Confessing Our Faith In the Culture – Chapter 29

Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
(also, Chapter 31, Of the Laying On of Hands)

A. What is an ordinance?

  1. What’s the definition?

    It is plainly, therefore, impossible to determine the nature or the number of the sacraments from either the etymology or the usage of the word “sacrament.” We want a thorough definition of the thing, not of the name. This we can get only by taking Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which all men acknowledge to be genuine sacraments, and, by a strict examination of their origin, nature, and uses, determine (a.) the true character of the class of ordinances to which they belong, and (b.) whether any other ordinances belong to the same class or not. In this way the definition of a sacrament given in our Standards was formed. A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith

  2. What is required for it to be an ordinance?

    The express institution of God is essentially requisite to constitute a sacrament. No ordinances ought to be observed in the Christian Church but such as have been appointed by Christ, her alone king and head. He only can have authority to institute sacraments, who has power to confer the blessings which are thereby represented and applied. No rite, therefore, can deserve the name of a sacrament, unless it bear the stamp of divine institution. Shaw, Exposition of WCF

  3. What makes an ordinance unique?

    The underlying ground and reason for the Christian sacraments must be found in their unique relation to the redemptive scheme. They were not instituted simply in view of the fact that we naturally discern spiritual things most easily through the medium of such visible representations. They have their occasion and need in human sinfulness, and in the spiritual blindness which such sinfulness induces. They rest, in a word, on the same basis as the incarnation. Their great primary purpose is to exhibit in visible and significant form the blessings bestowed through the mediation of Christ upon all who truly believe in him. And this exhibition is made in order to confirm the faith of believers, to give them greater assurance respecting their personal salvation, and to strengthen them in their Christian graces and in the discharge of all their duties toward the Savior and toward one another as members together of his spiritual household. On this ground these ordinances are directly associated with the Word and the Holy Spirit and with the other ordained means of grace, as important if not indispensable helps in the Christian life. Morris, Theology of the Westminster Symbols, p. 667ff

  4. Is laying on of hands an ordinance in the same sense/way as baptism & communion?

    In answer to the query from Newtown church: Whether laying on of hands be an ordinance of the gospel to be administered to all baptized persons, or only in particular cases? We observe, that imposition of hands on baptized persons has been the general practice of the churches in union with this Association, and is still used by most of them; but it was never considered by the Association as a bar of communion. Resolved, That any person scrupling to submit thereto, may be admitted to the fellowship of the church without it. Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1783

B. Why these two?

  1. The Lord’s Table

    1. instituted on the night he was betrayed 1 Cor. 11:23-25

  2. Baptism

    1. commanded after his resurrection Matthew 28:18-20

C. To whom have they been entrusted?

  1. to the church 1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34

  2. overseen by the stewards of the mysteries of God. 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Luke 12:42; Titus 1:7

D. Is all this important?

  1. God bestows grace on HIS terms. Rom. 9:15-16

  2. The one who institutes also regulates.

    The exclusive author is Jesus Christ. We are baptized and eat the Lord’s Supper properly only when we do it because he told us to do so [and in the manner in which he instructed, Ed.] There is no glory or benefit in observing these rites out of tradition or because they seem like a good idea to us. When, however, we feel upon our hearts the authority of Christ in his Word and respond to that authority, then what glory there is in these ordinances! Then there is a fresh sense of the living life, the reality and the presence of Christ in the ordinances. There is also, in conscious obedience to his authority, a refreshing consciousness of our living attachment to Christ. Waldron, Exposition of the 1689

  3. God takes proper observance seriously. 1 Cor. 11:27-34

    Careful observation of and obedience to Christ’s ‘positive and sovereign institutions’ manifest a peculiar love for and loyalty to the will of Christ the King. Despising his ordinances argues a lack of respect for Christ’s kingly office. …Properly observing the ordinances of Christ exhibits a love for Christ’s will just because it is Christ’s will.


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