Q & A 91-97 The Sacraments Of Baptism And The Lord’s Supper.
Q. 91 How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. 91 The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.
Although it is essential that those who administer the sacraments be genuine believers, the sacrament in no way demands on the spiritual condition of those who administer them. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (I Cor. 3:7).
Q. 92 What is a sacrament?
A. 92 A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
The outward symbols signify the benefits of salvation. Like circumcision under the old covenant, baptism under the new is a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11).
Q. 93 Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism signifies the dying to sin and living to God, “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 3:21). The Lord’s supper, which is the Christian Passover, shows forth the Lord’s death also (I Cor. 11:26).
Q. 94 What is baptism?
A. 94 Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does 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.
Since there is but one covenant of grace, there is no indication in the New Testament that the infants, who were included in the sacraments of the Old Testament, were in any way excluded in the New (Gen. 17:10; Col. 2:11-12; Heb. 13:20).
Q. 95 To whom is baptism to be administered?
A. 95 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.
Baptism was reiterated by the Lord as an ongoing practice among his disciples, when he issued the great commission (Mt. 28:18-20). Being taught and practiced by the apostles, including Paul (Acts 2:39; 8:36-37; Gal. 3:27), being “buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). It also included all the members of one’s house, including infants (I Cor. 7:14).
There is also no indication that the mode was of necessity by immersion. This is just tradition being put forth as scriptural mandate by those of the immersionist persuasion. Physical baptism is likened unto the baptism of the Spirit, which is described as a pouring (Mt. 3:11; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:17ff.). We are also said to be sprinkled by the blood of Christ (Heb. 12:24). The only ones we know who were immersed were the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Ex. 14:22, 28).
“In conclusion we stress two points. First, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. The inward work of God’s grace in a particular person may come before, or during, or after the time of administration of baptism. Second, we must not think that baptism is of importance to us only once. No, the Larger Catechism rightly says that we ought to “improve our baptism” all through life. Thus, whenever we see this ordinance administered in the Church, we are to apply its meaning again to our own hearts. Thus are we to deepen our understanding and thankfulness to God on account thereof.” (Williamson 302-303)
Q. 96 What is the Lord’s supper?
A. 96 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.
It was during the celebration of the Passover that the Lord gave instructions that with his coming, this Passover meal now be kept in remembrance of him. It is his sprinkled blood (Heb. 12:24), “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:19), who now delivers the true members of the new covenant from death (Lk. 22:19-20). Just as baptism replaces circumcision as a sign and seal of entrance into the covenant, even so the Lord’s supper replaces the Passover to express the continuing life within the covenant. “For indeed Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7 Cf. Ex. 12:5).
Unlike the previous section on baptism, on the subject of the Lord’s supper, they should have also asked the question which is there asked concerning who may partake of the supper. Q & A 97 assumes that one must be an adult, for all the things required in what follows. However, the very same requirements of repentance and faith are required of adults receiving baptism, but still there was a provision, based on scripture, for the infants of believing parents, and one ought also to add the mentally incapable, for being included in the covenant administrations.
The Passover, from a biblical perspective, clearly mandated that all the members of the household(s) were to be included (Ex. 12:3-4). All were to take refuge in one’s house, and all were to partake of the meal together (vv. 7-8). Therefore, it is inconsistent for those who administer the sign of covenantal inclusion, to withhold the sign and seal of covenantal continuation, because the “demands” for adults are identical, and infants certainly are “persons”.
Q. 97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. 97 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.
There is also another misconception of Paul’s stipulations. Paul made clear that when he wrote about the body of Christ, he was referring to the church. It is therefore very strange that the focus gets solely directed to somehow examining Christ’s actual body when people look at what it means to examine oneself. Paul’s injunction here is that each would examine themselves in terms of their relationship with the body as the church (I Cor. 11:28-31). This is why he also says at 14:1 that we follow love in the body – this is in fact his primary focus in this entire section (Chs. 11-14). In fact it started even earlier in his letter, where when after he referred to Christ as our Passover lamb (I Cor. 5:7), he then stated that we (plural –the body), ought to “keep the feast,” (the Christian Passover), “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8).
Jesus said that if one is offering a gift at the altar, which is in effect what we do in the supper, and remember that a brother has something against us, we are to rectify that situation before we come to offer our gift (Mt. 5:23). This is Paul’s focus here, which is not something which would be applicable to infants, or the mentally challenged. Certainly, it is important for adults, that we examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5). However, this is something that must be included in baptism as well, and indeed throughout our Christian lives. The most important sacrifice or gift that the individual can offer to God is, “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17), but also thanksgiving that the gift that we offer to God is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ for us. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:30-31; Jer. 9:23-24).