Main Lines of Reformed Doctrine

Main Lines of Reformed Doctrine is a series written by Rev. John H. Piersma, pastor of the Bethany Christian Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois. This series is for church societies, study groups, and all others interested. Two lessons appear each month.

Scripture Readings: Ephesians 1: 15–23; Revelation 19:6–10

It appears as if we need to re-leam what it means to love the church! The unBagging, sacrificial devotion and faithfulness which established and developed the churches in which we live seem to be waning. This would not be so serious if the Bible did not tell us in a thousand ways that God and His Son, Jesus Christ, love the church (Deut. 32:10; Zech. 9:16; Acts 20:28; Eph.5:25). It is our hope that a review of the doctrine of the church will help to rekindle in all of us a true love for Christ’s church!

We will discuss now the church us organism, the church institute, the government of the church, and the authority or power of the church.

The Church as Organism

All to whom the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ form the church. The church as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:27. Eph. 1:23; 4:12; Col. 1:24; 2:19) is indicated when we speak of the church as organism. That organism is the new humanity, the fellowship of the elect. At this point we distinguish between the triumphant church in glory, the militant church on earth, and the church yetto-be-born, hidden in the future. When we speak of church as organism as the assembly or gathering of believers we a re thinking of the church militant. The word assembly or gathering (from which we get the word congregational must be taken first in a passive and then in an active sense. Believers are gathered by Christ first of all, and then they assemble themselves; they congregate to form the Christian communion or fellowship. It is especially important to remember that a Christian is not first regenerated and then ingrafted into Christ and the fellowship of His church, but that the ingrafting into Christ and His church is his regeneration.

Outside of this church “there is no salvation” (Belgic Confession, Art. XXVIII). The Roman Catholic Church identifies the church as organism with the church as institute, and thus makes an exclusive claim for her Communion as the “only saving church.”

The church as organism has the following attributes: it is one, holy, catholic, Christian. The oneness is the oneness of the body of Christ. The holiness of the church is the purity and devotion of that body whose members are cleansed by His blood. The catholicity or universality of the church traces from the all-encompassing glory of her Head in which all believers of all ages and places share. That church is Christian because it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; I Peter 2:6). The church owns all these attributes in Christ, and these attributes are seen and confessed by us through faith. The Romanist church applies also these attributes to herself as an institution.

The Church as Institute

The church as organism can be viewed as visible and invisible. This is only an indication of the two sides or aspects of the one church. It is invisible because it is a fellowship which the Holy Spirit creates in accordance with God’s counsel. You will remember that God’s counsel is His eternal decree by which He has established all that will happen in time. The church is visible because faith comes to manifestation in confession and conduct. The invisible and visible do not cover the same territory, are not fully parallel. This is because some go along with the church visible who are not really of Christ.

The church as organism becomes visible in all of life, and not only in worship and confession. For that reason the visible church is broader than the church as institute. The church as institute is the fellowship of believers as it is called to establish the true confession and to practise public worship.

To achieve these purposes the church organizes. That organization or institution regulates and promotes the life of the church. That life hilS been given by Christ and its exercise is the means for the preservation of the fellowship of the covenant between God and His people. To the church as institute God has therefore entrusted the means of grace. She has the power of “the keys of the kingdom” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day XXXL.

The church as organism and the church as institute must be distinguished but never separated. The church as institute must he a revelation at tile church as organism. For that reason Scripture can speak of both in one sentence (I Tim. 3:15, “but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselvcs in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”). The Belgic Confession does the same thing in Articles XXVII, XXVII I. Because the church as institute, Scripturally speaking, is II revelation of the church as body of Christ, her assembly or congregation is to be viewed as the gathering of believers, even though there are hypocrites in her midst. This is done, for example, in I Corinthians 1:2 where Paul speaks “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours.” And to the church (which included Judas the traitor) Christ promised that they who have followed Him “in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

Because the ministry of the means of grace in the instituted church has its purpose in the nurturing of covenant fellowship, the church as institute has these three marks: the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the maintenance of the pure administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline in punishing of sin (cf. Belgic Confession, Art. XXIX).

