Posted tagged ‘sacrament’

Chuck E. Cheese Tokens–Does your church PAY OUT with SACRAMENTAL CURRENCY?

May 10, 2017

“I said it was only a bread-god.’ The priests were wroth that I so contemned their god.”

Calvin (3:2:24) —-Christ is not outside us but dwells within us. Not only does Christ cleave to us by an indivisible bond of fellowship, but grow MORE AND MORE into one body with us, until He becomes completely one with us

Luther– “Christ daily drives out the old Adam MORE AND MORE in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow. For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death (“Two Kinds of Righteousness,” LW 31: 299)

Doug Moo–There is no need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight, p 35-41). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God ( making justification the product of union with Christ) CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification.” (Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Understanding the Times)

Heidelberg Catechsim Q. 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?

A. It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; BUT ALSO, BESIDES THAT TO BECOME MORE AND MORE UNITED TO HIS SACRED BODY, by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding “flesh of his flesh:….

Austrian economics (Mises) teaches that “If people value something, it has value. if people do not value some­thing, it does not have value. There is no intrinsic about it.”

If you define church by its “sacraments” and define sacrament not as your remembering but as God (through the church) handing out grace, then the distribution by your church of the “means of grace” is the way your church “pays out”.

Although there is no objective grace from God in what your church does, if you think that its sacrament has value for you, then you will try to find a church with an “ordained minister” (with a “vocation” as “called by God”) in order for you to receive “more and more” union with the presence of Christ.

Many people think that, if there is no sacrament, there is no church. They also think that If there is no ordained preacher to hand out grace in sacraments), there is no church

When you have a birthday part for your grandchildren at Chuck E Cheese, they give you “tokens” which you can use to play the games at Chuck E. Cheese. The tokens have no value anywhere else, but you can use them play skee ball and shoot baskets while you eat junk food at the party. In this sense, the sacraments in your church function as its “money”.

The basic difference between sacramental churches is how much your faith is involved in your obtaining grace from the sacrament. Though Lutherans teach that your “faith alone” along with their sacrament will give you grace from God, Lutherans also teach that their sacrament will give more and more curse to those who do not believe in the sacrament.

The Reformed tend to teach that only those who believe in the sacrament get to go to heaven and eat Jesus. The Reformed teach that God is NOT PRESENT in the sacrament for those who don’t believe in the sacrament, but even the Reformed also teach that some people end up dead because of the sacrament, because unbelief “eats and drinks judgment” .

John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them

Unlike the Roman Catholic church, the sacramental protestants do not teach that the church makes certain Christ’s presence in the sacrament. The sacramental protestants teach that the word of God (as preached by ordained preachers) guarantees the objective sanctions of the sacrament.

For the Protestants, the sacraments are not about us (taking or eating or remembering). For the Protestants, the sacraments are about the ordained preachers. While these Protestants mock “memorial societies”, they claim that “the church” (defined by ordained preachers) is the “living body of Christ”.

Though Lutherans teach that the humanity of Jesus is now everywhere present, they also teach that the humanity of Jesus shows up on earth in a specific time and place predictably when an ordained preacher is involved. Unlike the Lutherans, the Reformed teach that the humanity of Jesus is present only in heaven, but the Reformed teach that those who believe in the sacrament will at certain times and places (where there are ordained preachers) be taken up to heaven to be more and more with Jesus.

For the Reformed, the preachers are necessary but not enough—to nourish on Jesus you need faith in the sacrament and this faith will make the distance between heaven and earth disappear (at certain times and places, where ordained preachers are present). So it’s never only your faith, and it’s never only the preachers. But the Reformed church pays out in grace if you believe that the sacrament is a means of grace. And if you don’t believe that the sacrament gives grace, then you get nothing.

John 3: 8 The wind blows WHERE IT PLEASES and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 4: 19 “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain,yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father NOT on this mountain and NOT in Jerusalem…..an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 20: 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

If a basketball team “puts in a lot of effort” but still loses, where is the value? If something has no value to you,, it has no value, unless somebody else values it enough to pay you for it. It really does not matter how much “work was put into it”.

People often value things that have no value to God.

Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

Philippians 3: 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider those things shit, in order that I gain Christ 9 and be found in Him

Romans 6:20 ”For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those thing is death”

Luke 16:15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.

