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One at a time

31 August 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the old testament were different from those under the new.

Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the old testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the old testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the new testament?
A. Under the new testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.

I believe in the sacraments. At least, I believe that grace is offered to us through the sacraments. I believe that this grace is offered to us to be feasted on by faith: whether by preaching, by communion, or by baptism. I believe this because the grace of God is always offered to us by means of the gospel, and the sacraments proclaim the gospel to us for our joy and edification.

I know that Baptists get nervous about talking like this, or even using the word 'sacrament' to describe the Lord's Supper and Baptism. That's okay. Baptists get nervous about dancing and drinking beer, too. Especially when someone else finds out that they have been doing both. So don't let Baptist hang ups keep you from thinking about the matter of grace in the sacraments.

Here's the truth: God is always gracious. Grace comes to us from God in all manner of ways: in kisses, in children, in breath, in rebuke, and even on the internet. No matter what we do or experience, we ought to see enough grace in it to glorify God for it. Should the Lord's Supper be any different?

I want you to consider how you think preaching works. We believe that God uses the means of preaching the Word of God to justify us and sanctify us, right? Well, how does preaching do that, exactly? Isn't it because the Spirit of God uses the preacher's words to impact our hearts and change our lives by agency of the Holy Spirit who works through those words. He justifies us through preaching, and He sanctifies us through preaching.

We are once and for all justified by faith the moment we believe. But sanctification is a life-long process, and it too is part of salvation. When we eat the Lord's Supper by faith, and remember that Christ was broken for us and is still offering Himself to us, we are being saved by that, and humbled by that, and changed by that. We learn to love our brother better because we know we need Jesus to make us clean and him clean, and both of us are happy that the other is willing to admit it. It makes me love Jesus more to know that he gave Himself not just for me, but that He also gave Himself for my beloved brother. This is grace, and this is a feast that God prepares for us.

If you think that Jesus isn't present "in the meal", I wonder where you think He is during it? Is He walking amongst the lampstands or not? Does He only show up for the singing and preaching? Or is He at the table again? Not that He is suffering again or is being eternally crucified. God forbid! Rather, it is more akin to him saying to Thomas, "Come here, and take a look at my hands. Put your finger in my side. Stop disbelieving and believe!" I confess that I have taken up the cup many times, as a believer, with this thought in my heart, "Lord, I do believe. Help me in my unbelief!" And He does help me. One sermon at a time. One meal at a time. One witnessed baptism at a time. One hymn at a time. He gives me grace.

The other day, my three year old daughter Zoe invited me for tea. I sat at a table too small for me with her and a stuffed rabbit named Blossom. We drank tea out of pink plastic cups. Mine was an Earl Gray with a bit of lemon. Zoe had sweet tea, and Blossom only likes carrot tea. I drank mine pinky out, and I told Zoe how wonderful her tea was, and that she looked splendid in her dress.

Of course, there was no tea, really. At least, there wasn't any tea in the cup. It was pretend. But the fellowship with my daughter was quite real. The bread of communion is not the "real" body of Jesus, but the fellowship with the Spirit and the saints in the meal is very real. By the word of God, we preach Christ, in communion we proclaim His death, and in baptism we proclaim our union in Christ and our resurrection with Him. These are means of grace to us, sacraments if we dare, and they ought to be treasured by us as the gifts that they are.

Comments

Kim

I thought this was one of the best posts here so far.

Frank Turk

It's because we have an awesome editor.

Neil

It would have been better with Latin signifiers.

Frank Turk

In an alternative universe, maybe.

Kim

ego enim accepi a Domino quod et tradidi vobis quoniam Dominus Iesus in qua nocte tradebatur accepit panem

et gratias agens fregit et dixit hoc est corpus meum pro vobis hoc facite in meam commemorationem

(AD Corinthios I:11-23-24)

Brad Williams

Thanks Kim! I hoped I haven't peaked too early.

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