Christ is the Central Content of the Sacraments


I really enjoyed Pierre Marcel’s book The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism.  Even if you are already convinced of the paedo position it is worth your time. He does an excellent job of explaining what sacraments are, the covenant is, and how that impacts us, the church, and our children. One thing that stuck out to me was the emphasis he put on the Word.  He does not minimize the sacraments. It is clear they are powerful signs and seals of God’s covenant. But he is clear that the Word is the priority over the sacraments. I plan on putting up quite a few quotes from the book. Here is the first. The title of this section in the book is the same as the title of the blog post. All punctuation, spelling and italics are his.

To sum up, the internal matter of the sacrament, the inward grace which is signified and sealed, is Jesus Christ and His spiritual riches-the covenant of grace, justification by faith, remission of sins, faith and conversion, communion with Christ, etc. It is Christ, whole and entire, in all His fulness and with all his riches, according to His divine nature and His human nature, with His person and His work, in His state of humiliation and in His glorification. Christ and Christ alone is the “heavenly thing” signified in the sacrament -Christ who, with all his benefits and blessings, is the Mediator of the covenant of grace, the Head of the Church, the Yea and Amen of all God’s promises, the content of His Word and of His Testimony-Christ: Wisdom, Justification, Sanctification, and Redemption of believers, Prophet, Priest, and King, through whom alone God conveys all His grace, who remains the same yesterday and to-day and for ever. Jesus Christ, He who was, and who is, and who is coming, is the truth of the sacraments without whom they are nothing, just as He is the truth of the Word.

There is thus not a single benefit of grace which might be missing from the Word and communicated in a special and particular manner to believers through the sacraments. There is no special baptismal grace, nor a special eucharistic grace. The content of the Word and of the sacraments is exactly the same. Word and sacraments contain, present, and offer the same Mediator, Jesus Christ, the same covenant of grace, the same benefits, the same communion with God, the same redemption.

Marcel did not believe in paedo-communion, but I wanted to take this quote and apply it to that issue. I believe paedo-communion is Biblically defensible for various reasons.  Here is what I mean by paedo-communion: covenant children are welcome at the covenant meal.

I wanted to pull out two thoughts from this quote as it relates to paedo-communion.  First, there is nothing magical about the Lord’s Supper. In other words, the covenant child who is receiving the Word of God in worship and at home is receiving Christ. Taking the Lord’s Supper will strengthen that faith, strengthen his bond to the church, and confirm the Word. But taking the Lord’s Supper will not give him something he is not already getting. Christ comes to us first and foremost through the Word. If the Word is there then Jesus is there in His entirety. 

On the flip side, if we give our children the Word of God why shouldn’t we give them the Lord’s Supper? If I allow my child to participate in worship as one of God’s covenant children,  treat them as belonging to the covenant, quote to them the promises of the covenant, encourage them to believe those covenant promises, trust their heavenly Father and obey Him then why shouldn’t they have the covenant meal which presents to them the same promise the Word does: Jesus in his entirety?