Ordinary Disciple-Making

The Command: Make Disciples

If we are going to study evangelism and discipleship, then we need to be sure it’s actually an obligation. Why study it, if it’s not something required of us? Making disciples is in fact a command.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

The entire “evangelism & discipleship” course is comprehended in this text.

Notice exactly what is contained in the Great Commission. Jesus doesn’t just tell us a goal. He doesn’t just say “make disciples” and nothing else; he doesn’t give us the goal, and then leave us to decide how to achieve that goal. No. He actually tells us how. So if you want disciple-making according to Jesus, here it is. He says “make disciples.” That’s the goal. And he tells the disciples how to achieve that goal.

  • Goal: make disciples
  • How to achieve it: 1. Baptize 2. Teach everything.

How do you make disciples? Baptizing and teaching everything. That’s it! It’s doesn’t get simpler than that. And we see exactly this in the book of Acts. We see the inspired, inerrant, authoritative record of how the Apostles understood the Great Commission and their obedience to it. And it’s what Jesus said: Word and Sacrament. We see disciple-making in more detail in Acts 2:

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

Peter preached the Word, and baptism followed faith and repentance. Then, they devoted themselves to more of the Word, and the other sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. This is obedience to the Great Commission.

Again, not complicated. The picture is simple. Making disciples may be hard work, but it’s not hard to understand. If disciplemaking is complicated, then it’s because we have made it that way. That’s not by Christ’s design.

What does disciple-making look like? What does obedience to the Great Commission look like? It looks like what the Apostle’s did in the book of Acts. It’s ordinary “means of grace” ministry.

To quickly apply this: if our method of making disciples doesn’t look like that [Acts 2:41-42], then we’re doing it wrong.

Hence, our Westminster Shorter Catechism asks:

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.  (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 2:41-42)

Notice the proof texts! The texts we have studied. The Catechism has simply formulated what the Scripture says. This is what making disciples looks like in Scripture. It’s what Jesus commanded, it’s what the Apostles carried out.

You see, God in his Word has not just given us a mission: make disciples. He has also given us the means of making disciples; the instruments to carry out the mission. We don’t need, nor are we at liberty to, invent our own means for making disciples. As if God has left us unequipped to accomplish the mission. We are not at liberty to ignore his means in favor of “new measures.” As if we are wiser than God. “Thanks, Lord Jesus, but we have a better way.” The Lord Jesus has not just given us optional tools, but he has ordained, commanded that we use these outward and ordinary means.

*Side note: this should be really encouraging to you who are studying evangelism and discipleship. If Scripture actually prescribes something, then we are actually limited in what we need to study. The subject has been simplified, for us.

The Lord Jesus has ordained the means to make disciples. And these means are consistent with the theology of Scripture. That should make sense: God will not contradict who he is and what he has said. And so, as we look at and discuss methods of evangelism and discipleship, we must remember that they must never contradict the doctrine and practice of Scripture. That’s why our Standards formulate both doctrine and practice (such as the Shorter Catechism, above). Theology must drive methodology.

God has ordained the means of making disciples. There is a divinely established relationship between the salvation of sinners and the outward means. They are not identical (that’s Rome), but they are distinct. Meaning, God is not dependent on the means. Case in point: the thief on the cross was saved by faith, apart from baptism. They are the ordinary means, but not necessary (i.e. God is not bound by them, grace is not attached to them).

However, if you think the inward grace and the outward means are separate (like most evangelicals), obviously that will result in a different methodology. Evangelicalism has effectively replaced the ordinary means with other rituals.

[A] lack of belief in the divine nature of the Church, the ordinary means of grace, and the pastoral office, lead to the belief that these things could be safely abandoned or ignored when they don’t seem to be working. This led Finney to seek better methods in the form of specially designed meetings and methods that, in Finney’s estimation, were more effective in producing converts and advancing the Gospel. Special revival meetings and other novelties were continually needed to advance the Gospel. Because the Church has so little life and power, and no divine mandate for her traditional methods, new excitements must therefore be continually sought.

—Dahlfred, Karl . Theology Drives Methodology: Conversion in the Theology of Charles Finney and John Nevin (p. 109).  . Kindle Edition.

We’ll look briefly at one of these ordinary and outward means: the Word. This is the primary ordinance, which defines the others.

Again, from our Shorter Catechism:

Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.  (Neh 8:8-9; Acts 20:32; Rom 10:14-17; 2 Tim 3:15-17)

Just like Jesus said: teach the Word. And just as the Apostles did: the Word was preached and 3,000 were convinced and converted, then they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.

What does the catechism mean by “effectual to salvation”? Effectual means it actually gives the effect, it actually achieves the result for which it’s designed: salvation. The instrument will actually work. How then, do the instruments work? How are the outward and ordinary means made effective? The Holy Spirit makes them work. See, they don’t work on their own (as Rome says). Neither does grace ordinarily come apart from them (evangelicalism). The effect comes from the work of the Spirit of God.

It’s God the Holy Spirit that makes the Word work. Without him, there will be no effect, no salvation. The Holy Spirit works by and with the Word, as our Confession says. Notice, that especially the preaching of the Word is made an effectual means of salvation. Preaching has priority over reading. Preaching happens in church, on the Lord’s Day. The vast majority of the emphasis is placed on preaching, in the New Testament. Also, it’s simply a historical fact that the public preaching of the Word has always been a part of the Christian life, while personal Bible reading has not. What percentage of believers throughout history have even possessed a personal copy of God’s Word? When was the printing press invented?

To quickly apply this: an method of discipleship that puts all the emphasis on personal Bible reading and study is not only out of touch with the Westminster Standards (following Scripture), but with church history as well.

