Chapter 3 . The Administration of the Sacraments

1. A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, in which symbols and actions signify Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace. Sacraments become means of grace and seals of the benefits of the covenant only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in those who by faith receive them.

2. The sacraments of the New Covenant ordained by Christ are two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are to be administered according to Christ’s appointment, by pastors or by ruling elders authorized by the presbytery to meet special circumstances. They are ordinarily to be administered at a time when the congregation assembles for worship at the call of the elders. In the case of those unable to attend public worship, the sacraments may be administered apart from a regular worship service, but in such cases the congregation must be represented by other members in addition to the pastor, and there should be a brief service of worship.

Baptism

3. Baptism marks participation in the visible church, and is the sacramental sign and seal of union with Christ, of newness of life in Him, and of cleansing from sin through His blood. It is not to be repeated. The element in Baptism is water, which, having been set apart by prayer for sacramental use, is applied by sprinkling or pouring. Immersion, while not required as the mode of Baptism, is also valid.

4. Under the oversight of the Session, Baptism is to be administered to those who make a credible profession of faith in Christ, and to their children. The Baptism of adults must follow their public profession of faith and assent to the Covenant of Communicant Membership. When a covenant child is born, the session should encourage the parents to arrange for the child’s Baptism as soon as it is convenient. The elders should use this occasion to speak with the parents about their own Christian walk, and to encourage them to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

5. In the Baptism, the pastor should follow substantially the pattern described in the following sections, although he may employ different language.

Baptism of an Adult

6. Before Baptism is administered, instruction should be given as to the institution, nature, and purpose of the sacrament. The institution of Baptism should be read in Matthew 28:18-20. (Other suitable Scriptures, such as Ezekiel 36:25-27, may also be read.) The following (or similar) instruction should be given:

Baptism is a sacrament ordained by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign and seal of the inclusion of the person who is baptized in the covenant of grace. Baptism with water teaches that we and our children are conceived and born in sin. It signifies our dying to sin and our rising to newness of life by virtue of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. It also signifies and seals to us cleansing from sin by the blood and Spirit of Christ. Since these gifts of salvation are the gracious provision of the triune God, who is pleased to claim us as His very own, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptized persons are called upon to assume the obligations of the covenant; Baptism summons us to renounce sin and the world, and to walk humbly with our God in devotion to His commandments.

The congregation should be encouraged to reflect on their own Baptism, to repent of their sins against their covenant God, to stir up their faith, and so to improve and make right use of their Baptism.

After the instruction, the one who is to receive Baptism is to take his/her place in the front of the congregation. The elders may also be asked to come
forward.

The person who is to be baptized shall then give his/her assent to the Covenant of Communicant Membership. If the Session deems it appropriate, it may also ask the person to give a personal testimony of his/her faith and relationship with Christ.

The pastor should ask the congregation to rise and respond to the following question:

Do you, the members of this congregation, receive this person into your fellowship and promise to pray for him/her, and to help and encourage him/her in the Christian life?

The pastor is to lead in prayer, giving thanks for God’s grace, seeking His blessing on this ordinance of Baptism, and setting apart the water from a common to a sacramental use, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church.

The pastor shall then baptize the person, calling his/her name and saying,

I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, blessed forever, Amen.

The pastor (or another elder) should conclude in prayer, that the grace signified and sealed in Baptism would be abundantly realized in the life of this person, and that God would graciously enable him/her to be a covenant keeper, daily dying to sin and walking in newness of life in Christ.

Baptism of a Covenant Child

7. When a covenant child is to be baptized, instruction should be given as to the institution, nature, and purpose of the sacrament.

The institution of Baptism should be read in Matthew 28:18-20. (Other suitable Scriptures, such as Isaiah 44:1-5 or Ezekiel 36:25-27, may also be read.) The following (or similar) instruction should be given:

Baptism is a sacrament ordained by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign and seal of the inclusion of the person who is baptized in the covenant of grace. Baptism with water teaches that we and our children are conceived and born in sin. It signifies our dying to sin and our rising to newness of life by virtue of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. It also signifies and seals to us cleansing from sin by the blood and Spirit of Christ. Since these gifts of salvation are the gracious provision of the triune God, who is pleased to claim us as His very own, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptized persons are called upon to assume the obligations of the covenant; Baptism summons us to renounce sin and the world, and to walk humbly with our God in devotion to His commandments.

