrament, there is a spiritual relation or union between the sign and the thing that is signified.

Signs and Seals of the Covenant

Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace instituted by God to represent Christ.

They are based upon God's covenant with man.

  • They represent certain aspects of that covenant.

They are signs and seals:

  • which distinguish the Church of Jesus Christ from the rest of the world.

The sacraments are visible signs and seals of what the Word of God teaches us.

A sign means that the sacrament points away from itself to something else:

  • a greater spiritual reality.

The seal is what God has given for us as a guarantee:

  • that if we believe:
    • He will do what that sign signifies.
    • He will pour out His regenerating Spirit.
    • He will nourish us to eternal life with regard to the Lord's Supper.

Sacraments are never administered as mere signs.

The Word and Sacraments always go together.

Right Administration

For the right administration of the sacraments, several things are in order.

Sacraments are to be done by a minister of the gospel lawfully called to that office.

The administration of the sacraments are not given by the individual members of the church.

The administration of the sacraments are to be given to by the hands of the officers.

1 Corinthians 4.1

Paul says that we are ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Again, what is a sacrament?

  • It is a holy mystery in the sense that it presents something in visible form.
  • but it also presents an invisible, spiritual, or mysterious truth.

For example: baptism stands as a sign:

  • but it is a sign of something that is not seen,
  • but it is a sign of something that is a mystery,
    • othe pouring out of the Spirit of God.

For example, the Lord's Supper stands as a sign:

  • for the faith of believers feeding upon the work of Jesus Christ.
  • for that which nourishes the souls.

The mysteries that Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 4.1:

  • are the sacraments.

The ministers are stewards of the mysteries of God.

  • it is up to the officers, like a good steward, as we read in Luke 12, to open up the cupboard

And what has Jesus left in that cupboard?

  • He's left the preaching of the Word.
  • He's left the administration of the sacraments.

So that the people of God:

  • might be well furnished.
  • might be well nourished.
There are no examples of baptism in the New Testament except that which is done by church officers.


  • Acts 12 - Philip is baptizing…
  • Acts 9 - where someone sent by God and is sent to baptize the Apostle Paul…
  • Acts 10- where Peter baptizes…
  • Acts 16 - where Paul baptizes again…
  • Acts 18 - where Paul baptizes…
  • Acts 19 - the apostle Paul is baptizing…
  • 1 Cor 13-16 - Paul does baptizing…

Therefore, we don't do baptisms at home.

  • the father baptizing his own children…
    • that's not baptism.

If a church is founded with that as a sacrament

  • they have perverted that sacrament.
  • they need to be brought into proper alignment with the Word of God.

The Supper cannot be separated from the Word.

We cannot go to some event and say, We want to sanctify this event, so we'll have the Lord's Supper…

  • No, that does not belong to the people of God.

Sacraments are an act of worship to God:

  • an act of public worship of God.
  • an act done under the administration of the authority of the Church.
1 Corinthians 11 is the administrative passage.

Now, when you come together → he's talking about a gathering of the church.

  • It's not a private ceremony.

There must be a church service in order to partake in the sacraments rightly.

With regard to baptism, the scriptures are a little bit more open.

There is an oath that is involved in baptism, a confession of faith before men.

  • And so you want to make sure that you have at least some folks there.

Now, there are some folks that have done baptisms in private houses.

  • they'll invite the minister over…
  • they'll invite a number of their Christian friends...
  • they’ll point to household baptisms as proof.

But with regard to baptism in the New Testament:

  • the church in that day was not a fully formed church system as we have today.
  • this type of practice would be considered irregular by us today.

We need to be a little bit careful regarding baptism:

  • when we think about it.
  • when we administer it.

There are many churches which have a view of the sacraments which differ either in their understanding or practice with our reformers.

  • But we do not unchurched them due to these deficiencies.

However, if the sacraments themselves:

  • are elevated to a kind of ex opera operato (“by the work worked,” i.e., having a saving efficacy)
  • are given apart from faith and understanding…

That church has ceased to be a true church of Jesus Christ.

Examples of False Churches

In some churches, the sacraments are perverted, and they become a saving means, in and of themselves.

