Ecclesiology 045 – (no video for this session)Luke 22:19 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 23, 2018 • Ecclesiology
Please note that due to recording problems, there is no video for this session.
Dr. Andy Woods
Ecclesiology 45: Church Ordinances, Part 2
Luke 22:19. 12-23-18
Father, we’re thankful for Your people, thankful for today and thankful for this morning, thankful for this special time of the year where we commemorate the birth of Your Son Jesus into the world and I pray that He would be first and foremost in our thoughts this morning in the midst of a hectic time of the year. And we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said…. Amen.
Almost Merry Christmas to everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to Matthew, chapter 18 and verses 18-20. As you all know we’ve been continuing our study through Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, and last time if I remember right we were looking at church ordinances. What are ordinances? They’re basically rituals. Ordinances basically are rituals in the church and we said there are probably about three, potentially. The first one is foot washing and we put a question mark by that because as interesting as foot washing is we don’t really think that rises to the level of an ordinance that the Lord has ordained for His church. I’m not necessarily against churches that want to do that but probably when you look at the whole Scripture it really isn’t a ritual that’s supposed to be practiced in the church on equal par with communion or baptism.
So from there we went to communion and we looked first of all at three things: number one, the frequency, how often are we supposed to take communion, and the issue is you’re supposed to take it regularly. And what that looks like for every local church is sort of up to the leadership of that church, once a week, once a month, once a quarter, the Bible really doesn’t tell us, it just says to practice this regularly.
And then we looked at something that I hope alleviated some of you because I know it terrifies Christians if they don’t understand this and it’s an issue of self-examination. And that’s the passage we always read every Sunday, a man ought to examine himself, not every Sunday but every communion Sunday. He or she who comes to the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner eats and drinks damnation unto himself so people say what in the world is that talking about. [1 Corinthians 11:27, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”] People say what in the world is that talking about? And last time we were trying to make the case that it’s not “unworthy” that’s the issue, it’s unworthily. It’s an adverb.
Some translations translate it is as “unworthy manner.” So, it’s not so much oh my goodness, I guess I’d not worthy as a child of God to take communion because I have a sin in my life from three months ago that I’ve never confessed. That’s really not the point; the point is the manner in which the Corinthians were partaking of communion, and they were coming to the Table drunk and disorderly. They were treating it as a common meal. They were alienating people in the church that didn’t have money. And so that’s what the Lord is upset about. It’s “unworthily,” it’s the manner in which they were practicing communion that was the issue. So, we went into that a little bit.
If you’re curious about that you can hear it, all this stuff is archived on our website, that’s www.SLBC.org as you probably know. And then from there we went into the meaning of communion. Why do we take communion? Why do we partake of the Lord’s Table? What you discover is within Christendom there are three views on that.
The first view is called transubstantiation which is the idea that when you partake of the elements you’re actually partaking of the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. And we talked about how we do not think that’s a right representation of what the Lord’s Table is all about. First of all, you would be sacrificing Christ anew every single mass or every single Eucharist if that were true. And we went through a number of other issues related to Roman Catholicism and their view of the Lord’s Table.
The second view is what’s called consubstantiation and some would refer to this as the real presence view. So the second view that I think is not correct, just like I don’t think transubstantiation is correct is sort of transubstantiation with a kind of lighter touch on it. So what is claimed here is that when you take communion, or the Lord’s Table, the Lord is unusually present during that time. In fact, His presence is more manifest during that time than at other times in church life, or other times during the life of the Christian. And I can kind of see why people believe this because when you take communion it’s sort of a special time, isn’t it? Usually everybody is quiet and prayerful and reflective and some people get kind of that extra liver quiver that they don’t normally get during the life of the church and so you think well, Jesus is really here during this, I mean, He’s here 100% of the time during this and he’s only here 75% of the time during Sunday School. And when the sermon comes around He’s there about 50% of the time but when you take the Lord’s Table He’s there 100% of the time.
That’s what’s called the real presence view and it’s actually the view of Martin Luther because what you have to understand about Martin Luther, and we covered this in our Protestant Reformation series that we did here a year or two ago; it’s that Luther was a Roman Catholic and Luther really didn’t want to start a new movement called the Reformed Movement. He basically wanted to continue on as a Roman Catholic and he wanted to change some things in the Roman Catholic Church. And he was as surprised as anybody when he posted his 95 Theses on the door in Wittenberg Germany, back in the 16th century, that all of a sudden, the Roman Catholic hierarchy was calling him a heretic. So he was given, what we might say the right foot of fellowship, he was basically, and all these reformers, were kicked out of the church. So they really had no choice but to start their own churches.