From Scripture it is evident that discipline must be exercised both with respect to doctrine and to life or conduct. In Titus 3:10 Paul orders that “a factious man (herotick, KJV ) after a first and second admonition refuse.” And our Lord says in Matthew 18:15–17, “And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it unto the church. And if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and publican.”

The church cannot judge the heart. For that reason it may not become a “people’s church” (a church which considers residence in a nation or community as valid qualification for membership), nor may it follow the quite understandable desire of those who would limit church membership to an elite group of obviously strong and allegedly genuine believers, Church discipline has two purposes: to keep pure the covenant of God and the Table of the Lord, and to save the sinner. Discipline follows a number of steps. (You can find these described in the relevant articles of the Christian Reformed Church Order as well as in similar documents of other Reformed or Presbyterian churches.) These steps end in the act of cutting a person off from the fellowship of the church by excommunication. This must take place in the church by the reading of a form for excommunication. Restoration to membership in the church is always possible upon suitable evidence of sorrow for sin.

The dividedness of the church (especially the large number of “denominations”) is sometimes discussed with the use of the terms plurality and pluriformity. Neither is really acceptable. The word plurality suggests an essential multiformity, and loses Sight of the real oneness of the body. The word luriformity is often used to stress the variety of denominational institutions in such n way as to make the differences purely relative. This lack of oneness is not merely a consequence of a difference in disposition or temperament, etc., but insofar as churches show hostility and prejudice toward each other, is a result of sin.

Some have thought that the best way to talk about denominational differences is to see the churches as more or less pure (“mine” is purest, of course!). This lands us in a sea of relativism which tends to drown all awareness of the true character of the one church. On the other hand, we ought not to hesitate to acknowledge other churches as Christian, This is done in effect when we accept the baptism of those to whom this was administered in another communion. Such acknowledgment is, of course, merely an acknowledgment in fact (de facto) amI not by right (de lure). Our position over against churches which we have left is that they are churches in disobedience and error. If this position is not taken the tendency is to lose all awareness of the real history of the church and eventually to be suspicious, if not downright convinced, that Christians from other communions ought to be regarded as unbelievers and unsaved.

What we plead for here is a living concern for Christians of all denominational affiliations, a concern which does not stop short of knowing, and, on proper occasion, stating what our differences are. This is not for personal vindication! We pray and hope that all believers may get together in the unity of a true faith. Modern ecumenism seems bent on achieving unity without such discussion, sad to say.

An example of the fact that believers can exist in a fellowship which is disobedient to the truth of the Word is to be found in the Old Testament after the division of Israel into the people of the Ten Tribes and of the two (Judah), The larger segment had torn itself loose from Judah and the House of David. Nevertheless, God sent them His Word through such prophets as Elijah and Elisha, and their circumcision was regarded as valid. God can bless the ministry of the means of grace in disobedient churches as He did in Paul’s day through preaching which was done from dishonest motives, out of envy and strife (Phil. 1:18).

The Government of the Church

If we must point to a single text which indicates the founding of the church it would be Luke 6:12, 13:

And it came to pass in these days, that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples; and he choose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles . . .

The apostolate (the office or mission of the New Testament apostle) includes and implies all other special offices in the church. This can be seen from the establishment of the diaconal office in Acts 6. But is the apostolate an office with authority, or is it simply the exercise of a certain talent or ability? It is an office, as can be seen from the election of Matthias to the position vacated by Judas (Peter uses the word office: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be made desolate, and let no man dwell therein: his office let another take” (Acts 1 :20). This appears also from the title bishop or overseer as used in Acts 20:28, and from the command to obey the officebearers which are placed in the congregation (Heb. 13: 17).

