Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two most meaningful observances in the life of the Church. Christ commanded that we should practice them as outward symbols of His inner working in our lives. Today, the last chapter in our story of why we should all say, I believe in the Church.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, disputes about what we call the ordinances have led to a great number of denominations and viewpoints of how church should be run. Doesn't this run counter to the wishes of Jesus, who wanted us all to be one?
Dave, you're absolutely right. Jesus gave us these ordinances to unify us. And one time I did a study in church history to show all the different ways that the ordinances have been interpreted. You know, 500 years ago, during the time of Martin Luther, his associate whose name was Philip Melanchthon, he said that the division over the Lord's Supper is deserving of tears. And I think it is. And yet at the same time, it's so important for us to understand its biblical meaning. Well, I want to thank the many of you who support this ministry.
You've heard me say it before, but because of you, the gospel of Jesus Christ is going to many. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? Here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com. Check it out. RTWOffer.com.
When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now let us listen to God's Word. Philip Melanchthon said that it was deserving of tears that the Lord's Supper, which was to be a means to unify His people, had become a means of great division.
It is deserving of tears. It's also deserving of tears that baptism, which was to unite the people of God, has been used as a means of division. Today I'm going to speak on the topic of those two ordinances of the church, baptism and communion. And I do so being well aware that we come from very diverse backgrounds. As a matter of fact, if you're here today and you're a Roman Catholic, you're in good company because probably 25-30% of the people who are sitting around you have had a similar upbringing. We always, when we have new members here at the church, we discover that perhaps 25-30% Roman Catholic, maybe 20% Baptist, and beyond that then we have evangelical-free and Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and I'm sure I left out many, many others. So what I'm going to be saying to you today is probably contrary to what some of you were taught.
But I want you to listen carefully, and if you disagree with me, that's fine. I just want to make sure that your disagreement is based on the Scriptures, so check it out. In the early centuries of the church, say by the third century, the view began to develop that baptism and communion had the ability to actually convey grace to those who participated. The whole idea was that this grace was really saving grace.
Can you imagine the awesome power of the church in those centuries? Because what that meant is that the church had the ability to keep you from heaven because it could keep you from receiving these ordinances. Along with the idea that they conveyed grace, the idea also arose, and you can see why, the idea arose that infants should be baptized. Even though infant baptism is not practiced or mentioned in the New Testament, the idea was that surely we should not withhold from infants the grace that comes through what was called the sacraments. Surely they too should be baptized, and they were, and in those early centuries they were not only baptized, but they were also given the wine and the bread, because the belief was that if grace is communicated through these ordinances, why then indeed the children, the infants, should also participate. And therefore if a child was born sickly and perhaps expected to die, the priest would hurry there quickly so that the water would be given to the child and the bread and the wine would be given as well. Sometimes these ordinances are referred to as sacraments, and many of you come from a background where they are called that.
It's a perfectly good word. The word sacraments comes from sacramentum, which means sacred in Latin, and these ordinances are sacred. The reason that we prefer the name ordinances, that word, rather than sacraments is because in the minds of many people sacraments exactly are the means of grace, the way of salvation. So we prefer the word ordinance, though the word sacrament is also a good word. What I'd like to do in the next few moments, and they will have to be few, I wish they were longer, but I'm going to try to make them few, is to talk about why we believe in the ordinances of the church, and we're going to discuss briefly baptism and the Lord's Supper.
How I wish as I was going through this yesterday that I had an entire message for each, but as it is, we'll do both today and you'll get the Reader's Digest version. Regarding baptism, when John came baptizing, he was asking people to repent, and when they were baptized in the Jordan River, they were baptized as a sign of inward repentance. In a sense, even back then, baptism, the outer washing was a sign of the transformation of the heart, the cleansing of the heart.
It was a symbol of that. Right from the beginning in the early church, we discover that the early Christians were baptized, but it was not the means of salvation. It was not through baptism that they were born again and regenerated. That came through faith in Christ, but baptism followed. Now, the reason we know that baptism was not considered as necessary for salvation, it was not the means of salvation, is that the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1, he said, I have been sent to preach the gospel. In fact, he says, I baptize no one except Christus and Gaius, he names the two, and he says, because Christ did not send me to baptize, he sent me to preach the gospel.
So notice, Paul is distinguishing the two there. As a matter of fact, about 100 times in the New Testament, faith in Christ alone is mentioned as the way of salvation. And therefore, it would be very strange indeed if baptism would be a part of that.
As a matter of fact, let me ask you this question. Since it says the blood of Jesus Christ, God's son, cleanses us from all sin, how many sins are left for the water to wash away? The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.
