Practicing the Ordinances in a Pandemic

Church buildings are scrambling to determine find out how to love and look after folks nicely within the face of an unprecedented problem. Whereas we will be taught from some historic examples, expertise presents us new alternatives to look after and shepherd folks by way of this disaster.

It’s important for pastors to do what they’ll to encourage and nourish folks, even once we can’t collect bodily. This has raised the query of how greatest to gatherwhether to livestream providers, present a liturgy information to be practiced at dwelling, or shut down entirelyalong with acceptable questions in regards to the ordinances of baptism and the Lords Supper. Challenges and struggling present us with wealthy soil to work out deeper theological concerns, and we ought not waste that chance.

The church by no means shuts down, even when our potential to assemble bodily has been suspended.


In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructions, Go subsequently and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them within the title of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In my understanding baptism is the one-time proclamation of Gods covenant promise that has come to fruition in someone’s life by Gods grace alone, by way of religion alone, in Christ alone.

It’s important for pastors to do what they’ll to proceed to encourage and nourish folks, even once we can’t collect bodily.

Typically, it’s greatest to baptize with the celebration and witnesses of the common church, manifested in a selected native church. Nonetheless, there’s biblical precedent for flexibility, relying on circumstances. We see that with Philips baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38, although we have to be cautious to not learn and interpret Acts as essentially normative for church observe at present. There’s additionally one thing to be famous in Pauls reluctance to tie anyones baptism to his ministry (1 Cor. 1:1017), emphasizing the gospel quite than the baptismal officiant.

We all know that Christians are referred to as to make disciples and take part within the baptism of latest followers of Christ. Due to the momentary nature of the current disaster, we might encourage folks to attend to be baptized, however there’s grace on this view. If somebody is going through dying or one other comparable urgency, we will observe Philips instance.

Lords Supper

Whereas baptism is a one-time occasion, the Lords Supper is an ongoing celebration within the church. Our church celebrates the Lords Supper weekly. That makes the dialogue round this ordinance extra difficult.

For our church, it was already urgent over the previous two Sundays as we debated whether or not or to not lengthen our church’s observe. We selected to proceed to look at the Lords Supper by way of this unprecedented time. Listed below are among the elements that led to our determination.

1. This isn’t the norm.

The dialogue of whether or not to rejoice the Lords Supper because the scattered church as a normative observe isnt the identical as whether or not momentary modifications will be made to accommodate irregular circumstances. Its true that nothing can match the church gathered bodily collectively in worship.

There’s biblical precedent for flexibility, relying on circumstances. We see that clearly with Philips baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38.

Nonetheless, offering an everyday rhythm for a extremely irregular time may help our church give attention to Christ. It appears harmful and unhelpful to put in writing definitively on what should be completed in instances which can be so unsettled and momentary.

2. This isn’t ideally suited.

Our streamed gatherings are however shadows of our in-person worship gatherings. And its additionally true that our regular patterns of gathering collectively are shadows of whats to return in eternity. Know-how presents methods for us to be current with one another, even whereas bodily distanced. Our group teams proceed to share meals, opening the Bible collectively, and praying for each other. Whereas a shadow of being in the identical room, its nonetheless encouraging to our hearts to assemble to the extent that had been in a position.

In the identical manner that its not ideally suited to manage the Lords Supper individually for the sick and shut-in, it’s higher than depriving a struggling saint of the religious nourishment that comes by way of the ordinance, so it might be higher to observe a shadow of our gathering whereas had been pressured to be scattered.

3. We’re not sacerdotal.

The weather themselves acquire no particular energy from my arms as a result of Im a pastor. In gentle of this momentary problem, whereas had been unable to be collectively bodily, we proceed to consider within the priesthood of all believers and the significance of the encouragement Christians obtain by way of the Lords Supper. As John Calvin explains in The Institutes:

What we’ve got to this point mentioned of the Sacrament abundantly reveals that . . . it was ordained to be often used amongst all Christians so that they may often return in reminiscence to Christs Ardour, by such remembrance to maintain and strengthen their religion, and urge themselves to sing thanksgiving to God and to proclaim his goodness . . . . [T]he Lords Desk ought to have been unfold not less than as soon as every week for the meeting of Christians, and the guarantees declared in it ought to feed us spiritually. . . . All, like hungry males, ought to flock to such a bounteous repast.

