Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bath and Supper

God cleanses and feeds us by these means of grace.

Baptism is carried out by Christ’s command calling us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them” (Mt 28:19).

As a Lutheran, infants as well as adults and children are baptized. I have struggled with this sometimes because my understanding since becoming a believer is that it should follow faith, not precede it. From early church history, however, infants have been baptized. In Acts, entire families were baptized (Acts 16:15, 33). Cyprian of Carthage (200-258) wrote approvingly of the practice. [1] The Book of Concord states, “We maintain that we should baptize children because they also belong to the promised redemption that was brought about in Christ (Mt 19:14). The church ought to extend it to them.” [2]

In The Small Catechism, Luther explains, baptism “brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the Word and promise of God declare.” [3] Luther continues:

For without the Word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” [4]

Luther concludes his thoughts by quoting Titus 3:5-8.

It has always bothered me how many evangelicals and non-denominational churches refer to the bread and wine (or in their case grape juice) as “elements,” that were simply symbols. The holy supper, Eucharist, communion, what have you was always much more significant than that to me. I could not agree with the Roman Catholic view, but I knew in my heart it was more than symbolic.

Lutherans believe in the “real presence” in the holy meal, but in a different way than the Roman Catholic Church. Luther explained, “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and drink.” [5]

Our church offers communion every Sunday. Not all Lutheran churches do. In the past, in this country, some feared it was “too Catholic” to do so or that it would not seem special and would become too commonplace. Thankfully, this attitude is changing among Lutherans today and there is a greater movement toward weekly communion. I find a very intimate sense of God’s presence as the bread is offered, “The body of Christ, given for you” and the cup, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

The words “given for you” and “shed for you…for the forgiveness of sin” show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation. [6]

I found Hayford’s explanation lacking, but Grudem did a nice job explaining, “Because there is such a sharing in the body and blood of Christ…the unity of believers is beautifully exhibited at the time of the Lord’s Supper.” [7]

[1] Steven A. McKinion, Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 14.

[2] Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 320.

[3] Timothy J. Wengert, Luther’s Small Catechism: A Contemporary Translation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 214.

[4] Ibid., 215.

[5] Ibid., 222.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1994) 955.

The Bible. New International Version.

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