Here are some questions and answers about communion I will be reviewing with the Bricks
The question is not where is God present (by itself uninteresting when we are talking about an omnipresent deity), but where God is present for us, in peace and safety rather than condemnation and destruction. Michael Horton, People and Place, 109.
In recent years, there has been considerable slippage amongst evangelicals in understanding how the sacraments should be observed. As a result, their practice has been confused, inconsistent and marginalized. We need to continue to work on developing a biblical view of the sacraments.
What is a sacrament or ordinance?
Calvin defined the sacraments in this way.
It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men. Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.” Calvin. IV.14.1, page 1277.
Does it matter if we call it a sacrament or an ordinance?
No, so long as we make sure that we have a biblical understanding. Here, I would agree with Grudem:
It does not seem that any significant point is at issue here in the question of whether to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “ordinances” or “sacraments.” Since Protestants who use both words explain clearly what they mean by them, the argument is not really over doctrine but over the meaning of the English word.
Are the sacraments really that big of a deal?
The importance of the ordinances cannot be overstated. Nothing is more central to our identity as a New Testament church than how we observe the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So central are they, that, a local church that does not observe biblically the sacraments ceases to be a local church.
So, are you saying that we are saved by virtue of being baptized and observing the Lord’s Supper?
As Protestants in the Reformed tradition, we deny that the sacraments automatically bestow spiritual benefits. They benefit only those with saving faith.
How do we benefit through participation in the Lord’s Supper?
The sacraments are visible signs give by the Lord that teach us about faith, remind us of the Gospel, require us to examine ourselves, and proclaim the Gospel to ourselves and an unbelieving world.
In drawing near to the table, we flee from idolatry and remember together the work of Christ (1 Cor 10:14-22). As Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, we do this in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24).
In observing the sacraments, we share Christ and his presence through the Holy Spirit in a profound way. This involves a mystery that goes beyond our ability to comprehend it. But, we dare not in any way underestimate the importance.
How many sacraments are given to the local church?
Two sacraments are given to the local church: baptism and communion.
Who should participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or communion?
Baptized believers who are walking obediently with Christ.
When else should I not participate?
The Bible issues very stern warnings to those who would participate in communion in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.(1 Co 11:27-32).
If you are involved in ongoing sin that you have not repented of (and that means taking steps to no longer do it), then you should not participate. Better said, you should deal with the sin and come humbly to the table. Choose to sin, choose to suffer (Galatians 6:7-8, 1 Corinthians 10).
Is it a big deal to not be baptized?
Yes. It is huge. Baptism is the non-optional, New Testament means, by which faith in Christ is publically professed. Those refusing baptism should read Matthew 10:32-33.
"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.(Mt 10:32-33)."
Being baptized doesn’t save you, but those who are saved will be baptized. Of course, there are cases like the criminal on the Cross, that a believer is not able to be baptized (Luke 32:32-43). Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith . . . (2 Corinthains 13:15).