The Holy Spirit makes the Word effective in convincing, persuading, changing the minds of the sinner. Of converting them, turning them away from sin and towards Christ. After they have been “evangelized,” the Word is continually made effective to build them up in holiness, sanctifying them. That’s the rest of the Christian life (discipleship). The Holy Spirit makes the Word of God effective as the primary means of making disciples.

That’s just a taste, as we will go more in depth later on.

Another Reformed Creed says the same thing:

In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

Canons of Dort 1.3

If you want God-given results, you must use the God-given means. As G.I. Williamson says, “What we need, then, is not only to seek eternal life, but to seek it in the right way.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism: For Study Classes, Kindle Location 3184). As I told my high school students: seek God’s grace in God’s way.

And now to you: seek the salvation of sinners, but seek it in the right way. Offer God’s grace to sinners in God’s way. Make disciples of Jesus, and do it Jesus’ way.

As Francis Schaeffer famously said: “we must do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.”

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Worship is Participatory

I’ve noticed something interesting: people don’t seem to know how to “do church.” What I mean is, in Sunday morning worship service, they don’t know how to act, behave, what attitude they are to come to church with. They aren’t engaged, they are not active. Rather, I should say, they are active in all the wrong ways.

All the kids literally run around the church and talk loudly. And this continues without correction. No, they are not just “being kids.” You know how I know? Because their parents are just as distracted and just as loud in their personal conversations during all parts of the service. And the older children are playing games on their cellphones, with the volume up!

In short, hardly anyone actively participates in the public worship of God. It’s been going on for years.

How do you go that long without correction, without teaching, without training? This is, in fact, a violation of the 4th Commandment, which implicitly forbids “all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing” of the duty of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (WLC Q/A 119).

I wonder if Roman Catholicism is the reason. In Roman Catholic worship, participation isn’t necessary, or even considered. It’s the performance of the priest that matters, regardless of the people’s lack of involvement. The priest worships, the choir sings. The people just have to physically be in the vicinity. A common sight are people gathered in the parking lot, not even mentally present in what’s going on. But they’re there! So check that off. “Check out (mentally), check off (the duty).”

Perhaps no one knows how to behave in church because they brought their Roman Catholic theology with them? Regardless if that’s the direct cause or not, we certainly need Reformation theology to be taught. Then we can lead people into Reformed worship, which is congregational and entirely participatory.

The Reformation and Participatory Worship

Contrary to Rome, the congregation must be active in the public worship of God. Attending worship is far from a passive attendance. Here’s a very brief view of the transition in worship participation because of the theology of the Protestant Reformers. The following quotes are from Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship.

In Roman Catholic worship,

Singers were those involved in church vocation (including cantors) who sang from the “choir,” a space between the congregation and the altar that was often separated from the laypeople by a screen. The congregation did not sing the Introit or any other portion of the service. (loc. 321)

This “choir”, where singing is done without participation of the whole congregation, has it’s place in the Roman Catholic context. It might sound strange that the people would not sing, but it actually fits if the worship is being done by someone else on the people’s behalf. So if that theology changes, the participation must change with it. Martin Luther made some important changes:

Luther did not want his worship to be interpreted as a propitiatory sacrifice offered to God by a priest on behalf of the people. . .

Luther understood worship as God’s gift to the people. Through the liturgy, God’s people could praise him for grace already completed in Christ’s finished work of salvation. This concept of the liturgy being God’s provision for the people to respond to grace, rather than for the priest to obtain their forgiveness, radically changed the way key worship elements were practiced. . .

Luther wanted the worship service to be a participatory experience, in keeping with his understanding of church being a community of faithful people praising God for his salvation. Two key changes resulted that are not obvious from only observing the order of the worship elements. First, the music was no longer the exclusive domain of those in sacred orders. (loc. 448-457)

So, because of Christ’s sufficient work, and consequently the complete removal of a human priesthood, worship becomes congregational. No longer is worship done on behalf of the people. It’s not a work done in their place, vicariously. All believer’s are priests, having access to the throne of grace. And that is why, for Luther, the congregation now participates in the singing! See, there is a theological reason for congregational song in corporate worship. Likewise, John Calvin made changes:

. . . commitment to the priesthood of believers is evident not only in the language Calvin used to involve the laity, but also in his encouragement of their participation in the worship service. The people sing in Calvin’s liturgy. And, as we will see, Calvin fought for their right to do so. Additionally, the people have special access to the privileges of their faith. Before he faced undesired strictures at Geneva, Calvin stood in front of the pulpit—among the people of Strasbourg—for all of the service prior to the reading and proclamation of the Word. During his ministry in Geneva, Calvin’s famous chair—common in size and style—was not used simply to carry him to the pulpit when he was feeble and old. The chair sat beneath the pulpit—among the people and on their level, as a statement of the preacher’s identification with the congregation prior to his acting as God’s representative in leading worship. (loc. 579)

That note about the chair is significant. The pastor was not a “priest” who was elevated from the people. Since all have equal access to God through the true High Priest, Jesus Christ, all are on equal footing. So, all the people join together in singing every part of the service. And John Calvin sat and stood with the people. Perhaps that is something to consider in our context, where certain special chairs are placed up and behind the pulpit, removed from the congregation. Might that contradict our theology?

The point is, with the change in theology came the necessary change in worship practice. Worship was recognized to be participatory. And this Reformation theology and participatory worship is reflected most clearly in the works of the Westminster Assembly.

The Westminster Assembly and Participatory Worship

The Directory for the Public Worship of God, under the heading “Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their Behaviour in the Publick Worship of God,” says:

The publick worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.

