Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 11

The Sacraments:

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q65: Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
A: From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

Q66: What are the sacraments?
A: The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, viz., that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.

Q67: Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
A: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

Q68: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
A: Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

Q69: How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?
A: Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, I washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.

Q70: What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives.

Q71: Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A: In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost", Matt.28:19. And "he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.", Mark 16:16. This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism "the washing of regenerations" and the washing away of sins. Tit.3:5, Acts 22:16.

Q72: Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A: Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.

Q73: Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism "the washing of regeneration," and "the washing away of sins"?
A: God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.

Q74: Are infants also to be baptized?
A: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.

Q75: How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
A: Thus: That Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of him, adding these promises: first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.

Q76: What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
A: It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone" and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.

Q77: Where has Christ promised that he will as certainly feed and nourish believers with his body and bleed, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup?
A: In the institution of the supper, which is thus expressed: "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and: said: eat, this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: this cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For, as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." 1 Cor.11:23-26. This promise is repeated by the holy apostle Paul, where he says "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." 1 Cor.10:16,17.

Q78: Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
A: Not at all: but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; so the bread in the Lord's supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, it is called the body of Christ Jesus.

Q79: Why then doth Christ call the bread "his body", and the cup "his blood", or "the new covenant in his blood"; and Paul the "communion of body and blood of Christ"?
A: Christ speaks thus, not without great reason, namely, not only thereby to teach us, that as bread and wine support this temporal life, so his crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink, whereby our souls are fed to eternal life; but more especially by these visible signs and pledges to assure us, that we are as really partakers of his true body and blood by the operation of the Holy Ghost as we receive by the mouths of our bodies these holy signs in remembrance of him; and that all his sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours, as if we had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction for our sins to God.

Q80: What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the popish mass?
A: The Lord's supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are ingrafted into Christ, who, according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshiped by us. But the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshiped in them; so that the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Q81: For whom is the Lord's supper instituted?
A: For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Q82: Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?
A: No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.

WSC:

Q91: How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A: The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q92: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Q93: Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A: The sacraments of the New Testament are, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Q94: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q95: To whom is Baptism to be administered?
A: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Q96: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Q97: What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
A: It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

New City Catechism:

Q43: What are the sacraments or ordinances?
A: The sacraments or ordinances given by God and instituted by Christ, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are visible signs and seals that we are bound together as a community of faith by his death and resurrection. By our use of them the Holy Spirit more fully declares and seals the promises of the gospel to us.

Q44: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.

Q45: Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A: No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.

Q46: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of him and his death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the presence of God in our midst; bringing us into communion with God and with one another; feeding and nourishing our souls. It also anticipates the day when we will eat and drink with Christ in his Father’s kingdom.

Q47: Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?
A: No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.

The New City Catechism, being a New Calvinist production, is expected not to mention anything regarding infant baptism. True enough it does not. However, on the concept of a sacrament and the description of the two sacraments, how do they compare with the Reformed catechisms?

The New City Catechism question 43 defines sacraments as "visible signs and seals that we are bound together as a community of faith by his death and resurrection." Here we see a Zwinglian view of the sacrament propounded, as opposed to the Calvinist view. The sacrament symbolizes our faith, which is expressed as believes in a "community of faith." The "sealing" aspect of the sacraments come about by our right use of them (in our true profession of faith).

The Calvinist view, as taken up by the Reformed catechisms, is that a sacrament refers to God's promises to us, not our pledge of faith to God. That is why there is nothing in the Reformed catechisms about "bound together as a community of faith." Everything stated there is about what God will do for us, not what we pledge to God. Is joining a church important? Definitely, but the Church is not God. We are saved through and into the Church, but not by the Church. As in the language of the WSC, it is God in the sacraments who takes Christ and the benefits of the New Covenant and "represent, seal and apply" them to believers. The direction is always God to us in the sacraments, not us to God.

The Zwinglian view of the sacraments is carried over into the NCC's take on baptism. In NCC 44, baptism is stated as "our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church." The Reformed catechisms however focuses our attention on God and His "divine pledge and sign" (HC 73), or just switch to the passive tense as describing what happens to the ones baptized (WSC 94).

When it comes to the Lord's Supper however, the New City Catechism does well. It certainly does not have the details as the Reformed catechisms, but it does speak of the Supper being a covenant meal bringing us into communion with God and with one another. It is certainly not as clear on Christ's presence in the Supper, but it is decent enough.

The NCC does a terrible job when it takes the Zwinglian position, and does a decent job otherwise. As with all the other sections so far, there is some good to the NCC, but also some serious flaws in it.

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