That there is an office and an official authority in the church follows from the fact that Christ is king of His church. Although it must be granted that the New Testament does not literally say that Christ is king of the church (it does say so in the Old Testament (Ps. 2:6), it is said that He has been given to be head over all things to the church, which is his body (Eph. 1:22, 23), and officebearers are called His ambassadors (II Cor. 5:20). On the one hand Christ rules His church personally by His Word and Spirit and the special offices (not special in the sense of superiority but in the sense of special assignment) relate to the general office of believers. On the other hand, Christ rules by means of His officebearers. There is, therefore, a twofold line: Christ—church—officebearers, and Christ—officebearers—church. Congregationalism (independentism) sees only the first line; the offices are then seen as arising out of the congregation, the majority rules and the officebearers are there to carry out the will of the congregation. Papism and episcopalianism see only the second line: the congregation is totally subordinate to the offices and dependent upon them. Anabaptism tends to reject all idea of office.

Although it is necessary to find the balance between the authority of ecclesiastical office and the power of the congregation, we ought never to lose sight of the basic significance of the Biblical idea of office in the church and everywhere. The tendency today seems to prefer person to office, to reject the kind of obedience office demands in favor of some emotionalized, “spontaneous” reaction to God’s calling.

It is necessary to strike a balance between the power of the broader (not higher!) assemblies (classis, presbytery, general synod, etc.) and the authority of the local congregation. Independentism rejects the authority of the broader assemblies. Collegialism or hierarchicalism subordinates the local congregation to synodical direction.

In the beginning of the New Testament dispensation there seem to have been six offices: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor-teacher (Eph. 4:11, 12), elder and deacon. The first three were temporary offices, necessary for the establishment of the church in the world. The last three are permanent. Apostles had to be witnesses of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22). The offices of prophet and evangelist fell away after the epistles and gospels had been written.

For Roman Catholics the church is the priesthood or the hierarchy; where the pope is, there is the church. Martin Luther more biblically thought of the church primarily in terms of its teaching office; where the Word is purely preached, there is the church. And John Calvin similarly refutes the idea of a Romanist kind of authority when he declares:

. . . it is necessary to remember, that whatever authority and dignity is attributed by the law, or to the apostles and their successors, it is all given, not in a strict sense to the persons themselves, but to the ministry over which they were appointed, or, to speak more correctly, to the word, the ministration of which was committed to them. Institutes, IV, 8, II.

The Power of the Church

It was to the apostles first of all that the Lord gave the authority to bind and to loose, that is, to declare what is binding for believers and what is not. That is the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day XXXI). Two references from Matthew’s Gospel are definitive here:

I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (16:19). Verily I say unto you, What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall he loosed in heaven (18:18).

The apostles exercised this power by the Word which the Holy Spirit furnished by special inspiration. After His resurrection Christ gave them the authority to forgive sins: “Whosoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23). This means that they could in fact pronounce judgment upon people. This power was very obviously exercised by the very same Word; he who believed that Word received the forgiveness of sins, those who rejected that Word, their sins were declared “retained,” That is, the guilt and condemnation for these sins was declared to be in force.

The important question now is this, To whom was this key power transferred after the deat h of the apostles? According to the Roman Catholic Church this authority passed from Peter to the pope. It is true that Christ gave the key power to Peter (Matt, 16:19), but it is also true that later in virtually the same words He gave it to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18). Since that power is exercised only by the Word, and since the church is now the “pillar” which upholds that Word (I Tim. 3:15), the churches of the Reformation have rightly concluded that that power has passed from the apostles to the church.

This power is not imperial or dictatorial but ministerial. It is a ministry, a service of the Word in the spirit of Matthew 20:25, 26: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become grcat among you shall be your minister.” There is only one key, the Word of God. It is distinguishable, however, in its usage: a general use in the ministry of the Word in the assembly of the congregation and a personal use in pastoral care and discipline. The pronouncements of the church in this regard are always conditional: “if you will not repent,” or “if you believe.” (The Romanist church speaks absolutely.)

