Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind... We are at a point in our studies together on what it means to have good foundations in our Christian life when we're thinking about what Christians often call the means of grace. And we've come now to two of these in particular that are often referred to as the sacraments. And I want to emphasize again, especially in the case of baptism and the Lord's Supper, that these are not instruments we use to get grace.
These are instruments God uses in order to bring us into fellowship with Himself and to know Him. And we're going to look in this study and then in the next study at the two sacraments or ordinances of the New Testament, the two special signs of the gospel, baptism and the Lord's Supper. But first of all, I think there are some things that we need to say in general, partly because, as you know, there have often been debates and controversies about both baptism and the Lord's Supper. And so often Christians come and their first question is about the controversial issues.
Usually when people's first question is about the controversial issues, it's a sign they've never really grasped the fundamental issues. And so, it's not my purpose in this study or the next study to deal with matters of controversy, but to try and help us understand why it is that God has given us these physical realities that we often refer to as the ordinances of the gospel or sacraments. And in order to understand them, we need to go back to the beginning. And by going back to the beginning, I mean going back to the beginning of the Bible.
Have you noticed that people often start with baptism or the Lord's Supper and then they want to discuss the controversial issues? What they need to do is to go back to the beginning and to notice that there is something very characteristic about the way in which God reveals Himself and His purposes. He does that by means of promises, which we often see in the Bible are His covenants when He pledges Himself and He gives a promise to us.
And He pledges, as it were, on His own existence that He will keep these promises. And if you read the Bible from the beginning to the end, which is quite a good way to read the Bible as well as from the end back to the beginning, you begin to notice something, that every time God makes one of these special promises without exception, He alongside that promise gives a physical sign of the promise that He has given. Now, you see that already in the Garden of Eden. God gives Adam and Eve certain promises, and He gives physical signs, these trees that are related to the promises. You move on to the flood and to this new covenant or promise that God makes with Noah, and God adds a sign to that promise. Now, that sign doesn't make God's promise any more trustworthy, does it? God's Word is God's Word.
From one point of view, God could have said, well, I've given you My Word, take it or leave it. But He understands our frailty. And so, you remember, He says to Noah, Noah, there is this bow in the sky, this rainbow, and whenever you see that rainbow, I want you to remember that I am remembering my promise that I will never again flood the earth. And so, you can imagine the village we live in was flooded a couple of years ago. Half of the villagers lost their homes in the flood, and whenever the rains have come again in the last two years, you can sense the nervousness that there will be this renewed destruction. You can imagine that would be true for Noah.
When is this going to happen again? There is the rain, and Noah looks up and he sees the rainbow. And he is to remember, God is remembering His promise.
You notice what that sign is? It's a sign to which Noah is to Luke, but it's a sign of what God does. God remembers His promise. The same is true when God makes His covenant with Abraham. He gives to Abraham and his family a sign of that covenant.
You remember how Paul speaks about this in Romans chapter 4. He says, when Abraham was justified by grace through faith, when he was constituted righteous in God's presence, God gave him this sign. It was a sign of the righteousness that God gave to Abraham and Abraham received through faith. Now, just let your mind linger on that for a moment for a moment because it's very important to understand the dynamic and the direction of what Paul is saying. Notice he is not saying circumcision was a sign of Abraham's faith. He was saying circumcision is a sign of God's gracious justifying. That's what it's a sign of, which Abraham receives through faith. And that's a real clue to us for understanding what we call the sacraments, that they are first and foremost not a sign of our response to God's Word, not first and foremost a sign of our faith, but signs of the gospel that draw from us the response of faith. And because God understands that we need these signs, He gives these signs to us. Now, I've met Christians, I've had students who have said, you know, my faith is strong enough, I don't really need these signs, so I'm fine without them. And I say two things to them. I say, first of all, if God gives you signs, you need signs.
Argument over. But then I'll say to them, I'd just like you to do a little experiment. Are you married? Yes, I'm married.
Here's my experiment. For the next six months, from time to time, say to your wife, honey, I love you. Do not touch her. Do not embrace her.
Do not kiss her. And then come and tell me how long it is before she explodes and says to you, do you still love me? And you say, I've been telling you every three days, sometimes every four days that I love you. Isn't my word good enough for you? But you haven't embraced me.
You haven't shown your affection for me. Signs don't matter. Of course they matter. They matter in our ordinary life.
