PROTESTANTISM, THE ORDINANCES
Address by Mr. B. A. Ramsbottom, B.A. (Haslingden, Lanes.), given at Evington Chapel, 1965.
When Moses, the Man of God, came to the burning bush the Lord commanded him to take his shoes from off his feet, and approaching such a solemn subject, as that which is before us this evening,Â—the sacred ordinances and the vital distinction between the Scriptural and Romanist positions,Â—how we need to speak with true humility and solemnity of heart.
There are three introductory observations I would make. First, when we consider how sincere many Romanists are and yet the dreadful deception under which they labour we are reminded that sincerity is not enough. Beware of being sincerely lost! Second, if you and I have some knowledge of the truth but do not find that the truth is used and blessed to our personal profit then we are no better than the Romanist. And thirdly, if the Lord has given us a gracious understanding of the truth and taught us the things which are most excellent, then here is no ground for pride, “Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou hast not received?”
The Ordinances, what are they?
New let us seriously consider the Lord’s ordinances. We desire to contend for the truth as it is in Jesus, to flee from everything which dishonours the Lord and to uphold all that exalts the person of the dear Redeemer.
Consider the first obvious distinction between the Protestant and Romish position concerning the ordinances, or as the Church of Rome terms them, the sacraments. Whereas we have but two Ordinances, Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Church of Rome has added five others. Penances, Extreme Unction, Confirmation, Marriage, and the sacrament of Holy Orders, thus making seven in all. The real issue is this. The Church of Rome has added five “Sacraments” which have no foundation in the whole of the Word of God.
The truth of Marriage is clearly set before us in the Word of God but it is never taught as a “Sacrament”. But the Romanist contends that marriage is a “Sacrament” and supports this contention upon the translation of the words in Ephesians 5, which in the Authorised Version reads, “This is a great mystery”, but which in the translations from the corrupt Latin Vulgate reads, “This is a great sacrament”.
“Orders”, in the sense of the solemn offices of Deacons and Pastors, are taught in the Scriptures, but in the Word of God there are no such orders as Popes, Archbishops, Monks or Nuns and there is no “Sacramental” order concerning their institution. On the coming Saturday many of us hope to attend a “Recognition” service but this is with a desire that we may mutually seek the Lord’s gracious blessing on a dear friend as he enters upon his pastoral charge but there is nothing in the nature of a “Sacrament”. Marriage and Holy Orders, as “Sacraments” are things which have been ADDED to Holy Scripture.
But there are three “Sacraments” which are not mentioned at all in the Word of God.
In the “Sacrament” of Confirmation a bishop lays his hands upon the head of a child who previously has been baptised, (Christened), and that “Sacrament of confirmation” is believed by the Romanist and many other Ritualists automatically to confer upon the child the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a “Sacrament” to which the Holy Scripture makes no reference and has no Divine authority.
Another Roman addition to the revelation of the Word of God is the “Sacrament of Penance”. In the performance of this persons confess their sins to a priest and the priest agrees to forgive, granting absolution and prescribing certain penances. These can take many forms but among them is the recital a great number of times, of the rosary; set forms of prayers and praises; certain rigorous religious duties to be performed; or some pilgrimage to a “Holy” place may be required. There is no mention of penances in the Holy Scriptures. The word of God solemnly speaks of the necessity of repentance which is an inward, spiritual and gracious act. This has been replaced by the church of Rome by this “Sacrament of penance”.
The other “Sacrament” which has been added by the church of Rome and that without any warrant of the Word of God is that of “Extreme Unction”. The Church of Rome maintains that there can be no salvation without the “Sacraments” of Confirmation, Penance and Extreme Unction. How different from the sweet simplicity of the Gospel which sets forth the complete Salvation of the sinner in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ! In the administration of Extreme Unction the priest attends a person who is about to die and touches that person with “Holy” oil in five places, on ear, eyes, nose, hands and feet. If a person dies having received Extreme Unction that person instead of sinking into Hell goes into Purgatory.