If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning, they ought not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand.

During corporate worship, what should the be the focus of the people? The worship. And any who arrive late (another chronic problem) are to enter into the worship currently underway, whatever part it may be. What’s ironic is pastors and other “leaders” are just as guilty of not participating in the ordinances along with the people, until it’s “their turn.” Around here, usually it’s because they are in fact “doing reverence to any person present, or coming in.” They are entertaining some special person who happens to be visiting (and therefore keeping them from participating in worship, also), or waiting for them to arrive.

Clearly, the sole focus during corporate worship is to be the worship of God. No reading anything on your own (if only cell phones and Facebook were a thing back then . . .). It’s astonishing what people will do privately during all parts of the worship service. Forget “whisperings.” Most of the children have conversations at full volume, and are rarely corrected, even by their own parents.

All the people, the minister and the congregation, are to be worshiping God, together. And anything that disturbs or hinders the service of God needs to be corrected and avoided.

Indeed, even the parts of worship that appear passive are actually active. Like listening. Of course, that’s a common misunderstanding: talking is active, listening is passive. That’s simply untrue. Our Westminster Larger Catechism says:

Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

Our Confession of Faith concisely expresses it as “conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence” (21.5).

Even for the most seemly inactive part of corporate worship, listening to preaching, we can see that’s it’s actually not. The congregation must be actively participating. It takes effort to be engaged.

The Larger Catechism also addresses the time of receiving the Lord’s Supper:

Q. 174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the time of the administration of it?
A. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

The Directory for Worship, under the heading “Of the Singing of Psalms” says:

It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.

In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book. . .

Again, participation. The congregation is to sing together, and everyone is to actually understand what they are singing, not merely a mindless recital of words. That requires thinking, and interpreting.

To summarize: worship is participatory. The singing is congregational singing. Even while listening or receiving the sacrament, the whole congregation is to be actively engaged in it. There is no place for performance or vicarious worship. That belongs back in Rome, where it came from. Reformed worship, worship based on the theology of the Protestant Reformation, is participatory.

So if we claim to be Reformed or Presbyterian, and if we subscribe to creeds such as those quoted above, then why is our corporate worship not consistently congregational? Why are so many in attendance actively disengaged, why are distractions abundant, and why do the majority of those in attendance seem to have no problem with it?

A Simple Solution

I know for a fact that we are not doomed to a situation of worship ignorance in the “Presbyterian” church. I know of another local church with a very disciplined congregation. Ironically, it’s about 50 times as large, and so has that much more potential to be unruly and chaotic! But it is not. Distraction is extremely limited. People sing together, people listen together. They are actively engaged in the worship service. They know why they are there. Do you know why they know? It’s quite simple: they were taught. The painful irony is that they aren’t Reformed or Presbyterian. Yet their participatory worship better reflects our theology better than our worship does! How embarrassing. They were simply taught what the purpose for gathering is. They were told how to behave, they were told to be engaged, and to actively listen. They were trained and measures were taken to minimize distraction. It was made explicit what the priority is. Ultimately, whose fault is it if the people don’t know what do to in corporate worship? Yes, you know the answer.

If our theology is not Roman, then neither should our worship practice be. And when we are right smack in the middle of a Roman Catholic country, we might want to point that out. Our worship practice must follow from our theology. Yet, if our worship practice is not that inherited from the Reformation, then perhaps our churches don’t believe what they claim to. Either way, Reformation is needed: a recovery of Reformation theology, and a recovery of acceptable worship.

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Q/A: Worship, Individual and Corporate

Question:

 What is “worship”? And is it different for corporate setting—church and individual, daily living?

Answer:

Excellent question, and so important. In fact, this really makes Reformed/Presbyterianism stand out.

First, let’s define worship. We “worship and glorify [God] accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him” (WLC Q/A 104). And what is the way in which we worship God? Our Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 21, “Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day” says:

1. . . . the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

First things first: the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is what he says is acceptable. So whatever worship is, it’s not our idea. It’s not what pleases us, but what pleases him. No inventions or innovations. Whatever is not prescribed is forbidden. This rule is called the “Regulative Principle of Worship.”

So, since we know that Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) is the rule for worship, how do we worship? The Confession lists the elements of worship:

3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.

4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter: but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.

5. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God . . .

What constitutes worship? What are the essential parts of worship? Prayer, the reading, preaching, hearing of the Word, singing of psalms, and the (2) sacraments instituted by Christ. That’s worship. This is what Scripture says is worship, for the church. There’s overlap. Singing to God certainly is a form of prayer. The rest of the elements could even be categorized as the Word: read, preached, heard, sung, and made visible in the sacraments. Either way, these are what make up the ordinary worship of God.

Notice, worship is not reduced to music! In fact, music is at best an implication. Singing is clearly there. Yet, it is commonly assumed that the “music time” before the sermon is “worship.” Not so. What’s even worse is that label “praise and worship.” I was asked recently if a church had “praise and worship.” You’re probably thinking, “what a question!” However, that phrase was used to mean “contemporary” style music and songs. What a reduction! Music is not worship. The above elements are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God. Hence, the appropriate label of “worship service” to the whole of the church’s gathering on the Lord’s Day, with every stage included.

Now, if you would like an exposition of worship, read the Westminster Larger Catechism: for the Regulative Principle of Worship, read Q/A 107-110; Prayer, Q/A 178-196; the Word, Q/A 154-160 Sacraments, Q/A 161-177.

Second, where does worship take place?

6. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.