An official ministry in the church is a ministry of God’s Word. This is distinguishable according to the nature of the offices:

a. the ministry of the Word by the teaching eldership both generally in divine worship and particularly in personal spiritual care;

b. the governing of the church by the ruling elders, which includes discipline;

c. the ministry of mercy by the deacons, which is a demonstration of the mercy of Christ,

To help with discussion:

1. How do you account for an evident contempt for the church on the part of so many today? Can you think of shortcomings and failures on the part of the church which contributes to this disaffection? Can you think of influences from outside the church which help to cause this condition?

2. Do you think that our forefathers esteemed the church too highly? Is the charge correct that they taught that “church” was the whole of the Christian life Imd calling? Can we perhaps revive God’s people by forgetting (at least in part) the church and turning our attention to the broader demands of the Kingdom of God?

3. Can you mention some of the blessed implications found in the figure of the church as body of Christ? (Cf. I Cor. 12:12 ff.)

4. Does the statement: “this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and outside of it there is no salvation” (Belgic Confession, Articles XXVII-XXIX).

5. Are we sufficiently aware of the responsibility of the church to preserve the life of covenant communion with God? Why are we seemingly more interested in all kinds of other activities (social, athletic, etc.) than the great benefit of a strengthened life of spiritual fellowship with our Covenant God?

8. How does one test the preaching of the Word to make sure that it is in agreement with the pure doctrine of the gospel? What is a sermon? How does preaching differ from a chapel talk in school, from a devotional message at a meeting of some evangelistic or philantropic organization, from a speech at a rally or convention, etc.?

7. How important is it that we guard the sanctity of the Lord’s Supper by the practise of close (supervised) communion? Why do many urge the practise of “open communion?” What is the possibility in our time of effective church discipline? How ought it to be practised?

8. What do you think of inter-church activities which deliberately avoid discussion of denominational differences? Ought we to regard members of other Christian communions as fair targets for “evangelism?” Can we honestly be friendly and kind to people who are convinced of different doctrinal and church political principles than ours?

9. Is it easy to maintain the Reformed. concept of the importance of both the local congregation and of the broader assemblies over against a powerful Romanism the hierarchy is all) on the one hand and an aggressive independentism (the individual believer and the local congregation is all) on the other? Are Reformed Christians as aware of their own church polity as they ought to be?


The Means of Grace

Scripture Readings: II Timothy 4:1–5; Matthew 28:16–20; I Corinthians 11:23–29

We feel that the doctrine of the means of grace is of vital importance in our time—it seems as if real consciousness of its significance threatens almost to disappear in a sea of indifference! We will consider this matter under four headings: first, the idea of the means of grace as such; second, the sacraments; third, baptism; and fourth, the Lord’s Supper.

The Means of Grace

The means of grace are those agencies which the Holy Spirit uses to work faith in our hearts and to confirm or strengthen that faith in us. Perhaps the simplest statement of this is found in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 65:

Q. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, whence comes this faith? A. From the Holy Spirit, who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

We believe that Christ has entrusted the means of grace to His church.

There is much dispute in the church regarding the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the means of grace. The two extreme positions here are Roman Catholicism which binds absolutely the working of the Spirit to the means, especially to the sacraments, and mysticism which neglects to the point of scorn the means of grace. Both these extremes must be avoided : the Holy Spirit is not limited or bound exclusively in His working to the means, but works with them. His commands to make faithful use of them is so emphatic that neglect or abuse means that we may not expect His blessing.

Looking more carefully we see these differing views:

a. the view of those for whom faith is merely a reasonable conviction; these see the means apart from the Spirit.

b. the view of those who live for and by a so-called inner light or internal, immediately conferred revelation of God; such mysticism sees grace as bestowed apart from the means.

c. the view of the Romanists for whom the worship of God has been largely limi ted to the sacraments: this view sees grace as conferred primarily by the sacraments.

d. the view of those who virtually limit the means to the preaching of the Word; these see the Spirit as working through the Word only.

e. the Reformed view that the Spirit works with the Word; Calvin taught this by means of an appeal to Acts 16:14: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.”

