A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 47
Sacraments and Ordinances
In this lesson, you will gain insight into the divisive topic of sacraments, with a particular focus on baptism. The instructor presents various theological perspectives on baptism, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Baptistic, and Quaker views. The key takeaway is that baptism is more than a mere ritual; it represents a holistic commitment of one's whole self to Christ within a community of believers. The instructor emphasizes the importance of understanding the commitment before baptism and advocates for prompt baptism following conversion.
Sacraments and Ordinances
I. Introduction to Sacraments
A. Controversy Surrounding Sacraments
B. Sacraments vs. Ordinances
II. Understanding the Meaning of Grace
A. Definition of Grace
B. Grace as Help and Empowerment
C. Grace in Relation to Sin
III. Roman Catholic Perspective on Sacraments
A. Sacramental System and Ordained Priests
B. Access to Grace Through Sacraments
C. Disagreement with Roman Catholic Views
IV. Alternative Views on Baptism
A. Lutheran Perspective
B. Presbyterian View
C. Church of Christ's Perspective
D. Baptistic View
E. Quaker View
F. Baptism as a Whole-Person Expression
V. Baptism and Conversion
A. Baptism Following Conversion
B. Importance of Community in Conversion
C. Need for Understanding and Commitment
D. Reducing Nominal Christianity
VI. Whole-Person Faith and Baptism
A. Emphasis on the Interaction of Body and Spirit
B. Baptism as an Expression in a Community
C. Preparatory Steps Before Baptism
- In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
- Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
- This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
- Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
- Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
- This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
- In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
- This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
- This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
- This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
- This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
- Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
- You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
- This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
- The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
- Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
- Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
- This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
- This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
- Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
- Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
- Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
- This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
- Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
- This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
- This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
- In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
- You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
- This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
- In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
- This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
- You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
- From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
- By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
- Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
- In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
- This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
- Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
- Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
- This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
- From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
- This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
- Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
- Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.
Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Sacraments and Ordinances
Okay, sacraments. Talk about a really, really controversial topic. This has been the most divisive issue over the centuries in the churches, meaning in sacraments, baptism, communion are the two biblical ordained sacraments, what you call them, sacraments or ordinance, right there is a big fight. I'm going to the term sacrament, because to me a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible spiritual reality. And both baptism and communion are visible signs, whole person actions of spiritual realities that we can't see. And that's what I do.
So the relation of grace, if you come from a Roman Catholic perspective in particular, the sacramental system, ordained priest doing the sacraments, baptism, communion, confession, Eucharist, marriage. The only way you can get it is through the Roman Catholic Church. And this is the way grace comes to you is through penance and through Eucharist and those kinds of things. That's the only access you have to God's grace. And I just really disagree with that.
But to understand that I have to go back and review again the meaning of grace, that critical term. So grace at one level is just inheritant favor God's will. It's God's help that's given to undeserving people. So grace, the fundamental meaning of help, is help. To whom does God give his help? Anybody.
So that's the first thing, is I don't have to merit to get it. A second understanding is its help or empowerment or enablement from God's presence and power. So at this spot, I'm thinking of Romans chapter 12. Let's look at it. Romans chapter 12 down at verse five. So, "In Christ, we though many, form one body, each member belongs to all the others." In verse six, "We have different gifts according to the grace given each of us."
Now, the term grace, there does not mean acceptance. It doesn't. Grace is God's help or God's empowerment given to people. Or if I look in second Corinthians, chapter 12, second Corinthians is Paul's vision into the heavenlys. And as he unpacks that, verse seven, because it's surpassing Revelations, "I was given a thorn in the flesh." What that means, we don't know but it's bad. "Three times I pray the Lord to take it away. But he said to me," here's a phrase, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness." That's Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry is parallelism. Grace is parallel with power. He doesn't mean because I'm accepted, that gives me the ability to deal with this thorn, whatever it is. I think what he's saying is God's help is present, so I can continue to minister even with this thorn, whatever it is. So that's God's help.