4. We’re spiritually current collectively.

Whereas it’s true that 1 Corinthians 11 emphasizes the Lords Supper when you find yourself gathered collectively, it’s additionally true that Paul considers himself to be spiritually current with the Corinthians as they observe church self-discipline (1 Cor. 5:3).

Additional, Colossians 2:6 displays the pastor’s coronary heart for a church with whom he cant collect in particular person, For although I’m absent in physique, but I’m with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your religion in Christ. It’s highly effective and shifting to know that our native church is gathered (even when nearly) to worship collectively in an unsure time.

As we introduce the Lords Supper, we proceed to emphasise the communion of the saints in Gods presence, trusting that Gods presence isnt certain to any facility. The streamed providers are for our church, below the authority of our pastors and elders, even when others tune in alongside the way in which.

5. There’s biblical precedent for Sabbath flexibility.

Jesus was confronted repeatedly for not falling into the expectations of non secular leaders on the sabbath. He continued to heal folks (Luke 13:1017) and defy norms (Matt. 12:18), citing examples within the regulation and in Davids lifetime of extenuating circumstances that result in a flexibility of Sabbath norms. Had been in an extenuating circumstance. If a church chooses to not observe the Lords Supper, they’ll look forward to celebrating it once more when persons are capable of bodily collect.

It’s highly effective and shifting to know that our native church is gathered (even when nearly) to worship collectively in an unsure time.

By the identical token, if a church extends the observe of the Lords Supper, they’ll anticipate how candy it is going to be to rejoice when gathered bodily once more.

As pastors and elders discern what’s bestwithin the bounds of Scripturefor their church there’s a measure of flexibility.

6. There’s biblical precedent for the Lords Supper whereas scattered.

Acts 2:4247 reveals the facility of the witness of the church as a group, and that the witness of the church isnt restricted to single occasions as assemblies. As folks gathered collectively each within the temple courts and breaking bread of their houses, their hearts had been nourished and inspired. They worshiped God collectively, and the Lord added to their quantity daily those that had been being saved.

Any time Christians share a meal collectively, they replicate Christ because the one who has set the desk for his or her friendship and unity, which shadows our unity within the Lords Supper. We feast in anticipation of the last word marriage ceremony feast of the Lamb, and lift a glass to our risen King and his kingdom.

The identical will be utilized for the momentary scenario as our church buildings proceed to assemble collectively, with household, small teams, or Zoom conferences. We encourage our members to organize components earlier than our providers start as greatest they’ll, and put together to take part all through the service as greatest they’ll.

Christ Nonetheless Nourishes, Even in Unsure Occasions

All of those arguments can apply to the remainder of a Sunday liturgy: name to worship, confession and assurance, singing collectively, listening to Gods Phrase learn, praying collectively, receiving the proclamation of Gods Phrase by way of preaching, the decision to worship by way of giving, and sending out by way of a benediction.

In fact it’s higher to be collectively bodily. Lord keen, we might be. For now, we do our greatest to proceed to supply for folks what solely Jesus’s church can present. Even when it’s a shadow of our regular rhythms and gatherings, it’s a shadow that factors us to the last word actuality and hope we cling to in instances of struggling and uncertainty. Baptism and the Lords Supper, when celebrated in real religion, nonetheless verify and nourish the believer in Christeven if it’s celebrated on-line.

Wherever you land on this dialogue, lets lengthen charity to others. Pastors and church buildings should work onerous to develop our theology and ecclesiology within the face of latest challenges. We now have the chance to level folks to the one true supply of hope within the face of uncertainty and struggling. In season and out of season, proclaim the Phrase of God and the excellencies of the one who has saved us from darkness to gentle.


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