God is to be worshiped everywhere! Does that mean everything we do is worship? No. It says everywhere, not everything. Remember, God defines what is worship, and we already covered that. But, isn’t all of life worship? I’ve talked like that. The answer is no, if this is the sense you’re taking the term “worship.” I’ll quickly point out that this was a development in the Protestant Reformation: every vocation glorifies God. The Reformers recognized that Scripture doesn’t distinguish between “sacred” and “secular” as the Church of Rome did. The farmer can glorify God in his vocation just as much as the monk living the “separated life.” All service, in whatever sphere, is service to the Lord. All of life, all we do, we do unto the glory of God. However, a common misunderstanding is that there’s therefore no difference between corporate worship and our common affairs. That simply does not follow. Both glorify God, but they are not the same things. And Reformation theology did not say they were, either.

So, “God is to be worshiped everywhere.” What does “everywhere” mean? Privately, family, and corporately. Now, finally we come to the second part of the original question: is there a difference between individual and corporate worship? The answer is a definite yes. “More solemnly” in public assemblies (with the local church). An important note: individual, or even family worship, cannot substitute for corporate worship. The assembly of the church for worship is “not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken.” When is the time of the public assembly? That’s section 7 and 8 of this chapter in the Confession: Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

Continuing on with the difference between corporate and private worship, there are differences pertaining to the acts of worship themselves. God blesses the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word of God (WLC Q/A 155). That happens in corporate worship, not private (whereas reading occurs in both [hopefully]). Not everyone is allowed to preach the Word, either. The sacraments, baptism and Lord’s Supper, are not private acts but church ordinances, only to be administered by one called to the ministry of Word and sacrament. The church, the corporate body, must be present for the administration of the sacraments. The Lord’s Supper is not to be given “to none who are not then present in the congregation;” likewise, “Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone” (WCF 29.3-4).

So those are some things unique to corporate worship, whereas prayer, the reading and hearing of the Word, and singing of psalms can take place in family or private worship.

All things are done to the glory of God, but that’s not the same as “worship,” as defined by our standards. God has ordained specifically what “worship” is, and it’s clearly not every activity under the sun. God has ordained the acts of worship. Likewise, some of the elements of worship are exclusive to the public assembly (corporate worship).

Understand that, from the Reformed perspective, the center of gravity in the Christian life is with corporate worship. Corporate worship, the public assembly, is the most important thing you do, every week. That’s completely contrary to the typical way of thinking, today. The Western church has whole-sale acclimated to the individualistic atmosphere, so that your life as a Christian centers on your individual acts of piety: personal Bible reading, personal Bible study, personal prayer, “quiet time.” But think historically, for a minute: when was private Bible reading made possible? For the first 1,400 years of the Church, there wasn’t even a printing press. Was God not providing for the spiritual nourishment of his people? Could Christians not worship God in the most significant way? Au contraire. He was, and they could, by the outward and ordinary means: the Word, prayer, and sacraments, in corporate worship.

There is a three-layered answer to the question. First, daily living doesn’t qualify as worship, because God has specifically ordained certain acts to be acceptable worship; they are “holy” or set apart for that purpose (along with the “holy” day set apart for that purpose: Sunday). Secondly, worship can (and must!) take place everywhere: privately, family, and corporately. But, thirdly, there is a distinction between corporate worship and private or family worship. As I used to say: public worship is not the same as your private devotions. Worship is to happen corporately, in family, and personally, but they are not equal.

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Two Churches, pt. 3

In a day when it is a scandal to say anything is “false,” I got a breath of fresh air from a Reformed confession of faith. The typical sentiment you hear is, “Oh, we shouldn’t judge.” Well, Scripture tells us otherwise. And the Church has recognized this fact since the beginning. Here is just one more example of that.

Because of length, my thoughts on this will be divided into separate posts. See part 1 and part 2. Now, part 3.

The False Church

Church #2, all sects that call themselves “the church.” Notice the label in the first phrase of this part of article 29, of the Belgic Confession of Faith:

As for the false church,
it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances

than to the Word of God;

it does not want to subject itself

to the yoke of Christ;

it does not administer the sacraments

as Christ commanded in his Word;

it rather adds to them or subtracts from them

as it pleases;

it bases itself on humans,

more than on Jesus Christ;

it persecutes those

who live holy lives according to the Word of God
and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

Here we have the marks of a false church. Usurping authority over the Word, not subjected to Christ, altering the sacraments, based on humans, and persecuting those who obey the Word and rebuke the false church. That’s a lot.

Now, a quick question: which big “church” in the world does this description fit? One that places more authority in itself and its sacraments than the Word of God? Hhmmm, perhaps that “church” that alone has the authority to decide what the “Word of God” is, in the first place? It is that church that operates by sola ecclesia: the church is the only authority of faith and life. Yes, it’s obvious that the Belgic Confession is speaking of the Church of Rome. What does this mean? Can we really say that such a large, old, and revered institution, that claims to be the (only!) church, is not? Yes. The Belgic Confession unambiguously says that a “church” that has these marks is a false church. I wonder how many Christians today would be willing to say (or even think) those words. Despite having the clear teaching of Scripture, believers are too timid to discern what is false and then to call it false.

Not only does the Church of Rome bear the marks of a false church, but other groups that claim to be “the church.” That’s part of the beauty of this chapter in the Belgic Confession: instead of labeling one sect as false, it instead provides the marks that can be applied to any sect. So any that fit this description can be labeled. Run some of the cults through this grid, and see the result. One thing they all have in common is giving “more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God.” Such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Iglesia ni Cristo, Moonies, all clearly state an authority higher than the Word of God. They have no problem with adding to Scripture (continuing revelation in some form is characteristic). Ironically, Rome does the exact same thing. The “church” will always overrule the Word of God.

