Sacraments Do Not Dispense Grace

I do not agree that, when we hear Christ preached, that we then hear Christ preaching. I do not agree that when we hear an “ordained” “minister” absolving our sins, that we then hear Christ forgiving our sins.

WHO IS HEARING? Are the non-elect not hearing, because they don’t care about their sins? Are the non-elect hearing “you are forgiven”?

Is it “pietism” (or “being a baptist”) to warn people that the New Testament is written only to Christians? It’s ironic to say that Christians doing politics must do so as if they were not Christians, but then not make such a distinction for those “taking the sacrament”.

The assumption, the pretense, the official lie, is that everybody observing the sacrament is an exile from the world and a Christian. Otherwise the sacramentalist would have to speak to the church as if were the world.

And then the sacramentalist would need to think more about water giving salvation to pagans who are not children, and about the supper being converting for those halfway in. Even if there is no faith, is there no blessing?

To the extent sacramentalists use “the covenant” to argue for sacraments, the redemptive-historical political distinction between the old and new covenants collapses. And no attention is given to the differences between the promises of a covenant. Reformed folks tend to focus on one undefined positive promise (is it that my child should assume already that he is a Christian?) and to ignore the fine print about “covenant curses” for those who “participate in the sacrament. Call them “negative sanctions”— God may break you off if you don’t observe the sacramental rituals.

They do not want us to talk about “dead” Christians as if some internal work of the Spirit needed to be done, but rather asks if people are “observant” at the sacraments. I am glad that not all paedobaptists agree with him on that. If you are faking it at the “sacrament”, then God can kill you. That argument in itself does not prove that it is a sacrament or that God is the agent in the Supper or in the water. Those questions have to be answered biblically and not by confessional presupposition.

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10 Comments on “Sacraments Do Not Dispense Grace”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Paedobaptists equate “the beginning of my Christian life” with the “beginning of my life”. Never not Christians. Christians from the start. Paedobaptism is not always equal to water efficacy. Paedobaptists give water to those in the covenant because most of them teach that even the non-elect in the covenant begin life as Christians before they receive water.

  2. Alien Pebble Says:

    Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    The church has very often been a minority. But whether the church is a majority or a minority at any time or place, the church is not given yet to be wholly visible to itself. There is a real temptation in wanting to be a visible minority, a gathered church in which you can say, “We are few, but we know exactly who we are, and we know who is on our side. The line is drawn clearly and unambiguously between us and the world.” That kind of visibility and definition is not granted to the church in our age. WE KNOW WHERE THE CHURCH IS BECAUSE WE KNOW WHERE THE SACRAMENTS ARE and where the word is preached. We see people gathering to the sacraments, we see the church taking form. I’m with Augustine and again a gathered church Protestantism. Oliver O Donovan

  4. markmcculley Says:

    To get to a Christian universe, first you need one imperial church

    Even many “reformed baptists” teach that the sacrament assures you of salvation—-the Bible can’t, believing the gospel can’t but remembering the water can. They say that it’s not humans but God who is “doing the sacrament”. I mean, after all, it can kill you, so therefore it must not be human obedience or disobedience, but God directly giving you assurance—- no salvation normally outside “the church” (but they are pretty generous in allowing that maybe your defective church is still church enough). Many many reformed baptists confuse the law with the gospel

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/12/no-sacraments-no-protestantism

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Leithart: The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU .

    Leithart–The self-imputation of “righteous” is based on the baptismal declaration that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/evangelicalpulpit/2014/11/no-sacraments-no-protestantism/#ixzz3L1NmJLfk

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion.

    Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me

    In this way the Gospel and its sacraments effectively give us the gift of faith. I do not have to ask whether I truly believe; I need merely ask whether it is true, just as the Word says, that Christ’s body is given for me. And if the answer is yes, then my faith is strengthened—without “making a decision of faith,” without the necessity of a conversion experience, and without even the effort to obey a command to believe.

    For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe).

    It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. If I cling to that in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me. Thus precisely the kind of faith that is insufficient to get me admitted to the Puritan sacraments—which is to say, mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need.

    the Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. The logic of the matter, it seems to me, makes it impossible to split the difference between these two positions and get the best of both.

    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/clinging-to-externals-weak-faith-and-the-power-of-the-sacraments/

    mcmark—-Talk of the sacrament “for us” always replaces talk of definite atonement only for the elect, and crowds out any good news of justice requiring the final salvation of all for whom Christ died. The Lutheran “us” claims to be everybody, but for Lutherans, it’s not the death for “us” which saves anyone, because what saves anyone is present faith. Present faith, present salvation, and losing faith is losing salvation, and Christ’s satisfaction of the law has nothing to do with it.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Q: Following a Communion service, what are the prescribed means for the disposal of the consecrated wine and wafers?

    A: To begin with, care should be taken that inordinate amounts of bread and wine are not consecrated at each service, but rather just what is needed for that service.

