The Sacraments

12 Feb
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
 
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Mark 28:19)
 

The past few weeks in Western North Carolina we have had a good bit of “winter weather.”  One weekend it was so bad that almost all the churches in the area cancelled their Sunday services, including mine.  When I heard the service was cancelled, I was really bummed… especially when I realized it was the end of the month.  At my church we have communion the last Sunday of every month.  I always look forward to receiving communion – not sure why, exactly, but there’s just something about it that I love.

I was thinking about the sacraments earlier and how much they mean to me.  Every month I get excited when I realize it’s communion Sunday, and I remember the intense joy that I felt two months ago on the day of my baptism – what an awesome day that was!  Now, I don’t believe that the sacraments are necessary for salvation (like the Catholic Church, for example), but I do believe, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, that “the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers” in the sacraments.

Questions 91-97 of the WSC all concern the sacraments:

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. 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.

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s supper.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

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