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  • Chad Werkhoven

Romans 4:9-12 - Before, Not Because

God grants you salvation apart from the sacraments, but He commands your participation in them.

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Read Romans 4:9-12

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 78

Q. Are the bread and wine changed into

the real body and blood of Christ?

A. No.

Just as the water of baptism

is not changed into Christ’s blood

and does not itself wash away sins

but is simply God’s sign and assurance,

so too the bread of the Lord’s Supper

is not changed into the actual body of Christ

even though it is called the body of Christ

in keeping with the nature

and language of sacraments.



We've been talking about the sacraments for several weeks now as we work our way through the catechism, and you might be wondering why it is that as we spend a year studying the core doctrines of Christianity, so much time is dedicated to understanding baptism and communion.

When looking at the first century churches written to in the New Testament, the it quickly becomes clear that sacraments have always been a massively important topic for God's people, and that misunderstandings about the sacraments resulted in serious problems for these early churches. God had instituted two sacraments for Israel which form the basis for the Christian church's sacraments: the Passover commemorated the bloody sacrifice necessary to save God's people which we now celebrate in the Lord's Supper, and circumcision was a physical mark identifying those who were included in God's covenant promises which has been replaced with baptism.

But a serious misunderstanding of what these sacraments were and how they worked threatened the unity of the early church. In their minds, circumcision was the reason for their salvation, and not simply a sign and assurance of it.

This is one of the reasons Paul makes clear in Romans 4 that God had granted Abraham righteousness through faith before he was circumcised, not because he was circumcised. Abraham received circumcision, writes Paul, "as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith."

Dig Deeper

Throughout church history there has always been those who have wanted to ascribe mystical power to the sacraments the Bible commands. Applying water to a person would immediately grant salvation, and the elements of the Lord's Supper mysteriously would become the actual body and blood of Jesus as words of consecration were spoken over them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the temptation to disregard the sacraments as an optional activity, or to celebrate them in such an irreverent way that strips them of any meaning at all.

This is why it's necessary for us to spend so much time be reminded of exactly what they are and how they're to be administered. They are not magic pills that somehow convey God's grace upon whoever participates in them. But yet your participation in them is commanded of you, and as we'll see next week, doing so improperly may bring down God's anger upon the entire congregation.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who grants us the perfect righteousness we need to be in relationship with Him;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for His gift of the sacraments, and pray that you'll understand them correctly as He's presented them in His Word;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Luke 14


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