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Doctrine Of the Sacraments - Introduction

May 7, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Topic: Of the Sacraments Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17–34



  • 1 Corinthians 11-17-34

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 27, Article 1

Introduction: The Nature of a Sacrament

What is the distinction between a sacrament and an ordinance?

The Larger Catechism is a good place to start Q. 162

  • Notice how the Catechism declares that the Lord's Supper is a sacrament.
  • It is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ.

So, what is the sacrament?

The sacrament is called a holy ordinance

What is an ordinance?

An ordinance is a piece of law that is written down.

  • It is something that we are obliged to do.
  • It is an order that has been given.

So, if an order has been given, is called an ordinance

Christ tells us “This do in remembrance of me”:

  • He is making it an order, a command.
  • It is something that we ought to be doing.

That is the simple part.

The Difference Between a Sacrament and Ordinance

Why do Reformed churches call them sacraments?

Why do other churches call them ordinances?

We attach a greater significance to them.

  • not just simply something Christ commanded

Of course, It is something that He has commanded.

Notice, our larger Catechism is noticeably clear.

  • Not only is it an ordinance
    • but it is a holy ordinance.

There is something special about it:

  • something that separates it from everything else.
  • something that is separated out for a holy use.

Baptism & the Lord's Supper are certainly ordinances.

  • They are things that the Lord has commanded.

But they are more than just commands.

There is something that they have within them:

  • that is greater than simple obedience.

There is something more that is supposed to be going on rather than simple obedience.

We do not want to downplay obedience.

The Lord said, we should do these things:

  • we should desire to do them
  • we should profit from doing them
  • we should do them rightly and correctly
    • obediently

What does obedience mean?

Obedience means:

  • right time
  • right place
  • right reason

Obedience is not doing what you want, when you want, how you want.

Key: Obedience must be in a particular manner.

If we are going to obey the Lord:

  • we must do so in ways that is proper obedience

Are These the Only Sacraments?

Our Lord did a lot and commanded a lot of things.

Let us think of some of the things that our Lord Jesus did while he walked upon the earth.

  • He drew upon the ground. (John 8.6)
  • He made mud from dirt and his saliva. (John 9.6)
  • He washed the disciples’ feet. (John 13)
  • He received the baptism of John. (Matthew 3)
  • He ate the Passover with His disciples (Matt 13)
  • He walked upon water and commanded Peter to come out and walk with him on the water.

There are a lot of things that Jesus did.

  • these are not sacraments.
  • these are ordinances.

What Makes Something A Sacrament?

What makes it an ordinance and then a sacrament?

The first words in the L.C. reveal the answer.

  • It is instituted by Christ.

Who is the King of the church? Christ is the King

  • Eph 1.22, 5.23; 1 Cor 11.3, Col 1.18

As the King of the church: He is the only one:

  • that can make a day or action holy (LC 45)
  • that can command us to a particular duty

All other authority that exists in the church:

  • is subject to Christ
  • whether it is pastors, ministers, teachers, elders, or whatever…

There are some churches that have a different belief.

  • Some believe they have authority in themselves to institute sacraments. → Rome
  • some only call them ordinances → Baptists

Key: Something is a sacrament when it is something that Christ commanded

Baptism and The Lord’s Supper

Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us two sacraments

  • He has given us baptism
  • He has given us the Lord's Supper

He gave us these things to look at, to behold, to teach us of greater things than just themselves

But Christ Commanded Us To Do Lots of Things, Right?

He commanded us

  • to love another.
  • to be excellent in our callings
  • to sing to him.

So, why don’t we call these sacraments?

Key: A sacrament is a holy order that has a special spiritual import

  • it points to something beyond itself.
  • it is something that is ordered.

In the sense that it is commanded:

  • it is an ordinance

It is a holy ordinance in the outward activity, but:

  • teaches, signifies, seals an inward spiritual reality.

The Lord Jesus has set His seal upon these things

  • that we may do them according to His command

We do not trust in the outward activity:

  • We look to the particular things they represent

Key: Sacraments are things that point away from themselves to something else, something greater.

So why are these sacraments and others not?

They were instituted by Christ.

Christ has instituted baptism & the Lord's Supper.

Baptism – Matthew 28.18-20

You will see our Lord Jesus Christ instituting baptism

He says all authority in heaven and earth is given

  • the apostles do not have any other option

They must do what Christ commands.

