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Reforming the Sacraments

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 28, 2020 12:01 am

Reforming the Sacraments

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 28, 2020 12:01 am

When rightly understood, the sacraments point and draw us to Christ. If they're misunderstood, they seem almost to form a barrier between us and our Lord. Today, W. Robert Godfrey considers how John Calvin helps us think biblically about the sacraments.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. How important are sacraments to us as Bible believing Protestants today because we would all agree.

I think that there are two sacraments that Christ did establish baptism and did establish the Lord's supper so when they mean, how important are they that would be an interesting question to pose to Christians where the sacraments ranked as priorities in the church next to say one youth group, establishing programs that meet felt needs welcome to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm going.

It's interesting to note that one of the most notable leaders of the Protestant Reformation did not view the work of reforming the church is being complete. During his lifetime.

In fact, the treatise that he wrote serves as a reminder, you are not part of that ongoing work were continuing to look at John Calvin's treatise on the necessity of reforming the church only looked at the two parts that he called the life of the church, the soul of the church, namely worship and salvation and our coming to what he called the body of the church, which of course is the way in which the life lives out its life.

You can't have too much of a life in this world, at least if you're only a soul without a body, and so how does the soul live itself out in the body and Calvin your member focused on two issues.

There the sacraments and the government of the church and are in both of those as we hear those articulated.

We might think to ourselves. That's weird and strange.

Those are not the topics that would've much come to our minds and I want to try to look with you in this session on the issue of the sacraments to see why they were important to Calvin and how they may remain significant for us.

So the sacraments now the fact that it should be important in Calvin's day is not hard to understand. Calvin lived in the church where the sacramental presence of the church was the most immediate contact.

The most Christians had with the church, the life of the church in Calvin's day and in the Middle Ages had revolved around the sacraments and Rome had articulated by the heart of the Middle Ages that there were seven sacraments in the church and done the two obvious sacraments that we as Protestants still recognize from Scripture are baptism and the Lord's supper, but Rome had declared that five other activities of the church were also sacramental and this is important because for Rome grace operates through the sacraments. If you were to ask a Roman priest. How do I experience grace.

How do I receive grace. Where do I find grace. The answer was in the sacraments of the church therefore was important to know what activities of the church were sacraments and what weren't. This became a little complicated Middle Ages. Because there are so many ceremonies going on, how did you know which ones were genuinely sacramental, and which ones work. For example, to this day.

Pious Roman Catholics on entering the sanctuary of the church will go to a font of holy water and dip their fingers in the holy water and make the sign of the cross and course they make the sign of the cross in the Western way, as opposed to the Eastern way.

You know that torch about difference Westerners cross themselves this way. From left to right Easterners cross themselves this way from right to left and which way did the apostles do it because you want to do it the same way the apostles didn't and one of those two groups is wrong. That's a serious difference. Well, maybe not too serious, but they make the sign of the cross is not a sacrament. This is at a sacrament. There's water there's an activity.

Is there an automatic blessing that Takes Pl., Catholics even call it blessing themselves so is this a sacrament.

Well, there was some discussion about that Middle Ages.

They decided it's not a sacrament. It's a sacramental.

Well, it means it's kind of like a sacrament because there's kind of grace there but not in the same guaranteed almost automatic way that is true of the sacraments of the church. John Calvin said that the danger of the Roman Catholic view of the sacraments is that they become superstitious, as if the sacraments alone were sufficient for salvation. And that's what a lot of Roman Catholics came to believe that the sacraments alone were sufficient for salvation, and so since one of the sacraments, was the last right since it was called, or extreme unction now strangely kind of rename by the Roman Catholic Church. The sacrament of healing which they bring only to the dying. Anyway, I ongoing between negatively Protestant.

