Sermon Notes and Recordings

Harmony of the Inward and Outward

The subject of the message is the Ordinances of the church.What are Ordinances anyway? What do they mean to me as a believer today?


Preamble

Let us begin this morning by telling you a very interesting story. There was a man who was born to poor parents in a very small town in North Africa - way back in 354 AD. His mother was a very dedicated Christian, while his father was a pagan, who lived a morally loose life. However, both father and mother – with great personal sacrifice – sought the best education for their gifted and brilliant son. He was given entrance into the sophisticated University of Carthage. Before long he began to join in the immoral practices of his fellow students and soon abandoned the faith of his sorrowing mother. She, nevertheless, continued to pray for her son who went from bad to worse and, by his own account, went into deep and slimy morals while still only 18 years of age.


Passing out brilliantly from the university he took up the profession of teaching young lawyers the art of debating. Yet deep down in his heart he found he was not happy and he began to seek for truth and purpose through the study of philosophy. In his search for meaning in life he joined some pagan cults – but still did not find fulfillment. Instead he found that the teachers of these heretical sects held only some fragments of truth, and did not have real answers to his deep questions of life. In his anguish and misery he stumbled back to the Scriptures of Christianity. But the light of the gospel of Christ still eluded him. He wondered whether for too long he had turned his back on God and whether God had now turned His back on him.


In the meantime, his deeply spiritual mother was incessantly bringing him before God in prayer. Ultimately, in the garden of a friend, he was weeping and crying out to God – asking Him to rid him of the uncleanness of his filthy life. His words were: “Why is there not in this hour an end to my uncleanness?” At that moment he heard the high-pitched voice of a child that seemed to come from a neighboring house, crying out, “Take up and read, take up and read.” It was repeated over and over again. A copy of the Bible which he had been reading was lying on a garden bench near at hand. So taking this as a direct command from God to him, he opened the Scriptures and read the first passage on which his eyes fell. It was Romans 13:13-14 – “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”


The young man was instantly converted. He said: “A light, as it were, of serenity infused my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” Many of you by now would know whom we are talking about. It is none other than the well known theologian, Augustine. The year was 387 AD and Augustine was 33 years of age. His prayerful mother, Monica, went to be with the Lord that same year, having joyously seen her three children and her husband turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a woman to be admired and commended for her godliness. The Reformers considered Augustine’s writings next only to the Scriptures. The church of the Middle Ages gave him the rare title, “Doctor of the Church”.


Introduction

The Ordinances of the church is the subject of our sermon this morning. If this is so, why did we begin by giving you the illustration of the conversion experience of Augustine? The explanation will come to light in a little while. God has given believers who have been saved by grace alone, several ‘means of grace’ found in the Bible by which we can grow in grace. Saving grace is only the beginning in the life of a believer. Thereafter a process must begin where a Christian must grow in that grace. A man named George Verwer has said “A crisis that is not followed by a process becomes an abscess.” An abscess is a clean wound that has got infected and full of pus because of careless neglect. Let your life not be an abscess! Prayer is one such ‘means of grace’ that God has given us beside several others to enable us to grow in grace. We saw this in the life of Monica. (mother of Augustine). Now two of those means of grace have been set aside as being very special and they are what we call the Ordinances of the church.


1. Let us begin by asking two questions that might be in your minds. First: why are they called ordinances? Ordinances are commands given directly by God to His people. Some churches use the word Sacrament instead of the word Ordinance. But the word sacrament does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures – whereas the word ordinance appears several times in the Bible. For that reason the churches that have descended from the Reformation generally refer to them as ordinances. However, we will not have a big fight with anyone who wants to use the word sacrament. It originates from a Latin word used originally by the Roman Catholic church which had a military significance of a soldier’s pledge to his commanding officer.


The second question is: why have these two means of grace been set aside as being very special above all the others? The significance is that these two ‘means of grace’ were specifically and personally instituted by our Lord Himself while He was on this earth - to be administered by the church as a whole - regularly and continuously for all time. They were commanded by Him and therefore it is good and proper to refer to them as Ordinances of the church.


The first ordinance is Believers’ Baptism, which stems from our Lord’s command to the church to baptize all those who have put their trust in Him and been born again of the Holy Spirit. The second one is The Lord’s Supper, also called the Holy Communion or the Breaking of Bread. These two ordinances are congregational and not individualistic. For instance, a believer cannot invite an elder to come to his home and baptize him in his bath tub or his swimming pool for that matter.


Of course this could happen in very, very, very rare occasions – perhaps one in a million cases. Such a rare case is seen in the Scriptures, when Philip baptized the Ethiopian. In fact, it took place before the church was properly organized and established. It took place when the believers were being persecuted at Jerusalem and were on the run – fleeing for their lives. The incident is recorded in Acts – chapter 8. It says in that chapter (verse 4) “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” So that was indeed a very rare occasion. This same principle applies to the Holy Communion. It is congregational and not individualistic.


This is the uniqueness of these two means of grace compared to all the rest.


