Sunday, February 10, 2008

Raging Hordes of Enthusiasts. Part 2

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ESV

The above passage was the text for a sermon a friend asked me to review. It was preached by a Baptist minister and was available on Sermon Audio. Salvation by grace through faith is something historically the Baptist get right. Not one of them would ever say that a person is saved by what he or she does. And this man was not an exception for he plainly states that nothing we do can save us. In addition he made it clear that it is the finished work of Jesus on the cross which paid the sin debt for us. These are points for rejoicing that there are still men out there in Baptist Churches proclaiming these truths.

While preaching he stated that the Sacraments have nothing to do with salvation. This is a long held belief by the Baptist’s view of salvation. This teaching proclaims that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are an ordinance of the church to be observed and obeyed. His reference to this was in speaking against the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of justification by works. While one can agree with his assessment of that error the Roman Church does not teach trust in the Sacraments either. In that body it is taught those are actions taken by people in order to please God. They are referred to as obligations to perform. Performance of them often enough and with sufficient fervor one can hope to add to and make withdrawals from the treasury of merits of Christ and the Saints. Unfortunately we see a correspondence between what that minister was stating and what is taught in Rome. Both would teach it as the work of sinners not the Saviour.

Is this what the bible teaches or is there different teaching in scripture? Both views are steeped in tradition but not is scripture. Scripture teaches that the two Sacraments are instituted by Jesus as gifts in which we receive the benefits and promises associated with His perfect life, death, burial and resurrection.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ESV

Reading a little further in the letter out of which the sermon was preached we see a conflict between what he was preaching and what St Paul taught. We see that the church is sanctified and cleansed by Jesus through the washing of water with the word. It is not a regular pouring of water but it is comprehended with the word and the promise of Jesus that one becomes a disciple by receiving this baptism. Matthew 28:19-20.

1Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? ESV

There we see St Paul proclaiming that the Lord’s Supper is indeed receiving the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ESV Later, on the same night He was betrayed, when instituting the Sacrament He gave bread and the cup which He identified as His body and blood. Matthew 26: 26-28. In this meal we receive the forgiveness of sins as promised by Jesus in that institution. We can trust His word can't we?

According to that minister where do we look for the assurance of salvation? He indicated that a good place to start is emotions. That is how God communicates these things to us not through visible means. Emotions are certainly real and can be involved in a relationship to God but they hardly can be relied upon for proof positive. Emotions in the human are fickle and part of the fallen nature. More related to what is happening on any given day then how God sees the person they can hardly be trusted for any assurance. A real candid and honest reading of the standards God requires of people in relationship with Him will leave one with the emotion of despair. If I had the chance to ask this minister I would ask where we are given the promise of assurance in with and under our feelings.

God is the creator of matter and is quite able and seems pleased to use it for His purposes. So if His word attaches promises to material items, and it does, rather than fight against it we should praise Him for these gifts and live in the true peace they offer.

Lord we believe. Help our unbelief. Amen †

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