The Word includes both law and gospel, which are found in both the Old and New Testaments. The law presents the demand, the calling, the obligation of the covenant; the gospel presents the gift, the promise, the right to covenant blessing.

The difference between Word and sacrament is that the Word comes to the car and the sacrament to the eye. God seals through the sacrament what He says to us in the Word. There is a sacrament for our spiritual birth and one for our spiritual growth. The Old Testament also had two sacraments: circumcision and the passover. The sacraments of the Old Testament were bloody because the sacrifice of Christ had not yet been brought. The New Testament sacraments are unbloody.

The Sacraments

The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals, instituted by God, that by the use thereof He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel (Heidelberg Catechism, q. 66).

There are four things to consider when we talk about the sacraments: 1. the sign: 2. the thing signified; 3. the relationship of the sign to the thing signaled; 4. the divine origin of the sacrament. Most differences have to do with the relationship between the sign and the thing signified. The following viewpoints ought to be noted:

a. The Romanist: the sign is changed into the thing signaled. This is called transubstantiation. The mass or Eucharist (we usually say communion) is a necessary unbloody repetition of the sacrifice of Christ. The sacrament works magically, nevertheless its working does depend upon the intent of the officiating priest (he must intend to administer the sacrament), and those who receive the sacrament must not place any moral or doctrinal obstructions in its way.

b. Luther: the thing signified is present in, with, and under the sign. This is called consubstantiation. The working of the sacrament is dependent upon faith.

c. Zwingli: the sacraments are only memorial signs, and our use of them is only an act of confess ion of faith on the part of the user.

d. Calvin: the sacraments arc signs which represent God’s grace and they are seals which confirm the benefits of the covenant (Rom. 4:11 “. . . and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision: that he might he the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might he reckoned unto them.’” The relationship between the sign and the thing signified is contractual or federal: God promised in His covenant to connect His grace with the use of the sacraments. This involves both parties in the covenant, although God is first, the One who gives and elicits faith. The working of the sacrament is dependent upon faith. Some of the earliest Reformed thinkers on this point use the illustration of a wedding ring, which not only signifies but seals the love relationship. Baptism To Abraham was first given the sign of the righteousness of faith, circumcision (re-read Romans 4:11 as quoted above). This was also a sign of the renewing of the heart (Deut. 10:16, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked”). After Abraham this sign was given to Israel as a people at the time of the giving of the covenant in the wilderness (John 7:22; Josh. 5:2), by which its national significance was indicated. Baptism existed in the Old Testament as a part of the procedure by which a proselyte became a member of the Israelitish people. God commanded John the Baptist to baptize (John 1:33, “And I knew him not: but Ile that sent me to baptize in wnter, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descend ing, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit”). This was in fact “Christian baptism” as can be seen from the fact that Christ was baptized by John and that the disciples were not later re-baptized. The baptism of John was for Israel only; its full significance awaited fulfillment by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Before His ascension Christ gave the command that baptism should be administered to believers of all nations (Matt. 28:19). The outward sign in baptism is the washing with water by which we are baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The name is the revelation of the being of God, the words “I baptize you into the name of” mean to say therefore: I bring you into fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is sacramental language which intends to say: I give you the seal of your fellowship with God. Baptism must be administered in the Christian church by an officebearer, specifically an ordained minister. Baptism took place in earlier times by immersion. As a sign, immersion is more complete because it also symbolizes the burial of the old man and the resurrection of the new man (Rom. 6:4). This, however, does not make immersion a binding principle. Already in the Old Testament God used the figure of sprinkling (Ezek. 26:25, “And I will sprinkle clean water, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you”). The benefits which are confirmed unto us by baptism are the forgiveness of sins or justification (Mark 1:4, “John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins”), and regeneration or renewing of life (Col. 2:11, 12, “in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism . . .”). A large and persistent error in the church has been that of baptismal regeneration, the teaching that regeneration takes place always and by the power of baptism. If one accepts this he must also come to the idea that God’s grace can be lost in the life of a baptized person, since all who are baptized are obviously not saved. The right of a covenant child to be baptized rests upon the following: a. children of believers are included in the covenant of grace with their parents. This holds not only for the Old Testament (Gen. 17:7, Matt. 19:14, Acts 2:39), but also for the Ncw Testament. The old covenant is, says the book of Hebrews, fulfilled in the new, and the apostles regard children in their epistles as belonging to the congregation. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 this is literally stated: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” b. the new covenant may not be less than the old. There must be in the New Testament a sign and seal for children as there was in the Old Testament. c. baptism has come in the place of circumcision, as appears from the fact that they both seal the same benefits(Rom. 4:1 1, Col. 2:11, 12). The following objections are often brought against infant baptism. We list and refute them as follows: a. there is no command in the Scriptures for baptism of children. (But such a command was unnecessary because the apostles knew of the sealing of the covenant to children by circumcision. ) b. there is no instance of child baptism in the New Testament. (But there are instances in which families are baptized: the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:33, and the house of Stephanas, I Cor. 1:16.) c. baptism, according to Mark 16:16, must follow faith and children cannot believe. (But in Scripture the whole family as an organic entity is viewed as having become believing in the faith of the parent, and that is scaled by baptism. Also. the beginnings of regeneration can actually be present in children.)

