A Question on the Sacraments (WCF 27.3)

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carlgobelman

Puritan Board Freshman
WCF 27.3 says:

The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

As a reforming evangelical, I am trying to come to a better understanding of the WCF, and that includes a reformed understanding of the sacraments. In evangelical circles, the sacraments (we don't even usually use that word because of its linkage to Roman Catholicism) are seen as merely symbols of the thing symbolized, and not as WCF 27.2 says "a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified."

My question (and it may seem basic) is in the bold parts of the quote above. The confession says that the efficacy of the sacraments is based on the work of the Spirit. Can someone explain to me how rightly used and worthy receivers fits into this?

It seems to me that if the sacraments are not rightly used nor received worthily, then they are not efficacious. Is that a right understanding?

Thanks!
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
It seems to me that if the sacraments are not rightly used nor received worthily, then they are not efficacious. Is that a right understanding?

Thanks!

They are not efficacious for blessing, but for cursing. This is Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11:

1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ... 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.


1 Corinthians 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The sacraments are to be recieved by faith. They are to be "worthily" received, by those who are members in good standing, not under discipline, in the church. Faith is the only factor that will make the sacrament effectual to the good of the recipient.
 

NRB

Puritan Board Freshman
From the PCA "A Manual for New Members"(pg. 10):

"...visible signs which actually confer the blessing or grace of God when appropriated in faith. We do not believe that blessing is inherently present in the sacraments, but that they are rather the signs and seals of the blessings they represent. As the Holy Spirit does not dwell in the pages of a Book, and yet He warms our hearts by means of the message of that Book, so grace does not reside intrinsically in the sacraments, but comes to the believer who receives them in faith."

Now before my wife and I officially went before the Session of our church to join, we were invited to take Communion with our church because we were indeed evangelical christians of like faith. I think that's the PCA standard but I'm still new to it. :)


I hope this helps a bit. :)
 
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