And so what you have to understand about the Protestant Reformation is they did a lot of good but they dragged with them into their new reformed movement certain vestiges of Roman Catholicism that had been taught for a thousand years or more, one of which if we have time we’ll get into it today, is infant baptism. And another thing that they drug with them into their new reform movement was consubstantiation. Now they changed it where they’re not going to believe in transubstantiation any more but they took sort of a lighter form of transubstantiation and just said well we’ll make this the real presence view. And instead of making the elements the actual physical body and blood of Jesus Christ we’ll just say well Jesus is abnormally present during the Lord’s Table. So even Lutheran churches today, to my knowledge, still embrace this real presence view.
Here’s a scholar commenting on Martin Luther and I found this quote and this Lutheran scholar says: “Luther denied the doctrine of Transubstantiation, rejecting any molecular change of the elements. Consubstantiation, a term never employed by Luther,” so Luther never used the word “consubstantiation but he taught what has come to be known as consubstantiation. “Consubstantiation, a term never employed by Luther is used to explain his view that the body and blood are present ‘in, with, and under’ the bread and wine.” (the real presence view). [Emir Caner, ‘Balthasar Hubmaier and His Theological Participation in the Reformation: Ecclesiology and Soteriology,’ Faith and Mission 21, no. 1 (2003): 42.
So it’s not so much saying that the elements represent the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ but here’s what he did say, Christ is present in, with and under the wine and that sort of leads to this idea that Jesus is abnormally present when the Lord’s Table is administered, as compared to other times during church life or the Christian calendar or the life of the Christian. So this is called the real presence view.
And amazingly what I’ve seen in my lifetime is this second view consubstantiation, the real presence view, is making a comeback and the areas you see it making a comeback in is what’s called the emergent church. The emergent church is a movement that started, probably in the 90’s, maybe a little bit later, and their goal is sort of to leapfrog the Protestant Reformation and go back to the medieval monasticism because their view is that there’s a lot of things that were helpful to the life of the church that were lost through the Protestant Reformation that need to be retrieved from medieval monasticism.
So they talk a lot about the desert fathers, and contemplative prayer, and they’re into a practice called Lectio Divina which is kind of a repetition of Scripture. And when you actually study some of these practices… and they’re into visualization, all these kinds of things, and when you actually look at their practices they’re really not biblical, they’re not found anywhere in the Bible. And then you press them, why are you bringing all of these things back into the church; the darkening of the sanctuary, the practicing of advent, all of these kinds of practices, Ash Wednesday, candles, all of these kinds of things.
They have something called…what’s the name of that maize that they walk through? The [can’t understand word] is like on a carpet and sometimes it’s an actual maize but you follow this maize around and all this stuff is supposed to bring you close to Christ and all these kinds of things. When you ask them why are you practicing all of this stuff, it’s not found anywhere in the Bible, their view is these things were regularly practiced prior to the Protestant Reformation and so if we’re really become all that Christ has called us to become we need to go back and retrieve all this stuff. And one of the things that they’re retrieving from the dust pan of history is this real presence view. Why? Because it appeals to the sort of mystical side that’s governing or generating the emergent church.
So I have a few quotes related to the emergent church and you should know something about the emergent church, even if it’s not affecting your life personally I can guarantee you it’s affecting the life of your children and your grandchildren, because that’s who these emergent church people have targeted.
One writer says this: “Post-moderns” that’s the young people, “prefer to encounter Christ by using all their senses. That’s part of the appeal of classical liturgical or contemplative worship: the incense and candles, making the sign of the cross, the taste and smell of the bread and wine, touching icons and being anointed with oil.”
Post-moderns prefer to encounter Christ by using all their senses. That’s part of the appeal of classical liturgical or contemplative worship: the incense and candles, making the sign of the cross, the taste and smell of the bread and wine, touching icons and being anointed with oil.” [Julie B. Sevig, The Lutheran, 9/2001.]
Another emergent church writer says, “Modern thinkers” I guess that would be the old folks, like myself and up, “Modern thinkers want things very orderly and systematic because they learn in a logical and progressive manner.” So goodness, we can’t have a logical presentation of God, what a shame that would be, even though logic itself comes from God. Well what do they want instead? “They” the older people, “prefer, generally, to sit and listen.” I wish that were true. “Emerging post-Christian generations, on the other hand, long to experience a transcendent God during a worship gathering rather than simply learn about him.” [(Italics added) Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, 121]
So, it’s all about what you experience and what you feel rather than what the Bible actually says. Now I’m not against feelings and experiences but the reality is if you don’t have a grid by which you determine your experiences, or look at your experiences I should say, or evaluate your experiences how do you even know if your experience is from God, because Satan has (as we have talked about many time) can create all kinds of experiences, can’t he? Did you know that Satan is even going to raise the beast, as we’ll study in Revelation 13, from the dead? You talk about an experience! So why would people embrace that instead of the true Christ? Because they’re not hemmed in by doctrine and the Bible any more, everything is how they feel, and experiences.