d. it cannot be determined for certain if children belong to Christ. (But that can’t be known of adults either.)

We ought to remember further that baptism is the sealing of the covenant of grace and that a covenant is in its nature two-sided. The institution of the covenant was one-sided, however, and God is and remains the determining party in the covenant. It is quite possible therefore that the covenant is sealed to a person even while he is as yet not aware of that covenant.

That the sacrament of baptism “is requested and administered as soon as feasible” (Christian Reformed Church Order, Art. 56) follows from the Biblical injunction that God be glorified in all things and from the high value of the covenant.

The Lord’s Supper

The passover was a sacrifice and a sacrament. The Lord s supper is not a sacrifice  (as taught by Romanism) but only a sacrament. The idea of an unbloody repetition of the sacrifice of Christ is plainly refuted by Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

There is a double sign in the Supper : the sign is not only the bread which we break and the wine which we drink.

The benefits sealed to us by the Lord’s Supper are in the main the same as at baptism, namely, the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins”) end fellowship with Christ and His own (I Cor. 10:16), “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?”).

To help with discussion: 1. Why is it almost always the case that church discipline involves the charge, “neglect of the means of grace?” Do you see any possible relationship between total neglect of the means of grace and the unpardonable sin?

2. When we say that the Holy Spirit is not absolutely limited to the Word and/or sacraments, are we endorsing or approving any find all kinds of so-called evangelism? Do you see any dangers in non-ecclesiastical, unsupervised efforts to promote the gospel?

3. Why do we read the decalogue (presuming it is done still in your church!) in worship services? In the preaching of the Word is it really important to include both the legal and the evangelical? May we play love off against law? Will one who really loves want to be lawless? Will one who wishes truly to obey neglect love?

4. Do you know why Reformed thinkers have generally held a very high and strict view of the use of the sacraments? How do you account for current desires to loosen rather than tighten requirements for use of the sacraments in the church? Why is the administration of the sacraments limited to the church?

5. Do you know anything about the view called “presumptive regeneration” as it applies to the sacrament of child baptism? Do you believe that child baptism is to be justified on the basis of the presumption of regeneration or on the basis of God’s covenant promise?

6. What is more import-ant, baptism or confession of faith? Is baptism really important for one who has been baptized in inFancy? Why do so many regard their baptism as children of no real significance?

7. How often ought the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated in a given congregation? Do you believe that overfamiliarity would lead to contempt? Has weekly communion in the Anglican or episcopalian tradition made for spiritual improvement? Do you know that there was a time when communion was preceded and sometimes even followed by family visiting throughout the congregation?