Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 28 ~ The Ordinances

We are nearing the end of our Gospel Convergence series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I would still encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me. 1689 - Final

The Ordinances

This blog post covers chapter 28, 29 and 30 of the Confession which deal with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (28), baptism (29) and the Lord’s Supper (30).  The reason that we are taking these chapters together is because these two ordinances belong together in the Church.  As Mark Dever makes clear, in numerous places, the ordinances serve as doors to the church – baptism the front door and the Lord’s Supper the back door (see for example The Deliberate Church, pp. 105-108).

In dealing with both of these ordinances the Confession is careful to remind us that they are positive, instituted by Christ and for those who belong to the church (pg. 113).  Christ is recorded as instituting these ordinances in the Gospels:

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. (Matt. 28:19-20)

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.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matt. 26:26-29)


How then does the Confession go about defining baptism?

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of live. (pg. 114)

This is exactly the picture painted in the New Testament.  Perhaps one of the clearest statements found on baptism is that of Paul’s in Romans 6:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him be baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (vv. 3-4)

There are then three assertions posited by the Confession with respect to baptism.  First, the only proper subjects for baptism are those who profess Christ and evidence faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.  Second, that the outward element to be used in baptism is water, and that it is to be done in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see Matt. 28:19-20 above).  Third, the Confession claims ‘immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance’ (pg. 115).  In defence of this claim Matthew 3:16 and John 3:23 are cited.

Space precludes a detailed defence of the Confession’s version of baptism (otherwise known as believer’s baptism or credo-baptism).  The verses cited are familiar and there are pat answers on both sides of the argument.  Nonetheless, for credo-baptists looking for a more robust defence, or peado-baptists wanting to read a solid defence of believers baptism I would point the reader to Believers Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by T. R. Schreiner and S. D. Wright.

The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper, argues the Confession,

Was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in His churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance and showing forth of the sacrifice of Himself in His death, confirmation of the faith of believers and all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe to Him; and to be a bond and a pledge of their communion with Him and with each other. (pg. 116)

What then are the facets of this remarkable meal that Christians are to share in?  The Confession notes six:

  1. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial. The Confession states it is ‘only a memorial of that one offering up of Himself by Himself upon the cross, once for all’ (pg. 115).  While I would query the use of the term ‘only’ here, there can be no denial that the Lord’s Supper is to be a memorial to that awesome sacrifice.
  2. Written against the background of the battle with the Catholic Church it is perhaps unsurprising to find that the Confession makes it explicitly clear that to deny the cup to any believer is contrary to Scripture.
  3. Again, the Confession also makes it clear that to worship or adore the elements in any way is likewise contrary to Scripture.
  4. There is then a clarification that, even though it is justifiable to speak of the elements as Christ’s body and blood (for that is what they represent), in no way and by no means do the elements ever change their nature from bread and wine. Indeed, it is ‘repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason’ (pg. 118).
  5. Happily the Confession proceeds to state that the Lord’s Supper is indeed more than just a memorial. ‘Spiritually [believers] receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of His death’ (pg. 119; see John 6:52-58).
  6. While the Lord’s Supper is a glorious feast for those who are Christ’s, it is a judgement and damnation on those who partake of it ignorantly and in their unregenerate state.

All six of these facets are found to a greater or lesser extent in the longest section of Scripture to treat the issue of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgement. About the other things I will give directions when I come.


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