Archives For Sacraments

Baptism at the Red Brick Church in Stillman ValleySee if you can prayerfully fill in the blanks before Sunday’s sermon (6/19/16) at the Red Brick Church. For more on Sunday’s excitement, see this announcement

Update: Your can now listen to this sermon here.

The people at our church know that I am not generally a fan of “fill in the blank” sermon notes. However, given our baptism service on Sunday — and a crunch for time — I am providing more information than normal on our sermon notes including blanks to complete.

Here’s the challenge:

  1. Printout  (see below) or download the sermon notes.
  2. Study the text and collateral texts and see if you can anticipate where the sermon is going. Can you fill in the blanks?
  3. If you’re feeling really good – – send your notes to Chris is advance or bring them to church.
  4. Above all, pray! It’s going to be a great Sunday.

SERMON TITLE: The Story We are Living

Given the baptism service, our time is limited this morning. We will spend less time in pastoral prayer. Be sure and review the prayer requests on the back of the bulletin and be in an attitude of prayer for one another and throughout the service and week.

Our sermon text (Acts 8:26-40) makes each of the supporting points for the sermon. Notice I have also provided cross references which likewise teach these same truths. If you take the time this week to review these truths your faith will be strengthened as you are increasingly rooted in biblical thinking (Colossians 2:6-7).

Big Idea / Central Thought: As a local church, we are witnessing, l__________ & experiencing the s____________ of Acts 8:26-40.   

  1. Look up: a merciful God is s____________ s___________ (Acts 16:31, Ephesians 1:4-5)– [26] Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. [27] And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.
  1. Bow to the the e_______________ of Christ (Isaiah 45:22, John 4:22, Acts 4:12)- He had come to Jerusalem to worship (27b)
  1. Focus on the s_____________ of the W______________ of Christ (Romans 10:17)– [28] and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
  1. Humbly recognize the n____________ of pastors / evangelists (Luke 24:27, Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 10:14-15) – [31] And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” . . . [35] Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
  1. Understand the a_______________ work of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:21-25) (Hint: study “terms to know”) –

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

  1. Picture the p___________ p______________of baptism (Matt 28:18-20, John 3:23, Acts 16:33, Romans 6:1-7) – (Hint: Nestea)


Acts (The book of) – A New Testament book of the Bible written A.D. 70 by Dr. Luke. Luke also wrote the Gospel of Luke. The title of “Acts” references the “acts” or “deeds” of the Apostles of Christ. Acts begins with the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven having instructed his followers to wait for Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the Church) and to go into all the world making the disciples. After Acts 2 and Pentecost, Acts tells the story of the Spirit empowered Word of Christ igniting the early Church as people believed from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 6:7, 9:31, 12:24, 16:5, 19:20, 28:30-31).

*Atonement – Broadly, the word “atonement” refers to reparation for an offense. In the context of the Christian faith the wrong in view is the rebellion of all image bearers against our Creator and the reparation is the reconciling of God and humanity through the work of God’s only unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus atoned for the sins of Christians.

But how did Jesus atone for the sins of his people? The Bible teaches that the atoning work of Christ involves both substitution and satisfaction. Christ was the substitute for his people and he satisfied the demands of God’s justice (1 John 4:10, Isaiah 53:4-5, 2 Cor 5:21).[1]

Said another way, the central aspect of Christ’s atoning work is that that he paid the penalty for his people on the cross. Theologians refer to this truth as penal substitutionary atonement. Michael Horton summarizes, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”[2]

In order that we might grasp both the problem sin creates, and the solution for how sinners can be right with God, the Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. R.C. Sproul helps us understand how Christ atones for our sin with the following table.[3]

Sin as . . . Man God Christ
Debt Debtor Creditor Surety
Enmity Enemy Violated One Mediator
Crime Criminal Judge Substitute

For more, see Kevin DeYoung’s important post, Substitution is Not a “Theory of the Atonement”[4]

Baptism – Along with the Lord’s Supper/Communion, one of two ordinances/sacraments given to believers. Christ commanded both. Baptism pictures death and resurrection in Christ and the cleansing of sins. Baptism is passive for the person being baptized. We do not baptize ourselves. This pictures the truth that God is the one who graciously saves.

Gospel – The word “gospel” means “good news” and the good news is that God offers salvation for those who turn in repentance from their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12, Acts 20:21, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5).[5]

Isaiah the Prophet  – Eighth century prophet (circa 700 B.C.) whose massive book supplies central prophecies of Christ. His prophecies include the virgin birth (7:14), the promise of a wonderful counselor, everlasting God, the prince of peace (9:6-7), and the Servant Songs that include Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading in Acts 8.