2. Secondly, let us look at another facet in our understanding of these two ordinances. We have already said that these two means of grace were instituted by our Lord Himself when He walked this earth. But now – stop for a moment – and think… how would the believers, the leaders, the church through the ages have known and realized this? There was no other way except through the Scriptures. In fact, the Word of God is the central and most important means of grace that God has given to the church. Theologian Louis Berkhof has said, “It should be borne in mind that while the Word can exist and is also complete without the ordinances, the ordinances are never complete without the Word.”


It is for that reason that we related the incident of Augustine’s conversion. The little child’s voice he heard said ‘take up and read, take up and read’. Augustine, in his own words, says, “I got up, interpreting it to be none other than a command from God to open the Book and read the first passage I came to.” Many of the men and women God raised up and significantly used throughout the history of the church were through their reading or hearing God speak to them from His Word. So it is the Scriptures, which is the central means of grace, from which the ordinances spring and are made known and understandable to us. Our Lord in His high-priestly prayer to the Father for His disciples, (John 17:17), said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”


3. Thirdly, let us explain what is accomplished through the practice of the ordinances. Both Believers’ Baptism and the Holy Communion, is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Let us look at them separately.


Believers’ Baptism - When a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit – that means born-again of the Spirit – he or she, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and other related passages - becomes a new creation within or inwardly. Everything takes on newness within the person’s heart and mind. That is what is called an inward spiritual grace. It is an inward baptism, which is accomplished by none other than God the Holy Spirit. It is not accomplished by the person’s will or determination. God is the author of the new life that has begun in the life of this individual – as we saw in the life of Augustine.


Thereafter, when the believer receives water baptism in the presence of the members of the church and also in the presence of others who are not believers, the person receives an outward and visible sign that tells the church and the world that he or she is a new creation of God. It is the outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace.


Holy Communion – Remember this can also be called the Lord’s Supper or the Breaking of Bread. The Lord’s Supper as in the case of Baptism was instituted by Christ as a means of grace, and as such was meant only for believers or disciples of our Lord. The inward significance of the Lord’s Supper is to be seen throughout the Scriptures, but is brought out clearly through the words of our Lord found in John 6, in the first half of verse 51 – “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Also in verse 56, He says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Therefore through intimate prayer coupled with the Word of God, a believer should be constantly feeding on Christ. This is the inward and spiritual grace that the believer should be experiencing incessantly. The second half of verse 51 says “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Unless our Lord had given His flesh to be broken and His blood to be shed on the cross, it would not have been possible for us to feed inwardly on Him.


Thereafter, when we come to the Lord’s Table with all the other believers, we obey our Lord’s command where He said, “Do this in remembrance of me” . We remember afresh, each time we meet, the sacrifice he made for us on the cruel cross and our faith is refreshed and renewed by that memory. But that is not all; we come also to celebrate at the Holy Communion, the daily communion of feeding on Him constantly in our everyday life. The Holy Communion, then, is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace we experience incessantly in our daily lives.


4. We come now to our fourth and final point. We have been speaking of the outward signs of an inward grace. Let us extend that further and beyond the ordinances into our everyday living. That is what is told us on every page of the Scriptures. That is what we have given in the title of our message this morning. We have titled it ‘Harmony of the Inward and the Outward’.


There needs to be in every believer’s life outward signs of the reality of the inward grace we have experienced. Constantly the apostle Paul reiterates and underlines this necessity. Let us turn to our text that was read to you a little earlier – Romans 6:12-14. We are not going to exposit this passage but to look at some of the truths that God is giving us through the apostle.


Verse 12 – (Read the verse out.) We are commanded – it is not an option – we are commanded to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies. In other words it must be our Lord Jesus who reigns in every part of our existence. Are we living in obedience to Him or are we obeying our own selfish, self-centered desires? In every circumstance of life – whom are you obeying – yourself or Christ? Is there a harmony between the inward experience of grace in your life and the outward demonstration in your practical day-to-day living?


Verse 13 – (Read) Once again we are commanded to be instruments of righteousness in God’s hand – rather than being instruments of wickedness to our own ego-centered motives and ambitions that constantly crowd in on our thoughts and imaginations. As we speak and interact with people do they catch a glimpse of the risen Christ interacting with them through our speech and the way we conduct our lives? Is there harmony between the inward grace accomplished by God in our lives and our conduct with people. Are you a channel of righteousness?


Verse 14 – (Read) Again a command – sin shall not be your master. Sin shall not dominate you. Sin shall not overcome you. As God tells us in the eighth chapter of this epistle, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” How? Through the inward spiritual grace of regeneration – of having been made new by God the Holy Spirit. You might ask but how will that newness have its effect on me constantly? It is by constantly feeding on Him in intimate prayer and feeding on Him through the Word of God. The reason sin cannot and must not be your master is because you are now under grace. If we have been saved by the grace of God alone, then everything we have, we possess and everything we are must be yielded and surrendered to Him.


We must truly be instruments of righteousness possessed by Christ. There must be true harmony of the inward and the outward. Amen


This was recorded on 04th of March, 2012

Preached by Pastor Brian D Blacker in English and Translated by Arulchelvan in Tamil

Download / Listen - in MP3 format

Right click and save on the audio or pdf likns for you to keep then in your computer.