When it comes to the sacraments there are a few things necessary, including faith, to bring the full measure to bear on your soul. First of all you need to have a lawfully called minister of the gospel applying the visible signs of God’s covenant blessings. This year at Synod the ARP Church made it clear in a change made to our Directory of Public Worship that you can’t do Zoom/online communion. The same could be said for worship itself. It’s not something you can do by yourself no matter how many people are online with you.
As has been the case from when we was back in the single digits of the catechism our Westminster Divines have taken one part of the previous question and have begun to expand on it as we get into the next-to-last section which will cover the sacraments of the Church. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about defining “sacrament” since Q. 92 below does it for us. The key thing to take at this point is that there are ways that God has made to help us grow in grace and we need to be careful not to be wiser than the Lord. As is noted there are only two. Not seven as Rome might think, and not thousands like evangelicalism would conjure up in their never-ending desire to find something new.
In the catechism lesson today we are going to talk about what makes a sacrament a sacrament and why this matters. Here are the Q/A’s for this week:
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.
The first thing that we read above is that as with all things what really matters is Jesus. It’s not the water, the cup, or the bread or even the minister (though all are necessary in their own way). If Christ is not in it then it’s worth about as much as a freezer in the Arctic. However, if the Church takes from that idea that it doesn’t really matter how we go about accomplishing the sacrament as long as we ask the Lord to be a part of it then we’ve lost the plot at some point in time.
Isaiah the prophet speaks at length about the reasons why God has refused to accept the sacrifices of Israel. He makes it clear that it stinketh the nostrils of Jehovah because they are neither offered in faith nor in the manner described in the law. If Israel wants Him to take notice and give the promise contained therein then they best get to:
…[seeking] Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God.”
Remember last week when we talked about our need to be diligent with the means of grace found in the Scriptures?