Friday, 1 October 2010

Grudem on baptism

This morning I am taking a brief look at Grudem's position on baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

He points out that traditionally Protestants have called these two ‘sacraments’. However given the Roman Catholic view that sacraments actually convey grace, apart from the faith of the recipient, some have preferred to call them ordinances (given that they were ordained by Christ). Grudem doesn’t think that it matters which term is used.

He points out that evangelicals differ on the issue of baptism but that this is not an issue that be allowed divide the church. He takes the view that baptism should be by full immersion and of a person who has come to faith. He engages with the case of infant baptism for infants, but I will not outline that here.
Grudem suggests that the Greek word for baptism meaning ‘to plunge, dip or immerse’ argues in favour of full immersion. The narratives that the New Testament contains of baptisms also favour full immersion; for example in Acts 8 the Ethiopian eunuch said saw some water and then suggested that he be baptised (there was no suggestion that this could be done with the water he would have had in a container to drink). Then there is the fact that the symbolism of baptism (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12), of going down into the grave and being raised with Christ to newness of life is best pictured using immersion. Grudem notes that baptism also symbols washing and purification from sin (Acts 22:16).

As for who should be baptised Grudem argues that because baptism is a symbol of beginning the Christian life it should only be given to those who have actually begun that life. The New Testament narratives show people being baptised in response to believing. In Galatians 3:27 the apostle Paul ties baptism closely with having put on Christ. The view that links circumcision with baptism seems mistaken as circumcision of the Old Testament anticipates circumcision of the heart, not baptism.

What about Grudem’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper? He says ‘It would be healthy for the church today to recapture a more vivid sense of God’s presence at the table of the Lord.’

Several things are symbolised and affirmed in this ordinance. The breaking of the bread represents the breaking of Christ’s body. When the cup is poured out it symbolises the pouring out of his blood. Therefore, when we share the Lord’s Supper we proclaim the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26). When believers share the Lord’s Supper they give a clear sign of their unity (1 Cor. 10:17). The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet (Matt. 26:29).

Interestingly Grudem points out that ‘the New Testament gives no instructions at all that place restrictions on the people who can preside at Communion.’ ‘Today most Protestants would say, in addition to the fact that the bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ, that Christ is also spiritually present in a special way as we partake of the bread and wine … there is a symbolic presence of Christ, but it is also a genuine spiritual presence and there is a genuine spiritual blessing in this ceremony.’

Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? Paul warns that those who eat and drink unworthily face serious consequences (1 Cor. 11:29-30). Grudem argues that the Lord’s Supper is for believers who have examined their own lives before God (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

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