Tuesday: July 20, 2021
Question 92: What is a sacrament?
Answer: A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
As I said yesterday, I do not like the word sacrament being used of baptism and the Lord’s supper because the word sacrament implies that the act itself conveys grace to the participant. I, however, prefer to call them ordinances because an ordinance is a decree or command; therefore, I am pleased to read in answer to question 92 that the Westminster Puritans said, “A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ.” However, I do not believe that the entire second half of the answer is correct: “wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” I do not like the answer because it implies that the act itself conveys grace.
I knew when I began to write about the questions and answers given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism that I would be in agreement with the Puritans up to this point but would be in disagreement with them regarding this subject. My convictions are Reformed with regard to soteriology but my convictions are Baptist with regard to ecclesiology; therefore, I am a Reformed Baptist. In systematic theology, soteriology is the study of the salvation of man and ecclesiology is the study of the church.
I do not believe that Christ, the benefits of the new covenant, are sealed and applied through the act of participation in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. I do not believe this because it is not biblical but comes from tradition.
Why then baptize and participate in the Lord’s supper at all? Because the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to. It is our obedience to Christ’s commandments that testifies to God’s grace. I read this morning in James that “faith without works is dead.” (Jam. 2:29) The ordinances are pictures and remembrances of grace. The act does not convey grace but we do receive grace and blessing when we obey Christ’s commandments and remember what he has done for us.
Your Servant for Jesus’ Sake