The pastor shall give further instruction (in addition to that given above)
as to the ground of infant Baptism:

Although our young children do not yet understand these things, they are nevertheless to be baptized. For the promise of the covenant is made to believers and to their children, as God declared to Abraham, ‘And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.’ (Genesis 17:7) Under the New Testament, no less than in the Old, the children of believers, have, by virtue of their birth, an interest in the covenant and a right to the seal of it. The covenant of grace is the same in substance in both the Old and the New Testament, and Baptism has replaced circumcision as the seal of that covenant. (Colossians 2:11,12) Our Savior admitted little children into His presence, embracing them and blessing them, and saying, ‘Of such is the kingdom of God.’ (Mark 10:14) The grace signified in Baptism is not tied to the moment of administration. Scripture teaches that our children are covenantally holy before their baptism (I Corinthians 7:14). Baptism applies the promises and obligations of the covenant to our children, and calls them to personal repentance and faith as they come to years of understanding.

The congregation should be encouraged to reflect on their own Baptism, and to repent of their sins against their covenant God, to stir up their faith, and so to improve and make right use of their Baptism.

After the instruction, the parents are to bring the child to the front of the congregation. If one believing parent is not a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, he or she may come forward with the other parent, and give assent to the Covenant of Baptism in so far as he or she is able in good conscience to do so. An unbelieving parent may be invited to accompany the believing parent in presenting the child, but should not be asked to give assent to the Covenant. The elders may also be asked to come forward.

The pastor shall ask the parents to respond to the following question:

Do you publicly renew your profession of faith in Christ and acknowledge your acceptance of the Covenant of Communicant Membership?

The parents shall then assent to the Covenant of Baptism in relation to their child.

The pastor should ask the congregation to rise and respond to the following question:

Do you, the members of this congregation, receive this child into your fellowship and promise to pray for him/her, and to help and encourage the parents as they seek to bring him/her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

The pastor is to lead in prayer, giving thanks for God’s grace, seeking His blessing on this ordinance of Baptism, and setting apart the water from a common to a sacramental use, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church.

The pastor shall then baptize the person, calling his/her name and saying,

I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, blessed forever, Amen.

The pastor or another elder, should conclude in prayer, that the grace
signified and sealed in Baptism would be abundantly realized in the life of this person, and that God would graciously enable him/her to be a covenant keeper, daily dying to sin and walking in newness of life in Christ.

8. An accurate record should be kept in the Session minutes of all persons baptized, with the date, and, in the case of a child, with the names of the parents and the date of birth. A certificate of Baptism should be provided for each person baptized.

The Lord’s Supper

9. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is given by Christ to the church until He comes again, as a perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice in His death. It signifies and seals the benefits of that death to true believers, and nourishes their souls to grow in Him. It is also a covenant and pledge of their commitment to faithful discipleship, and of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His body, the church.

10. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed regularly, as often as the Session may decide. The elements are bread and wine, representing the body and blood of Christ, and the sacramental actions performed by the pastor signify His incarnation, His consecration to His saving work, His suffering and death upon the cross, and His offer of Himself as Savior. The actions of the communicants signify their acceptance of Christ, and their feeding upon Him, who is the Bread of Life, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

11. Only those who have been baptized and are communicant members in good standing in a true branch of Christ’s visible church are to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Persons whose manner of life is notably inconsistent with their Christian profession, or who are unknown to the Session in charge of the Table, are not to be invited to commune. Those who desire to commune, who are not members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, are to be interviewed by the elders as to their personal faith and commitment to Christ, their church membership and their Baptism. The church’s practice of session-controlled Communion should be clearly explained to visitors, preferably by a carefully worded written statement, given out as people enter the service.

12. It is the privilege and duty of every member to partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly and with careful preparation. The Session may appoint one or more preparatory services to assist the people in their preparation. Such Communion seasons are appropriate occasions for pastors from other congregations to be invited to preach the Word. The
Covenant of Communicant Membership may be read and explained at one of the preparatory services.