I think that's a second dimension. And then the third dimension is God's grace related to enlivening or cleansing from sin. So I do absolutely believe that grace is more than just acceptance. It's not less than, but it's more than. It's God's help, God's empowerment to do ministry. That's what we call the gifts. And that's actually the term graces. And the gifts that we have are things that we have abilities that we do things. The Roman Catholic understanding is [foreign language] from the work worked. Christ uses the sacrament actually to produce the change it signifies. So baptism represents the washing away of sin, and they argue the baptism actually washes away the sin. And I'm just going to profoundly disagree with that. I'm going to say something here that occasions of grace are occasions in which God can bring his help to us. A lot more we could say around that. But the base idea of sacraments is these are visible signs of an invisible spiritual reality. And the two that we talk about in the church are baptism and communion. So what about baptism?
Roman Catholic baptism washes away your sin. It's what saves you. And that comes from first Peter chapter three, talks about the baptism of the washing away of sin. And in their understanding it's baptism only that washes away your sin. If you're unbaptized, then your sin is not washed away. Though many times I'll talk about a person who would've been baptized had they had the occasion to do that. I'm not going to agree with that. A Lutheran view, baptism saves you, but you also need faith. Now the crazy thing in Lutheran baptized babies, so it saves you, but you also need faith. How many babies have saving faith? None that I know of. I had a Lutheran friend, we had a great conversation after his baby was born. I said, "Did you baptize your baby?" "Oh yeah." I said, "Do you believe baptism saves you?" "Yeah." "Do you believe you need faith in order to be saved?" "Yeah." "How do you put those two together?" "I don't worry about it."
Okay, there you go. The Presbyterian view, and I'm using it in a broader sense, Presbyterian view is baptism to not save you. In fact, baptism says nothing about saving for infants of believers. Baptism, no matter what the age, is a sign of joining the covenant community see very different meaning of baptism. Baptism is about joining the covenant community paralleled circumcision. Circumcision does not save you in the mosaic economy. Circumcision is sign that you're a child of Abraham, ethnic child of Abraham. And for a Presbyterian view, baptism has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with being a member of the community. So you baptize children of believers, infants to mark them with the covenantal sign that they're an important part of this community. And saving is a completely different type of thing. In many Presbyterian congregations, you have the idea of confirmation becomes something that after you're saved and you go through confirmation, which is a different kind of thing that has to do with, okay, now little Billy is saved, because he's made a faith and repentance and is now converted.
So very different too. In an adult, you would hope that baptism would be related to salvation. But still, when you join the covenant community in most Presbyterian churches, you could not as an adult join the covenant community without being given a expression of personal faith. So it's a different meaning of baptism. I was at 10th Presbyterian Church back in Philadelphia back when that was one of the finest churches in the world. With some friends, we were having theological society back there, and they did an infant baptism that day.
And I was sitting up toward the front, because late coming in, and you have to sit at the front if you're late, because that's just the way it works out in Protestant churches. So I had a front row seat literally to the baptism. And when I was done, I was chatting with Wayne Gruden, he was also there, and we were both laughing together. "Weren't it great? I mean they did a wonderful sign of infant dedication. Too bad they called it baptism." Because it was a dedication and infant [inaudible] and a sign of covenant community and response to the church, raise this baby and the child, nurture and administer the Lord. I just don't want to call it baptism.
The Church of Christ in some of them is the baptism is the biblical ordained expression of repentance and faith. And you must be baptized in order to repentance and faith to be complete. And what that says is if you're not actually baptized, then you're not saved, because you haven't completed repentance in faith. Now, many churches of Christ don't go that far. And in some of the Church of Christ, they actually say, "You must be baptized in a church of Christ or similar church that has that belief, because only they have the true gospel." That becomes cultic in my judgment. But I know churches that hold that view. So in that view, repentance and faith are signified by baptism. And if you don't have the baptism, you've not completed repentance and faith. And therefore if you are died before your baptized, you would go to hell.
What I call baptistic, which is much larger than baptism is baptism is a sign of spirit baptism in the sense I'm using that term, that spirit baptism, biblically is the indwelling in incorporation. So indwelling is from the Holy Spirit, indwells me as a believer and unifies me to the body of Christ, one Corinthians 12:13, and water baptism is that sign that spirit baptism has happened. It's an identification with Christ. And where I personally would do that is I think both faith and repentance, her whole person actions. And then if you do things properly, you'd have a heart attitude of repentance, a heart attitude of faith, but that also be conjoined with the rest of my person. And I would act that out in baptism. So in my understanding, I say that baptism is to the Christian life as a wedding is to married life.