Preacher / proclamation – The Holy Spirit empowers people to proclaim the good news / gospel so that people can understand salvation and believe in Jesus. Pastors are special gifts from Christ to his people given to equip God’s people (Ephesians 4:11).

Propitiation – The turning away of wrath or anger usually by an offering.[6] Propitiation appeases the wrath of God rightly brought about by our sin.[7] So 1 John 4:10 summarizes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10 ESV).”

Similarly, in arguably the most important paragraph ever written,[8] Paul wrote that Christ was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25a)

So, on the Cross, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying in the place of Christians.

Hence, the Gettys were right to refuse to remove from their song, “In Christ Alone,” the words, “till on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” See here.[9]

If you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of the wrath of God, see Can a God Without Wrath Be Good?[10]

Wrath of God –  The settled indignation of God against sin. God will punish those who sin with eternal condemnation (hell) unless there is atonement for their sins.


[1] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1992), 172–73.

[2] Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 208.

[3] R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2007), 42.

[4] Kevin DeYoung, “Substitution Is Not a ‘Theory of the Atonement,’” The Gospel Coalition, March 22, 2016,

[5] See also Chris Brauns, “What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News?,” A Brick in the Valley: The Web Site of Pastor and Author Chris Brauns, June 13, 2013,

[6] Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 6.

[7] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 809.

[8] Chris Brauns, “The Most Important Paragraph Ever Written!,” A Brick in the Valley: The Web Site of Pastor and Author Chris Brauns, March 19, 2010,

[9] Collin Hansen, “Keith Getty on What Makes ‘In Christ Alone’ Accepted and Contested,” TGC – The Gospel Coalition, December 9, 2013,

[10] Sam Storms, “Can a God without Wrath Be Good?,” Enjoying God, February 14, 2014,

Protestants can use the term sacraments. What is important is to define the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in an ongoing way.

Regarding use of the term “sacraments,” Grudem writes:

There is disagreement among Protestants even over the general term that should be applied to [baptism and the Lord’s Supper]. Because the Romans Catholic Church calls those two ceremonies “sacraments,” and because the Catholic Church teaches that these sacraments in themselves actually convey grace to people (without requiring faith from the persons participating in them), some Protestants (especially Baptists) have refused to refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as “sacraments.” They have preferred the word ordinances instead. This is thought to be an appropriate term because baptism and the Lord’s Supper were ‘ordained’ by Christ. On the other hand, other Protestants such as those in the Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions, have been willing to use the word “sacraments” to refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, without thereby endorsing the Roman Catholic position.

It does not seem that any significant point is at issue in the question of whether to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “ordinances” or “sacraments.” Since Protestants who use both words explain clearly what they mean by them, the argument is not really over doctrine but over the meaning of the English word.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 966.

Calvin (though wrong about when baptism is administered!) gave this helpful definition of “sacraments.”

It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men.  Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.”  Calvin.  IV.14.1, page 1277.

Someone may counter, “Well, why not use the term ‘ordinance,’ so that there is never any confusion and the explanation is not needed.” But that is no solution. The centrality of the ordinances/sacraments, and the debates surrounding them, will always require an explanation when they are administered.

Dangerous Concessions

Chris —  May 8, 2012

Mike Wittmer:

I read this story in Todd Billings’ award winning book, Union with Christ, and thought there might be a devotional in it. I know I should post more than my latest drafts for Our Daily Journey, but it’s either this or give all my students incompletes for the semester.

In 1857 a few white members of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa asked permission to celebrate the Lord’s Supper separately from their black brothers and sisters. The General Assembly believed their request was wrong, but it acquiesced “due to the weakness of some.” This concession soon became the norm, as white Christians increasingly chose to observe the Lord’s Supper without their black siblings. . .

Read the rest here.

Most often , Christians speak of fellowship as an activity or subjective experience.  Yet, “fellowship” translates the Greek word “koinonia” and a better translation would be “invested partnership” or “a sharing together”: fellowship is an objective reality.

John Stott explains:

In common usage fellowship describes something subjective, the experience of warmth and security in each other’s presence, as in ‘We had a good fellowship together.’  But in biblical usage koinonia is not a subjective feeling at all, but an objective fact, expressing what we share in together.

So Paul could write ‘you share in God’s grace with me’ (Philippians 1:7); John could write ‘that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3); while Paul added ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 13:14). Thus authentic fellowship is Trinitarian fellowship. It bears witness to our common share in the grace of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Is this not what makes us one?  We come from different countries, cultures, and churches. We have different temperaments, gifts, and interests. And yet we have this in common: the same God as our Heavenly Father; the same Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord; and the same Holy Spirit as our indwelling comforter.

It is our common participation (our koinonia) in God (Father, Son, and Spirit) which unites us. And this is most vividly expressed in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. For ‘is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is mot the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?’ (1 Corinthians 10:16).  John Stott, The Living Church, IVP, 2007, Downers Grove, 91.