But we need to understand their significance. As you know, I'm not from around here. And it took me some time when people asked me out for meals in restaurants to understand something. In Scotland, when you've finished your meal, you just leave the knife and fork on the plate. And time and time again, a waiter or waitress would come to me and say, are you finished? Well, I'd done what my mother said. I'd cleared the plate. Obviously, I was finished. Could he not see I was finished?
What was the problem? The problem was I hadn't put the knife and fork in the American direction. And then when I understood the significance of the sign, I learned how to communicate the reality that I'd finished the meal to the waiter. And baptism and the Lord's Supper are just like that. There's a sign, and when we understand the significance of the sign, then like a kiss between a man and his wife and vice versa, that strange, wet, sometimes noisy emotion doesn't only signify love, but strangely enough, it seems to be an important way of communicating love.
And that's the kind of world we live in. We live in a world where there are some signs that point us to a reality that is absent. But there are other signs that we have and use that when we understand them, we understand they not only are telling us something, but they're the means we use to communicate the reality to the person who understands the significance of the sign. And that's how baptism and the Lord's Supper work. They are signs.
There's nothing inherently magical about them. The water is water. It usually comes out of the tap. The bread is bread. Somebody somewhere baked it. The wine is wine.
Nothing happens to any of these elements. But when we understand a gospel understanding of them, they not only silently preach a message to us about what Jesus has done for us, but when we respond to these realities in faith, just as when we respond to the verbal signs of the preaching of the gospel in faith, then we are able to enjoy and enter into the reality to which the signs point at. And this is very important for us, I think, if we're going to benefit from baptism and the Lord's Supper. And I say that because in my experience it's often been true that when you say to Christians, what did your baptism mean, or what did it mean to you to go to the Lord's table, they start talking about themselves.
And it means that they're going about it the wrong way around. They're thinking about what has happened in them. And the dynamic of baptism and the Lord's Supper has been kind of thrown into reverse gear, which is why often if you ask a Christian, how much has your baptism meant to you this week? They'll give you a blank stare because as far as they are concerned, the important thing about baptism was that they did it so many years ago in the past, and it has no real ongoing function in their present Christian life.
But then when you turn to the New Testament letters, what do you discover? You discover that baptism is such a sign of what God has done for us in Christ that in a sense it hovers over the whole of our Christian lives. And it's not so much that I followed Jesus into the waters of baptism. It's what Jesus did for me in the waters of baptism that was signified to me in the waters of my baptism that I take hold of by faith not only when I was baptized, but for the whole of my Christian life. Now, if we're going to understand what baptism means, I suggest to you that there are a couple of things that we need to try and work out together.
The first of them is this. We need to understand the baptism of the Lord Jesus. Do you remember when Jesus came to the Jordan, and He asked John to baptize Him? And somehow or another, John understood well enough that the Messiah did not need to be baptized. And so, he had this argument with Jesus. And, you know, his strongest argument was, Jesus, you don't need to be baptized by me.
If anybody's going to be baptized here, I'm the one who needs to be baptized. And Jesus said a very interesting thing to him. He says, John, do it even although you don't fully understand this.
Do it. Now, what was happening when Jesus was baptized? John's baptism was a baptism for sinners, wasn't it? And the symbolism was that as you came to the River Jordan and John baptized you, how he did it is really irrelevant. When he baptized you, it was symbolic of God, as it were, washing away your sin and your guilt into the River Jordan.
If I can put it this way, the River Jordan was full of the symbolism of the guilt of sinners. That's why Jesus said He needed to be baptized. It's as though what Jesus was saying, now John, that water that is full of their guilt, that is the water in which I need to be baptized. And so, symbolically, Jesus is being baptized with waters of divine judgment. You remember how He later on says, I have a baptism to be baptized with, and I'm held in until it's accomplished.
What was He talking about? He was really saying His baptism in the Jordan was a sign of His baptism for our sins on the cross of Calvary. That was the real baptism of which His baptism in Jordan was the sign.
And so, do you see what was happening in the River Jordan? Those who were baptized were being, remember the words Jesus uses, being baptized into the name of Jesus, and Jesus was being baptized into the name of sinners. And this is what baptism points to. It points to the way in which in His baptism on the cross, Jesus bore our sin. In His baptism on the cross, Jesus was baptized into my name as a sinner, in order that I might be baptized into His name as the Savior.
And of course, that's exactly what He says, isn't it, in Matthew 28, 18 to 20? Go into all the world, preach the gospel, and baptize them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, what is baptism? Baptism is a naming ceremony in which I who have been reared in the family of Adam are given the sign of the new family of Jesus Christ, and I am being named for Jesus Christ.