But there is one text that is debated, and I'm going to ask you to turn to it. It's in Acts chapter 2, verse 38, and this is the text that is sometimes used by those who think that baptism is the means or a part of the salvation process. Peter is preaching, and he says in Acts 2 38, repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And people say, haha, there it is. Repent and be baptized. Well, I'd like to say flat out that just because the word baptize occurs in the same command as repent, that in itself does not mean that baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. For example, I might say to you, take the keys and put on your coat and start the car.
Now, having the keys is necessary, but not taking your coat, but that is something that is thrown in. Now, the reason that I think that Peter meant that is for two reasons. First of all, the text itself suggests it. In Greek, the word repent is plural. Now, we can't indicate that in English. The best that we can do is to take a lesson from the southerners and say, let's read it like they would down where some of us went to seminary in the south. We'd read it like this, you'll repent, okay? You'll repent and notice it says, for the forgiveness of y'all's sins.
See, that's plural. We could read it repent for the forgiveness of your sins. And the reason that we know, the reason that we know that and be baptized is like a parenthesis is because it is in the singular, whereas the repent and the forgiveness of your sins is in the plural. So that helps us set it off and realize that it is possible to repent and to receive the forgiveness of your sins. And while baptism was always assumed, because in the early church, when you got saved, you were baptized, that baptism itself is not necessary for the process.
Now, there's a second reason. And that is that the same author, Peter, the same writer, the same preacher is preaching in Acts chapter 10 verse 43. And he's explaining to a Gentile how to be saved.
And this is what he says, all the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name, period. Nothing is said about baptism. What do we believe that baptism teaches? What is its message?
It's an outward sign of inner cleansing. You are saying that you have personally committed. And it's also a right of entry into the new group called the church. Could I simply say that in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, there's no such thing as an unbaptized believer. They were saved. They believed on Christ. And as a result of that faith in Christ, they were baptized.
It was assumed it was a point of identity, a very important point of identity. You know, there are some cultures today where there is no persecution of you if you become a Christian until you're baptized. And after you're baptized, they know that the break is final. And in the New Testament, it speaks about those who came with Moses across the Red Sea. And it says they were baptized onto Moses. Now, no water got on the Israelites who went through the Red Sea.
They went on through dry ground. It's the Egyptians that drowned. Why then is the word baptized used?
It's because it's a form of identification. It was cutting off the life of Egypt and going into the Promised Land and the break was clear. And it's called baptism because that word not only means to immerse, but it means to have identity with. And when you're being baptized, it's an outward sign of the inner cleansing. It is a right of initiation, if we can put it that way, into the believing community, identifying yourself with Jesus Christ. Why do we as a church not baptize infants? First of all, as I mentioned, it's not mentioned in the New Testament. It was not done in the New Testament. But there's a second reason and that is that infant baptism, as I mentioned, arose under the premise that somehow grace is communicated.
And so there are some who use formulas like this with this water as they sprinkle an infant. With this water, I make you a child of God. And so some people grow up thinking that they are Christians because they were baptized as infants.
It's a terrible mistake. I want you to know today that that act did not make you a Christian. Of course, if I had time, I'd explain that not everyone interprets infant baptism the same way. But it arose with the idea that this was a communication of special grace.
Let me ask you a question today. We do not require baptism to become a member of Moody Church. Some people criticize us for that because in the book of Acts, the two were always linked. But I want to speak to those of you today who are saved and you've never been baptized. That is to say, you have never been immersed as a believer.
Why not? I've heard things like this. People say, well, I was baptized as an infant. Well, you were baptized as an infant. But were you baptized as a believer upon profession of your faith making your personal declaration that your heart has been cleansed by Christ and that you belong to God and are identifying yourself with the people of God?
Have you done that? Then there are those who say, well, you know, I might offend my family if I were baptized. Well, let me tell you that maybe your family needs to understand that a radical transformation has happened to you, that you are breaking with your past life and your past understandings. It's been my privilege on numerous occasions lecturing on the reformation to go to Zurich, Switzerland, and there to stand at the Lamont River right at the Rathaus where it happened, where Felix Montz was drowned. Now, folks, you have to understand that his crime was believing that even though he was baptized as an infant, that he should be re-baptized as a believer upon profession of faith.
That was his crime. In those days, infant baptism was believed to be so important because it held church and state together. It was a symbol of the regional church and not even the reformers would give it up for love nor money. And the Zurich City Council said that whoever is baptized as an adult upon profession of faith must be put to death by burning fire or sword. When Felix Montz and Konrad Grebel baptized one another, Felix Montz's hands were tied, he was pushed out on the river in a little boat and then they capsized it.