A further mark of a false church is: “it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases.” Once again, the Church of Rome is the perfect example, with the “popish mass.” Indeed, Calvin stated that Rome in fact does not administer the Lord’s Supper at all! Because of all the extra ceremony added to it, but also subtracting that the sacrament is a sign. Rome asserts that the bread and wine become the thing they were supposed to represent. On top of that, only the wafer is given to the people; they are denied the cup. The priest drinks the wine, but doesn’t receive the wafer. Even more, the Church of Rome adds five more sacraments, which are not commanded by Christ in his Word. To the opposite extreme, the Quakers refuse to observe the sacraments at all. And I think that any “church” that administers baptism, believing you cannot be saved without it, also fails to administer the sacraments as Christ commanded. Many cults add to baptism, in that way.

The Belgic Confession also said of the false church: “it bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ.” That’s a brilliant statement. Christ the head and founder has been replaced. Naturally, instead of being ruled by the pure Word of God, the false church will be according to mere human authority. And as Jesus said, you can’t have two masters, it’s one or the other. Here’s where we look at liberal Protestantism. Just because a church is not Roman Catholic, or a cult, and calls itself “Protestant”, does not mean it’s a true church. Check the marks, always. What is the mark of liberalism? It’s exactly what the Belgic Confession says: “it bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ.” The whole liberal enterprise was to make Christianity agreeable to autonomous man. Human reason is the highest authority, so that the Bible in it’s entirety cannot be accepted. Anything in Scripture that does not meet man’s standard is tossed. They have reduced themselves to a mere human organization. The cultural and historical situation, human traditions, human values, human reason, “scientific” consensus, are the basis for liberal faith and practice. If you would like an example of this, go to the website of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and read their commentaries on their statement of faith (they’re free to download). Liberal Protestantism may call itself Christian, or “the church”, but they are in fact a totally different religion, and undoubtedly a false church.

Finally, a false church will persecute those who rebuke it. We’ve seen a bit of this recently, following the formal debate between Dr. James White and Joe Ventilacion of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

The Belgic Confession expounds: “it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.” Look at the Reformation in Scotland and England for plenty of evidence for this statement. Those who resisted and refused to submit to the usurpation of authority by the Church of Rome, or the king or queen, over Christ and his Word were burned at the stake. I think this statement on persecution carries even greater significance considering its chief author, Guido de Bräs, was martyred.

Notice what the Belgic Confession has joined together: “those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it [the false church] for its faults, greed, and idolatry.” What is implicit, is those who live holy lives, according to the Word of God, will be rebuking the false church! Interesting, no? How could they do that, by what authority? What the Belgic Confession said previously: it is based on the Word of God. Possessing and living by the truth, they recognize error. Furthermore, they say something. I think what is implied is that those who live holy lives according to the Word of God are obligated to rebuke the false church. Indeed, how would the true church be persecuted unless it spoke the truth in opposition to the false church.

Who is willing to call out “faults, greed, and idolatry” in our day? Even in comfortable contexts, where you definitely won’t be burned at the stake! The only negative consequence is that people won’t like you, and might slander you on Twitter or Facebook. Yet, that’s enough for the timid person to keep his mouth shut.

Oh, and there’s this unwritten law that you’re not allowed to disagree or say someone is wrong. That’s considered hate. Common sentiments that come from this culture of niceness include: “Oh, let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s just focus on the positive.” Sadly, many Christians have unwittingly absorbed this way of thinking. But, it is not doing justice to Scripture. If there is such a thing as truth, then by necessity (logical consequence) there is falsehood. And the Bible labels sin! We are to identify what is wrong. How can there be repentance? Or how can we keep ourselves from these things, if we turn a blind eye? How can we exhort others to separate themselves from a sinful, greedy, and idolatrous “church”, if we stay silent? How can the elect within false churches be called out to repentance and faith, unless the Gospel is preached and error condemned? Is sin not to be repented of? Doesn’t that include the sins of usurping authority over the Word, not submitting to Christ, altering the sacraments, being based on humans, and persecuting Christians? Did Jesus not atone for those sins?

“Oh, but they are sincere. They are worshiping in their way. That’s their practice.” I’ll apply the words of Dr. Greg Bahnsen: “Oh barf.” What a petty, unbiblical justification, and downplaying of sin. Christians, even pastors, have spoken this way! Excuse me, but who is the authority? Christ, speaking in his Word. Christ, the head of the church, gets to decide what way we worship, and what our practice should be. It’s non-negotiable. This is a no “agree-to-disagree” zone. But in this relativistic time, sincerity covers a multitude of sins. Perhaps sincerity is justification in the court of public opinion, but not in the real court before the Supreme Judge.

Another familiar sentiment is “let’s just focus on what we have in common.” Oh, how ecumenical. The implication is, we should never focus on our differences. Well, I beg to differ. Let us indeed give credit where it is due, it would be unjust to ignore what is right and true, no  matter who does it. But to only do that is half the job. We ought to distinguish.

An illustration may be helpful. Jollibee and McDonald’s are not the same. Am I “judgmental” for saying so? We openly talk about the differences. McDo’s fries are different (as in better) than Jollibee fries. But nobody beats Jollibee’s spicy fried chicken. We openly distinguish. There’s McDo and then there’s not-McDo. McDo has a clear menu, so you can automatically tell when your eating not-McDo. If someone gives you a burger from Jollibee, but tells you it’s from McDo, you would be right to label it “false McDo.” What’s the point? In a matters of so much more gravity, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, within which we can offer acceptable worship to our King, and receive Christ and his benefits, should we not practice the same level of discernment that we do in every other area of life? We discriminate every day. Should we not do the same about the most important matters?