Thus, very briefly, I have mentioned the first vital distinction. We have two ORDINANCES which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted. To these Rome has added another five, the “Sacraments” of Confession, Penance, Extreme Unction, Marriage and Holy Orders and some of these are not even mentioned in the Word of the Lord. Why has the church of Rome added these? The reason is extremely clear. It is the determined purpose of that church that all its followers should be under its authority and need its priesthood and mediation right from the moment a child is born, throughout the whole of that person’s life, and right to the moment they die, indeed for a very long time afterward.
Now to consider the two ORDINANCES, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted for His people.
BAPTISM is an ordinance which was commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. There are really two clear differences between the Scriptural and truly Protestant position and that of the Roman church. The first is that the Roman church baptise, or rather sprinkle, infants as soon as possible after their birth. The Anglican and other churches also practise the baptism of infants, but there are two things which are very clear in considering this in the light of Scriptural teaching. There is not a single New Testament example of an infant being baptised and there is not a single New Testament command for such baptism. Thus the first distinction between the Scriptural position and that of Rome is that the Roman church baptises infants. The second difference is that the church of Rome teaches, as with all her other “Sacraments”, that it automatically confers grace. Just as when the fire burns warmth is the automatic result, so they teach that these “Sacraments” always confer grace. So in this case when the infant is sprinkled with water by the priest and the requisite Latin formula is spoken then that child is immediately regenerated, blessed with spiritual life, and all original sin is washed away. So there is a two-fold distinction. The Church of Rome teaches the sprinkling of infants as contrasted with the Ordinance of Believer’s Baptism and also that the sprinkling of the infant automatically confers grace.
“To the Law and to the Testimony”
Now what of the Scriptural position concerning the Ordinance of Baptism. In the Scriptures there is a clear account of the Lord’s own command and His institution of this solemn yet blessed Ordinance before He ascended to glory (Matthew 28, 18/20). This is the sole ground we have for holding, as we do, the sacred Ordinance of the Baptism of Believers. It is because Christ, as the great Head of the Church has commanded it. We read in the inspired Word of Truth that the Lord said to His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The marginal alternative rendering
of the Authorised Version of the Scriptures reads, “Making disciples, or Christians, of all nations”. So we are taught that it was the revealed will of the Lord to the Apostles that they should make disciples in all nations and then baptise them. So the Lord Jesus Christ instituted this and it is the order which was always followed throughout Apostolic times. On the day of Pentecost there were three thousand persons so wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. He blessed them with real faith in Christ and they were baptised. It was a case of believing first and baptism which followed. It was so with Saul of Tarsus for the Lord called and convicted him on the way to Damascus and afterwards he was baptised. “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest”.
Thus the New Testament commandment is for the Baptism of Believers and the New Testament example is also the Baptism of Believers. Sometimes great concern is felt as to being the right characters to follow the Lord Jesus in this solemn Ordinance. I hope we all realise the solemnity of the step. It is those whom the Lord has dealt with, those who have been convicted of their sin, those who have been brought by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit to rest their hopes for time and eternity upon the person and finished work of the dear Son of God; such are the characters who are welcome to venture and to follow the Lord. There is a right way of walking in the Ordinance of Believer’s Baptism. It is as sweetly constrained by love. When the Lord enlarges the heart what a willingness is shewn in the important matter of obedience to the Lord’s ordinance! How different is this from infant baptism where the infant has no understanding whatever of what is taking place! Let me reply to the question as to who are the subjects for Baptism in the simple statement, “It is for believers only”.
The administration of Baptism
How is Baptism to be administered? This is set before us very clearly in the Scriptures as we read how Philip and the Eunuch went down into the water and came up out of the water. How clearly it is shewn in the baptism of Jesus in Jordan for after Christ had been into the water and under it we read that as He was coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit, as a dove, descended upon Him and the voice was heard from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. How graciously this sacred Ordinance was honoured by the three Persons in the Godhead, God the Son in the water in His sacred humanity fulfilling all righteousness, God the Father declaring from heaven that this was His beloved Son whose actions as well as His person were all righteous, and God the Holy Ghost descending as a dove upon the Son of God. This is the Divine order, going down into and under the water and being raised up from the water.