Sacramentalists don’t trust liberals because as traditionalists they rightly connect suspicion of the nation-state with skepticism about preachers and the church. The majority culture always opposes any attempt of the “sects” to judge what the gospel is, without the authority of other people, including the catholic creeds.

Forget trying to know what the gospel is and who is a Christian, and instead come to the sacrament where the preacher will tell you personally that the grace is “for you” (even though it won’t be if you don’t believe in the sacrament)

Calvin- Institutes 4:17:5 For there are some who define the eating of the flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to me to have intended to teach something more express and MORE SUBLIME in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his flesh—viz. that we are quickened by the true partaking of HIM, which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by simple knowledge. For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into spiritual life. According to them, to eat is merely to believe; while I maintain that the flesh of Christ is eaten by believing and that THIS EATING is the fruit of faith…the Lord was pleased, by calling himself the bread of life, not only to teach that our salvation is treasured up in the faith of his death and resurrection, but also, by virtue of true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes ours, just as bread when taken for food gives nourishment to the body.

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 to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me.

Since I was born to a Canaanite family.I come with faith alone, without water, without clergy, without Christian parents, without promises to those born in the covenant, and also DENYING THAT I will or can come more and more near by agreeing with the tradition about the “real presence.”

When Jesus passed the bread around the table during that Passover before His death, was the bread ontologically identical to the substance of the living body that was doing the passing?
His body was doing the passing, but was it also being passed out? .Jesus said– “this is” my body…

Advertisements

Sacramental Union and Communion with Christ?

November 29, 2011

Those who would defend Constantine and slavery must also always defend the rituals of Christendom. I refer to the “federal vision” deconstruction of any difference between water and union with Christ.
They also reject any difference between ritual Lord’s Supper and union with Christ.

Some of these traditionalists will defend almost anything old (slavery, the confederacy), just so long as it is anti-“liberal”.
Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in salvation by works, the more consistent federal visionists (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. They will get baptized right away. They will have their entire families baptized right away. They will not wait.

But they will do this “take-over” in the name of conservatism. As inductive theologians, they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence. And thus they dream of a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

Federal vision folks are trying to sell us a narrative in which the visibility of the kingdom of Jesus has to do with the traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

If we are going to escape the ideology of ritual Christendom , we need to talk about the sacramental errors of John Calvin, Martin Luther and all who define the Lord’s Supper as something God does instead of as the human obedience of Christians.

The fight about sacramentalism is a fight about politics, because it’s a fight about judging saved and lost. Sacramentalists want to hand out grace without judging saved and lost. They want to include you in their “the church” and then tell you it’s God’s will and not your decision.

Sacramentalists don’t trust liberals because they see that suspicion of the nation-state might also mean skepticism about their big broad “the church”. The majority culture always opposes any attempt of the “sects” to judge who is saved. Forget trying to know who is brother or sister, and come to the sacrament!

Ecclesiastical antinomians want to say that “sacrament” is a secondary issue and not a gospel issue. But when you refuse the political responsibility of judging saved and lost in terms of knowing and believing the gospel, then you have opened the way for assuming that everyone handed out the sacrament (or listening to the “minister’s” sermon) is a Christian.

Do we see everyone with whom we talk as already Christians who simply need to know more (of what we know)? Or do we evangelize because we know that not all Christ’s sheep are not justified yet?

Do we think of church as one universal church which includes saints now living in heaven (to whom we pray or not, is not the only issue) or do we think of local fellowship around a table which is closed to those who do not yet obey the gospel?

For many folks, being more romantic about ritual Christendom means also being more open to “deification”. The “federal vision” way down this path usually begins with II Peter 1:4 (become partakers of the divine nature) and ends up making justification by Christ’s death merely one result of “union with Christ”.

Just as the word “sacrament” is left undefined or given multiple definitions, so also the idea of “union with Christ” is left undefined or given various (unbiblical) definitions in ecumenical discussions.

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? This is the kind of question we need to begin asking. Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin, for example, only believed in union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union of human creatures indwelling God But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water, or with bread and wine? NO. My opinion is that we baptists will never get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from the idea that “union with Christ” is only about regeneration.

As long as our categories for judging saved and lost are “regenerate” and “unregenerate”, we will be assuming (even if we don’t define things) that “union” means regeneration and that union/regeneration precedes justification.

