Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The sacraments, individuals, and community

Just reaidng 1 Corinthians 1 and was struck by verse 17:

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." (NIV)

Now the sacraments are important, communion and baptism. But in the whole of the NT (correct me if i'm wrong) they are never related to an individuals calling. The power to baptise or share communion is never presented as being a matter of calling or gifting (unlike preaching for example) but as a function of the Christian community. Paul's statement here even suggests that it is undesirable for those who do the preaching and evangelism to be the ones administering the sacrament because that might confuse the issue. People might think it had anything to do with the individual administering. The interesting thing is that you see this confusion all the time today, especially (but not limited to) those churches where only the minister is allowed to administer the sacraments, as if these works of God had anything to do with one person's abilities. In fact I would advocate that the minister should never (or at least hardly ever - and certianly not on special occasions) lead these sacraments and make a point of saying that it is the church community inhabited by the Spirit and not a special individual that God has given the ordinance and grace for the celebration of baptism and communion.

Let me know what you think :-)

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