A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in which, by visible signs, the grace of God in Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace are represented, sealed and applied to believers, and these, in turn, give expression to their faith and allegiance to God.
Word and Sacrament
The word of God is complete as a means of grace, but the sacraments are not complete without the Word. The Word and the sacraments differ in the following particulars:
- The Word is absolutely necessary, while the sacraments are not
- The Word serves to beget and to strengthen faith, while the sacraments can only strengthen it
- The Word is for all the world, but the sacraments are only for believers and their children
Three Parts of a Sacrament
- Outward/Visible Sign - Each of the sacraments contain an outward or external element. This consists of water in baptism and of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper.
- Inward/Spiritual Sign - The inward sign points to something that is signified, which is the internal matter of the sacrament (i.e. righteousness, forgiveness of sins, faith).
- Union of Sign and What is Signified - The union constitutes the essence of the sacrament, which is received in faith, and the grace of God accompanies it.
The Lord's Supper/Communion
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's Kingdom." - Matthew 26:26-29
How to Receive Communion
Repentance - Faith - Thanksgiving
What this Signifies
- The Lord's death
- The believers' participation in His death
- The giving of life, strength and joy
- The union of believers
The Presence of Christ
At Orchard Hill Church we hold to the consubstantiation view of the Lord's Supper. Luther maintained that the body and blood of Christ are somehow present in, under and through the elements of bread and wine. Zwingli taught the memorial view of the Lord's Supper that represents the body of Christ.
Calvin denied the physical presence of Christ at the Lord's Supper, but affirmed the real presence of Christ. He taught that although Christ's body and blood remain in heaven, they are spiritually made present to us by Jesus' omnipresent divine nature.
Throughout history, people have tended to either elevate the importance of baptism or devalue it. It is commonly understood to be a sacrament of the church. Some call it an ordinance. So why do we practice the sacrament or ordinance of baptism? We baptize because Jesus instructed us to do so.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28: 18-20
Three Views on Baptism
Over the years, the church has practiced baptism in different ways. There are three primary views that have been adopted.
- Baptism is a Means of Salvation
- Baptism is a Sign and Seal of Covenant Relationship
- Baptism is a Symbol of the Relationship between God and a Person
At Orchard Hill, we recognize the debate has taken place around this issue and we practice both views #2 and #3. While this may seem incongruous to some, we believe that we can practice both views. We reject view #1. We consider this position to be unbiblical. This is significant because view #1 deceives many into thinking that they have a right standing with God, when in fact, the only way to have a right standing with God is through personal faith.
We believe that these practices demonstrate grace and genuine Christian community. It allows us to demonstrate the acceptance of differing opinions on matters of practice, while holding firmly to the essential precept of our faith - that salvation is by grace alone through faith.