And he was drowned in those dark waters on January 5th, 1527, and his mother was shouting across the waves urging her son to remain true to the faith. His crime was to be baptized, to be re-baptized as one who had been baptized as an infant. And that, of course, as you should know, was a Protestant dying, being martyred by other Protestants.
And that began a persecution of the Anabaptists throughout Europe because the movement had spread tremendously and whole villages of men, women, and children were massacred with the sword because they believed that one should be baptized as an adult. And today there are some people who say, I wouldn't be because I might offend somebody. You might offend them, but you probably won't die.
Thank God that we have freedom here in America. So there are those who say, I was baptized as an infant. I might offend my family. Some people say it's embarrassing to go into the water.
Repentance is always embarrassing. And that's a symbol of it. It's a symbol of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Romans chapter 6, where it says we have been baptized in his death and we have been raised again to newness of life. What you're saying is I'm leaving the past behind and I'm trusting Christ raised to new life, identified with him as his disciple. Now let me ask you again, why are you not baptized?
Let me put it this way. It's possible to be married without having a wedding ring. It's also possible to wear a wedding ring without being married. You could find one somewhere and slip it on, but that doesn't make you married, does it? Now folks, I want you to know it's possible to be genuinely saved without having been baptized because salvation is the marriage. The wedding ring, so to speak, is the baptism. But why would any bride not want to wear a wedding ring? If she were to come to me, I'd say, hey, don't argue with me about it.
Why don't you talk to your husband and tell him why you want to be without a wedding ring? And so I say to you today very lovingly, though I hope pointedly, if you are here as a genuine believer in Christ and have never been baptized, we are members of Christ, we are his bride, would you explain to Christ why it is that you're so confident that you should disobey him? In fact, why don't you begin a sentence like this and say, Lord Jesus, the reason that I want to disobey what you've said is, and then you fill in the blank, and then you work it out with him. You know, I don't like it when people leave Moody Church and say over brunch, the pastor was unclear.
Okay. Now let's speak about the Lord's Supper. It occupied always a central place in the history of the church because the cross is central. But when sacramentalism came into being, again we're talking about, you know, the third century and especially after Constantine, the fourth and fifth centuries, where it was believed now that this was something that actually became the body and the blood of Christ.
What you found is two things. First, awesome power given to the priests. I mean, just imagine through saying the right words, wine could become blood and bread could become literal flesh.
That was believed by the tenth century, 1,000 years after the time of Christ that was finally believed to be the correct tradition. So what you had is not only the priests having awesome power, but people were told that they could worship the wine and the bread with the same worship given to God himself because it was God. Now mind you, when you looked at it, it was still wine. It tasted like wine. It smelled like it.
It was still bread. But the essence, it was believed, was changed somehow miraculously. What also happened as this began to grow, people, the ordinary person, was told, you can't even drink the cup because you might spill the blood of Jesus Christ on the floor.
We can't trust you with his actual blood. You can imagine again this distinction that came between laity and clergy as the clergy had the awesome power to be able to make the concentration and be able to make the change. Well, this is Pastor Luther, and I recognize that this sermon is controversial in some places, but at the same time, my burden is that we understand the issues and recognize the great privilege that it is to remember the body and the blood of Christ and to recognize that he died for us and that we are all priests before God. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Now, I know that there are many of you who cannot give large gifts, but perhaps you could give something monthly, consistently.
It certainly helps us in our planning. Here's what you do because, of course, you need some information. Go to RTWOffer.com. RTWOffer.com, and when you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. And I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who talks about the fact that her husband had a severe injury, she listened to the ministry of Running to Win consistently, and she talks about the blessing it has been in her life. One of the things that you discover about radio is that it goes to places that you and I could never possibly go. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? Once again, go to RTWOffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Let me thank you in advance for your help. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. All agree that some theological pursuits are a waste of time, such as asking how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.
But one of our thoughtful listeners has come up with this challenge for you, Dr. Lutzer. Are there now all the angels that there will ever be or will more be created? Well, I think that, first of all, the Bible doesn't speak to that, but I am of the conviction that there will not be more created. I think when God decided to create the angelic host—and I love that phrase in the Psalms that says he commanded and they were created—I think God created myriads and myriads of angels, and he probably created enough. So I don't think more are going to be created.
Simple question, simple answer. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time on Running to Win, a further look at the Lord's Supper or Communion and how its meaning was distorted in the early centuries of the church. Plan to join us. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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