J. M. Frost - 1916
As seen in the Ordinances, Baptism and the Supper.
The Doctrine - I John 1:7; John 3: 3, 6, 7; John 1:12.
The Ordinances - Acts 2: 38; Acts 22: 16; Ez. 11:19, 20.
IN becoming a Christian there is a threefold experience: (1) The remission of sin, (2) the cleansing from sin, (3) the making of a new heart. This means a change of relation to God, a change also in the spiritual nature. "He is a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things are passed away; all things have become new." They are the people of God and he is their God.
The two sides of this change is described in the words, remission of sin, and a new heart. Distinguished and emphasized by the prepositions for and in - what God does for us, and what God does within the heart. These two things cannot be separated except for emphasis, and carry with them for each individual all that is meant in salvation.
For "the remission" of sin equals pardon or forgiveness; must stand with justification, and adoption into God's family as his children through faith in Jesus Christ.
What takes place in making a new heart has many expressions - being born again, passing from death into life, translation into the kingdom of God's dear Son, a new creation in Christ Jesus, a change of heart. All this indicates God as the worker in its operation, and the heart as the subject of his influence and power, of the new found experience. This is the doctrine of the new heart as seen in the Scriptures.
But the two ordinances-baptism and the Lord's Supper, as outward ceremonies - what have they to do with a new heart-with this new relation to God, this working with a new nature within, this cleansing of the heart from sin, this making of the guilty conscience clean? In one sense nothing whatever. In another sense, baptism and the Supper have wonderful significance and power in their relation to the new heart and in their emphasis of this great doctrine.
A person needs fitness for these ordinances-a fitness which comes from a power on the outside and which works within. John sent some away from his baptism because they lacked fitness. A heavenly requirement for a heavenly fitness and service.
It is a serious thing to miss these ordinances as to nature, meaning and manner of observance - to misplace them in their relation to God and his work, as to their doctrinal order and significance, as to where they stand in the kingdom of God and his economy of grace.
One may eat and drink unworthily - may administer baptism unworthily - fail to discern the Lord's body in the one, his burial and resurrection in the other. Baptism pushes one away, requiring of him a new heart. The Lord's Supper pushes one away and requires of him a new heart.
This is the highway of the King and none but the children of the King are permitted in its boundaries. These are the garments of the palace for the wearing of those who are new within. They have no meaning for the unsaved, the unrenewed, cannot be appreciated by them - as a blind man in an art gallery or a deaf man in a concert hall of music. The sacredness of these ordinances has not had sufficient emphasis, nor has their voice for a new heart been sufficiently regarded.
They demand qualifications, prerequisites which they themselves cannot give. They are for saved people, have no meaning or advantage for the unsaved, except perhaps to show them the need of salvation. Let there be no mistake at this point.
It is just here that all the controversies among Christians have centered concerning the ordinances. Baptismal regeneration - making the heart new through baptism versus being born from above through the Spirit of God. Baptismal remission of sin - taking away sin through baptism as a meritorious act - being saved by baptism, etc. From these egregious blunders to the other extreme of counting the ordinances mere rites and of little consequence.
Over against all this we set the Scriptures as quoted in the text and others. The ordinances are physical acts and inadequate for the mighty change which is wrought in the spiritual nature with the direct working of God in the heart - with the inner man each one in himself-making him a new creature, etc. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is additional to what was said in the previous lecture concerning the objective emphasis and declarative purpose of the ordinances. There they spoke for Christ in his objective relation; here they speak of his saving grace in the heart, as experienced through faith in him. There objective, here they speak for a subjective work.
They are outward expressions of inward realities. Thoughts, feelings, experiences, emotions - all have their methods of outward expressions. The inner heart laid open in the ordinances. The author expresses his thought in words on the printed page, the painter with his canvass, the sculptor with his marble. God wishes to show what he has wrought in the heart, and makes exhibition in baptism and the Lord's Supper. The believer wishes to show what he has experienced in the heart and shows it in baptism and the Lord's Supper. The one word is, that old things have passed away, all things have become new, and these ordinances are set to tell the wonderful story.
Remission of sin means there has been a settlement with God; the believer has felt in his heart God's resurrection power as when he raised Jesus from the dead, and he himself is alive again as one from the dead; has experienced in his heart the cleansing of the blood - shares with Christ in being raised from the dead and living again in him. Crucified, nevertheless alive. God's son through faith in Christ - all this has its announcement in the great ordinance as the believer is buried with Christ in baptism. He owns the power divine and beyond human resource. Is willing in the day of God's power. It is a wonderful expression of the soul's surrender as with Saul of Tarsus-surrender of mind, of will, of all the old life, of purpose, and setting oneself to a new life for the glory of Christ.
Their effect in the life, marking and making the inner life open and outspoken. Do not save, yet a means of grace for those who are saved - means of grace for Christian growth and advancement. No culture can turn the thistle into vine of the vineyard-yet the vine may be nourished.
The ordinances are for indoctrinating, and great doctrines have great cultural power.
Two thoughts confront us. There is doctrine in the very order of the ordinances-raising from the dead precedes the risen life. Jesus raised the young girl from death and then refreshments were administered.
Jesus was baptized on entering his public life with the Lord's Supper coming after - resurrection before a new life - regeneration before sanctification - baptism before the Lord's Supper - bringing to life before nourishing - made a new creature in him first, and then living a new life in him.
The other thought much emphasized here is the exclusiveness of the ordinances-by their very nature-by the things they stand for. The born of God - the baptized for him - the living in his word. Symbols of mighty things they are, and stand as symbols in the King's highway, as the banner in the kingdom of God. A baptized people following a baptized Saviour-sitting at his table as commanded and in remembrance of him.
Surely we should see to it that in spirit and form and purpose, our baptism is the Lord's baptism, our observance of the Lord's Supper in deed and in truth the Lord's table.