And this writer goes on and says, “They” that’s the younger people, “want fluidity and freedom rather than a neatly flowing set program. They want to see the arts.” Now am I against the arts? Not at all; in fact don’t I have some up there right now. I think sometimes a picture paints a thousand words. The problem is now when that sort of takes over and eclipses what church is really supposed to be about, which is the proclamation of Scripture, that’s where it becomes a problem.
And I notice in all of these environments the preaching and teaching of the Scripture starts to almost disappear. You really don’t have preachers and teachers any more in these kinds of environments; you have what they call group facilitators. So, a group facilitator is not somebody who authoritatively declares truth, someone with the training in theology and original languages to study during the week and proclaim what the Word of God says, but it’s really to guide a discussion because after all at the end of the day all of our opinions are equal. Right? I mean, we’re all valuable is sort of the logic.
And to a certain extent we are all valuable and we’re all priests, the priesthood of all believers but there’s a place in the Scripture where people that have actually given themselves to the study of God’s Word to proclaim what the Scripture says. That’s the office of pastor-teacher. That’s sort of looked at as passé in the emergent church, and so you don’t want to authoritatively declare truth in that kind of environment because you’re asserting your own opinion over somebody else’s. I mean, Joe Blow in the pew there might have had his own list of co-experiences with God and isn’t his experience just as valid as your proclamation of truth? And this is the mindset of the emergent church, so the goal is just sort of to guide the discussion, you don’t really have pulpits anymore. Not that I’m a big stalwart of coats and ties, I do here at this church wear a coat and tie just because I guess I’m of the belief that if you into your attorney’s office or your doctor’s office you’re going to see him or her dressed professionally. And I guess I sort of feel that if I’m going to stand up here and declare eternal things shouldn’t I look quasi-professional about it?
But you’ll notice that in the emergent church the coats and ties are out; pulpits are out and it’s usually a guy in kind of like a Hawaiian type of shirt and he’s got the all-around tan and all this stuff. And he’s just kind of going around, you know, facilitating everybody’s view. This is the emergent church, they want validity, they want freedom rather than neatly flowing program. They want to see the arts in a sense of mystery brought into the worship service, rather than focusing on professionalism and excellence. This will shape how a worship gathering is designed.
So what people think is oh my goodness, if we want the church to grow and if we want to attract young people we’ve got to make our church this way. And you can see how the real presence view with its emphasis on Jesus being mystically present in a special way during the Lord’s Supper would be very appealing to this crowd. So the view that martin Luther brought into the Reform circles is sort of making a comeback today through what’s called the emergent church. And my thinking on it is well where is your Scriptural support for the idea of the real presence view? And it’s sort of disheartening because the young people involved in the emergent church, they’re really not all that persuaded by textual arguments from the Bible. I mean, what really motivates these people is the church growth mindset, what works, and the second thing is what feels right.
I’m not wired that way at all, I want to see it in the Bible or I can’t really believe something. And one of the downers in life is you sort of assume that your mindset is shared by everybody else. So you go to an emergent church leaders or participants and you start making your points from the Bible and they don’t really care that much about it. I mean, you think you can prove them wrong by what the Bible says… well, they have a completely different authority base than what I have or what you have.
And even this week a pastor texted me and he said I’m so discouraged, I’ve got this young couple in my church and I’ve taught them free grace, soteriology, I taught them dispensational eschatology which are all fancy names for the kind of things we teach here, and they’re leaving this church for this other church down the road that’s very traditional, very reformed, quasi Roman Catholic, and I’m just so discouraged I don’t know what to do; if you have a book you could recommend. And my answer to that is well I do have some books I can recommend, one of them I wrote, but also what you need to understand is there’s probably something pulling them that has nothing to do with the Bible. In other words, you can give them Bible, you can give them a book, you can give them theology until the cows come home but it’s likely that something is pulling them outside the Bible. It’s likely they are wanting a sense of feeling or they want a certain feeling when they come to church, or they feel disconnected from history so they like the idea that we can trace our lineage back to Peter as the first Pope, or whatever. But it’s likely something is pulling them outside of the biblical text.
