Accurately Valuing God's Ordinances


Posted at Reformation Scotland:

God has provided many ordinances as means for Him to show us His grace, including preaching, prayer, Christian fellowship, etc. The New Testament also has two special ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s supper, known to the Covenanters and others as sacraments to distinguish them among the other ordinances. These are the Lord’s gifts to His people to help us in our faith along the way, and the spiritual significance of participating in these particular ordinances is immense. The spiritualness of both baptism and the Lord’s supper can, however, mean that we distort their importance, either overlooking their value altogether, or investing far too much in them. While we do not want to ungratefully undervalue their significance, neither do we want to superstitiously exaggerate them. In the following brief updated excerpt, James Durham guides us between these extremes.


We place too much weight on the sacraments if we think that they are absolutely necessary in order to salvation — or if we imagine that they confer grace by themselves (just when people partake of the outward elements of water, bread, wine, without faith) — or if we rest on simply the outward receiving of the elements, as if that made us in some way acceptable to God.

Sometimes, people superstitiously and blindly prefer the sacraments to all the other ordinances, so that they disparage the others. They will go for a long time neglecting preaching and praying, but they simply must have baptism and communion.

It is also excessive when we prefer the outward ordinance to Christ and the thing signified by the ordinance. For example, if we are more interested in the baptism of water then the baptism of the Spirit, or more interested in the external communion than the inward. Then, anything of heaven that is to be found in the ordinances is left neglected, and people are more upset about going without the sacrament once, than about missing Christ often and long.


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