Barry Newman's Blog

November 28, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXVII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:47 am

Are the Sacraments of “Baptism” and “The Supper of the Lord” ordained by Christ?

No one should doubt the extraordinarily significant practice of genuine baptism.  No one should question the richness of reflecting with the people of God on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ – the death “for many”.

However what is the answer to the question?  If the question entails the notion that Christ has commanded that one ceremonial practice be undergone by all those coming to be believers and that the other ceremonial practice be observed  by believers on an ongoing basis, and that these practices are thereby obligatory, the answer seems to be “no”.  Regardless of what we might find was practised and believed in the early church beyond New Testament times, an examination of the New Testament itself does not seem to support the answer, “yes”.  The idea that certain ceremonies are mandatory would appear to be contrary to the gospel as portrayed in the New Testament and contrary to the notion of freedom from such regulations inherent in the gospel. Indeed surely we do not want to be condemned, even if only by implication, with the words of Yahweh uttered against the people of Jerusalem, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29: 13) – words, quoted by Jesus in his vitriolic response to the Pharisees and the Scribes expressing their concern for ritual observance, according to the traditions of the elders (Matthew 15: 8, 9).

If the practices of undergoing water baptism and partaking in the Lord’s Supper, are not understood as formal religious rites arising from a command of the Lord Jesus, but, to the contrary, as ceremonies freely engaged in by his followers, this arguably would result in:

highly regulated religious practices receiving less attention, the grace of God displayed in the glorious gospel being better understood, the necessity of the righteous life being more soberly apprehended, the judgement of God being held in greater awe, the love of God portrayed in the death of Jesus the Christ more deeply appreciated, his Son being much more deeply loved and wondered at, his resurrection being better understood as the catastrophic world cracking sign of all times, proclaiming the word of God, the message of God, being given greater urgency and clarity, the expectation of the second coming of Jesus the Lord in all his glory being much more to the fore in our thought and speech, the difference between the gospel and all other world beliefs being seen to be so much greater as to defy comparison and God being the more greatly honoured.

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