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010 Sacraments Make You Holy

At In the last memo I said that our flesh is "kherem" -- wholly given over to God as sacrifice, to be utterly destroyed, and forbidden for us to keep. This is how we serve a holy God.

To say more of the holiness to which God calls us, I want to talk about sacraments.

Protestants hold that there are two sacraments instituted by the Lord Jesus: believers' baptism and the Lord's Supper, also called Communion or Eucharist. Catholics add five others (well, technically, Protestants subtracted five others, since the Catholics spoke first): confirmation, penance (or confession), anointing the sick, holy orders, and marriage. The Greek Orthodox recognize a whole bunch more, wisely I think.

Sacraments are places where the holy presence of God, which is not material, invades our ordinary material universe and touches us where we live. In these acts God confers grace on us to make us holy. When we perform these simple, physical acts, we join ourselves to God and become one with Him. For real.

The elements of sacraments are so very ordinary that Protestants think of them merely as signs. They teach that performing the sign is just an outward expression of a work that God is doing inwardly by other means. 

That may be, but I suspect that Paul the Apostle would not agree. In Romans 6, Paul calls us to live as though we have risen from the dead along with Jesus. We're dead to sin because we join with His death; we live righteously because we join in His resurrection. According to Paul, the basis for our being able to do this is a sacrament, baptism. God has performed something invisible and miraculous using an ordinary element, water.

I suspect that from eternity we will see that the change conferred in baptism was a lot more real than the water we felt on our skin. I think that the grace conferred by God is more real than are our lives on this planet. I think that our connection to each other in the Body of Christ is more real than the analogy, "body," that we use to describe it. We really are connected to one another.

Do I think that the little bit of bread actually becomes Jesus' flesh, like the Catholics do? That creeps me out a little; but I don't think that communion is just eating bread and remembering. I think there's real connection occurring.

But whether its real or a sign, I do it, because the Lord commanded it. And whether the sacrament is the acting agent or just a sign, the grace is real.

There was a public commotion recently over homosexuals obtaining civic endorsement of their unions as "marriage." But there is something sacramental about marriage; two become one by an act of God. To engage in a sin in an immitation of marriage is like performing a Black Mass, where Satanists engage in carnal sins in immitation of the Eucharist. It's a demonic celebration, and like our holy sacraments, it unites the practitioners with their master whom they serve.

We Christians are at war with the Prince of this Cosmos. It is increasingly important that we practice regularly the acts God has commanded in order to make us holy, even as our adversaries practice more regularly those acts that make them unholy. This is serious. Worship matters. Eucharist matters. Baptism matters. Marriage matters.

And if you have not been baptized, get baptized. Outward sign, real acting agent... who cares, so long as you do it? God says "Be holy." Let's be about doing that.

Be holy, and live in the peace of God.

Phil Weingart


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