J. M. Frost - 1916
As seen in the Ordinances, Baptism and the Supper.
The Doctrine - Psalm 1: 1; Psalm 84: 11.
The Ordinances - Rom. 6: 4; Matt. 3:15; Luke 1:6.
"BLESSED is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly - for his delight is in the law of the Lord." These scriptures with many others give emphasis to the ordinances as to their practical value and their relation to a godly life.
God makes a new heart within, gives a new spirit that we may walk in his statutes and keep his ordinances. By his own gracious power he makes us his people and he becomes our God. We show to the world that we are his in our walk, in our relation to his law and what we do with his commandments.
We owe it to our Lord to interpret his ordinances aright, and it becomes us to hold ourselves in right relation to baptism and the Lord's Supper. If we walk not uprightly in the ordinances, will we walk uprightly anywhere? Each of these several texts is to be emphasized and they in turn emphasize the doctrine of a godly life in relation to God's ordinances-in general, and in relation to baptism and the Supper in particular. Out of it all we get several lines of related thought.
There is no room for formalism, mere ceremonial performance, in a life dealing with God and reflecting God. Religion and formalism are incompatible and contradictory. A godly life comes of a godly heart. A godly life versus formalism. If baptism and the Supper run to formalism, it is no fault of theirs - their very nature and meaning are against it. The keeping of these ordinances is a godly act - the expression of a godly heart.
The godly man has his delight in the law of the Lord, and this law is his life. Without this the ordinances are of no avail, then indeed baptism and the Supper are "mere form" - easily, perhaps inevitably, settle to formalism, dead and hurtful formalism.
If God be not King in the heart, then he is not King in the life. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. The inner principle regulates the outer action-restraining or leading.
The highest law; thou shalt love the Lord thy God-with all thy heart-with all thy soul-and
with all thy mind (Matt. 22:37). Over against this, contrast the ordinances without the heart or with a wrong heart. Simon Magus an example, a fearful possibility. But trust in the Lord with all thine heart, etc. Then comes the walking in his commandments and ordinances. This gives a godly life - righteous before God - upright as related to him-but of the heart in which he has wrought his work of grace, set up his kingdom and rules in the heart.
A new life within demands a new life without. The outward and the inward in religion to be guarded all the while and kept in proper relation. The ordinances demand a godly life-a life in the open with God-walking in his commandments and ordinances. This in addition to their demand for a new heart. To have the heart right is not sufficient-a new life as well as a new heart is the imperative and imperious demand from baptism and the Supper. They require an open life for God.
Baptism is the answer of a good conscience before God. It calls for a walk in newness of life. An Indian appeared for baptism, dressed in white in token of the life which he thought he was to live, said to the people he was to walk the Jesus road.
Baptism and the Supper demand a new heart as we come to them, a new life as we go out from them. We begin at baptism as Jesus began at the Jordan, and follow on to the upper chamber with him in the lead. The reversal of this order contravenes the Scriptures, sets at naught the meaning of the ordinances.
Notable example in Zacharias and Elizabeth. The high word said of them concerning their observance of Judaism. They lived to the finish the Hebrew system. Walking in the commandments and ordinances they made for themselves a highway between their home and the heavenly places - kept company with angels - even Gabriel came that way when affairs of state required. In their home life and temple service they completed the old dispensation - righteous before God. Christ opened the new dispensation at the Jordan with that commanding word of his, it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness-and was baptized.
Godliness is of the heart, but its form is of the outward expression and of great moment. The form of godliness without its power-even in baptism and the Suppe r -to be avoided, yet the form with power to be greatly desired. Its power does not come to the full of privilege until showing itself in form. To preserve and keep baptism and the Supper as commanded and committed to us is of immense moment-a demand of the heart made new. For those who go that way there is satisfaction and joy in the sense of doing God's will. Like the Ethiopian, they go on their way rejoicing.
They stand for New Testament righteousness - godliness in Christ Jesus. They emphasize the Lordship of Jesus, his sovereignty. Lawmaker in Zion, as well as Saviour. Here we come into a new realm and yet in full accord with the highest and best things in the old.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper being from Christ and of the New Testament, are the mark and call for the Christly life. They are his law, and have the royal seal of his example. Godly is more than religious, Christly is more than godly, more specific, full of meaning and emphasis, puts Christ and the things of Christ at the front - glorifies God in Christ Jesus. They mark a baptized people following a baptized Saviour.
Saul of Tarsus, prior to his conversion, was moral because he obeyed his conscience, was godly because he thought he was doing God's service, was religious because he worshiped God, as his fathers had done, but after his conversion he was Christly, his was a godly life in Christ Jesus, with Christ as center, enthroned in his affections.
So it comes that baptism and the Lord's Supper are a powerful element in the Christly life - as marking the life we live in him, in its rise and progress-in regeneration and sanctification. Crucified together is the solemn word, raised up together is the word of triumph and joy.
Here again we come in marked way upon the exclusiveness of the ordinances. They demand a separated life, separated from the world. After the Jordan, Jesus went no more to his old life at Nazareth. This is the newness of life. These ordinances in their very nature demand the church in its organic life, and the church demands the ordinances as the bond and badge, as the pledge and expression of fellowship. The best church life is the fullest Christ life-filling out the fullness of his purpose and plan; the best Christ life is the most godly life. This is walking uprightly as he would have us walk, and he will give grace and glory.
Worth whether in the Old Testament or the New-for both the present and the future. For the individual and the community, (i) Gains favor with God; (2) reflexive in its influence on character; (3) instructive and full of inspiration to others.
In addition to its worth in general a godly life, showing in these ordinances as a form of godliness, has distinct doctrinal character, and great doctrinal value. In their practice they are an abiding testimony for fact and faith-the most stupendous fact in history and the mightiest experiential faith known to man, even possible to man. Living a godly life among people makes one an educational center and power. The ordinances become our creed in a great sense-our banner in the name of our God - show what we believe. They carry in this way the power for testimony, for great uplift, conspicuous and commanding.
The ordinances express in symbol what we find in the great statement of the apostles. I am crucified with Christ, etc. A formal statement of Christianity in beautiful form. Show history - doctrine or creed - experiential grace and ministry or mission in the church of God after God's plan. Show how the cross stands, - inseparable from the empty sepulchre, at the center of Christian history, of Christian doctrine, of Christian experience, of Christian ministry or mission; show the very heart of church life and power-of what Christ has done for us - of what he wants us to do for him.
From every standpoint we get tremendous emphasis for the importance of preserving these ordinances as they were given to us. Their perversion in spirit, form or purpose is far-reaching in deadly effect both on character and doctrine.
This is the godly life, a godly walk - a walk worthy of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Goes the way he went, shows the cross and crown, the course and consummation for our Lord and for those who are his and who follow him. The emblem of his rule, the badge of our loyalty. They show where our allegiance is. Every baptism is his fresh coronation by those who love him - every observance of his Supper is a fresh memorial of his death - of his resurrection and resurrection life. In a great sense we may say for him: He set his throne in his ordinances and made his ordinances the symbols of his sceptre rule over all.
Walking in the ordinances is high mark of favor in the kingdom and has the glory of heaven upon its pathway. In a figurative sense yet gloriously, as the rugged framework holds the great picture of the artist, so these ordinances hold in themselves the destiny of the ages-when God shall show the wonders of his grace in Christ Jesus - proclaiming before him his rule for the ages to come.
"The Lord will give grace-in the progress, and glory in the consummation; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."