Paul, the apostle, gives a very stern warning to the church communicating a warning to Corinth that some people have died in the congregation because they have not appropriately approached the sacrament. This is a passage that can make someone approach the supper with great caution. In fact, someone might not want to come to the supper at all considering that there are people who have died in the past. Why would we come to the Lord’s table when there is such a stern and fixed warning in Scripture?
The Lord’s people have been enslaved for 400 years and doubt whether or not the Lord is really with them. The Lord promises that his people will not remain in slavey. So, what how is the Lord going to deliver His people from this time of slavery? What is Israel going to do in light of this deliverance that the Lord promises? How does this deliverance pave the way for the Lord’s Supper?
Moses lays out the expectations for the sacrificial system with Israel. Moses communicates essential points of this sacrificial system from Leviticus 7. This chapter teaches us that there are feasts anyone can eat, other feasts only the priests, and then there are offerings that are not eaten at all by the priests. Why does the Lord have some meals with his people? Why does the Lord have some meals with the priests? What does any of this have to do with the Lord’s Supper?
The apostle Paul exhorts fathers, wives, and bondservants to live out their lives before the Lord’s face. The Lord does not only exhort adults to life a life pleasing to the Lord, but Paul also exhorts children. Why would Paul exhort children to obey their parents for that pleases the Lord? Could there be implications in this exhortation for baptism?
The apostle Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit as people who have moved from death to life in Christ. He also exhorts us to walk in light of our baptism moving us from death to life in Christ. Is Paul teaching that as one receives baptism that one necessarily receives the Holy Spirit? Why would Paul use such strong language regarding baptism?
One can see the force of the argument that circumcision is a fleshly covenant which is tied to the flesh while Baptism is a sign that communicates spiritual renewal and spiritual washing. It is conceivable to think that maybe Paul is making a historic progression meaning that we move from circumcision, fleshly covenant, to baptism, a true spiritual realization, after Christ’s coming. So, why would people baptize infants if the Lord has changed the significance of the covenantal sign?
So often people think of the sacrament of circumcision as a physical sign while baptism is a sign of Spiritual renewal. So, these signs might point to Christ, but they have radically different intentions. When we survey scripture we find that this is not necessarily a true distinction with circumcision being physical while baptism is spiritual. In fact, Moses teaches that one being uncircumcised is stating that one is not walking in power of the Lord. So, can we really say that circumcision is not a spiritual sign?
The Apostle Paul speaks Abraham first having faith and then receiving he sign. This would seem that the sacraments are a sign of our faith rather than a sign of the covenant. This has profound implications because this would mean that first we would profess our faith and then receive the sacrament. So, why would we as reformed people baptize infants if this contradicts the Apostle Paul? Why would infants potentially receive the sign if they have not first professed faith like Abraham did?
We have been considering at the language of the Belgic Confession that identifies the preaching of the Gospel as a mark of the true church. If the reformers claim that a mark of the church the the preaching of the gospel then why does Paul exhort Timothy to preach the word? Does our confession need to be rewritten? Does Paul understand the preaching of the word to be the preaching of the Gospel?
Our confession does not merely say that we preach the word, but we preach the Gospel. Why not have a mature church that no longer needs the Gospel because they have advanced beyond it. Then we could have churches that are more geared to young Christians. What basis do we have to preach the gospel for all members of Christ’s church?