The Sacraments

Question 66 
What are sacraments?
Answer: Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them He might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put His seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s one sacrifice finished on the cross.
 
The Sacraments
Observations: According to Q&A 65 the Holy Spirit produces faith in our hearts through the preaching of the gospel, and He confirms it through our use of the sacraments. According to Q&A 68 there are only two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unlike the gospel which is something that we hear, the sacraments are something that we can ‘see.’ In the case of the Lord’s Supper they are something we can taste as well. The sacraments help us ‘understand more clearly the promise of the gospel.’ In both we see the gospel re-enacted. In Baptism we see how just as water washes away dirt, so Christ’s blood shed on the cross washes away our sin. In the Lord’s Supper we see Christ’s body broken and his blood poured out on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The uniquely Reformed concept is that the sacraments are a ‘seal,’ they confirm the Spirit’s activity in our lives and assure us that our salvation rests on Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.

 
Application: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper aren’t just interesting events, they are pivotal in the lives of God’s people. God uses these events to not only remind us of the gospel message, but to confirm the Spirit’s activity in our lives. Because of the Holy Spirit the Sacraments take on spiritual significance. Of course the state of our heart matters, but you wouldn’t want to miss participating in the Sacraments if you could help it. For in the sacraments Jesus cleanses and nourishes our souls just as water washes us clean and bread and wine nourishes our body. Do you desire to participate in the sacraments for the strengthening of your faith?
 
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for giving us the Sacraments, that through them I might understand more clearly the Good News that Jesus died on the cross so that all my sins might be forgiven and I can be reconciled with You. Forgive me when I think of these things as mere symbols, or when they become common place. Renew in me a desire to celebrate the sacraments, so that my faith might be strengthened through the Holy Spirit, that my soul might be cleansed and nourished, that I might know the reality of Christ’s love for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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