II Corinthians 5—If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

The “new creation” is not first of all about regeneration but about a legal change of identity It’s not gradual; it’s an either or. The new creation is not brought about by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Christ is here, yes, but not in some different way because of water or bread and wine. And also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and obey and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here.

Christ is not now coming down from heaven as He will someday, and we are not now going to heaven, no matter what the “minister of the sacrament” might say.

So how then are the justified elect in Christ? They are in Christ legally. The old has passed. The legal verdict has already been declared. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.

No ritual is a sign from God that we in particular have been united to Christ. Even if our children were to eat the “sacrament” with us, still that’s no seal that either we or our children have been justified or that God is our God.

God Does Not Deal with Individuals?

July 18, 2011

Many reformed defenses of infant baptism depend in some way on not focusing the redemptive-historical character of covenants. Despite his Meredith Kline (some would say dispensational) model, Stellman also relies on “the covenant” talk, expecially when he claims that worship is the same in the new as the old covenant.

My aim here is not to pit one paedobaptist against another (though that’s fun enough, see the little book from Evangelical Press by TE Watson).That does not get to the crux of the question, which has to do with ordained “ministers” doing something and saying that God is doing and man is not.

“Ancient sacramental” folk spend a lot of time quoting Calvin and Nevin to their pietist congregations. And I will grant them that the Constantinian tradition is on their side: the Godfrey-Horton-Doug Wilson types can find plenty to support them even in Zwingli. But it’s going to take more than accusing others of being Gnostic and quoting the confessions about the office of the “minister” to convince us.

Stellman claims that “God never deals with us as individuals” (p9) I do not agree. I disagree that, when we hear Christ preached, we then hear Christ preaching. (p13) I disagree that we hear an official “minister” absolving our sins, that we hear Christ forgiving our sins.

WHO IS HEARING? Are the non-elect not hearing, because they don’t care about their sins? If so, then it comes back again to the faith of the hearers? Or, instead, are the non-elect hearing “you are forgiven” by the “minister” as telling them that THEIR sins are forgiven?

Is it “pietism” to warn people that the New Testament is written only to “as many as” are individually Christian? It’s ironic that Stellman can make distinctions for Sabbath (no death penalty for this! ) but he won’t divide individual Christian from individual nonChristian for those “taking the sacrament”.

Why go on pretending that everybody listening to the sermon and observing the sacrament is an exile from the world and a Christian? But since he refuses “to speak to the church as if were the world” (even though he baptises the infant world into the church), he needs to think more about about the possibility of water passing on salvation to pagans who are not children, and about the supper being converting for those halfway in.

Or, as he himself asks, Even if there is no faith, is there no blessing? (p 14)

To the extent Stellman uses “the covenant” to argue for sacraments, his distinction between the old and new covenants collapses. When he talks Sabbath, he doesn’t want the death penalty to apply, but when he talks sacraments, he still wants to talk sanctions and curses. (p77) Like his mentor Kline, he warns that God may break you off if you don’t observe the rituals.

Stellman doesn’t want us to talk about “dead” Christians (p80) as if some internal work of the Spirit needed to be done, but rather ask if people are “observant” at the sacraments. Maybe you agree with him.

My point is that not even 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 water baptism and in the Supper. Those questions have to be answered biblically. By that, I don’t exclude any sense of individuality at conversion. Neither do I exclude use of confessions.

Some Folks Like Sacraments Better Than Memorials, Because Sacraments Can Kill You but Memorials Can’t

May 27, 2011

when we deny that each atom of the bread
contains God completely,
the priests explain that it makes no difference
what those sectarians think is happening

because history tells us, the tradition,
the story that works
(not for the sectarians ,we killed them)
that Christ is fully present in the bread

the chaplains defend the narrative
thank god this day for constantine
and all those who make it possible for us to worship
in liberty and peace

grateful to those in the military
the service men and women, the heroes,
the killers who stand between us
and the chaos of apocalypse and liberalism
thankful we do not have to face revelations

the soldiers are cheap, their lives also,
they kill for us so that we don’t have to
the priests cost more but they assure us

this is not nostalgia for the past,
the sacrament is liminal
here where now is and no there or no then

We have paid the priests to tell us about the one church
for all times and all places,.
to tell us that sectarians are atheists posing as protestants

Leithart (page 333): “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.” Of course Leithart is not only describing what God has predestined; his concern is ethics. Mine two.