The church of Rome and Eastern Orthodox churches

they are called churches because they're part of the visible church largely considered

  • although they are truly a synagogue of Satan
  • although they are truly apostate largely considered
  • they are considered a church in that sense.
Notice, in baptism

Original Sin is washed away:

  • not because of anything in the person
  • but because of the intention of the Priest who uses the right kind of water

Their doctrine is that the water of baptism itself:

  • has the ability to wash away Original Sin.

This kind of baptism is not Christian baptism.

Notice, in the Lord’s supper

It doesn't really matter what you do:

  • as long as you can get that wafer in your mouth you will get the saving grace of Christ.

The physical elements are worshipped as well, believing that each everywhere in the world is Christ.

That's not the Lord's Supper according to Scripture.

There are other places that deny the sacraments altogether.

Groups like the Quakers.

Some of the radical Reformed churches:

  • like the Anabaptists.

Groups like the Churches of Christ.

  • they believe in baptismal regeneration.

These are not true Churches of Christ.

  • That is not that is not true baptism.
  • That is not a true church.

They pervert not only the sacraments:

  • But also pervert the doctrine of the gospel

They have lost the second mark of the church.


Sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant.

They are signs because they show the promise.

  • in that they show we have become partakers of the promise.

They are seals because they are the promises of God to receive what the signs points toward:

  •  in the event of coming to faith.

Therefore, if the church is going to distinguish itself as a true Church of Jesus Christ:

  • it must rightly administer the sacraments.

A church that is not rightly administering the sacraments is missing a mark of a true church…

  • then we ought first to seek to reform the church.
  • if that fails, we seek another church.

Brief Communion Instruction

A sacrament is constituted by four things.

First, it is a visible material element.

Second, it is a covenantal grace.

  • we symbolize and represent it to the senses.
  • the symbols represent God’s grace:
    •  in baptism:
      • it is the circumcision of the heart,
      • it is the promise of redemption,
      • it is the cutting away of the foreskin,
      • it is the cutting away of the hardness of the heart.
      • the water represents the washing of the water by the word:
        • which is a work of the Holy Spirit,
        • the cleansing of redemption to the shed blood of Christ.
      •  In the Lord’s Supper
        • the bread representing the body, broken in His humiliation, broken on the cross, broken in appeasing the wrath of God for the sins of His people.
        • the blood representing the shedding of his blood of the new covenant, the sacrifice of a perfect sacrifice to be washed in the blood of the lamb.

Third, a mutual pledge and seal of this covenant

  • because it is between God and the soul.

Fourth, there is an express divine institution that He has clearly set forth as an ordinance of the church.

  • all ceremonies in the church are not necessarily sacraments as we find them in the Scripture,
    • because sacraments are appointed by God.
  • there may be ceremonies that have no necessary symbolic representation of a particular grace
    • of the grace of redemption of salvation.

Sacraments must have these four elements:

  • the visible element,
  • the symbolized grace,
  • the mutual pledge of being a seal of a covenant,
  • the fact that it is divinely expressed and instituted by our Lord.

Sacraments are appointed by God and are an act of our worship and obedience to God.

  • All acts of worship, not instituted by God:
    • are will worship,
    • are therefore offensive to God,

We are required to practice only what God requires of us to practice and nothing more.

1 Corinthians 11.23-30

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is God's pledge of the covenant of grace to the true participant.

Look at the emphasis given here:

“Do this in memory of me” does not mean:

  • treat it like a simple action; or
  • do it whenever you feel like it; or
  • anyone can come regardless…

The command here to the gathered church is to “Do.

The command here is to remember the work done on your behalf by Christ.

The command here is remember your duty as a covenant keeper.

The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is important to the church as a testimony of the church.

  • This is a sign and a true mark for the church to practice.
  • This is a sign that separates the true believer from the rest of the unbelieving world.

The Lord’s Supper is a serious and solemn action.

To rightly administer the Lord's Supper:

  • The minister must be sure to offer it to only those meeting the criteria of a true disciple.
  • The minister must be sure to warn about the very nature of the supper.
  • The minister must be sure to warn that it has both blessing and curse.
    • that those who eat worthily will receive a blessing
    • that those who eat unworthily will be damned.

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