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Essay: Reformation – restructuring of theology and church politics

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The Reformation is remembered as a restructuring of theology and church politics, but the Reformation had a significant role in revolutionizing worship. The Reformation was in conflict to the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church. Protestant reformers saw the family as an important component for nurturing religious principles and community. The Protestant Church focused more devotion to family than the Catholic Church. The contribution of a basic education of the sacraments played an important role in the life of the Church and the believer. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of baptism and the Lord’s Supper during the Protestant era, so that every Christian would be able to read the Bible for themselves.
Roman Catholic View of Baptism and Lord’s Supper
The Catholic Church held the belief that salvation is achieved though baptism and good deeds. It’s preserved by good deeds and observation of the sacraments. Baptism only existed when water was applied to restore a person to a place of innocence.
It was during the Council of Trent that tradition and Scripture were acknowledged, respected by the Catholic Church. The council instituted baptism, confirmation, communion, repentance, faith, and marriage. The council condemned individuals who denied these sacraments for salvation. ‘If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification; – though all [the sacraments] are not indeed necessary for every individual: let him be anathema.’ The Catholic Church believed that when an infant is baptized they cannot lose their salvation. ‘Finally, this same holy Synod teaches, that little children, who have not attained to the use of reason, are not by any necessity obliged to the sacramental communion of the Eucharist: forasmuch as, having been regenerated by the laver of baptism, and being incorporated with Christ, they cannot, at that age, lose the grace which they have already acquired of being the sons of God.’ The Catholic Church proclaimed that justification started with baptism and sustained by the sacrament of repentance. Sin was taken away by the water of baptism while actual sin by repentance. This is confusing because on one hand justification is complete in salvation and on the other it is not.
The Roman Catholic Church’s stance of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Eucharist) applies the doctrine of transubstantiation. ‘And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which he offered under the species of bread to be truly his own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.’ They held this view because the Lord’s Supper is connected to Christology. ‘If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated: let him be anathema.’
Lutheran View of Baptism and Lord’s Supper
Nevertheless, Luther emphasizes that a person who is baptized, but does not have faith is unregenerate. ‘Even if a person is baptized but is without faith, he is lost.’ Luther depicts baptism as ‘Christ put salvation into baptism. Therefore it is impossible that this should be simple water when through it salvation, forgiveness of sins, and redemption from death and the devil is given.’ Luther’s teaching on baptism came from his understanding of its value. Baptism was completed by God’s promise. Luther asserts that the value of baptism lasts a lifetime. ‘That’s why we declare that the water amounts to nothing, but baptism does. Therefore baptism is water with the Word of God, and this is the essence and whole substance of baptism.’ Luther continues to argue that it is best to administer baptism to infants. ‘Therefore it is false to say that infants do not believe and therefore should not be baptized.’ Baptism is an earthly means by which God has chosen to communicate salvation. Based upon this simple truth Luther stressed the importance of infant baptism. ‘The children must necessarily be baptized, and their baptism true, because God grants grace to children who are baptized immediately after their birth, namely, and excelling grace.’
Luther evaluates the teaching on the Lord’s Supper and he observes the error of the Catholic Church because it instructs that individuals offer Christ again to God and this offering pleases God. Luther proclaims that the Lord’s Supper is something that God does for us and the sacrament is a gift of Christ himself. ‘But the minister binds God’s Word to the bread and the Word is bound to the bread and likewise to the wine, for it is said, ‘The Word comes to the element, and it becomes a sacrament.” This is God’s promise that is not built upon transubstantiation, but the body of Christ is received with the bread, which builds individuals and commits them to Christ.
Reformed View of Baptism and Lord’s Supper
Calvin’s doctrine of baptism emphasizes that an individual’s faith is the only factor to determine forgiveness of sin. Unlike Luther, Calvin refused to give a person’s baptism value if they did not deserve it. ‘Indeed, it is said, first by Paul himself, when he shows that God regards not the external ablution by which we are initiated into religion, unless the mind is purified inwardly, and maintains its purity to the end; and secondly, by Peter, when he declares that the reality of baptism consists not in external ablution, but in the testimony of a good conscience.’ Calvin regarded baptism as a gift that must be received in faith. Calvin’s point of baptism is to receive the promise of salvation and avoid the issue of whether an infant is baptized. ‘Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed of sin, and, therefore, cannot be odious and abominable to God.’ Calvin’s view agrees with the biblical language used to define baptism. ‘And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 2:38 ESV) Calvin exchanged the Catholic Church’s sacrament of repentance with the nostalgia on baptism for a guarantee of forgiveness.
Calvin viewed the Lord’s Supper as a banquet, in which, individuals feed on Christ. ‘For baptism testifies that we are washed and purified; The Supper of the Eucharist that we are redeemed. Ablution if figured by water, satisfaction by blood. Both are found in Christ.” This supports Calvin’s view that Christ is not physically present in the Lord’s Supper.
Radical Reformation View of Baptism and Lord’s Supper
Radical Reformers believed that Christians should receive and endure in order to obtain baptism, then they will be acknowledged as believers who have entered into the faith. ‘Baptism must follow after the other two parts. It comes when the person is ready to accept and suffer all that the Father through Christ had in store for him. He must have set his heart upon the Lord and forsake the world.’ They rejected infant baptism and viewed the Church separate from the State. ‘But infant baptism is not only unnecessary, it is the greatest hindrance of truth.’ Their posture on a believers baptism caused the Radical Reformers to be adversaries of the church and opponents of the State.
The Radical Reformers viewed the Lord’s Supper as an observance, which the wine and the bread were just symbols of the blood and the body of Christ. Therefore, Christ was not present in the Lord’s Supper. ‘The Lord’s Supper, which is done in memory of Christ’s suffering and death which is a spiritual sign of communion in his body and blood.’ This affirms that the Radical Reformers adopted a spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Supper in which Christ feed the soul spiritually but not physically.
Wesleyan View of Baptism and Lord’s Supper
John Wesley defined baptism as a ‘sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration by his Spirit.’ Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.’ He reached this conclusion by a Biblical tradition which demonstrates that water is a natural process for cleansing. ‘And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.’ (Mark 7:4 ESV) Wesley points is that while the pot and cup might be immersed in water to be cleaned, it is contradictory to think that dining couches are cleansed in the same fashion. Wesley was not an advocate of infant baptism. ‘Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding.’ He also states that nothing in the Bible prohibits infants to be baptized. ‘And after she was baptized, and her household as well.’ (Acts 16:15a ESV) Baptism is a rite of adoption. We are God’s children. For as many that have been baptized have put on Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
Wesley emphasized that the Lord’s Supper should partake as an act of seeking communion with God. ‘The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ’? (1 Cor. 10:16) Is not the eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup, the outward, visible means, whereby God conveys into our souls all that spiritual grace, that righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which were purchased by the body of Christ once broken and the blood of Christ once shed for us’?
The celebration of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism is the source of a Christian life. The Sacraments are central to the worship life of a community of believers. The differences are rooted in how an individual understands Christ. It important that God’s Word offers direction in the ordering of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Believers should always consider the Bible regardless of stance and theological position individuals pursue.

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