*This is part 2 of 3. Read part 1 here*
From the Heidelberg Catechism, question 65:
“It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?”
Answer: “The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.”
Here is where we get the first piece of our understanding; the Holy Spirit confirms our faith through the sacraments.
What does that mean?
With the Super Bowl just a few days past, I think a football analogy is apt.
Often times in the course of a game, a questionable play will happen. The receive might sorta kinda catch the ball, while maybe touching his feet in bounds. It all happened so fast, that its unclear exactly what the call the should be. At first instinct the referee signals that he caught the ball in bounds. But, thanks to modern technology, the officials can pause the game, retreat to the sidelines and view the play from multiple camera angles in slow motion. After a few seconds, the referee emerges and makes an announcement something along the lines of:
“After further review, the ruling on the field is confirmed. The receiver did have control of the ball and both feet were in bounds”That is the effect of the ordinances on the believer.
In the confusion and pace of life, we can get confused about what actually happened. Uncertainty and doubt cloud our confidence like an early morning fog. Did Jesus really die for me? Did he really rise from the dead?
Again from the catechism, question 69. “How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?”
Answer. “In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it promised that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, that is, all my sins.”
The water of baptism reminds and confirms to our souls, that yes, surely we have been washed clean of our sins. Baptism is a vivid and physical picture of what took place in our spiritual lives.
When you were younger, your mom might have disciplined you with soap in your mouth when you said a “bad word.” The imagery of washing your mouth out with soap is powerful, and in a similar ways confirms to you the reality of the situation. You had something bad, dirty, wrong in your mouth (a word), and the soap cleaned it out. You understand on a physical and mental level now what really happened.
Similarly, as we partake of communion the story of Jesus is confirmed to us. As we gather around the table to partake, we together rehearse the story of Jesus death and burial. The broken body that we are called to remember, also serves as our redemption. We eat and drink of tacitly remember that yes, this really did happen.
Our bodies and minds are prone to wander, prone to forget, prone to doubt. The beauty of the sacraments is their ability to call us back. To reconfirm to our souls what actually happened, and what is actually true. When we dip under the water – or watch others do the same – we remember that Christ washed us clean. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are reminded that Christ really died.
There is a confirming grace surrounding and amidst The Table and The Water.
This certainly does not explain the depth and riches of the sacraments. What exactly is the nature of Christ body in the bread? In what way does Baptism bring a believer (or infant) into the family of God?
The nuances fill volumes of books. But at this point, and at the very least, know that Baptism and Communion remind and confirm to the believer the reality of Christ’s work. Yes, he really did die. And yes, I really have been washed clean.