I especially love the closing sentence of this article of the Belgic Confession: “These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.” Yes indeed, it’s not difficult to tell. There’s no use claiming ignorance. None can pretend to not recognize the true church and the false church, according to the Word of God. It requires knowing the standard: God’s Word. It requires us to be diligent and careful. But it can be done, and should be done. Every believer in Jesus Christ must discern what is the true church, in contrast with the false church.

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Two Churches, pt. 2

In a day when it is a scandal to say anything is “false,” I got a breath of fresh air from a Reformed confession of faith. The typical sentiment you hear is, “Oh, we shouldn’t judge.” Well, Scripture tells us otherwise. And the Church has recognized this fact since the beginning. Here is just one more example of that.

Because of length, my thoughts on this have been divided into separate posts. See part 1. Now, part 2.

The True Church

Church #1, the body and fellowship of the true church. The Belgic Confession of Faith, article 29, continues:

The church engages in the pure preaching

of the gospel;

it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments

as Christ instituted them;

it practices church discipline

for correcting faults.

In short, it governs itself
according to the pure Word of God,

rejecting all things contrary to it
and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.

By these marks one can be assured
of recognizing the true church—

and no one ought to be separated from it.

Recall that this article of the Belgic Confession is titled, “The Marks of the True Church.” The three marks of the true church, handed down since the Protestant Reformation, are: 1. The pure preaching of the Gospel; 2. The pure administration of the sacraments; 3. The practice of church discipline. Easy to remember: Word, Sacraments, Discipline.

And it would take a book, or even three volumes, to expound on these marks of the true church.

To be a true church, all three of these must be present. This is the “minimal complexity” of the church. As we’ll see, they are interdependent. If one is lacking, the other two will suffer and soon disappear. That is why all three marks are essential to the church.

The controlling mark is the pure preaching of the gospel. The gospel is made visible in the sacraments. The gospel is the basis for growth in grace and holiness, and rejection of sin. The Word defines the sacraments, which is why you cannot administer the sacraments without the preaching of the Word. The Word is not properly preached if there is no church discipline to correct rejection of it, and to encourage obedience to it. Without discipline, the door is open to profane the sacraments, because heresy or scandalous living has been tolerated.

The Belgic Confession summarize it well: “In short, it [the church] governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.” The Word determines, defines, and regulates the church. Not only the positive element, but the negative is stated. The true church rejects all things contrary to the pure Word of God.

The Belgic Confession brilliantly includes the headship over the church. This is a must. Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church. Christ the King reigns in his Church. There is no other head, whether ecclesiastical (a pope) or civil (the state). Why is the head of the church necessary, at this point? Because, we need to know who has authority to define the church. Who has the authority to define the church by these marks? Only the founder, instituter, and ruler of the church: Jesus Christ.

I must makes explicit what is implied, here. When the exclusive headship of Jesus Christ is forgotten, the three marks of the church will vanish. When the authority of Christ is replaced, the marks will suffer. For example, when the pastor would rather please man than the Lord Jesus, his preaching of the pure Gospel will necessarily be compromised; for it will offend the natural man. The sacraments will be profaned, because you can’t tell people “no.” Discipline will be non-existent, obviously; you’ll never correct faults.

When authority is usurped by church officers or councils, the result will be the same. If they contradict the pure preaching of the Word, how can that be maintained in the local congregations? When the denomination becomes “inclusive” (in the bad way), what of church discipline? Indeed, this relationship between the exclusive headship of Christ over his church will take a post (or a book) of itself.

When the Head of the church is replaced, so will the marks of his church. The preaching of the pure gospel and church discipline (the keys of the kingdom) will be replaced with some other device to bring people in. The preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments (the means of grace) will be overshadowed by some other method for “growth.” If the church is no longer governed by the pure Word of God, rejecting anything contrary to it, then Christ’s headship has been replaced. Christ is King, and his Word is the law! Reject the law, and you’ve rejected the law-giver. Programs and fads will replace the divinely instituted means for growing the church in numbers, and growing the church in maturity.

The Belgic Confession then said, “By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church.” The Lord Jesus, founder and head of his Church, is not ambiguous in his Word about that Church. How do you identify a true church? Look for the marks, and Christ will be there. Where a church is governed by the pure Word of God, then Jesus Christ is the head, and these three marks will be there.

An obligation comes from all that has been said: “and no one ought to be separated from it.” Here again is the mandate to discern, or (*deep breath*) judge a church. Why must we diligently and carefully discern whether a church is a true church? Because Christians must be part of the true church! Not just the invisible church (by virtue of union with Christ), but the visible church (by baptism). There is no such thing as an isolated Christian. Check the Bible. We have a corporate identity. The visible church is the consequence of the Gospel. But, autonomy is greatly valued in our time (every time?), so that will be hard to swallow. Regardless, the command is there to not neglect the meeting together.

How can you possibly obey God in this way if you have not discerned where the true church is?

Now, on the flip-side, how would you know when to separate from a church? Based on the marks! Are the three marks of the true church no longer present? Once again, we are obligated to use discernment. Look for the marks of the true church. Churches can degenerate. Just look at church history. Some fall so far as to become no church at all. They can have their lamp stands removed. Remember, Christ in his Word requires you to be joined to his true church, not just any “church.” That was the point of article 29, because all sects call themselves “the church.” So don’t feel guilty for leaving a “church” that doesn’t have the marks. You are obligated to be a part of Christ’s visible church, where he is head. That means you cannot be joined to a “church” that is not. Neither tradition, nor your family, nor the church’s history, obligates your membership to them. Christ, in his Word, obligates membership in a true church. And what it says is the pure preaching of the Word, pure administration of the sacraments, and the practice of church discipline is how you decide.

