WHAT ARE SACRAMENTS?(Question 66)
In the last lesson we talked about how the preaching of the Word opens our ears. Only by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts can we hear the Word of God, and only by the Holy Spirit moving on us can we respond in faith. In this lesson we want to go from the ears to the eyes as we begin a series on the Sacraments. You are probably wondering what the Sacraments are, so why don't we let the Catechism answer the question for you.
The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals given to us by God.
To put it simply, there are two sacraments that God has given us-communion(The Lord's Supper) and Baptism. You are probably familiar with these two-perhaps you have even been baptized or ate of the bread and wine, but do you really know what the purpose of the sacraments are? Do you have any idea why God has given them to us?
Let's look at the two major categories given to describe sacraments-signs and seals.
When you see a friend what is the first thing you usually do? You probably give them a handshake(if you are a boy!) or maybe a hug(if you are a girl). You do these things because that person is your friend and you want to show them that you care about them. You want to show them they are important to you. Those people who are not your friends do not receive the same type of warm greeting. Yes you may shake someone's hand whom you have just met, but it is not the same thing because there is no relationship between you and the stranger.
The sign of the sacraments is the same type of thing. It is the way God says to you, "You are my child. You are forgiven of your sins. You will be with Me forever!" Now the point is this, doesn't God say all these things in His Word? Then why does He have to say them again in the Sacraments? He does this because the Word is a message or sermon for your ears, the sacraments are a sermon for your eyes! You can't touch or feel the Word as it is preached. But you feel the water in baptism. You can taste the bread and wine of communion. By these things you can touch and feel God is saying, "I love you. You are my child. I have forgiven your sins."
When we talk about sacraments being a "seal", it can really mean two things. The first kind of seal is that which is an official mark or logo. Imagine if you received a letter from the President of the United States. That envelope and letter would have a stamp or a seal that would show that it was really from the President. If it didn't have the seal, then the letter would be a phony. Just like our money has certain designs and colors so we can tell if it is real, the sacraments offer the same thing. We weren't there when Jesus died on the cross. We didn't see Him raise from the dead. But in the sacraments God says to us, "Just as surely as you feel the water washing your body, just as surely Jesus died for your sins", or "Just as surely as you can taste the bread and wine, just as surely Jesus was raised so you could be forgiven".
The second type of seal is that which keeps something safe. Think of an envelope again. You lick the outside of the envelope and close it to seal in the letter. You can be assured that your letter won't fall out of the envelope because it has been sealed. Or when you put something in a jar and twist the lid real tight. You know the contents of the jar are safe until you loosen the lid again.
This seal also applies to your Christian life. Maybe sometimes you feel like you are not a good enough Christian. Maybe sometimes you wonder if you are really going to heaven or not. The seal of the sacraments are there to remind you and assure you that God has everything under control. God has sealed you in His love. There is nothing that can take you away from Him. Look at these verses and see if you can begin to understand the type of seal God has on you..
So, the two words to remember when we think of the Sacraments are sign and seal. The sign is a visible thing we can touch and feel. The seal is a promise or reassurance that God will do what He has promised. As we continue next week in the study of the sacraments, we will look at the sacrament of baptism and what it means to be truly washed of our sins.
1. What is the sign of the sacraments?
2. What are the seals of the sacraments?
3. How many sacraments are there?
©1998 Pomona Youth Chapel/Pastor Tim Shultz