Either Leithart is right or we pacifists are right. According to Leithart, Adam’s problem was that he was a pacifist in regard to Satan. If Leithart is right, as we get to newer covenants (or, “newer administrations of the one covenant”, as the ideology likes to say it), then the newer the covenant, the more responsibility all of us have to kill for the sake of the covenant.

And thus Leithart contextualizes Jesus, so that His dying at the cross (rather than killing) is particular, specific, and unique, and not an example for anybody.

I remember the old days when theonomists mocked Ron Sider for his leading questions: is God a Marxist? Ron never said God was, but he kinda implied it. And so today, the theonomists ask the leading question: is turning the other cheek a rebuke of self defense or the defense of others?

How could we possibly think that what Jesus said in the Sermon was for all Christians in all places and for all times? We know that church history is not an empty parenthesis, and we know that Augustine was a Christian, and thus we know that Augustine’s version of Just war was also the politics of Jesus.

Sacraments Do Not Dispense Grace

March 16, 2011

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.

Now That I have Told You I Used to Be Harsh and Self-righteous, Won’t You Stop Being So Harsh and Comfort Me?

February 28, 2011

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did being imputed with Christ’s death cause me to believe the gospel? Yes.

Suppose the disciple Peter would say that he was operating out of legal fear when he betrayed Jesus. That doesn’t mean that Peter really was. Maybe he wasn’t. Well, you could say, he sure got bad results, since he ended up betraying the Lord three times. That’s why he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears.

But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing so well in morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.
They are often still harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving.

My concern at this point is not only with sinning, not only with moralistic and self-righteous pride, not only with trying to figure out if you are really sorry this time, not only if you still make repenting of your repenting the future condition of your future salvation.

My concern at this point is if a person is knowing and thinking gospel. Or is a person not understanding and explaining the gospel but still talking about her sins?

I know that the Galatians were not always being motivated by the gospel. But there is a before and after, a beginning to believing the gospel. We can’t say: I was born believing it. We can’t say we were born reconciled and justified.

Conversion is about an in and out. The sheep follow the Shepherd and not the voice of strangers. They do not stay where we they not belong. Ecclesia means: called out, gathered together (here from there), separated by doctrine.

Immediate regeneration in the order of salvation results in a separatist ecclesiology. No church has a monopoly on the “means of grace” so that conversion must come gradually after a period of sacramental preparation.

What is the gospel, and do you believe it? John 20:23–“If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven if you with-hold forgiveness from anyone, it is with-held.”

The Ritual Christendom Captivity of the Churches

October 29, 2010

Those who would defend Constantine and slavery must also always defend the rituals of Christendom. I refer not only to the attempt to eliminate heresy by means of the heresy of violence. I refer to infant baptism, and to the “federal vision” deconstruction of any difference between water and union with Christ.

Those who warn against the “anabaptist captivity” of “the church” are also willing to reject any difference between a ritual Lord’s Supper and God’s “real or legal” means of union and communion. They will defend anything (slavery, the confederacy) old just so long as it is anti-liberal.

Instead of visible congregations, they write books of theory against theory. Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in justification by works, as optimists they write essays against not only individualism but even against counter-cultures. The most consistent Reformed idealogues (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. But as inductive theologians, they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence. And so they hope for a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

To get at the error of ritual Chrsitendom, we need to do more than talk about associations with Romanism. That’s like criticizing Billy Graham for his associations instead of his false gospel. He runs with those with false gospel because he has false gospel.

Those who cannot tell the difference between the gospel and “the nonvoluntary church” are trying to sell us a narrative in which the visibility of the kingdom of Jesus has to do with the traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

“Reformed” people like J I Packer and Timothy George associate with Romanist ritualists because they themselves are ritualists (George, who calls himself a “baptist sacramentalist”, has much more in common with JI Packer than he doe with predestinarians like Roger Williams or Obadiah Holmes.

If we are going to escape the ritual Christendom captivity of the churches, we need to talk about the sacramental errors of John Calvin, Martin Luther and all “mystical catholic” people who define the Lord’s Supper as something God does instead of as the human obedience of Christians.

We need to oppose ecclesiastical anti-nomianism which equates ecumenical ritualism with spiritual revival and reformation. The fight about sacramentalism is a fight about politics, because it’s a fight about judging saved and lost.

