Sunday, January 18, 2009
Asking questions about the word of God, the affirmation of sexual sin, and the Lord's Supper
I am interested and concerned with a comment Noel Anderson, of Anderspeak, placed on Jim Berkley’s blog posting, Speaking Nonsense to No One in Particular?” That posting is about the prayer, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, will give at one of the Presidential inauguration ceremonies.
Anderson's comment includes “I expect we [Evangelicals] will all soon face an option of whether or not to share communion with those who violate their vows and/or those who think it is okay for them to do so.” He added “in certain gatherings.” And I would suppose he is thinking mainly of Presbytery meetings.
This statement was something I had been thinking about but not voicing. I think those of us who are Presbyterians (USA), in California, waiting for the California Supreme Court to decide if Proposition 8 is lawful or not, are mulling over and praying about all kinds of painful decisions.
I thought about this, and read Calvin, (of course), but, already understood that the efficacy of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is given by the Holy Spirit and is active because of the faith of the believer in Jesus Christ. The sinfulness of those who serve, both Pastors and Elders does not change the Supper. (That is an argument that is constantly arising and being resolved in the history of the Church.)
But, as I see it, here is the problem: The Sacrament is to be attended by the word of God. And that word is the gospel of Jesus Christ which affirms the righteousness Jesus bought for sinners by his blood. The Holy Spirit makes the promise a reality to the believer. The Sacrament without the promise is no sacrament at all.
This was part of Calvin’s complaint about the Catholic Eucharist, that it had degenerated into a kind of magical rite that simply had some words mumbled over it instead of the promises of God’s gracious gift attending its giving.
And writing of the difference between the false and true Church, Calvin refers to Jer. 7:4 and writes, “The Lord recognizes nothing as his own, save when his word is heard and religiously observed.” So if someone is offering communion who believes, against the word, that sexual sin is not sin, and that Jesus Christ did not need to die for that sin, is that a problem?
That is, if some in my Presbytery are ordaining homosexual elders or marrying same gender couples in civil ceremonies and then leading a communion service in my Presbytery haven’t they divorced the word from the supper? And should I participate?
And to put it even bolder if a whole denomination states, which they have not yet done, that sexual deviancy is not sin, and so make void the promise of Christ to forgive and transform the sinner with the blood of Christ, wouldn't that eliminate the promise from the Supper? Wouldn’t the sinner, instead be encouraged to boast in their sin thus separating God’s word from the Lord’s Supper?
Then wouldn’t those particular churches whose orthodoxy causes them to disagree with such affirmations about unrepentent fornication, adultery and homosexual sex be the only safe place for the orthodox or evangelical to participate in the Lord’s Supper?
“Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood , suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach . For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” (Heb 13:12-4)