Pt. 1 of 2
Q92: What is a sacrament?
A92: A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” – The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 92
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” (1 Cor. 11:23)
During His earthly ministry The Lord Jesus Christ, instituted two Sacraments to be perpetually observed in the worship of the church until his return. These sacraments are Baptism (Matthew 28:19) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23). Each of these sacraments plays a vital role in the life and worship of the church.
Sacraments have two parts, the outward signs which we can see and touch, which are administered in our worship according to Christ’s instructions, and an inward spiritual grace which they point to. Like the preaching and the reading of the Word and prayer, the Sacraments are a means by which grace is conferred to those who receive them worthily. The grace thus received is not conveyed by any power in the elements themselves (the physical water, bread, and wine), but is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer who receives them in faith. The Sacraments are not merely memorials of the completed work of Christ, but rather a precious and powerful gift that God has given to strengthen and increase the faith of believers.
Baptism is the sign by which the person being baptized is solemnly admitted into the visible church. In that sense Baptism fulfills the role under the New Covenant that circumcision fulfilled under the Old, and consequently we see the Apostle Paul comparing baptism to circumcision in Colossians 2:11.
In our Baptism we have a visible sign that tells all the world that we have been admitted into the Covenant community. It is also a visible, or outward sign and seal of the inward spiritual changes that occur in believers; their union with Christ, their regeneration, their remission of sins, and their being given up to God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life.
We are to Baptize not only adult believers on their profession of faith, but also the children of believers in keeping with the promises of God regarding their salvation (Acts 2:38-39) and the practice of the Apostolic church. While Baptism is a means of grace, the power of Baptism is not necessarily tied to the moment in which it is administered, but rather the Holy Spirit will confer that grace at the time appointed by God. This means that while the children of believers thus Baptized may not be regenerate at the moment they are baptized, the grace that was exhibited in their baptism will certainly be conferred by the Holy Spirit when they come to faith.