Significance of Baptism
Let us consider the significance of Believer’s Baptism. How clearly does it set forth the awful sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and His glorious resurrection!
“View the rite with understanding,
Jesus’ grave before thee lies.
Be interred at His commanding,
After His example rise”. (Fawcett).
How solemnly and clearly this is shewn, the awful sufferings of the Lord. His death and resurrection! There was a time when the dear Redeemer was immersed in sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. With this baptism He had to be baptised according to His own word. The waves of swelling grief lay heavy on His heart and mountains of almighty wrath on His holy soul.
“Down to the shades of death,
He bowed His awful head,
Yet He arose to live and reign,
When death itself is dead”. (Watts).
The hope of a truly and rightly baptised person is built upon that great work of Salvation in which the Lord Jesus Christ died to make an atonement for sin and rose, mighty to save. With such persons, in their profession of faith, there is a desire to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness. The apostle speaks of being “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2, 12).
This is the sacred Ordinance of Believers Baptism so simply set forth in Holy Scripture. There is no merit to the person being Baptised in the act itself, there is no conferring of Grace, but it is a public profession of a hope in Christ through His mercy, an open acknowledgment of a desire to follow Christ in love and to be identified with Him.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Now to consider the other Divinely appointed ordinance, the Lord’s Supper. The Romanist speaks of the Lord’s Supper either as the Eucharist or as the Mass. We might say that whereas there are two clear distinctions between the Protestant and Papist positions concerning Baptism, there are three such distinctions between the respective positions on the Lord’s Supper.
First, whereas in the administration of the Lord’s Supper according to the Word of God those participating receive both the broken bread and the cup, the church of Rome has, for many years, withheld the cup from the people confining its use to the “Priest” alone. The church of Rome gives many reasons for this restriction. One of these is the danger that the wine should be spilt. But whatever reasons may be advanced, in this there is a departure from the way which the Lord taught when He said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood,Â—drink ye all of it”.
The second distinction is that the Roman church teaches that the Mass is a sacrifice, whereas the teaching of the Word of God is that the Supper is a service of remembrance of the One
Sacrifice of Christ. It is very clearly taught, in the epistle to the Hebrews, that there was ONE Sacrifice for sin, “By one sacrifice He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified”. Under the ceremonial law given by Moses there were many thousands of sacrifices offered year by year, the slaying of many lambs and the shedding of much blood. Christ, by one sacrifice, has perfected for ever them that are sanctified and this sacrifice is never to be repeated. The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of His death. “Once, in the end of the world, has Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”. In the Mass the Roman priest teaches that once again he offers a sacrifice and there is a slaying of Christ again. This is a most dreadful dishonour to the Son of God because it teaches that the One Sacrifice on Calvary was insufficient.
Thirdly, the Lord Jesus, when He first administered the Lord’s Supper said, “This is my body, this is my blood”. The church of Rome teaches that in the Mass the bread actually becomes the flesh of Christ and the wine actually becomes the blood of Christ. This doctrine, known as the doctrine of transubstantiation, has no authority in the Word of God. Truly the Lord said, “This is my body, this is my blood”, but He also said, “I am the vine” and “I am the door”. This is to be taken symbolically. Let me give a simple everyday example. Quite often you may produce a photograph and say, “That is my brother” or “That is my sister”. You obviously mean that it is a resemblance or an image of your brother or sister. Such is this position. In the Lord’s Supper there is a gracious remembrance in these emblems of bread and wine of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the three distinctions.