Sacramentalists want to hand out grace without judging saved and lost. They want to include you in their “church” and tell you it’s God’s will and not your decision. Sacramentalists don’t trust anabaptists because they see that suspicion of the state might also mean suspicion of their big broad “the church”.

The majority culture of the state and the powerful (and the would be powerful!) always opposes any attempt for “sects” to judge who is saved. This is why the Reformers kept on killing the Anabaptists the Romanists also killed.

Ecclesiastical antinomians want to say that “sacrament” is a secondary issue and not a gospel issue. But when you refuse the political responsibility of judging saved and lost in terms of knowing and believing the gospel, then you have opened the way for assuming that everyone handed out the sacrament (or listening to the “minister’s” sermon) is a Christian. To not judge by the gospel is to compromise the gospel.

What we believe about who’s in the church has everything to do with the politics of evangelism. Do we see everyone with whom we talk as already Christians who simply need to know more (of what we know)? Or do we see that even Christ’s sheep are not yet all justified yet?

Do we think of church as one universal church which includes saints now living in heaven (to whom we pray or not, is not the only issue) or do we think of local fellowship around a table which is closed to those who do not yet obey the gospel?

In these days, to be more ecumenical means not only to be more romantic about ritual Christendom but also to be more open to “deification”. The “federal vision” way down this path usually begins with II Peter 1:4 (become partakers of the divine nature) and ends up replacing justification by Christ’s death with “union with Christ”.

Just as the word “sacrament” is left undefined or given multiple definitions, so also the idea of “union with Christ” is left undefined or given various (unbiblical) definitions in ecumenical discussions.

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? This is the kind of question we need to begin asking. Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin, for example, only believed in an union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union with God defined as creatures indwelling the Creator, even though that is left an open possibility in undefined ecumenical discussion. But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water, or with bread and wine? NO. My opinion is that we baptists will never get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from the idea that “union with Christ” is only about regeneration. As long as our categories for judging saved and lost are “regenerate” and “unregenerate”, we will be assuming (even if we don’t define it at all) that “union” means regeneration and that union/regeneration precedes justification.

1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and then a time gap between that and the hearing of the gospel.

2. We need to define “in Christ” in terms of justification. Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change of regeneration or birth but legally a change of state before God. To be in Christ in this way is to be justified. Union with Christ is justification, legal union with Christ and His work and His benefits. Immediately after this legal change, the sheep are born again and believe the gospel, but “union” does not precede justification, because union IS justification.

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of faith. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to regenerate and change the person. God changes the person because God has justified the person. The change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of justification, but it is never the reason for God justifying.

Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

Roman 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?”

As long we define union as regeneration and judge saved and lost by regeneration, we will be tempted to ignore the gospel of justification and judge by morality and immorality.

Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) to be saved on the evidence of morality. But God sees that morality as something to be ashamed of, when those moral people are still in their sins, still not yet justified.

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. Union with Christ is justification. Instead of an “ritual done by an ordained minister” which makes you a participant in Christ ( understood in many places as indwelling even the deity of God!), our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

Is this unbalanced? Why do I pit regeneration against justification? Well, I could ask you, why do you always draw the line between the regenerate and the unregenerate? Why don’t you draw the line between the justified and the condemned? Why don’t you judge by if a person knows and believes the gospel?

I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that the new birth and faith are not all there is to “union with Christ”. I am only say that the “new creation” has to do with a change in legal state, and not first of all with a change of substance or nature.

II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh (judging by morality or immorality or by other non-gospel standards)….If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

“Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed legal reality. So also the category of “those who live” is also not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed reality, legal life because of justification.

The “new creation” (or “new man”) is not first of all about regeneration or birth but about a legal change of identity, a legal before and after. It’s not gradual; it’s an either or. The new is not effected by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Christ is here, yes, but not in some different way because of water or bread and wine. And also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and obey and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here. He is not now coming down from heaven as He will someday, and we are not now going to heaven, no matter what the “minister of the sacrament” might say. The church is not Christ, and the church is not the gospel.

So how then are we in Christ? We are in Christ legally. The old has passed. The legal verdict has already been declared. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict. No ritual is a sign from God that we in particular have been justified or united to Christ.

Even if our children were to eat the “sacrament” with us, still that’s no seal that either we or our children have been justified or that God is our God. What is the gospel? Judge justified and lost by the gospel.