And that’s kind of a hard pill to swallow as a pastor because you spend so much of your time studying and teaching the Bible to learn that there’s a lot of people within Christendom that really don’t even think that highly of the Bible at all. In fact, what they’re thinking about is marketing, growth, or feelings. So that’s the emergent church in a nutshell, and that’s why the real presence view you can see would be very palatable to that group.
Where is the Biblical support for the real presence view? Well the fact is there is not Biblical support for it. They use two verses, one of them is Romans 8:9 which says this: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
Now what does this have to do with communion? Absolutely nothing, this isn’t even a communion context here; this is talking about the Spirit coming inside the Christian when the Christian trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. It has nothing to do with Jesus being present during a Lord’s Table celebration in an unusual way.
Now here’s the verse everybody uses for almost everything. Matthew 18:20. You’ve heard this one used, right? “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in” what? “in their midst.” I can’t tell you the countless ways we use this without really paying attention to its original meaning. Someone is struggling… the church down the street is so BIG and I’m pastoring a small church. Well, don’t worry brother, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” [Matthew 18:20] Or we’re going to have Wednesday night prayer meeting and we need you to come but we’re discouraged because the turnout is so low, but don’t worry, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
So they like to use this, real presence people, for the Lord’s Table. I mean, after all Jesus says “where two or three are gathered there I am in your midst.” That would certainly apply to communion, right, in their minds? So Jesus is atypically abnormally present during the communion in ways that He’s not present during other times in the life of the church.
And if you learn nothing else out of this church just learn the three rules of Bible study: those are context, context, context! Context, you know how Peter says “love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”] Can I give you my rendition of that? Context covers a multitude of interpretive sins. How’s that? Because people throw the Bible around all the time and you get some crazy interpretations of the Bible and you’re rescued from those interpretations just by taking the words and putting them back into their context. And this is my problem with the whole emergent church’s view of Lectio Divina, where you retrieve this practice from medieval monasticism where you sort of take a verse of Scripture and you empty your mind of all content. Now if someone is telling you to empty your mind of all content you automatically know that’s not God; that’s Eastern Mysticism. The Bible is not about emptying your mind of all content. In fact, didn’t Joshua tell us to meditate on God’s law. How frequently? Day and night! If you want to meditate that’s fine but it’s not some kind of content less exercise.
So Lectio Divina is this practice, sort of going back to medieval monasticism, the Desert Fathers, [The Desert Fathers (along with Desert Mothers) were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD.] And you empty your mind of all content and you find a verse of Scripture and you don’t exegete that verse of Scripture, you don’t try to figure out what the Scripture means, you just start repeating it over and over again in your mind. In fact, you’re using that verse regardless of what the original content of the verse says. So this is what they mean by Lectio Divina and this is something we’re supposedly all supposed to be practicing. And my problem is that verse rattling around in your head doesn’t mean anything. You can make it mean whatever you want it to mean, if you don’t study it in context.
So this is what they’re sort of doing with Matthew 18:20 to, when they make an appeal to the Bible (which is rare) they make an appeal to the Bible to form the basis for the real presence view. And so they think it’s found there in Matthew 18:20. Now what does Matthew 18:20 have to do with communion? Nothing; it’s got nothing to do with communion in context, just like Romans 8:9 has nothing to do with the Lord’s Table. [Romans 8:9, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” [Matthew 18:20]
Does anybody know what Matthew 18:20 is talking about, the context of it? It’s talking about church discipline. How do I know that? Because verse 15 comes before verse 20, see how easy this is. [Matthew 18:15] “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.”  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.’”
So, it’s talking about the process of church discipline, the leadership of the church executing that process properly. And God is assuring that when you’re executing that purpose properly, as painful as it is, because it’s never fun to do this to anybody, or have it done to them, Jesus makes a promise, there I am in the midst of you. That’s the “two or three” referenced earlier in the chapter; nothing to do with communion, nothing to do with just a typical church gathering. The Lord is present all of the time, even in communion, but we shouldn’t say during communion He’s especially present. That’s what called the real presence view.
So, if the transubstantiation view doesn’t work, and if the consubstantiation view doesn’t work, what then is the true definition of communion? I’m so glad you asked because that takes us to the correct view, which is the memorial view. It’s quite similar to the rainbow in the sky, Genesis 9:8-17.
Every time you look at that rainbow biblically what are we to be reminded of? That the judgment of God that hit this world, in what’s called the global flood, and God has promised never to do that identical thing again. He will never hit this world in judgment wiping out every single person with the exception of eight people. Even the great tribulation period itself that we’re studying in the Book of Revelation on Sunday morning will not produce what the flood produced, the total extermination of the human race, because in Matthew’s Gospel there are many that survived the tribulation period, many of who are believers and they go into the thousand-year kingdom and they begin to repopulate the earth. So, God has promised never to flood the world again and He’s given us a sign for it, which is the rainbow in the sky. You can read about it in Genesis 9:8-17.