That sacrament is brought to to the dieting to remove their last sins and reconcile them to God and to the church and in a profound sense, it doesn't entirely matter. It's complicated but done entirely matter if the person is conscious or not, the sacrament could have its effect can bring the grace to accomplish the purpose and so the sacraments were all grace bringers into the life of the church. The foundational sacrament was always understood as baptism. Baptism was the entrance into the church and to this day in Roman Catholic Church, you are not baptized in the sanctuary you are baptized outside of the church, often in the foyer of the church, but sometimes even in a separate building in the old days called the baptistery if you go to see some of the great sites in Italy. There's the church and next to it is the baptistery and on and south of their work Aptos were separated and of their own building. It was the visual statement that you are not part of the church.

You are not in the church till you've been baptized and a baptism was absolutely necessary to the teaching of most of the medieval Roman Catholic Church.

If you were not baptized. You could not be saved. Now there were a few exceptions to that if you were converted, and on your way to be baptized but were martyred, you could probably still be saved by the baptism of desire sent but baptism was absolutely essential to salvation. And that's why in a world of a very high infant mortality rate, midwives were allowed to baptize in extreme circumstances. Baptism was the only sacrament but did not have to be administered by a priest. It should ideally be administered by a priest, but it doesn't have to be construed by a priest because it's so vital.

It has to happen and if somebody's dying non-priest and administer baptism. So baptism is foundational and then there are the other sacraments that bring braces there is confirmation where your confirmed in the life of the church there is the sacrament of penance or reduced to just call a confession where you went to the priest and confess your sins and had your sins forgiven, which they often talked about as being a kind of restoration of baptism as baptism washed away sin and then sin came flooding back in penance washed away the sin again. Then there are the two sacraments that relate to particular parts of life. There's the sacrament of marriage and that's why Roman Catholicism traditionally has had such strict rules about divorce because marriage is a sacrament marriage as a sacrament brings the grace of the union of the two people and therefore dividing those two is a violation of the sacramental grace of marriage I want to get the straight I would have the baptism and confirmation and penance, and marriage. And then there is subordination. Obviously, for most people, you either experience the sacrament of marriage or the sacrament of ordination since the Roman clergy are celibate. There's not both. So that's an additional sacrament so that a priest actually receives in the sacrament grace to perform the work of the priesthood setting him apart from the ordinary laity of the church and then as I mentioned briefly, extreme unction, the last rites of the church that will wash away sin. At the end. So all these sacraments were the very center of the life of the church and the great sacrament. Of course, in a sense, was the Lord's supper and so the regular experience of going to church was to see the miraculous work of the priest on the altar changing bread into the very body and blood of Christ offering Christ to God is a participatory sacrifice communion actually became kind of secondary and incidental.

What was really critical is that you be present to see the miracle of the mass to see the priest perform the miracle to see the miracle of the altar take place. And so in many places in Middle Ages people stopped commuting frequently.

They just could mass watched the as Calvin would've said I wouldn't be this rude, but is Calvin said the show, then left and this became so troubling that the fourth Lateran Council in 1215 had to adopt a rule that every Roman Catholic has to receive Communion at least once a year during Easter season, so people were going communion at all ever.

And the rules and was adopted at least once.

Here you have to actually receive the sacrament, but here the whole center of worship became this work of the priest at the altar relative to the Lord's supper and this Calvin rightly saw was the very kind of body of the church. This is where religion hit the road. This is where religion touched. Most people it was in the sacramental ministry of the church and Calvin says we have to think that through. We have to reevaluate is that right is that what's biblical. Is that what the Scripture. In fact, teachers and is the understanding of the sacraments as almost automatic ways of receiving grace a correct way of interpreting and will not be surprised to learn the Calvin said no this is not right in the first place. Five of the seven sacraments are complete human invention. Marriage is not a human invention that's a divine invention but the idea that marriage is a sacrament is a human invention dying we could say is a human invention but having last rites at the deathbed that the church human invention and Calvin is saying this is to misunderstand what the sacraments are and to expand them into areas where they don't belong and Calvin along with Luther and a partial book, the reformer said when you look carefully at the word of God. There are really only two sacraments established and this then of course raises for us the question, exactly what are we, meaning then. By the idea of the sacrament. What is a sacrament and a very simple definition that Calvin and others used was it is a visible sign of invisible grace. So it is true that the idea of sacrament is linked to the idea of grace. But the question is what is the linkage what is the relationship of sign to the thing signified the sign of baptism is water and water carries with it inherently something of the message of the sacrament because water is inherently associated with washing and with drinking of the life that comes from water. The Washington comes from water so there is a connection between the sign and what it points to what it stands for with the Lord's supper. The sign clearly is the bread and the wine that are established by our Lord and they point to the idea that the Lord must nourish his people.

