Today we discussed the Sacraments, starting on p. 8 of the study guide. We looked at Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Peter 3:20-22; and Acts 2:38-39, as well as Titus 3.
The question running through the different positions on the Sacraments is: which direction does the activity go between God and us? If we think of God above and us below, are the Sacraments my action up toward God, or are they God’s action in Christ down toward us? Are they my obedience and commitment toward God (the things I do in response to the salvation God has given me)? Or are they God’s saving action in Christ given to me in concrete ways? Are they powerless signs of something that happens apart from the Sacraments within me? Or are they powerful signs of Christ’s saving presence that come to me from outside myself?
The difference between these two positions is everything. If they are signs of my obedience and commitment, what if my obedience and commitment seems to flag and wane? Then the only place for me to turn is to an increased effort on my part to demonstrate my commitment and obedience. There is no Gospel that way; only despair. On the other hand, if the Sacraments are God’s action toward and for me, flowing from and based in Christ’s death and resurrection, then it is exactly to the promises contained in the Sacraments that I should turn. There I can know that I have a gracious God, because He has said it, and He continues to distribute His mercy–unlimited and eternal.
We talked briefly about how these questions highlight the fundamental differences between traditions in the Christian Church. This is not for the purpose of tearing down others, but of being honest about where those differences lie. If we can’t agree on where the disagreement is, we’re never going to agree on the substance of what is at stake.
Our discussion will continue next Sunday on whether unity is achieved or whether it is demonstrated by sharing the Lord’s Supper. We had great participation today, with numerous questions and comments, and we hope you will join us next week to share your contribution as we study God’s Word together.