[Genesis 9:8-17, “Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying,  Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you;  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.  I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”  God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;  I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.  “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,  and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.  “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”]
When you look at the rainbow you’re not getting a special liver quiver from God (you might, I mean, that’s not wrong) but God doesn’t say I’m abnormally present when you look at a rainbow. I mean, it’s just neat to look at a rainbow, see it’s beauty and its color and you’re reminded of God’s promise. That’s all that rainbow in the sky is there for. And I think that’s a pretty good analogy for what the Lord’s Table is. What exactly is the Lord’s Table? It’s a reminder to the Christian concerning what Jesus did for us; that’s what it’s there to do. It’s there to stimulate remembrance on the part of the Christian as you take the bread and drink the cup you’re reminded of Christ’s body and blood, they are not his blood but they’re reminders of His body and blood.
And then consequently we have an attitude of gratitude and we remember that salvation is free to us but it wasn’t free to Jesus, the second member of the Godhead. That’s the correct view of communion; it’s not saying Jesus is abnormally present during communion, although sometimes it feels like it. It’s not saying this is actually the body and blood—transubstantiation view. But these are the memorial view. And this was the view not taught by the Reformer Martin Luther but it began to be taught by the Protestant Reformer, Zwingli, and he led the Protestant Reformation (if I remember right) I want to say Switzerland, and he is the one that really started to articulate what the Bible says concerning the Lord’s Table, which is the memorial view. And I think if you were to go to a Baptist church, Presbyterian church, most Reformed churches today other than the Lutheran church, that would basically be their view, the memorial view, coming from Zwingli. And of course because we believe this is the view that has the best Scriptural support it’s the view that we embrace here at Sugar Land Bible Church.
Is there support for the transubstantiation view? Not really. Is there biblical support for the consubstantiation view? Not really. But there is biblical support for the memorial view and you’ll find that in Luke 22:19-20, and you might want to flip over there and look at it. This is where Jesus outlines the Lord’s Table for the very first time and it says, “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body’” now last week we saw that that’s metaphorical language, they would have never thought that His body was the bread because they were looking at Him square in the eye when He was giving this ordinance.
So it’s like saying Jesus, Jesus says I am the light of the world, I’m the bread of life, I’m the vine, etc. That’s what He means when He says this bread “is My body,” in other words it represents something. “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in…” what’s the next word, “remembrance of Me,” that’s the key word. That’s the word Zwingli focused on.  “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” And of course, the verse that I typically read on communion Sunday is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, I don’t know if I need to read that right now, you might want to just jot that down because Paul is quoting what Jesus said here in the Upper Room when He’s talking about communion for the Corinthians.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;  and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”]
So, what are we remembering exactly, at the Lord’s Table? Here’s some things we’re supposed to think about? We’re supposed to think about the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is final and complete and past because Jesus said, His final words on the cross were “It is finished.” [John 19:30, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”] John 19:30, which is just an English translation of the Greek word tetelestai, which means paid in full, and tetelestai there is in the perfect tense, this is a big deal, I won’t bore you with Greek tenses unless it’s really significant. The perfect tense is a one-time action with ongoing results. And that’s a great description of what Christ did; He died once and look at all of the ongoing benefits that we have because of what Christ did. Here we are in the twenty-first century still benefiting from it.
So, Christianity is not a doing thing, it’s a done thing! If you’re here today and you think gosh, I’ve got to do X, Y and Z to somehow make myself better or right with God, then you’re not understanding the basics of Christianity or the gospel itself. Christianity is not I’ve got to do a bunch of stuff. You know, God bought lunch so I need to throw in the tip. That’s not Christianity. Christianity is Jesus did the whole thing and we receive as a free gift what he does. And you can go out from this point in your life and live an exemplary life but the fact of the matter is at the end of your life you will be no more accepted by God than you are at the moment you trusted Him. The whole deal with God is “in Him,” “in Christ” we have been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:3. [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”]
There’s no further blessing that you can gain other than what you already have in Jesus Christ. So we’re not out doing, what we’re thinking about when we take communion is done and what that gives us access to because we have received it as a gift.