    While Scripture does not tell us whether Christ’s body and blood are still present in the blood and wine after Communion, we should still treat what remains with greatest reverence. The point here is to recognize the fact that these elements were used in the service to deliver our Lord’s very body and blood to us. How we treat them after the service should never lose sight of that great mystery of faith.

    There are two places to find helpful information on this topic. One is Section B.2.c. of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ 1983 document titled, Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper.
    B.2.c. Post Communion Reverence

    The consecrated elements which remain after all have communed should be treated with reverence. This reverence has been expressed by Lutherans in various ways. Some have followed the ancient practice of burning the bread and pouring the wine upon the earth. Others have established a basin and drain-piscina-specifically for disposal for the wine. The elders or altar guild may also return the consecrated bread and wine to specific containers for future sacramental use, or the elders and pastor can consume the remaining elements. All of these practices should be understood properly. The church is not, thereby, conferring upon the elements some abiding status apart from their use in the Lord’s Supper itself.
    The other point of reference is page 89 of The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service book Edition, by Dr. Lee Maxwell that says:
    “If any of the Lord’s body and blood remains, they can be disposed of in a number of ways. The best way is to consume the remaining elements, since the Lord said, “Take and eat … Take and drink,” and did not provide for anything that was left over. There is historic precedent for reserving the remaining elements against the next communion. The hosts can be stored in a pyx or ciborium (apart from unconsecrated hosts), the blood of the Lord in a suitable cruet or flagon (apart from unconsecrated wine). What remains in the chalice, however, should either be consumer or poured into the piscine or onto the ground, since there may be crumbs or other foreign matter in it. The reserved elements may then be kept in the sacristy or placed on the altar or credence and covered with a white veil. It is un- Lutheran and irreverent to place unused elements in the trash or to pour the remainder of what is in the chalice or flagon into the common drain.”
    As noted in the manual, the general practice of the Lutheran Church has been NOT to mix consecrated and unconsecrated elements. If the elements are saved for future use, it is best they are kept separate. The practice of consuming the remaining elements also has a long history in the Lutheran Church.

    http://www.lcms.org/faqs/doctrine#disposal


  8. Robert Bruce—You get a better grip of the same thing in the Sacrament than you got by the hearing of the Word. That same thing which you possess by the hearing of the Word, you now possess more fully. God has more room in your soul, through your receiving of the Sacrament, than He could otherwise have by your hearing of the Word only. What then, you ask, is the new thing we get? We get Christ better than we did before. We get the thing which we had more fully, that is, with a surer apprehension than we had before. We get a better grip of Christ now, for by the Sacrament my faith is nourished, the bounds of my soul are enlarged, and so where I had but a little of Christ before, as it were, between my finger and my thumb, now I get Him in my whole hand, and indeed the more my faith grows, the better grip I get of Christ Jesus. Thus the Sacrament is very necessary, if only for the reason that we get Christ better, and get a firmer grasp of Him by the Sacrament, than we could have before.”


  9. Calvin— Yet, (you say) there is danger lest he who is ill, if he die without baptism, be deprived of the grace regeneration. Not at all. God declares that he adopts our babies as his own before they are born, when he promises that he will be our God and the God of our descendants after us (Genesis 17:7). Their salvation is embraced in this word. No one will dare be so insolent toward God as to deny that his promise of itself suffices for its effect.
    p. 383 ( Institutes, IV.xv.20)
    Commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:14, Calvin —The fact that the apostle ascribes a special privilege to the children of believers here has its source in the blessing of the covenant, by whose intervention the curse of nature is destroyed, and all those who were by nature unclean are consecrated to God by His grace.
    p. 383 (John Calvin, Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960),

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Larry Ball–The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time of the administration of baptism, but it is tied to the administration of baptism itself. No Christian parent should expect that grace be “conferred” (Confessional language) on their children apart from their children being recipients of the sacrament of covenant baptism. The same can be said of adult baptisms. The grace promised in the ordinance of baptism is actually conferred in God’s appointed time “by the right use of this ordinance” (Confessional language). Grace is conferred because the ordinance is used.

    Larry Ball– I am certainly not denying the doctrine of election. HOWEVER, the doctrine of election was never given to negate the hope of the promises that are given to Christian parents. The doctrine of election taught in Romans 9 to explain why there was unbelief among the covenant people of God. It was intended to be an explanation — not a qualification to the promises of God.
    Some preachers are haunted by what I call the “if clause.” For example, it is often said to Christians that the promises of God are for you “if you are saved” or “if you are a true believer.” The very promises that give hope to Christians often die a slow death by a thousand qualifications.

    Larry Ball–Covenant Baptism is not merely a symbol. If anyone is dedicating himself in covenant baptism, it is God who is dedicating himself to keep the promises he has made to Christian parents This is a high view of the efficacy of covenant baptism. It is simply the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith. http://theaquilareport.com/a-high-view-of-the-efficacy-of-baptism/


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