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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Nature of Sacraments.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant arc represented, sealed, and applied to believers.


Q. 1. How many sorts of sacraments are found in scripture ?
A. Of sacraments there .are two sorts, some extraordinary and transient, as the fiery pillar, manna, and water out of the rock; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. 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; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; (for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ.) And some ordinary and standing, as circumcision and the passover, before Christ; and baptism and the Lordís supper, since Christís death.

Q. 2. How many things are to be considered in every sacrament?
A. In every sacrament five things must be considered; (1.) The author. (2.) The parts. (3.) The union of those parts. (4.) The subjects. (5.) The ends and uses of it.

Q. 3. Who is the author of the sacraments?
A. The Lord Jesus Christ as King of the church, by whose sole authority baptism was instituted; Matthew 28:19-20. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you, &c. And the Lordís supper; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: This do in remembrance of me.

Q. 4. Are the old sacraments yet in being and in use in the church?
A. No, they are passed away, and the new come in their room. Baptism takes place of circumcision; Colossians 2:11-12. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, &c. And the Lordís supper of the passover; 1 Corinthians 5:7. Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened, for even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.

Q. 5. Of what parts doth every sacrament consist?
A. Every sacrament consists of two parts, one external and earthly; another internal and heavenly, or spiritual. Bread, wine, and water, are the external, Christís blood and Spirit the internal parts; Romans 6:3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized in to his death? 1 Corinthians 11:25. This cup is the New Testament in my blood, &c.

Q. 6. Wherein consists the sacramental union of those parts?
A. It consists, by virtue of Christís. institution, in three things; (1.) In apt signification. (2.) Firm obsignation. And, (3.) Real exhibition of the blessings signified and sealed.

Q. 7. What are the blessings signified by water in baptism?
A. It signifies our implantation into Christ, and communion with him in his death and resurrection; Romans 6:4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life. And our solemn admission into the visible church; Galatians 3:26-29. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; For ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christís then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Q. 8. What are the blessings signified by bread and wine?
A. They signify Christís body and blood, broken and poured out for us, with all the blessings of remission, peace, and salvation purchased by his blood, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Q. 9. Do the sacraments seal, as well as signify these things?
A. Yes, they do; Romans 4:11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, &c. Their use is to confirm Godís covenant with believers.

Q. 10. Who are the proper subjects of the sacraments?
A. Believers and their seed are the subjects of baptism, but adult Christians only of the Lordís supper; Acts 2:38-39. Repent, and be baptized every one of you; for the promise is unto you, and to your children, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

Q. 11. What is the main use and end of sacraments?
A. It is to ratify and confirm Godís covenant with believers; Romans 4:11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised, &c. 1 Corinthians 11:26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.

Q. 12. What is the first instruction from hence?
A. That the abuse of such holy and solemn mysteries is a sin of dreadful aggravation, and such as God will punish; 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.

Q. 13. What is the second instruction?
A. Hence we learn the tender care and love of Christ over the church, in instituting such useful and comfortable ordinances for us.

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