Monthly Archives: October 2011

  • Reformation Sunday

    For a church to not have a Reformation Service or reminder of the Reformation on October 31 is like the United States not celebrating Independence Day on July 4th. Granted, there is no divine mandate, “thou shalt celebrate Independence Day.” It does, however, seem like a pretty good idea for a nation to pass on a heritage and remember the past. Likewise, while not mandated by God, Reformation services and remembrances are good for the church. They enable us to pass on our heritage and remember our past. It’s not surprising that when churches replace Reformation services with harvest carnivals, trunk or treat (can it get any cheesier?) and mud runs that the distinctives of Protestantism are marginalized and will be inevitably lost. What makes this so tragic is that the distinctive of Protestantism is the gospel. Therefore, you can … Read More »

  • The Sacraments, part 5

    As we noted last week, baptism is a means God uses to bring about the salvation of his church (1 Pet. 3:21), even though regeneration and the benefits of salvation are not necessarily tied to the moment of baptism. But how is baptism to be done? Is there a specific formula that must be followed in order for it to be valid? Usually when questions like this are raised the interlocutor has in mind the mode of baptism.

    It is a much better approach to recognize that God is the one doing the baptizing

    Historically the church has recognized immersion, sprinkling, and pouring as valid modes of baptism. Because we are Christians who recognize that the church did not start with us and at the same time value and wish to emphasize the catholicity (universal nature) of our faith, … Read More »

  • The Sacraments, part 4

    Those who have come out the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican communions are sometimes caught off guard when they read the language used by the Reformed church to describe holy Baptism. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that many—even ministers—in the Reformed church are not really reformed in their theology of the sacraments at all. Ironically, they are more anabaptistic (evangelical) than anything else. So what is the

    The Reformed church correctly allows God to work how and when he wishes

    language that raises the hackles of recovering Roman Catholics and the like? Usually it is the word “efficacy.” “Efficacy” can be defined simply as the “capacity for producing a desired result or effect.” Thus, to speak of baptism as something that has the capacity for producing a desired result gets the attention not only of recovering … Read More »

  • The Sacraments, part 3

    In 1643, prior to the drafting of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter and Larger Catechisms the Westminster Divines (theologians/students of divinity) penned a Directory for Public Worship. It would be completed in early 1645. The principal reason for it was to “find a mean between a completely fixed liturgy and a form of worship in which everyone would be “left to do his own will.”

    Baptism is a congregational event

    The first reference was to Rome and the Roman Catholic light worship of the Anglican church and the fixed liturgy of their prayer book. The latter allusion was to the Anabaptists and Independents. Since they are trying to avoid the fixed liturgy of the Anglicans as well as the form of worship where everyone is able to do whatever they want, what we find are more principles and guidelines, … Read More »

  • The Sacraments, part 2

    Following the practice of the early church who devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers (Acts 2.42), the reformers likewise insisted on the necessity of the church to be based on a ministry of Word and Sacrament. If the church’s vocation is making Christ known and extending the gospel to the world, then word and sacrament are the job description. In other words, this is what the church should be doing when she gathers for worship. Justin Martyr writing circa A.D. 155 describes the practice of the early church like this:

    And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as … Read More »