Examine your church. Are all three marks present? Is the pure preaching of the Gospel there? Now, as a mark of the church, do you think this means once or twice? As in, “a couple times a year, I hear the Gospel.” No, that would be ridiculous. You could hardly say Gospel-preaching marks that church. That mark would be unidentifiable if it was infrequent. Rather, is it a characteristic of the church? Is it a distinguishing mark of your church, that the Gospel is purely preached? If it’s not, then that’s a serious problem. If this mark is missing, the other two are already in jeopardy.

What about the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them? I guess the first question would be: does your church administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper at all? Does your church baptize only those adults who have made a credible profession of faith? Secondly, does it add or take away from them, as instituted by Christ? Are the elements changed? Like, for example, replacing wine (which Christ did institute) with some other beverage (which Christ did not institute). That is no different, in principle, than the church adding oil or some other substance to the baptismal water (which has been done). Further, does your church admit believers to the Lord’s Table, but prohibit unbelievers? And yes, I think frequency of the Lord’s Supper is an issue, here. In the same way that preaching the Gospel twice or four times per year is not satisfactory, neither should administering the means of nourishment for the believer. Simply put, annual or even quarterly observation of the Lord’s Supper is inconsistent with the nature of the sacrament. Notice, you would have to understand the sacraments first, before you could discern whether the administration of them is according to Christ’s institution.

Finally, does your church practice church discipline for correcting faults? If no one is rebuked, about any sin, ever, then there’s a problem. Church discipline includes all three levels. Correction among believers, then the including of witnesses, and lastly bringing it before the elders. So, don’t conclude that your church is missing the third mark because you’ve never witnessed excommunication! Ideally, that shouldn’t have to happen! But, is sin being dealt with in the church? Is false teaching being corrected? Church discipline is not only corrective, but also formative. It’s probably better known as discipleship. Who is supposed to be shepherding the families in the church? The elders. Discipline isn’t just negative, but positive: teaching, training, catechizing, meeting together, etc. Is there accountability between the members and elders? Are the people at that church in a relationship with the elders? Not an assumed relationship, but a formal, stated relationship. Has a verbal commitment been made? Have membership vows been taken? Where would the responsibility and authority to correct somebody come from, if nobody has agreed to that kind of relationship. You see, church discipline and formal church membership are two sides of the same coin. So I would argue (and I’m not alone) that if your church does not have formal membership, then it consequently does not have church discipline; and to be lacking the third mark of the church means it is not a church.

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Two Churches, pt. 1

In a day when it is a scandal to say anything is “false,” I got a breath of fresh air from a Reformed confession of faith. The typical sentiment you hear is, “Oh, we shouldn’t judge.” Well, Scripture tells us otherwise. And the Church has recognized this fact since the beginning. Here is just one more example of that.

I don’t presume to do justice to this article of faith. I think a book should be written about it, because it could take that much to expound and give examples and application. A Tale of Two Churches should be the title (dibs, it’s mine!).

Because of length, my thoughts on this will be divided into separate posts. This is part 1.

We Ought to Discern

The Belgic Confession of Faith (1561) Article 29, “The Marks of the True Church” says:

We believe that we ought to discern

diligently and very carefully,
by the Word of God,

what is the true church—

for all sects in the world today
claim for themselves the name of “the church.”

How refreshing is that? We ought to discern . . . what is the true church. We ought to distinguish, tell the difference. In short, we should make a judgment.

How can we do that? Is it arbitrary? Is it based on personal opinion? No, that would be wrong. And here we get to the the problems with the “don’t judge” crowd. They simply don’t recognize what is going on.

The standard by which we judge is not ourselves, not our personal preference, not some man-made criteria, but “the Word of God.” It’s the rule that is above us all, external, and authoritative. Ironically, those who say “don’t judge” can only ever judge by an arbitrary standard. They have zero authority to judge anything, at all. Including the moral judgment that judging is wrong, and the ethical mandate that we should not judge!

Secondly, this is not a hasty snap-judgment. We are to discern “diligently and very carefully.” Those are excellent words. Due diligence is called for. It’s not to be careless. What we are making a judgment about is a weighty matter, after all.

Thirdly, Scripture tells us things so that we can in fact discern, tell the differences. It is possible to recognize the true from the false. Scripture is clear, which is another thing that contradicts our relativistic culture. Those who disagree with our judging according to Scripture often argue that the Bible is ambiguous on a matter. No, it’s not. The data is there. Not everything is equally clear in the Bible, but it is understandable. One of the things it is very clear about is what a true church looks like, and thus we can recognize what a false church is, as well. Thus, God has provided what we need in his Word so we can diligently and very carefully discern what is the true church.

Why must we discern what is the true church? Not only because Scripture commands us to develop discernment, distinguishing between true and false, and because we are commanded to be a part of the Church and to worship God corporately, but also out of necessity of our situation in the fallen world. Why must we discern what is the true church? As article 29 said, because many groups call themselves “the church.” Are we to simply take their word for it? That would be irresponsible, in light of Scripture’s defining of the church. These other “churches” disagree amongst themselves. That means they can’t all actually be “the church.” Someone is wrong, some of them are false. So, because there are a multitude of sects that claim to be “the church”, we of necessity must diligently and carefully discern what is the true church, according to the Word of God.

But we are speaking of distinguishing
the body and fellowship of the true church
from all sects that call themselves “the church.”

Based on the Word of God, diligently and very carefully, what are we to distinguish? Two churches: the true church and the false “church.”

