Sacraments? What is a sacrament? And most importantly, why do the sacraments matter? The Westminster shorter catechism says a sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, the promises of the new covenant are represented, sealed and applied to all believers.
Let me put it in an illustration that may help. When I was in 9th grade I played basketball for my school. Lots of guys wanted access to the coaches and an all-access pass to the basketball equipment. Lots of guys wanted to be able to get into the gym during the school lunch hour to shoot and practice. Here’s the deal, you needed a sign to represent that you were one of the 12 guys on the team; that sign was the jersey. The jersey was the symbol we used to discern between who was not on the team and who had all the privileges on being on that team.
The sacraments are the jerseys for the believers. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The sign of water, bread, and wine are the signs Christ has instituted for us. In Matthew 4 and 26, Jesus institutes these sacraments.
Think about it? What do we all need? We all need a bath and we all need to eat and drink! It doesn’t matter what your ethnic, economic, political, or gender identity is, we all need these things. Jesus, when he institutes, only two, baptism and the Lord’s supper, he is intentionally discipling us by giving these sacraments as a reminder of the promise of Him and the privileges we have as believers.
Why do the sacraments matter? The sacraments matter because they are only effective by our faith in the person and work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in them. When we have a baptism, or when we come to the table and believe we can receive these things by our performance or work, then, we miss out on the sacraments and believe a false gospel. The true, Christ-centered gospel, should point us away from ourselves and more and more towards God’s graciousness, steadfast love and provision for His children. The sacraments matter because they point us to grace! May the grace of God point us to Jesus and the privileges we have as co-heirs with Him, as we have the privilege to participate in the sacraments on a weekly basis.
The sacraments also matter because they are not instituted individually. Jesus wasn’t alone when he instituted these sacraments; he was with the family of God. The sacraments matter too because it takes us to our need for community. You were created for community and the sacraments bring us into a communal call for the children of God. We worship God together and the sacraments are an element in worship that we do together to draw us to Christ and the grace of God.
The sacraments matter missionally too. When we participate in these sacraments it moves us towards those who have not submitted to God and trust in the work of Christ. Missionally-focused-sacrament-partakers makes us love and welcome those who don’t know God. I don’t want my neighbor to go hungry, thirsty, or without a bath, right? In Matthew 25 Jesus says when we feed and give the needy a drink, we feed and drink our Savior. We are truly understanding the sacraments, when we have a heart for our neighbors and living missionally for our community and city. The sacraments give us a reminder too that it’s not on us to save our non-believing friends and neighbors; it is only through the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ, and faith in Him alone that saves!
May we be a church that looks up to the love of God and the power of the Spirit and look across to our neighbors because we are a sacramental community! #ULTIMATE