Now, this is the Western world. I imagine everyone here has actually gone through a naming ceremony. There is a law in Scotland that you have to name your child within a certain number of days. I almost rendered one of our children illegitimate by not getting the name in in time.
What happens, you go along to the official, and the official says, filling in the papers, what is the name of your child? And apparently, at some point, my parents had decided the answer would be Sinclair, Buchanan, Ferguson. What did that ceremony do to my heart?
Absolutely nothing. But in another sense, it has determined the whole course of my life. I don't hear the name Sinclair without, and certainly I don't hear the name Sinclair, Buchanan, Ferguson without. That's who I am.
Strange though it may seem, I don't know who I am unless I am Sinclair, Buchanan, Ferguson. But the giving of that name did nothing to transform my heart, but by the same token, the fact I was given that name has been, as it were, the parameters of the life that I've had to live. It's true I could have said to my parents, I no longer wish to belong to this family.
I'm going back down to that office, and I'm going to say, get another form and ask me another question, and I'll give you a completely different name. But my whole life has been determined by that. I could have rebelled against it. I could have rebelled against the family for which I was named, or I could make that my own and live as somebody who belonged to that family.
I like our parents saying to us, now remember when you go there, you're a Ferguson. And the same is true of baptism. The waters of baptism do nothing to transform our hearts. And yet, according to the teaching of the New Testament, being baptized means that a new family name is placed upon you.
And having that family name does determine the whole course of your life. In a sense, having that name is a reminder to you of all that God, the Trinity, has done for you in and through Jesus Christ and is willing to do for you through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And so, what faith does is respond to that, to say, oh, heavenly Father, to think that you have sent your Son to be baptized on the cross that I might be baptized with forgiveness. Oh, Father, to think that you have promised to give me your Holy Spirit so that my inner life may begin to match the name that I've been given, and it will become clear that I really am a child of God and belong to the heavenly Father. And so, the whole of the Christian life is going to be lived in the context of this new name that has been given to me. The whole of my Christian life will be determined by it.
Remember how Paul spoke to the Romans about this in Romans chapter 6, and he asked a very interesting question, at least I think it's an interesting question. He says, don't you know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into His death and raised into His resurrection in order that we may walk in newness of life? You notice what he's saying. He's not saying, do you remember that you followed Jesus into the waters of baptism and you did that five years ago or ten years ago?
Do you remember that you did that? No, he's saying, don't you understand what your baptism means today? Don't you understand that your baptism tells you what your name is, that you're somebody who belongs to Jesus Christ and you have been under the dominion of sin and now through sharing in His death and resurrection, that dominion has been broken. And therefore, in the light of the fact that you've been baptized, live in a baptized way.
And in the same way, he says the same in Colossians chapter 2 and 3. He says, now if you understand what it means to be baptized, then live in the light of that. So, put off what belongs to the old and live out what belongs to the new and live as a baptized Christian so that baptism is not just something that I did.
It's not just something that was done to me. It's the sign of a new name that's been given to me. I've been named for no other family than the family of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What a family that is to belong to. And so, as a member of that family, I will live for the glory of the Father.
I had a wonderful student years ago from the Far East, an extremely able student, and I got to know him quite well. And he was always known to me as Timothy, but I knew that wasn't his real name. I mean, he didn't...he looked as though he had a name that I probably wouldn't be able to pronounce. And so, I said to him rather daringly one day, I said, Timothy, what's your real name? He taught me a lesson.
He gave me a little smile. He said, Timothy. I said, no, no. I said, come on now.
You're pulling my leg. What's your real name? He said, Timothy. I said, what was the name your parents gave you? And then he gave me the unpronounceable name. Oh, I said, that's your real name.
He said, no, Timothy's my real name. That's the name I was given when I was baptized. And he was conscious he'd been taken out of one family and now lived in the light of his baptism as a new creature in Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing it is to know that that's the meaning of baptism. And what a wonderful story to conclude our time together today.
Our baptism reminds us whose we are, that we belong to Christ, and we're part of His family. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson has joined us all week here on Renewing Your Mind to explore some of the basic aspects of the Christian life. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll wrap up Dr. Ferguson's series tomorrow with a look at the other sacrament of the church. The Lord's Supper is part of church life that we're so familiar with that perhaps those who are ministers and teachers would feel a little embarrassed about saying to you, you do understand what this means, don't you? The rich meaning and significance of baptism, tomorrow here on Redoing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. I hope you'll join us.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-21 13:37:10 / 2023-05-21 13:46:22 / 9