We’re also remembering our present union with Christ because Romans 6:3 and many other verses in Romans 6, says that we have been baptized into Christ. [Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”] Baptized there is not water, we’ll talk about water baptism a little bit later as time permits, but baptized there, Romans 6, means identification. I am identified with Christ the moment I trust in Christ as my Savior. What does that mean? It means when He died who else died? I died. When He was buried who else was buried? I was buried. When He rose from the dead who else rose from the dead? I rose from the dead. When He ascended who else ascended? I ascended. By the way, did you know that, that according to Ephesians 2:6 that Jesus is not the only one at the Father’s right hand right now. [Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”] We, as His children, are right there with Him, legally and positionally because of our baptism into Christ.
So, we kind of come before God with this warm theology, crawling over a bed of nails saying Oh Lord, it’s just little old me down here, would You please see fit to answer this prayer request I have. And we don’t even understand who we are in Christ. We don’t even understand our riches or we wouldn’t be groveling and we wouldn’t be begging. The fact of the matter is you already have every spiritual blessing that can be given to you in Christ Jesus and you already are seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father. So, given who you are… it would be like Donald Trump’s son, Baron Trump who’s twelve or thirteen, something like that, like him crawling into the White House oh gosh, I’m coming before the President of the United States, I mean, I wonder if he’s going to banish me or punish me. But since he’s the President’s son the President can’t wait to put his arms around that kid and he can’t wait to hear what he has to say, can’t wait to hear what his requests are. That’s who we are “in Christ.”
We’re not grovelers and beggars and crawling over broken glass saying well, I hope God will listen to me today I’ve done three good things. Now I’ve done three good things, He’s got to listen to this one prayer request, right? That’s not Christianity. Christianity is done, we are presently unified with Christ and that’s what we celebrate during communion. And guess what folks, we’re not just unified with Christ, we’re unified with who? With each other, because we are all part of the same body, because Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that not only have we been baptized into Christ Jesus but we have also been baptized into the body of Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” So not only are we identified with Christ at the point of faith, we’re identified with each other.
And you say well, I don’t really like sister so and so, and brother so and so, they really get on my nerves. I mean, I avoid conversations with them, I don’t like them. We’re not really functioning according to our identity when we get that petty. Right? When we hold grudges against each other, because we are already positionally identified with each other. So, if we’re already positionally identified with each other, as Paul says the matters of this life should work out in and of themselves through a process of love. So, we remember that at the Lord’s Table. I also think that at the Lord’s Table we remember what Christ said about His return, because in 1 Corinthians 11:26, after Paul outlines the Lord’s Table for the Corinthians, and repeats what Jesus says in the Upper Room, it says in verse 26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death” and most people stop there, what’s the rest of the verse say, “until He comes.”
So, there’s part of communion where we’re thinking about Jesus is coming back. Do you all agree with that, believe that, Jesus is coming back? I mean, do you realize that this world is on a downward spiral and our hope is not so much in fixing this world but it’s in being rescued out of the world because Jesus is our blessed hope. I mean isn’t that what Jesus said in the Upper Room, [John 14:2] “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places, if it were not so I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you.  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  And you know the way to the place I am going.”
Is that your hope or is your hope in fixing X problem in your life, gaining that salary, putting enough money into that retirement account, getting the right people elected to office, which I’m very pro politics and getting the right people elected to office. But the reality is all of that stuff, as significant as it is from an earthly point of view, that’s not our hope. Our hope is in Jesus is coming back to take us out of the world. And so we’re to think about that as we partake of the Lord’s Table.
And we are also to consider, as we partake of the Lord’s Table the basic facts of the gospel which are described in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, “and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” So, it’s a reminder of the fact that salvation is free to us but it was not free to Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Eternal Godhead who paid such a great price to gain our salvation.
So, I hope you look at the Lord’s Table as not just another empty ritual. Oh, we’ve got to do this again, every quarter, you know… when is the pastor going to start preaching. Or some of you, when is the pastor going to stop preaching. You know, it’s once a quarter, we’ve got to get the tables out again, the deacons got to dress up. I hope you’re not looking at that as just another empty ritual within Christendom, because God forbid, if that’s the case we’ve lost the whole meaning. The point of it is do this in remembrance of Me. There are tangible things that we’re supposed to remember as we partake of the Lord’s Table.
So, ordinances, we have foot washing, probably not an ordinance. Communion, an ordinance. And then the third ordinance that God has given to His church is the ordinance of baptism and here we’re speaking of water baptism. So let’s talk about first what baptism is not. Let me give you, like I did with communion, the wrong views before we get to the right view.
A lot of people believe in what’s called baptismal regeneration. What does that mean? It means when you get baptized you become a Christian. And is that true? Well, if that is true, then it contradicts what Paul says elsewhere because that would be salvation by works and we’re told very clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9, “ “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So if you argue for baptismal regeneration then you’re simultaneously arguing for a salvation by work. And you say well, pastor, are you saying that unbaptized people are going to get into heaven? Well, it depends what you mean by baptism. Are you talking about our baptism into Christ and our baptism with one another, which is something that God does at the point of personal faith in Christ. Is that what you mean by baptism? If that’s what you mean by baptism then I think it is true un-baptized people will not get into heaven.