Eat Together

Chris —  March 22, 2011

Eugene Peterson explains that the dinner table provides soil in which seeds can germinate.

As we live and give witness to Jesus to our children and whoever else, we are handing out seeds, not pearls, and seeds need soil in which to germinate.  A meal is soil just like that.  It provides a daily relational context in which everything you say, and don’t say, feel or don’t feel, God’s Word and snatches of gossip, gets assimilated along with the food and becomes you, but not by yourself – – you and your words and acts embedded in acts of love and need, acceptance and doubt.  Nothing is abstract or in general when you are eating a meal together.  You realize, don’t you, that Jesus didn’t drop pearls around Galilee for people as clues to find their way to God or their neighbors. He ate meals with them. And you can do what Jesus did.  Every evening take and receive the life of Jesus around your table.  (The Pastor, page 195).

My position on this issue is remarkably similar to Trevin’s.

How should a pastor respond to a child who wants to be baptized? How should churches approach the subject of child baptism?

Two centuries ago, few Baptists would have even raised these questions. Many churches required their converts to be 18 years old before baptism.

Today, the situation is remarkably different. As Baptists, we still reject the practice of “infant baptism” because we believe baptism to be immersion of a professing believer, not the sprinkling of an unbelieving baby. And yet, many Baptist pastors baptize children at very young ages without sensing any sort of disconnect.

Read the rest here.

A spinning top is Dom Cobb's totem.Is there an analogy between Totems in the movie Inception and the sacraments?

If you have seen Inception, then you know that Totems are an important part of the story line.  Per the movie:

A Totem is an object that exists in the real world in order to ground oneself not only in reality, but also in the dream world. A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell if he is in his own dream or someone else’s. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem (Source).


The importance of Totems to the characters in Inception cannot be overstated. These objects of substance and weight, give concrete assurances of reality.  They assure Dom that he is not a projection of someone else’s dream.

Compare and contrast “totems” with Calvin’s thoughts on sacraments.* 

It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men. Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.” Calvin. IV.14.1, page 1277.

Sacraments are “totems” given by God which assure us of the reality of the Gospel.  As Sinclair Ferguson wrote (in reference to Calvin):

[God] provides the visible words of baptism and the Lord’s supper where Christ puts his grace on display in order to bring us to a more assured communion with him through the Spirit’s work and our responding faith (p. 205, emphasis mine). (As quoted in this post).

Inception-050610-0002.jpgThink of it this way.  There are times when we feel that reality is “sloping.”  We wonder if anything is real.  And, at such moments we run to the table to bite into and taste the Gospel.  We remember that Christ’s body was broken, his blood shed.  Or, we see the water splashing down over the face of a brother or sister and are reminded of new birth.  The sacraments are vital aids that sustain the faithful.

Of course, sacraments do not bestow grace in and of themselves, even as in Inception, totems don’t make reality happen.  Rather, the sacraments are a grace which assures the person holding them in his hand of reality.

But, they are more than just memory devices.  They bring us into the presence of Christ in a particular way.  At this point, the analogy breaks down, as illustrations and analogies always do.

The perfectionist in me wants to refine this even more.  But, it is a blog – -not a book.  For more on the sacraments, see this post.

What do you think?  Do you see the parallel? 

*I am comfortable using either the word "sacrament" or "ordinance." For a discussion of the use of these terms, see Grudem’s systematic theology. 

What is Maundy Thursday?

Chris —  April 1, 2010

Kevin DeYoung gives a helpful introduction:

Like millions of Christians around the world, we will have a Maundy Thursday tonight. If you’ve never heard the term, it’s not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for “command” or “mandate”, and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

At first it seems strange that Christ would call this a new command.

The rest here.

Allie at Martins PartyIs your local church observing the Lord’s Supper this Sunday?

There is an analogy to be made between a wedding (the outward celebration of the marriage covenant) and the ordinances or sacraments.

I have two beautiful daughters (one with blue eyes and one with brown) and there exists the possibility that one day some guy is going to come and sit in my study and expect me to listen while he tries to convince me that he should be allowed to marry my daughter.  (For more here, see, I’m giving away two books and two daughters).

Let’s assume, and this is hypothetical, that after he has answered somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 questions, submitted his financial records to a thorough audit, and let me check the history of his hard drive for unsuitable material – suppose that I were to grant said candidate permission to marry my daughter (We’ll call him “Cecil”)– After all, my girls’ mother wants grandchildren. Son in laws are a necessary part of the equation.

Mary Beth 2008 But, picture that, a few days after I hypothetically gave Cecil permission to marry my daughter, he and the daughter in view showed up to share with Jamie and me that they were engaged. Now, after decades of marriage to my wife, I can predict that she would say with excited eyes, “Okay, let me see your ring.”

