A Healthy Church: A Family that Eats Together…

Why are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper so essential to being a true, biblical church? Well, firstly because it is biblical – Christ has commanded it!  (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 14:22-25).[5]  And since it is his church, the worship and boundaries of the church are set and delineated by him. The church must obey. 

 

One of the more visible repercussions of the Protestant Reformation was a reconfiguration of the furniture found within local churches. Throughout the Medieval period it was the Table of the Eucharist that sat center-stage, the literal and liturgical focal point of the Roman Catholic Mass. It was there in the bread and cup where Christ was offered and found, ex opere operato. In fact, the more masses held, the more one could benefit from Christ’s merits. But due to the Reformer’s recovery of the Gospel, the word became central again. It was there in God’s living and active word where Christ was found, and we could be found in Christ by responding to His word through faith, alone! Thus the pulpit now took center stage and the sermon, centered on the person of Christ, became the central event of a church’s worship.

The Reformers though still held the sacraments in high regard. They of course reduced the number from Rome’s seven to a more biblical two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.[1] To the Reformers, these two sacraments joined the right preaching of God’s Word and Church Discipline as forming the three marks of a true church. Thus John Bradford (martyred July 1st, 1555):

“If, I say, we behold the face of the popish church, Lord, how it glistereth, and gorgeous it is in comparison of Christ’s true church! which is discerned in these days but by the word of God truly preached, the sacraments purely ministered, and some discipline…”[2]

Or again, Nicholas Ridley (martyred October 16th, 1555):

“The marks whereby this church is known unto men in this dark world, and in the midst of this crooked generation, are these: the sincere preaching of God’s holy word, the due administration of the sacraments, charity, and faithful observing of ecclesiastical discipline, according to the word of God.”[3]

Thus, for the Reformers, the sacraments were a central component to being a biblical church. And if they rightly returned the pulpit to being the central piece of furniture in their liturgy, they only slightly moved the table. Sadly in many evangelical churches today, the sacraments are nowhere to be found! There are no tables any more.[4]

Why are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper so essential to being a true, biblical church? Well, firstly because it is biblical – Christ has commanded it!  (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 14:22-25).[5]  And since it is his church, the worship and boundaries of the church are set and delineated by him. The church must obey. And that is exactly what we see in the early church: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:41-42).

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