I must point out, that this article shows that the Reformed creeds are not cold, abstract statements of doctrine. They are eminently practical and pastoral. This article of the Belgic Confession tells you what to look for, and what to look-out for. It not only tells you how to identify a true church, but how to identify a false church. That is useful to everyone.

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Break that Bread

Something hadn’t occurred to me, before. I certainly don’t recall it, anyway. That’s a reason why I keep studying. I trip over things I never thought of. This time, it was about the Lord’s Supper. I was reading Robert Shaw’s exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (29.3, above) and was caught off guard by a comment he made about wafers.

Wafers
“Bread”

I know Roman Catholic churches use them, and that’s who Shaw refers to. But I think the first time I had one of these wafers was at a Presbyterian church.

I was a little surprised when I saw them. The only reason was that I knew they were a “Roman Catholic thing.” So they were an unexpected taste in a Reformed church. After I ate it, I had another reason: it’s a foam disc. But, neither of those “reasons” are reason enough to object to their use. So I dealt with it.

Needless to say, Robert Shaw actually has a sound reason to oppose the use of wafers in the Lord’s Supper. He notes that it takes away “an essential part,” a “significant action,” of the ordinance. Can you guess which one? Let’s read some Bible:

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.”  —1 Corinthians 11:24

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  —Matthew 26:26

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  —Luke 22:19

Because of the actions of the Lord Jesus as he instituted the Lord’s Supper, saying “do this,” our Confession says:

The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

Westminster Confession of Faith 29.3

Notice: “The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to . . . take and break the bread” (emphasis mine).

I would never have related communion wafers to the action of breaking the bread, as the Lord Jesus did. Honestly, I hadn’t much noticed and to take and break the bread, at all. Maybe because it didn’t happen in the majority of churches I attended. And yet, it’s there in the Scriptures, and consequently spelled out in the Confession as part of the proper administration of the Lord’s Supper.

I now reflect on the breaking of bread in the churches I’ve been in.

The three large evangelical churches that I went to simply had sliced bread cut into little squares, in platters, to be served. The pastor merely spoke some words of institution and the bread was distributed. No wafers, but functionally the same. No breaking.

In the Presbyterian (PCA) church, our pastor would take pieces of the loaf of bread and break them as he spoke the words of institution. The pre-cut pieces of the bread were already in the platters, ready to be served. But he would break some bread anyway. I always thought, “I like that.” But I never had any deeper thoughts on the matter for the entire time I was there. Clearly, I failed to “diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions” (WLC Q/A 174). I’m playing catch up, once again.

Finally, a church that uses wafers. The first time, I immediately thought, “I don’t like that.” But, without good reason, I wasn’t going to let it bother me.

Now, however, thanks to Robert Shaw, I have learned that there is a problem. And no, I wasn’t looking for it (like that would matter, anyway). Without further delay, here it is:

The minister is also to take and break the bread. The breaking of the bread is an essential part of the ordinance, and, when it is wanting [lacking], the sacrament is not celebrated according to the original institution. It is, indeed, so essential, that the Lord’s supper is sometimes designated from it alone, the whole being denominated from a part. The “breaking of bread” is mentioned among the institutions of the gospel (Acts 2:42); and in Acts 20:7, we are told that, “upon the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread:” in both of which passages the celebration of the Lord’s supper is doubtless meant by the “breaking of bread.” The rite is significant, and we are left in no doubt about the meaning of the action. Our Saviour himself explained it when he said, “This is my body, which is broken for you;” [1 Cor. 11:24 KJV] intimating that the broken bread is a figure of his body as wounded, bruised, and crucified, to make atonement for our sins. As an unbroken Christ could not profit sinners, so unbroken bread cannot fully represent to faith the food of the soul. Wherefore, to divide the bread into small pieces called wafers, and put a wafer into the mouth of each of the communicants, as is done in the Church of Rome, is grossly to corrupt this ordinance, for it takes away the significant action of breaking the bread.

—Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith pg. 240

I guess we can’t call the Lord’s Supper “the breaking of bread” if there’s no actual breaking of the bread going on. Does your church break bread, together? “Well, kind of . . .”

What is so helpful about Shaw’s exposition is how he shows that the action of breaking the bread is not arbitrary. It has a meaning! The bread, which represents Christ’s body, is to be broken, because Christ’s body (that the bread represents) was broken. Furthermore, Christ’s body was broken for us, so the bread of the ordinance in which we remember the death of Christ for us must also be broken and given to us. If the bread isn’t broken, that whole parallel is lost. We need Christ’s body broken for there to be atonement! Wafers cannot show that. The visible sacrament must actually represent the invisible grace (WCF 27.7; WLC Q/A 163).

So, it’s actually no small thing. For the minister to not break the bread is to not follow the original institution of our Lord Jesus, and “is grossly to corrupt this ordinance.”

In the PCA church I mentioned earlier, the minister breaks pieces of the bread from the same loaf as the pre-cut squares. So the bread that is broken is the same bread that is given to the people. The bread we receive in fact was broken before us, before distribution. Thus, the sacrament is administered according to the original institution.

If there was an attempt to accommodate the use of wafers by breaking some bread also, that wouldn’t fly. The minister would be breaking bread that is clearly not the same as that given and eaten by the people. Thus, the broken body is not given to the people. That continues “grossly to corrupt this ordinance.”

Simply put, Jesus is Lord, and he instituted the sacraments (WLC Q/A 162). His original institution is what must be followed. We are not at liberty to makes changes, either by changing the elements or by eliminating an essential action. Christ is Lord, we are not. We do not have the authority to alter his ordinances. Therefore, ministers who desire to rightly administer the sacrament must break that bread.

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