5 comments on “Barcellos on the Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace

  1. If it is a means of grace as Reformed folk tend to say (much to the chagrin of non-Reformed Baptists!), like prayer, the Word, etc., and one of but two sacraments, then why is the “sacrament of tithing” a weekly occurrence and the Supper at best monthly, and usually quarterly?

    As a Presbyterian ministerial candidate said when asked in an ordination exam what he thought of congregations that partook of the Supper less frequently, “Those folks are malnourished.”

    If, however, means of grace is too loaded a term, what can we use to describe the Supper?

    I look forward to reading the RB RB on this!

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  2. Hugh, Dr. Barcellos encourages weekly observance of the Lord’s Table, and makes a convincing case for it. I think my church is heading in that direction as well, thank the Lord.

    I don’t think means of grace itself is a loaded term, but rather too many people jump to the conclusion that the sacraments are means of *saving* (rather than confirming) grace, or else that they work ex opere operato, but I think that comes simply from ignorance of terminology and church history.

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  3. I like the idea of fweekly commuion. Currently Bethany Lutheran (my church), has communion at 8:00 on the 1st and 3rd Sunday and at 11:00 on the 2nd and 4th; we offer it at both services on 5th Sundays. Our congregation took a vote whether to have it at every service; that was turned down by a slim majority. Communion is very important to Lutherans, and I am sorry to see the vote go that way. I agree with Patrick that communion confirms grace; it in itself is not a means of being “saved.”

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  4. Here’s a brief piece on frequency I wrote:

    If the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace through which the Holy Spirit brings to the souls of believers the benefits of Christ’s body and blood and, as a result, souls are nourished, then we ought to think seriously about its frequency.

    The frequency of the Supper is also a question worth pursuing in light of our study. The Supper is a sacred, covenantal meal. It is a means of grace. But how often should churches take the Supper? Some are re-thinking this issue in our day and are celebrating communion more frequently than in the past. Others, out of concern not to trivialize the sacred (a concern I share), are content with a monthly or less-frequent celebration. But prayer is sacred, and the reading and preaching of the word are sacred and no one (as far as I know) argues from that to less frequent public prayer and less frequent public reading and preaching of the word of God. These words by John Brown of Haddington make this point well.

    …I fear it will be no easy task to prove that our way of administering the Supper is agreeable to the Word of God…. That its infrequency tends to make it solemn I do not see, for if it so why not administer baptism but once a year also, as it, in its own nature, is as solemn as the Supper? Why not pray seldom, preach seldom, read God’s Word seldom, that they may become more solemn too?

    Horton suggests that a diminished interest in frequent communion is the product of an inordinate emphasis upon “the individual’s inner piety.” He says:

    The problem with the pietistic version of the Lord’s Supper, therefore, is that in its obsession with the individual’s inner piety, it loses much of the import of the feast as a sacred meal that actually binds us to Christ and to each other. Instead of viewing it first as God’s saving action toward us and then our fellowship with each other in Christ, we come to see it as just another opportunity to be threatened with the law. Instead of celebrating the foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb on Mount Zion, we are still trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is no wonder, then, that there is a diminished interest in frequent communion.

    Whether Horton is right or not, I do not think the trivializing of the sacred by a too frequent celebration of the Supper argument is valid.
    It is clear that the New Testament nowhere commands weekly communion, but neither does it command weekly singing or weekly prayer or weekly preaching, at least not explicitly. We believe in weekly corporate singing (and prayer and preaching) by the church because we believe it is necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture, and rightly so. Singing is an element of public worship and is a means of grace of a sort but only if and when we sing the truths of the word of God. Singing can be conducted more than once, and it ought to be done at least on the Lord’s Day when the church gathers. But we also believe that the Supper is an element of public worship and repeatable, unlike baptism (though we can be reminded of our baptism), and ought to be conducted on the Lord’s Day, at least ordinarily. But how many Lord’s Days per year? How many Lord’s Days per month? These are questions pastors and churches must wrestle with.
    The early church apparently celebrated the Supper weekly. The Didache 14:1 says, “On the Lord’s own day gather together and break bread and give thanks.” It appears that the Supper was so important to the early church that the early believers took it weekly. It could be that they made a theological connection between a weekly Lord’s Day and a weekly Lord’s Supper. Whatever the case, it is important to think through the issue of frequency with the fact that the Lord’s Supper, like the word of God and prayer, is a means of grace.

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  5. Pingback: Sacramental Theology from a Baptist Perspective - Christian Forums

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