The fable and dangerous deceit of the mass
I would ask you to consider the matter of the Roman mass very carefully for this is the central point of the worship of the church of Rome. When the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper it was with a sweet simplicity in that upper room the same night that He was betrayed. The Roman church, in solemn contrast in celebrating the mass, acts over again the various details of the sufferings, the agony and the death of the Lord Jesus. It may be of interest, but I trust it may be an occasion of deep revulsion of spirit, to know some of the things that the Roman priest must do in celebration of the mass. If the priest does not attend to these details then the mass is completely void. The priest must make the sign of the cross sixteen times, he turns towards the congregation six times, he lifts his eyes to heaven eleven times, he kisses the altar eight times, folds his hands four times, strikes his breast ten times, bows his head twenty one times, genuflects eight times, bows his shoulders seven times, faces the altar with the sign of the cross thirty times, lays his hands flat on the altar twenty nine times, prays secretly eleven times, prays aloud thirteen times, takes the
bread and wine professing to turn it into the body and blood of Christ, covers and uncovers the chalice ten times, goes to and fro twenty times and in addition performs other acts all in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ in His great sufferings. At various points n the mass the priest changes his dress and the various robes he wears represent the different things worn by Christ at the time of His suffering, the seamless robe, the purple coat, the veil over His face, the girdle of cords which bound Him. In addition to this there are other highly coloured robes of the various priests and attendants who are taking part, there are candles burning and bells rung whilst music is played and incense being burnt.*
How great is the difference between this and the simplicity of Christ’s first administration of the Ordinance! What a great hold the priest in the mass has upon the members of the Roman church! See how the priest is exalted as one that “Offers again” the sacrifice of Christ. This gives the Roman priest, in the mass, great power over the people.
The cost of a mass, said by the priest for “Penitents” of the Roman church, can be extremely heavy and by this means a very remarkable income is obtained by the Roman church and a mass can be performed not only for the living but also for the dead who are believed to be in “Purgatory”.
The Scriptural administration of the Lord’s Supper
In contrast to the deception and blasphemy of the Romish teaching of the Mass I would consider the teaching of Scripture concerning the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. What a contrast! What sweet simplicity! The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, had upon His heart the interest of His own dear children and His thoughts were with them all to the end of time. It was His dying desire that till time should end they should remember the sufferings of their Lord.
“This do. He cried, till time shall end,
In memory of your dying friend.”
We do not believe that this sacred Ordinance automatically confers grace any more than the Ordinance of Believer’s Baptism. It is by faith in Christ, looking beyond the broken bread to the sacred body of Christ upon Calvary: looking beyond the cup to the poured out precious blood of Christ shed for sinners, that there is any profit to living souls. What was the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ in instituting this solemn Ordinance? It was that there might be a constantly renewed profession of faith in Him, “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” There is a profession here that our hope for eternity is built upon this finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a setting forth of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has been made precious to our souls. “This do in remembrance of me”. How poor are our memories! Truly our
minds are always ready to forget the things which matter and ever ready to remember the things which do not. Yes, the Lord would have His dear people remember His sufferings and death “till He come” and in this simple service which the Lord Himself has instituted there is a remembrance of the great sufferings of the Lord Jesus in the broken bread and the poured out cup. There is to be a remembrance of the value of His death. No salvation. No heaven without it!
“Dear Lord, what heavenly wonders dwell,
In thy atoning blood.”
“The Lord JesusÂ—took bread and when He had given thanks, He brake it and said. Take 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 shew the Lord’s death till He comes” (I Corinthians II, 23/26).
The church of Rome, by unscriptural additions of doctrine and ritual, makes far too much of the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper perverting the ordinance into the materialistic mass. Are we guilty of making far too little of it? The church of Rome “worships” the Ordinance and in this most grievously sins. Should we not seriously consider if we sin in despising the Ordinance? We may contend that the Ordinances are not necessary for salvation and rightly deny that they automatically confer grace yet they are the loving commandments of the great Head of the Church to His dear people. “What Jesus does command His children should obey”. “If ye love me keep my commandments”.
* Details from Boettner’s “Roman Catholicism”.