The Sacraments – the enacted word of God.
The Sacraments are the enacted word and show forth so much of the Biblical story, but many Evangelicals miss the impact of the sacraments because there is little expectation to see the Holy Spirit at work through them. this si such a contrast to the early church, one has only to read the Apostolic Traditions to see that they expected much more than we do. Very often there is some debate about the presence of the Lord in communion but that same discussion is not found in discussions of baptism. We need to see that even in the enacted word the Spirit is very active.
Baptism: Baptism is the gateway to church membership and is thus for believers only. The whole symbolism of baptism shows the wonder of God’s grace and the context of the command to baptize believers in the great commission should give us an expectancy of God’s presence. Yet so often it is seen only as an act of obedience rather than as a place where God meets us through his Spirit. I am not claiming or teaching some form of baptismal regeneration, but rather that we can expect the candidate to be filled with the Holy Spirit as part of the baptismal process. The early Church expected the Holy Spirit to move in power at a baptism, and so should we. Of course the greatest example of one filled with the Spirit at baptism is the Lord Jesus and the accounts in the book of Acts show a similar pattern, should we expect any less than they did?
Communion:When we take the Lord’s Supper we are partaking of the new covenant meal but many of us fail to realize this because of the Zwinglian reduction of the Lord’s Supper to being merely a memorial meal. Yes we are told to remember what Christ has done but surely the communion service is more than this. Nearly every time I conduct a communion service I tell the people that there are three elements of importance to us as we receive the elements,(1) we are to look back and rejoice in what Christ has done for us,(2) we are to look up and receive the promises of God in Christ for today,(3) we are to look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus in glory. The problem of Zwingli’s view is that it reduces the Lord’s supper to the first aspect alone without doing justice to the fact that through the Holy Spirit we can feed by faith on Christ. The second and third aspects of communion are as vital as the first because we can come to the Table of the Lord with expectancy that we will meet the Lord there through the work of the Holy Spirit. It then becomes a place where the gathered community can expect the Lord to bless, and this is why it is so appropriate to pray for healing at this time when our whole attention is fixed on the finished work of Christ. We need to value the Communion Service more highly and not to just see it as some add-on or something we can while other things are taking place. Recently I have encountered the practice of taking communion during worship (in some charismatic fellowships) without any proper preparation or words of institution, this is to devalue something that Christ has taught us to value.
Let us highly value the two sacraments that Christ has given his church and let us come to both with a greater expectancy that God will move by his Spirit at these times.