  • He has all authority

If He is speaking directly to them, giving a command

  • they cannot deny it
  • they cannot turn from it.
The Lord’s Supper – Matt. 26.26 / 1 Cor. 11.20-25

We see part of that discipleship is the observance of the Lord's Supper.

In baptism, Jesus says

You do this; I will be with you until the end of the age.

  • Jesus himself perpetuates the sacrament of baptism
    • along with gospel preaching
    • along with making disciples

Here in 1 Corinthians 11, he says,

  • As oft as you drink it, you do show fourth the Lord's death until when, until he come.

These are to continue until the end of the age.

Summary of the Nature of A Sacrament

  • They are holy ordinances
  • Christ has commanded them
  • Christ has established them as perpetual things that will take place until the end of the age.
  • They Point Away from Themselves to Something Greater

Preparation for Communion

There is, today, a tendency to downplay the importance of sacramental observance.

  • Doesn't matter if or where you've been baptized.
  • Doesn’t matter if you are a member of a church.
  • Doesn’t matter if you take the sacrament at all.
    • if you are there on the on the Lord's day
  • if you are not there - who cares
  • if you feel like you don’t want it - who cares
    • take it or leave it

It is a sort of excommunicating yourself

  • refusing the command of Christ
  • declaring that you are not in covenant with Christ

There are all kinds of practices that are going on

  • because the sacramental understanding of what the sacraments teach is really not understood.

The Lord’s Supper is tied up with church membership and the administration of the covenant

  • Those are the things that are missed today.

When we talk to folks about church membership

  • they say, “Oh, church memberships, not biblical”
  • or “Church membership is too restrictive”
  • or “Show me a place in scripture where you sign on the dotted line “

If church membership were just a signature, perhaps there would be a point there.

  • But that's not what church membership is.

Let us look at Exodus 24.

Once we understand this passage then we see what is going on as far as a sacramental observance

  • tied to the covenant and church membership

What happens in Exodus 20?

  • The 10 commandments
  • God Himself speaks

What happens in the rest of Chapter 20, 21, 22, 23?

  • Implications/ applications of the commandments
  • What is that body of literature called?
    • It is called the Book of the Covenant

Now to Exodus 24

At the beginning of the chapter, we have 12 pillars

  • with 12 sacrifices
  • one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel

We have the concept of representative headship

  • being set up here at the beginning
  • a pillar is set up at the head of every tribe
  • sacrifices are offered for each tribe

Remember what has already happened in the history of Israel up to this point?

  • They have already been baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor 10)
  • They’ve been completely identified with Moses
  • They’ve been completely cut off from the Egyptians
  • They are known notoriously as the people of Moses to the world

Beyond that, He gives them the law.

  • He gives them implications and applications

Then, there is this very formal ceremony.

  • Notice that it is not spiritual and inward at all.
  • There is a book
  • There are animals that are sacrificed
  • There is blood that Moses takes from those animals and gathers up into a basin.

Moses takes a hyssop branch and dips into the bowl.

  • he sprinkles the book
  • he sprinkles the people
    • This represents New Testament baptism.

The people say → all that Yahweh has commanded. we will do.

Then what happens?

Do you remember the 70 elders of the people?

  • They act in a representative fashion

Remember, the whole congregation was gathered.

  • Did Moses sprinkle blood on all 2 million?

No, but they were recognized as a people sprinkled.

Those 70 elders that met with Moses

  • go up the mountain and sit down
  • they sit down in front of the God of Israel
  • and they have a meal with him.

What did the people do here?

  • They became members of that body that Stephen calls the church in the wilderness.
    • They took vows
    • They were baptized
    • They were admitted to the table of the Lord
      • in representative fashion, of course.

What do we learn from this?

  • We learn membership is not a dotted line.
    • That is the last thing we worry about.
    • We worry about the profession of faith
    • We worry about the commitment to follow the Lord and to obey Him
    • We worry about the joining to Christ.
      • That is the only train going to eternal paradise, would you be joined to him?

When we join in a church membership:

  • What do we do?
    • We take a vow.
    • We are baptized.
  • Then we are brought to the table of the Lord.

This then is what the sacraments are designed to do

  • First – to visibly separate out those that belong to Christ from those that do not belong to Him
  • Second – to remember the commitments made to be the Lord's
    • that he is your God
    • that you are His
  • Third – to receive the sacramental sign
    • looking beyond to the thing signified
  • receiving the benefits of Jesus Christ.
  • to be encouraged and nourished by Him.

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