Baptism has a kind of once for all character to it. Your washed once at the beginning of your Christian experience, and then the Lord's supper is the ongoing nurturing of the people of God through the sign of the Lord's supper and what Calvin wanted to say is when the sacraments are rightly understood. They point to Christ in the drawing to Christ. But when sacraments are incorrectly understood. Then they actually become a wall between us in Christ. That's what he feared had happened in the Middle Ages so that people didn't look at the ceremony of the mass or didn't look at the baptism of an infant as testifying to Christ and to his work, but they just looked at the sacrament itself, and so they look to the water baptism and said that water saves.

They looked at the bread and wine of the Lord's supper and said that bread and wine nourishes us and Calvin says no it's more complicated than that. That's a misrepresentation because talking that way takes you away from Christ.

Now I would say if we try to follow Calvin's thinking into our own day.

We would ask ourselves how important are sacraments to us as Christians today as Bible believing Protestants today because we would all agree.

I think that there are two sacraments that Christ did establish baptism and did establish the Lord's supper. We have the great commission the end of Matthew's gospel work.

Jesus sends his apostles out to baptize all nations and we have the instructions in first Corinthians 11, for example of how to have the Lord supper in the church of Christ. These are institutions that just are not only to be found in the Gospels as historical record clearly instituted as things the church is to go on doing so when they mean, how important are they among Protestants today. We do find some discussion of baptism, but the discussion almost always is who want to be baptized should we baptize only believers or should we baptize believers and their children and we can have sometimes very heated exchanges about that. We go back and forth and we quote different Bible verses in the we can have very strong feelings about that and then the minute we convince ourselves, even if we haven't convinced anybody else. The minute we convince ourselves about who want to be baptized. We hardly ever think about baptism again to baptism. Luther taught very clearly. I think Calvin teaches the same thing really ought to be a continuing reality in the life, the Christian who are you what when the ways I answered. That is to say, I am baptized and the reason that that is important is because it's a way of saying I got done a fight with Christ.

I've taken the mark of Christ upon myself read a while back that Coptic Christians in Egypt, tattoo themselves with the cross on the wrist and they do that so they can't deny Christ well in a certain sense. Baptism is like that. It's an indelible sign it's a sign the Christ places on his own and it's a sign that says these belong to me. When we say will wait a minute, then, are you saying the baptism saves you know what baptism says is baptism is a promise of visible promise from God of this gospel and because we're weak because were frail because sometimes we forget promises that are just made to our ears. God also makes promises to our lives and promises that we can feel promises that we can embrace and that's what baptism does for us. Luther who who wrestled with periods of spiritual doubt and maybe even depression would often repeat to himself.

I am baptized I am baptized. Somebody said once how do you know your Christian niece that I've been baptized while they can be bitter about answer. Depending what you mean by if you mean I've had water sprinkled on me. So God is stuck with me that's a bad answer. But if you mean God made a promise so personally to me that it touched me in the water baptism and when I'm doubtful I remember that that water came to me and it reassures me with the promise of God, the promises not only for others but for me I can hold on to that promise. Then I think that's a good answer to say I'm baptized God maybe a promise he won't break that promise.

I hold on to that promise. In that sense, then baptism is not against faith, but it's for faith.

It's encouraging faith. It's building Faith up at night by similar very carefully so as not to give way to the Baptists.

