Westminster Shorter Catechism, Week 42

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Here we come to the second of the two sacraments … Read More »

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Week 41

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

When we think and talk about baptism it is helpful to do so under the categories of mode, meaning, and members. That is, how baptism is to be administered (mode); what … Read More »

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Week 40

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Discussion – The catechism now moves from the word to the sacraments. It is worth reiterating that, along with prayer, these are the basic and rudimentary elements for the worship of God and … Read More »

Apostles’ Creed

Evangelicals have a general uneasiness to the use of creeds and confessions which springs from a very healthy respect for the Holy Scriptures.  If you are one of them and wonder why we use them be sure to check out an earlier installment I wrote here http://www.newlifelamesa.org/pastor-brians-blog/confession-of-faith/.  Here our discussion will be limited to an introduction to the Apostles’ Creed.  Whenever we confess the creed I hear questions about its content.  Hopefully this piece will go a little way into answering some of them.

Philip Schaff highlights the pride of place given by Christendom to the Apostles’ Creed when he says, “As the Lord’s Prayer is the Prayer of prayers, the Decalogue the Law of laws, so the Apostles’ Creed is the Creed of creeds.”  For this reason alone we cannot be ignorant of it.  It might be compared to one … Read More »

“…and the life everlasting.”

More than 85% of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife. Of course, beyond that there is little agreement, especially as it concerns the nature of that afterlife. Here the Creed comes to an end and does so by affirming the hope of life beyond this life and the victory over the grave. Life is central to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus himself who was bold enough to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Peter recognized that Jesus’ words were not religious platitudes or inspirational sayings. Rather, he affirmed to Christ, “You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). Jesus’ ministry is a life giving ministry. “…the Son gives life to whom he will” (Jn. 5:21). John introduces him succinctly, saying, “In him was life” (Jn. 1:4). … Read More »

“…the resurrection of the body…”

People say the darnedest things at funerals. Orthodoxy often gives way to sentimentality. The religion of Scripture often takes a back seat to the folk religion of the day—a toxic blend of new-age wackiness, a smattering of Bible verses and a healthy dose of sappy sentimentalism. When this is all mixed together we hear about people floating on clouds and singing with the angels. And, almost always, we hear of the blessings of being delivered from the body. Much of this stems from trying to make sense about things the Bible really doesn’t talk about. Frankly, apart from a couple of NT verses, nothing is said about the intermediate state (Phil. 1:23 ; 2 Cor. 5:8)—the time between death and the resurrection of the body. The note the Bible strikes is one emphasizing the final state, the time after the … Read More »

“…the forgiveness of sins…”

Thus far everything spoken of Christ has been outside of us. That is, the Creed has been emphasizing the historic work of Christ in his incarnation, suffering, and glory. At this point, the application of Christ’s redeeming work applied to his people by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the church here comes into focus. Few phrases could be sweeter to the believer’s ear than this one.

Few phrases could be sweeter to the believer’s ear than this one.

When we confess that we believe in the “forgiveness of sins” we are also confessing that we believe in sin and that we are intimately acquainted with it. To confess this is to confess that one is a sinner in need of a Savior. It is much like the admission one makes when she says, “I am sure the doctor can heal … Read More »

“…the communion of saints…”

In contrast to the bizarre teaching of Rome about saints and sainthood, the Creed is echoing the ubiquitous New Testament language used to describe the people of God. “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). It is worth noting the way “loved by God” and “called to be saints” are parallel with one another. All those whom God loves are also saints. Perhaps most encouraging of all is the way Paul speaks to the church at Corinth, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours “ (1 Cor. 1:2). As you know, the Corinthians were the least … Read More »

“…holy catholic church…” Part 2

Last week we noted that when we confess our belief in the holy catholic church we are confessing the importance and centrality of the church as well as doing it in the singular instead of the plural. As Protestants we would be much more comfortable confessing a belief in “churches.” However, by confessing the singular we are affirming our unity around the person of Christ and his gospel. This week we get to the much-discussed and ever concerning phrase adjective “catholic.”

…by confessing the singular (catholic) we are affirming our unity around the person of Christ and his gospel.

Every time the Creed is confessed by Protestants well meaning folk get concerned. Is the pastor a crypto-(Roman) Catholic? Let me give you two reasons to rest assured that what we are confessing is, in fact, Biblical and important and not a support … Read More »

“…holy catholic church…” Part 1

Perhaps the chief impetus for me to take up a WWBWWB series on the Apostles’ Creed was the questions I received after confessing relating to two specific phrases. You can probably guess which they are. The first: Christ’s decent into hell. We wrestled through the meaning of that, and if you are interested in reading it again, or even for the first time, it can be found on our website. The second: the holy catholic church. What does it mean when we confess our belief in the holy catholic church? Likely, there is little problem confessing a belief in the church or even in the holy church, but catholic church? Before we get to the adjective, let’s take up the central confession: a belief in the church.

What does it mean when we confess our belief in the holy catholic church?

For … Read More »