A Sermon on the Sacraments of the Church
Is communion a means of receiving grace? In this sermon on sacraments, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins a series on the sacraments and their place in the lives of believers. This topic provokes many different views but as Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, keeping these practices is one of the ways that believers receive God’s grace. Protestants have held that there are two kinds of sacraments: communion and baptism, and that these two sacraments are outward spiritual signs of inward spiritual grace given by God. However, this is different from the Catholic view, which holds that God’s grace is in the actual water of baptism, and the food and drink of communion. This difference brings up an interesting question: what is the relationship between the sacrament and the grace that is given through it? In this sermon, Dr. Lloyd-Jones presents his argument for the Protestant view holding that the sacraments serve to signify the seal of the Holy Spirit and convey Christ’s love to the recipient. Dr. Lloyd-Jones likens this to what an engagement ring accomplishes. Though the ring itself is not the love of the man for the woman, it is a token, a symbol and new expression of that love. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones guides the listener through this sometimes challenging subject.
The sermon begins by providing context on how the topic of the sacraments came to be discussed. The preacher walks through how the previous sermons built up to this topic.
The preacher acknowledges that the term "sacrament" is not found in scripture and was introduced later, though its origins are discussed.
Two definitions of "sacrament" are provided, one from the 39 Articles of the Church of England and one from the Westminster Confession. They emphasize that sacraments were instituted by Christ, signify and seal grace, and strengthen faith.
Different views on the relationship between the outward signs of the sacraments and the inward grace are discussed. The Catholic view is that grace is contained within the elements. The Zwinglian view is that the sacraments are merely symbols. The traditional Protestant view is that the sacraments not only signify grace but also seal it.
The preacher explains that the sacraments provide visual representations to help our understanding, as we are often helped by visual aids. They call to mind spiritual truths.
The preacher discusses the relationship between the outward signs and the inward grace in more detail. The sacraments do not add to the grace we have already received through faith but confirm and seal it, like a ring confirms and seals a promise of marriage. They exhibit and convey grace to us.
The preacher emphasizes that the sacraments were instituted by Christ and are a means of grace, but they are not absolutely essential to receiving grace. Grace comes primarily through the Word, and faith is required for the sacraments to have meaning.
The preacher notes that Catholics recognize seven sacraments but Protestants traditionally recognize only two - baptism and the Lord's Supper - as they were the only ones instituted by Christ.
The preacher expresses thanksgiving to God for providing the sacraments as aids to our faith in His condescension and kindness. They have also ensured the Gospel continues to be proclaimed even when preachers fail in their duty.
Great Biblical Doctrines
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.