And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ – Matthew 13.52
We don’t often like old things as a general culture, some people love retro, myself being one of them, but often we don’t value what is old. I’m not saying we should value empty forms, but if we learn the why, the how might be made infinitely more beautiful. As students taking upon ourselves a yoke, we should bring out from the law, what is new, and what is old.
The meaningful alternative I have found to a simple prayer that makes anyone and everyone who says a prayer and believes in something about Jesus a Christian (something new, and a far cry from a treasure), I’ve found this alternative set out by ancient faith: Baptism, and Confirmation(a true treasure, ancient, and full of life).
In ancient Christianity, even among the first converts, joining the Church was a process, and in the first generation it was still seen as taking upon yourself to follow the way of Jesus, which included worship of this Jesus because of his status as God’s rightful king. For Judaism, there’s no ultimate separation of faith and politics, your faith was your politics. And the Church was an alternative society to the bastard empire, the parody known as Imperial Rome. I think the Church that has most faithfully kept the initiation process in this Spirit of following a teaching is the Church where no simple microwave ready prayer is able to popcorn into a life of virtue. We need to retain the idea of taking on the teachings of a master, and discovering this master’s treasures. Jesus compared the kingdom to a treasure in a field and a pearl of great value. When these are the kingdom, what happens is, it’s no easy task to just say something and be “in,” it’s a process. It involves giving up everything that once claimed value for something of infinitely greater value. We need to find the treasure, and I think I have a solution.
The sacraments are these ancient treasures, they are old and new simultaneously, they are full of life, and power. They are not empty symbols they are actualities fulfilled by the power of the Messiah’s resurrection. “This is my body,” is a claim not just about bread and wine, but about the power of the resurrection and ascension. Baptism was a visible break with the world, being cleansed of her systems, through death. We enter into the death of the messiah and take upon ourselves His struggle against the powers.
Sacraments make sense because they’re physical manifestations of holiness. They show us that God’s plan for creation is still creation and not some other thing. Rejecting the sacraments is unfortunately widespread and thus has led Christianity in America especially to be something other than the Christian faith. People speculate about heaven, give in to vain idolatries, and desire secret power. The first thing to do to undermine Christianity is remove physical redemption from its eschatological hope, and thus gnosticism’s hatred of created reality and all sorts of other heresies are free to run rampant.
We believe that His resurrection means our resurrection, and if that’s the case, physical embodied holiness is an advance sign of what we hold fast to.
A. Definition of a sacrament: The sacraments of the Christian faith are not mere signs; they do not merely signify Divine grace, but in fulfilling the law, they are actual physical manifestations of Divine Grace.
Why This is Important:
a. We believe that the world was created good, and that this goodness shall be fully restored. Bodies and physicality are not evil, they are merely being corrupted by the powers of sin and death.
b. When we hold to the sacraments we are tied to a concrete picture of redemption we remember that the goal is not going to heaven per se, but that the resurrection of the body will happen for us also. We remember that God is trying to conquer the world with self-emptying goodness and love, not suck Christians up out of it like a really bad movie series would like to purport.
“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5); “He savedus, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5); “Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17); “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life . . . For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55-56). These and similar expressions are, to say the least, very much exaggerated if they do not mean that the sacramental ceremony is in some sense the cause of thegrace conferred.”
B. Holy Baptism is given the following defense as sacrament, based on the text itself: “Since through the first man death entered into all, unless we be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, we can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven, asTruth Himself, [Jesus,] has told us.” The words of Jesus Himself seem to be saying that being born again is a matter of water and the spirit, not merely a confession of belief. The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual.
If being born again happens by water and Spirit, they happen together, is what the biblical textual witness seems to be saying. This again is a sacrament which removes from us the taint of original sin, by literally participating in the crucifixion of Christ in the moment where we descend into the waters and are cleansed from the old adam, and have take on a new nature, which is what the bible says, then it can’t be just an outward symbol of someone’s inner commitment, though it certainly embraces this. If Paul says we were buried with Him, that is Jesus, and means that because of this we inherit a new nature it only seems natural, Jewish and right that is imparted to us, planted in us, and growing towards perfection. This is far different from “declared right with God like snow covered dung.”
The early Church had a central focus on Baptism as the sign of inclusion in the new community. Paul told his communities that this was the new sign of inclusion in the people of God, not circumcision. Were circumcision the sign the messiah would have died in vain because the work of the law would be salvific. However, St. Paul says that baptism is not a work of the flesh, it is a literal being buried with Christ and rising into the new creation. This wasn’t just a religious ceremony, like modern interpretations and innovations would have us believe. It was and is of true spiritual significance. The early church regarded it as so holy and important that people had to fast for 40 days before being baptized, to show true allegiance, and training in the faith. If you want to end sunday Christianity, return to a faith that has the power to actually save souls instead of cloak them, return to a faith that has true religious and spiritual merit.
C. Confirmation- The impartation of the Holy Ghost to Christian believers as a seal of their belief. In Charismatic circles they call this action the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Just as most Christians believe that initial confession and baptism are salvific but require completion, so too Confirmation exists. It’s precursor in the mosaic covenant was bar-mitzvah, the age of discerning. Confirmation is when the intial faith is strengthened. Just as the apostles received a firm impartation of boldness, and the disciples of John the Baptist received the Holy Spirit, so too confirmation is seen as a strengthening of the faith. It is not seen as necessary to salvation, but is a fullness of faith working itself out. However, it is seen as obligatory “for all those who are able to understand and fulfill the Commandments of God and of the Church.
- an increase of sanctifying grace which makes the recipient a “perfect Christian”;
- a special sacramental grace consisting in the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and notably in the strength andcourage to confess boldly the name of Christ;
- an indelible character by reason of which the sacrament cannot be received again by the same person.
In the early Church, Christianity was seen as something very serious, life changing, and intrusive, it changed a person’s life, in truth. Confirmation was something that happened even in the bible, the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit is something that’s always connected in ancient faith.
Check out the bible on this: We read in the Acts of the Apostles (8:14-17) that after the Samaritan converts had beenbaptized by Philip the deacon, theApostles “sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for he was not yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptizedin the name of the Lord Jesus; then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost“.
D. In short, the alternative I offer to all the aforementioned, is not a wild new idea, but the faith of the mothers and fathers of my faith, who I believe knew a far greater deal than I do. Having retained an important handed down tradition from the apostles and the scriptures, they stand as a challenge to me and my faith. They had a serious faith, with nominalism as a lesser problem, even historically, nominalism is far preferable in one faith where a great many are faithful, than a faith where even the pastor might be a nominal Christian. These connect the work of Christ, and His lordship; Baptism is the place where we die with messiah and are resurrected into submission to his Lordship in actuality, not just idea.
While I cannot offer a drive-through “McPrayer” to save your soul, I can offer you the life of the Church, her teachings and the fellowship in the Spirit of New Creation as a means to that end. I offer you the Holy waters of baptism to undergo actual regeneration in the midst of darkness, and I offer you Holy confirmation for the strengthening of your faith.