But if what you mean by baptism is water baptism, if someone has never gone through the ritual of water baptism are you telling me that they’re going to get into heaven? Absolutely, there’s going to be a lot of unbaptized people in heaven. Why? Because salvation is not by works, it’s a gift by faith alone in Christ alone. I got saved when I was sixteen, and I was raised Episcopalian and this kind of raised some consternation in my house because I told my dad I wanted to get water baptized. And he says what are you talking about, you’ve already been baptized. And he took out the family picture book and lo and behold there I was in an Episcopalian church and an Episcopalian priest was pouring water over my head. I don’t think I was very happy, it looked like I was screaming at the top of my lungs. And he said well what do you mean you want to get baptized (he thought I was joining a cult) you’ve already been baptized, infant baptism.
So, at age sixteen I decided you know what, as long as I’m living at this house I’m just going to be in constant loggerheads with my dad on this so I decided to postpone water baptism until I got older, moved out, etc. So, I finally got water baptized when I was 27 (in a Jacuzzi by the way). And now if you’re telling me that water baptism gets you to heaven I guess what that means is if I’d been hit by a car from age 16 to age 27 I would have gone to hell, right? Well of course that’s a silly thing, I had trusted Christ, I had taken Christ as my Savior through faith alone, I was baptized by the Holy Spirit, I was baptized into the body of Christ. And because I made a decision to postpone a ritual to keep peace in my family, which was a decision I felt the Lord led me to make, and you can bicker with me on that, whether I made the right decision but at the time as a 16 year old that’s what I thought the right thing to do was. Are you telling me that I was unregenerate during age 16 to age 27? That’s the kind of conclusion you’re forced to if you believe that baptism gets you to heaven.
By the way, there’s a guy in the Bible that we know a lot about who got into heaven but was never baptized. Who would that be? The thief on the cross. People say well you don’t believe in death bed conversions, do you? Well, of course I do, it’s right there in the Bible. Jesus, as you know, was crucified between two thieves, one the thief goes to his grave ridiculing Christ. By the way, the fact that Jesus was crucified between two thieves is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53, written seven hundred years in advance which says He’d be numbered amongst the transgressors. [Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” Mark 15:28, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors.”]
How literal is that, there He is crucified between two thieves, one thief ridicules Christ, the other thief at the last moment reaches out to Christ by way of faith and makes a verbal statement to Him expressing that faith, and Jesus says in response, “And He said to him, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43] He gave an immediate assurance of salvation. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Jesus didn’t yell out okay you all, quick throw water on this guy, he’s about to die, we’ve got to get this guy baptized so we can get him into heaven. NO, the Bible doesn’t say that.
So are there going to be unwater baptized people in heaven? A lot of people I think. The most prominent I can think of is the thief on the cross. By the way, if baptism gets you to heaven some of the things Paul says don’t make any sense. For example, over in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, Paul had his own little personality cult of people that were following him.
[1 Corinthians 1:13-17, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,  so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”]
Some were following Peter, some were following Cephas, some were following Apollos, some were following Paul, and Paul here says is Christ divided and rebukes his own little group of Paul groupies, I guess I could put it that way. And he says in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 12, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.” That type of behavior what does it contradict? It contradicts the fact that we have been baptized into Christ’s body, 1 Corinthians 12:13. [1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”]
Well you know pastor, I really don’t like it when you’re not here because I prefer your preaching over the guys preaching that fills your place. Or people say I do like it when you’re not here because I like their preaching better than yours, that kind of mentality. That is a total contradiction to the fact that we all have been baptized into Christ. I mean, why should it matter whose preaching on that particular day as long as they’re teaching the Word of God. If you start to gather around, or if a [can’t understand word] starts to rise or fall based on who’s preaching then what is that? That’s a personality cult and that’s the very thing that Paul condemns here. “He says in 1 Corinthians 1:13, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” And then he says this “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” [1 Corinthians 1:14]
Now you’ll notice that Paul did baptize but here he is taking baptism and de-emphasizing it to do what? To address his own little personality cult following that he had. He says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” And that’s a very strange statement to make if baptism gets you to heaven. I mean, if baptismal regeneration is true that’s a very odd statement, it’s nonsensical, at least to me.
