Sacramentally United

We are Reformed in our confession, united in the sacraments, charismatic in our affections, and C&MA in our denomination. That statement is a good summary of our identity. 

What are sacraments?

Sacrament may not be a word that you are used to. “In Protestant teaching, a ceremony or rite that the church observes as a sign of God’s grace and as one means by which those who are already justified receive God’s continuing grace in their lives. The two Protestant sacraments are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In Roman Catholic teaching, there are seven sacraments, and they are understood as a necessary means of conveying saving grace” (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1253) A sacrament isn’t a means to be saved, as Roman Catholicism teaches. But, a sacrament is a way for a believer to receive sustaining grace. A sacrament that is received by faith is a source of strength in the life of that person in order for them to persevere as a Christian.

Sacraments solidify your faith and give you the strength to live the Christian life and is as important in your life as praying, Bible reading, singing, listening to God’s word preached, giving, serving, and proclaiming the gospel. All of those activities are means of grace in your life. The more you do them, the more you eat and drink of God. But, these can be done apart from the church. The presence of these activities do not make a church. Where there are sacraments, there is a church. There can be preaching without a church. There can be singing without a church. There can be praying without a church. But, there cannot be baptism and communion without a church. A church is where God’s people gather under God’s shepherds, the elders, to hear preaching, to pray, to sing, to practice church discipline, and to receive baptism and communion. God gives grace to his church through baptism and communion.

What are the sacraments?

The two Protestant sacraments of baptism and communion are the bounds of our Christian unity. Baptism marks our entrance into the Christian life. Communion marks our continuation in the Christian life. Both are done in the context of the local church. We are baptized into the local church. We take communion with the local church. The grace that we receive through the sacraments is made available within the church.

In Christian baptism, we are baptized into Jesus. We identify with Jesus as the church’s savior. In baptism by immersion, we say that we die with Jesus when Jesus died for our sins. We say that we rise with Jesus when he is raised from the dead for our justification. Water signifies death and we signify Christ dying and rising from the dead. We receive the benefits of the life of righteousness that the Son of God lived on this earth. Our baptism is a public profession of our trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, death, and the wrath of God.

The Lord’s Supper is called communion. Catholics call it the Eucharist. Lord’s Supper, communion, or Eucharist, we are talking about the same thing. The cup we drink represents the blood of Christ. The bread represents the body of Christ. Communion is called communion, because it’s an act of worship in the presence of the Lord. We commune with God when we take the Lord’s Supper. We receive the benefits of the Christ’s atonement and forgiveness in communion. We also call it communion because we commune, we fellowship with each other as we take it. It’s a very important thing we do as the body of Christ. Our unity is defined by our entrance into Christ’s body through baptism and our unity is maintained by our regular partaking of Christ’s body through communion.