Can you imagine if at that point Cecil said, “Oh, I didn’t get her a ring.”

I would scowl, but Jamie would try and put a nice spin on things: “Well, this way, you can go and look for a ring together.”

But, Cecil responds, “Oh, there won’t be any rings. I’ve always found them a bit ostentatious and since a marriage is really about a covenant before God, we don’t find an outward sign really that important.”

I would enter the discussion at this point, if not before. “So, you’re not planning a ring ceremony in the wedding.”

Cecil, “Well, actually, we’re not planning a wedding. Again, we believe that a marriage is an invisible commitment between a husband and wife and as such does not need to be celebrated visibly.

At which point, Jamie would cry. The daughter concerned would know enough to cry. And, I would outline a future course of action.

There would be no recovery for Cecil at this point. But, for the benefit of my daughter and wife, and as evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in my life, I might respond with a little teaching at the point. I would say, “Well, Cecil, while it is true that these are outward signs, the point is that they point to a spiritual and mystical reality. Indeed, that the tangible nature of a wedding and rings and it is a tremendously helpful and concrete way to teach frail human beings about the permanence of marriage.”

Of course, all the more so with the sacraments. Indeed, you could make a far stronger case for the sacraments than for the modern version of a wedding. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are explicitly prescribed in the New Testament whereas wedding have developed culturally for the most part –though the traditions rest on a strong biblical foundation.

My future son-in-laws better plan on attending a wedding and wearing a ring, and Christians should plan on identifying with Christ in baptism and observing the Lord’s Supper.

For more on the sacraments, see Questions and Answers about the Sacraments, Is Your Church Observing the Lord’s Supper Tomorrow and Avoiding Over-reacting to Catholicism.

Here are some questions and answers about communion I will be reviewing with the Bricks

The question is not where is God present (by itself uninteresting when we are talking about an omnipresent deity), but where God is present for us, in peace and safety rather than condemnation and destruction. Michael Horton, People and Place, 109.

In recent years, there has been considerable slippage amongst evangelicals in understanding how the sacraments should be observed. As a result, their practice has been confused, inconsistent and marginalized. We need to continue to work on developing a biblical view of the sacraments.

What is a sacrament or ordinance?

Calvin defined the sacraments in this way.

It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men. Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.” Calvin. IV.14.1, page 1277.

Does it matter if we call it a sacrament or an ordinance?

No, so long as we make sure that we have a biblical understanding. Here, I would agree with Grudem:

It does not seem that any significant point is at issue here in the question of whether to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “ordinances” or “sacraments.” Since Protestants who use both words explain clearly what they mean by them, the argument is not really over doctrine but over the meaning of the English word.

Are the sacraments really that big of a deal?

The importance of the ordinances cannot be overstated. Nothing is more central to our identity as a New Testament church than how we observe the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So central are they, that, a local church that does not observe biblically the sacraments ceases to be a local church.

So, are you saying that we are saved by virtue of being baptized and observing the Lord’s Supper?

As Protestants in the Reformed tradition, we deny that the sacraments automatically bestow spiritual benefits. They benefit only those with saving faith.

How do we benefit through participation in the Lord’s Supper?

The sacraments are visible signs give by the Lord that teach us about faith, remind us of the Gospel, require us to examine ourselves, and proclaim the Gospel to ourselves and an unbelieving world.

In drawing near to the table, we flee from idolatry and remember together the work of Christ (1 Cor 10:14-22). As Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, we do this in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24).

In observing the sacraments, we share Christ and his presence through the Holy Spirit in a profound way. This involves a mystery that goes beyond our ability to comprehend it. But, we dare not in any way underestimate the importance.

How many sacraments are given to the local church?

Two sacraments are given to the local church: baptism and communion.

Who should participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or communion?

Baptized believers who are walking obediently with Christ.

When else should I not participate?

The Bible issues very stern warnings to those who would participate in communion in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning 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 judgment 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.(1 Co 11:27-32).

If you are involved in ongoing sin that you have not repented of (and that means taking steps to no longer do it), then you should not participate. Better said, you should deal with the sin and come humbly to the table. Choose to sin, choose to suffer (Galatians 6:7-8, 1 Corinthians 10).

Is it a big deal to not be baptized?

Yes. It is huge. Baptism is the non-optional, New Testament means, by which faith in Christ is publically professed. Those refusing baptism should read Matthew 10:32-33.

"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.(Mt 10:32-33)."

Being baptized doesn’t save you, but those who are saved will be baptized. Of course, there are cases like the criminal on the Cross, that a believer is not able to be baptized (Luke 32:32-43). Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith . . . (2 Corinthains 13:15).