He says in verse 14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,  so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.” Verse 16, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas;” now this next statement he makes you appreciate it more as he gets older, as you get older, because he kind of has a senior moment here, isn’t it interesting that when you get older you put things in microwave ovens and forget they’re there, and you kind of walk in a room and can’t remember why you walked into that room. And so, I’m sort of appreciative of what Paul says here in verse 16, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas, beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.” I can’t remember who I baptized. I remember this guy and this guy and this household and that household, other than that to be frank with you I don’t even remember.
Now that’s a very, very odd statement to make if baptism gets you to heaven. He says in verse 17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” So, if baptismal regeneration is true these statements that Paul makes where he is not (to my mind) devaluating human baptism, it has its place, but he’s putting it in its proper order so as to avoid having a personality following. These statements wouldn’t even be included in our Bible if baptism gets you to heaven and if baptismal regeneration is true.
Well, what about infant baptism? I mean if baptism doesn’t get you to heaven what do you think about baptizing infants? Well again that’s the Lutheran perspective and he (Martin Luther) is the Protestant Reformer who brought infant baptism into the Reformed faith. Here is one scholar speaking of Martin Luther, and it says, “He believed that such sacraments” what sacraments? One of them being baptism, “could generate faith and hence could generate the faith of an infant.” Now when I was in Wittenberg, Germany on one of my trips we actually went to the very first church that launched the Protestant Reformation. This is the church that Luther started after he was kicked out of the Roman Catholic Church and right there in the midst of the church, towards the front, is that little tiny pool there, where he baptized children. And the tour guide who was an expert, you get different guides depending on what city you’re in, made the point that the water in that pool was always cold and the kids didn’t like being stuck in there. But when Luther baptized his own children, the guide said, they heated the water, so he made a special exception for his own family.
But Martin Luther, where did he get this idea that you baptize infants? He was Roman Catholic so he dragged it into Protestantism through the writings of Augustine, and so forth. So you do find certain Reformed churches today will baptize infants. And they’ll try to make their case from Genesis 17. Genesis 17 is the Abrahamic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant is where those identifying with the covenant are circumcised on the eighth day, so they say well look, part of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision of infants on the eight day and let’s just sort of translate that over into baptism for infants in the age of the church. And that’s sort of the logic of their position.
And this is why they do not like the dreaded “D” word. What’s the “D” word that I’m thinking of? Dispensationalism. A dispensationalist believes those are rules for Israel but not rules for the church. And I had to learn this lesson the hard way because I was teaching a Bible study in California at a local church and some folks in a Presbyterian church nearby, this is right when my wife and I had been married, got wind of it and they wanted me to come into their church, in the Presbyterian church, I guess they’d been listening to some of it, and they wanted me to teach this in the Presbyterian church.
And so I naively thought well, if it works over here in this church it’s going to work in the Presbyterian church, right? And I went in and had a conversation with the pastor and I made the mistake of bringing up the “D” word, that I’m a dispensationalist, and that shut the whole thing off right then and there. And this is an exact quote from him. He said, “I don’t want any of that heresy taught in this church.” And at the time I was sort of taken back by that… “heresy”? I mean, to me dispensationalism a friend, it helps you unlock the whole Bible when you start seeing the different rules apply in different ages of time. But then in hindsight I could see what he was very worried about. He was worried that I was going to stand up in front of his people and say we’re in the age of the church now, the church is a parenthesis, it’s a unique body or mystery, different rules apply, such as the rule that once you’re saved you’re supposed to get baptized. And he wanted everybody not thinking that way, he wanted everybody thinking about Genesis 17 which to his mind kept on going, you just made a little adjustment from circumcision to baptism and he didn’t want all these people in his church rising up and demanding to be water baptized after they were saved when in fact they were all baptized as infants. See that?
So the answer to their use of Genesis 17 is the “D” word, Dispensationalism. And we’re out of time but next week I’ll show you the very clear pattern in the Book of Acts where once a person is saved they are supposed to get water baptized. Water baptism never precedes salvation. And so this is the reason we don’t baptize infants, because how in the world would you validate whether they’re Christians or not, they can’t even talk and express their newfound faith in Christ. I will baptize any infant that can walk forward in front of the microphone and give me their testimony on how they got saved. That infant we’ll baptize. But other than that the pattern of Scripture is salvation first, baptism second. So the baptismal regeneration view is not right, the infant baptism view is not right, and we’ll get out of that and we’ll talk about what baptism actually is. Sorry I talked to long but what else is new.
Let’s pray. Father, thank You for today, thank You for the Christmas season and thank You for being with us as we study the doctrine of the church. I pray You’ll be with us during the main service as we take a look this morning at the virgin birth of Christ. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!