Baptism is to Christian life as wedding is to married life. Now, as I record this, just a week ago, I had a very, very fun part in Eric and Cynthia's wedding. I did a prayer blessing in their wedding and just a great couple, I did their premarital. And what I see happening is that Eric and Cynthia started making eyes at each other and someone started nurturing them and I did premarital with them to help them set up and they did their wedding, oh, three months later, four months, but three months later with a lot of help to be ready. And when did their wedding, at that point when the pastor said, "I pronounce you husband and wife," he spoke into existence, something that never happened before, a marriage. And they set off on their wedding, their life together. I think that you need to have a wedding before you say we're married.
If somebody decide to work together and haven't had a wedding, something's wrong. That is a very meaningful ritual. I think the same thing is true for baptism. In my view, baptism is the whole person expression. And I think that should come, but I think a lot of times you need some premarital before you join Jesus, you need to know what you're signing up for. Instead of emotional response that I don't want to go to hell or my brother-in-law's doing it and I like my brother-in-law or whatever, I think there need to be some listening through what you're committing to. So it's like premarital, sometimes that's a membership class, but I don't think that's necessarily church membership, but it is joining a community. So baptism to me is an expression, the biblical ordained expression to express, confirm and live out this connection I have with Jesus.
Now what happens if somebody has heart faith, but doesn't get baptized? Maybe they don't get baptized until much later, because of bad teaching. Okay, God will understand you have bad theology. He will respect your heart attitude. But I think if we did it right, we'd bring those two together. So that's where I would come out on this. And then you've got other views like the Quaker view, where it's optional or less. The traditional Quaker view is physical stuff is bad spirit stuff is good. So you don't do water baptism at all in many traditional Quaker churches, because spirit baptism is what counts, and they don't do any physical things at all, because that actually detracts from the spiritual realities. So somewhere on that list you got to say, okay, this is where I think the biblical dots connect best. And that's quite a list. So again, my view is repentance and faith are whole person actions and baptism is a biblical ordained way of doing that.
And I think we should do baptism rather than the sinner's prayer as a way of being that whole person acting out. And there are about five people in the world that agree with me.
Can you explain your expression whole person again? I know you used it quite a few lectures back, but...
Yeah, in my anthropology, everything is done in interacting duality. And what we tend to do is separate the two. If you're in the typical American view, we're materialists. The only thing that counts is your what's biological, what can be measured with an EKG or something like that. So I do a lot of stuff with the counseling community and what I've seen happen in the 40 years or so, I've been working around there. I've seen it go more from psychology to psychiatry and stuff is not biologically determined and much, much less.
And now in the idea that you actually change the soul of a person, it's actually material. So it's more medication done and more brain physiology type things, discounting of the material part of the person. I see at the same time in the trans community, a very strong emphasis. It's my desires, that's the heart of things, and my body is separate and I need to change my body to match with my desires. So now it's gender-affirming. Surgery is the current terminology. That's the other side. That's pure spirit. What I'm looking at is body and spirit together, always interacting duality. And I say faith is only the heart. What about my body? I think they have to come together. So I think that's why it's repent and be baptized. Those who accept his word, were baptized. And I think that's true in every part. It's a whole person thing. It may start in a part of the person, but it should spread to the entire person before it becomes complete.
So I assume that you would encourage baptism to follow conversion as quickly as possible and not use baptism as a sign of entering the church?
That's correct. Yeah. To me, conversion is always coming into a community of believers. I disagree with the idea of just me and Jesus. It is me and Jesus, but also me entering community of believers, which may not be an organized church necessarily, but I think it's a good thing for it to be a part of. I really believe we're coming into a community and that baptism then is something is done in that community where I'm expressing to God family and friends, I'm a Jesus guy. But I also believe in some premarital before you do that. You need to know what you're signing up for. I think we have a lot less nominal Christians if we really made our commitment more than just a verbal profession.