Chapter 28, Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Please note: The following are only rough notes for this chapter, and are not a complete commentary. But I am posting them in the event they prove useful until the commentary for this chapter is complete.

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  1. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. ( Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26 )

This chapter of the 1689 Confession is in the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession.

It appears the five sections in the Westminster Confession for this chapter have been summarized down to these two sections in the 1689 Confession.

Waldron points out that it is likely that this chapter is so short, because the next two chapters cover the material: Chapter 28: Of Baptism, and Chapter 29, Of the Lord’s Supper.

These are very brief and fairly straight forward.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution,

  • Ordinances: “Authoritative direction how to proceed or act;” Oxford English Dictionary

A positive ordinance or law is something that is in addition to the law of nature.  It is something not demanded by nature.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not a part of the law of nature.  They did not exist in the Old Testament, but came into existence with the New Covenant.  David was not obligated to be baptized.  Abraham was not required to take the Lord’s Supper.  If they had been part of the law of nature, they would have always existed.  But they did not always exist.  Thus they are called positive ordinances.

  • All laws of God are either positive, natural, or a combination of the two. The Confession speaks of natural laws (1:6, 19:1, 2), positive laws (28:1) and laws of God which are a combination of natural law and positive law (22:7).[1] Samuel Waldron
  • Careful observation of and obedience to Christ’s ‘positive and sovereign institutions’ manifest a peculiar love for and loyalty to the will of Christ the king. Despising his ordinances argues a lack of respect for Christ’s kingly office. Keeping the laws of nature may merely flow from an enlightened conscience. Properly observing the ordinance of Christ exhibits a love for Christ’s will just because it is Christ’s will.”[2]   Samuel Waldron

Jesus is the only one who has the authority issue a new Law for the Church to follow.

These two ordinances are to continue to be observed until the end of the world; no man has the authority to change them. This reminds us that the regulative principle is to be accounted for in this matter.

  • For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Cor 11:26 (ESV)
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20 (ESV)

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  1. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. ( Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1 )

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should only be done by those:

  • 1. Qualified
  • 2. Called

Though mainly derived from the Westminster Confession (paragraph 4), paragraph 2 of the 1689 Confession present a different view from both the First London Confession of 1646 and the Westminster Confession.

  • The Westminster Confession takes a position that only an ordained minister may dispense the sacraments. So also does the Savoy Declaration.
  • The First London Baptist Confession takes the position that all disciples may administer them.

 

The statement of the 1689 Confession is less specific than either of these positions. Yet the Confession is restrictive in a general sense, saying that ‘only those who are qualified and thereunto called according to the commission of Christ’ ought to administer the ordinances.

  • Why did the writers state the matter this way? Clearly, they wished to steer a middle course between the clericalism of the Presbyterians and the congregationalism of the early Baptists.[3] Samuel Waldron

 

These two ordinances are part of the Great Commission.

  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,   Matt 28:19 (ESV)
  • This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.   1 Cor 4:1 (ESV)

 

“The elders may delegate the actual performance of the ordinances to a faithful brother, but they cannot delegate their responsibility.   They remain the stewards of God and as such are the ones responsible for their stewardship (note chapter 26:11).  If a local church has no elders, the safe and wise course would be to seek the oversight of other pastors and another church and under their direction to celebrate baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  John Owen remarks that the first duty of a church without elders is to seek a pastor or pastors, not to seek the administration of the ordinances.[4]  Samuel Waldron

We now turn to the two ordinances, in detail, in the following chapters.

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[1] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England), pg. 339.

[2] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England), pg. 339-340.

[3]Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press: Darlington, England), pg. 340-341.

[4] Ibid, pg. 343

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