13. In the observance of the Lord’s Supper, the pastor should read the Scriptural basis for the sacrament from one of the Gospels, or I Corinthians 11. He should follow the general pattern in the following sections, although he may employ different language.

14. The pastor shall give instruction as to the institution, nature, and purpose of the Lord’s Supper, drawing attention to the words of institution in I Corinthians 11:23-26.

The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is to be observed until He comes again, in remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself which He offered upon the cross. The physical elements of bread and wine represent the body and blood of the Savior, and are received by true believers as signs and seals of all the benefits of His sacrifice. The Supper signifies and seals remission of sins, and nourishes our souls to grow in Christ, and is a bond and pledge of our union and communion with Him and with each other as members of His body, the church. It assures us that God is faithful to fulfill the promises of the Covenant of Grace, and it calls us to renewed commitment to obey and serve the Lord in gratitude for His salvation. Christ Himself is present by His Spirit in the Supper, to make it truly a means of grace to those who receive it in faith. Those who partake of the Supper do so in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was given, and His blood shed, for them. They rejoice in hope as they anticipate the completion of their redemption in that day when they will share in the marriage supper of the Lamb.

15. The pastor shall then declare who may partake of the Lord’s Supper, and who should refrain from partaking, drawing attention to the words of warning and invitation in I Corinthians 11:27ff.

It is the duty of the church to warn you that if you do not trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation, or if you are living an ungodly, disobedient life, and have not repented, you should not partake of the Lord’s Supper, lest you eat and drink condemnation to yourself. The Lord’s Supper is for repentant and believing sinners, who, after examining themselves and seeking reconciliation with their brothers, come confessing Christ as their Savior.

This warning is not designed to keep the humble and contrite away from the Lord’s Supper. On the contrary, the Supper is a means of grace offered to sustain weak pilgrims on their journey through the wilderness of this life. We who come to partake of the symbols of Christ’s body and blood, come as sinners whose only hope is the grace of God in Christ. We come in a worthy manner if we recognize that in ourselves we are unworthy sinners who need a Savior, if we discern His body given for our sins, if we hunger and thirst after Christ, giving thanks for His grace, trusting in His merits, feeding on Him by faith, renewing our covenant with Him and His people.

If you are prepared to come in this way, then hear the Lord’s words of gracious invitation:
[Here should be read Scriptural invitations, such as Isa. 55:1-3; Matt.11:28-30; Rev. 22:17.]

16. During the singing of an appropriate Psalm, the elders may take their places before the congregation. Those who are to commune may be invited to move forward, or to be seated at tables. The distribution of the elements may take place in a variety of ways, as determined by the session.

17. The pastor shall lift the bread and the cup, and exhibit them to the communicants, using words such as these:

The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and also the cup. Following His example, and ministering in His name, I take this bread and this cup, and exhibit them to you as the sacramental symbols of the body and blood of the Lord.

Replacing the elements, he shall say,

After the Lord Jesus had taken the bread and the cup, He blessed them. Let us pray, as we give thanks, and consecrate these elements.

In this prayer, the pastor should praise God for His grace in bringing salvation; reaffirm the trust of God’s people in God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness and mediation; and plead for the Lord to grant the gracious, effectual working of His Spirit through the sacrament. The elements are then set apart, using these or similar words:

Bless so much of these elements as shall be used on this occasion, which we hereby set apart from a common to a sacramental use, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the Church.

The pastor shall take the bread (or a portion of it), and break it, saying:

After the Lord Jesus had blessed the bread He broke it. Following His command and example, and ministering in His name, I break this bread (here the bread is broken) and give it to you His disciples, saying as He said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

The bread is then distributed to the communicants, including the elders,who receive it and partake of it. During the distribution, some appropriateScriptures may be read or Psalms sung.

Next the pastor shall take the cup and offer it to the congregation, saying:

In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

The cup is then distributed to the communicants, including the elders, who receive it and partake of it. During the distribution, some appropriate Scriptures may be read or Psalms sung.

After all have partaken, a brief address may be given, emphasizing the grace of God in Jesus Christ as set forth in the sacrament, and “exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22).

The communion service is concluded by a prayer of thanksgiving, the singing of an appropriate Psalm, and the pronouncing of the benediction.

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