It's not crucial that I remember my baptism is only crucial that I'd be baptized, and so we will get in the course of thought to be baptized, Luther were right about that, but we want to. I will browbeat the Baptists because I love Baptists unmarried Baptist after she repented and so baptism is a foundational promise and encouragement and in the Lord's supper, then, is the ongoing promise and encouragement. What is what is the Lord's supper say to us, the Lord's supper says to us. I need my whole life to be fed encouraged with the body and blood of Christ in the bread and the wine say God gives to you the body and blood of Christ as your salvation out there.

Lots of debates about exactly what the Lord supper doesn't is a really we don't have time to get into that, but the basic reality is what is crucial that God is coming in the bread and wine with a promise that is surely as I eat this bread and wine, so surely are the body and blood of Christ my food to eternal life, and we need to be comforted and that we need to be strengthened and that again we we have debates, how frequently should we do that, should community weekly should it be quarterly as the holy Dutch to try to be annually. The way the strict Scottish Presbyterians to the Scripture don't really tell us to.

It's a somewhat difficult business. If you do it every week. You can say will have that promise every week. That seems like a good thing. On the other hand, sometimes we become kind of know in different to things that are too frequent and so we can have a fair discussion about how frequently we ought to have the Lord supper, but what's clear is that what the Lord supper use is the promise of Christ's redeeming work in his body and blood coming to reinforce our faith to encourage our faith to reiterate the promise of God to us and so churches that stop communion altogether because it's too confusing or too difficult work involves too much discipline or there just in time. These are really despising the institutions of God or their big missionaries have gone on so well, you know, baptism is so controversial in some countries will just do away with baptism we see. Then you're being wiser than God, then you're despising the institutions of God. If God says we need baptism and the Lord supper. We ought to be very fearful of saying you know. Thanks very much for not really need that God knows our weakness. God knows our frailty.

God knows how much we need to be re-hearing his promises now are we in any danger of inventing sacraments on her own blood.

Carefully save the question to write the end of our time together so I can escape without trouble or I think if there's one Sacrament with tended to invent in our own time. It's the sacrament of music in many churches.

There's an awful lot of time spent singing to bring us close to God. Now I'm all in favor sing. I think music can be very helpful and very powerful but music is not a sacrament. It's not where God has planted his promise to bring grace to us. Music is not primarily God's movement to switch is what sacraments do. But music is our movement to God bringing our prayers.

Our thanks. Our glorification to him and again we have to be careful not to confuse things not to think that by my singing stuff. I really really like I have a transcendent experience of God that sacramental know we sing as an intelligent act of a rational soul to bring praise and glory to the creator and God knowing our dangers in this area gave us songs to sing and go.

We should always at least start with the songs God inspired in the Psalter and those will never become sacraments, but the Lord is become great blessings.

I was just talking to a Scotsman who grew up in a Psalm singing church who said my whole life I've known the whole Psalter thought while napping blessed to have consulted one's mind and heart to just be able to apply whenever the circumstances called for so that Psalm singing to your list of new adventures in life and will come back next time to look at church government has an important part of the body. The Protestant Reformation occurred because the Roman Catholic Church had drifted over time the church lost its grasp of biblical truth and authority this week on Renewing Your Mind.

Our teacher, Dr. Robert Godfrey is reminding us that there is a tendency to drift in every generation that we need to be willing to reform our own churches when we see here, but a helpful message today on the sacraments. Dr. Godfrey series is new. This is the first time were airing it on the program and we like to send you all six messages.

Contact us today with a donation of any amount and we will send you the DVD you can give your gift when you go to Renewing Your or when you call us at 800-435-4343 Renewing Your Mind is a listener supported outreach of Ligonier ministries since 1971. Our goal is been to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible. Many of our online resources are free, including articles and devotionals, along with Dr. RC Sproul's entire crucial questions. Booklet series will tomorrow we return to Dr. Godfrey series to see what kind of reform is necessary in church government. In Calvin's day, people had some say in the choice of their ministers, Limited. In our day. People get what they want and so we have to be willing to take that responsibility to say what I want my looking for my supporting my encouraging the opening of the word of God. We hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind

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