the missing Sacraments
prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, visited one of his sick, elderly
members. She lived in a one room shack, made mostly of card board. As
Spurgeon walked into the room, the frigid air kept the old woman in bed
covered with a blanket up to her neck. She was ill because of
As Spurgeon glanced around the
room, he noticed a document framed on the wall. He asked the woman about
it, and she told him it was an appreciation letter from the English
noble woman she had worked for nearly half a century. The aged woman
could not read, so Spurgeon asked if he could take the letter to a
lawyer whose name was on the document to have him assess the letter,
because Spurgeon felt it was more than an appreciation letter.
When he took it to the lawyer, he
told him that he had been looking for this document. It was part of the
last will and testament of Madam So and So. She had bequeath to the
woman a beautiful house and monthly allowance. You see, the sickly,
poverty struck woman could have been living in luxury if she had known
what the document was. Well, through the help of Spurgeon, she moved out
and started to live the life the former employer had provided for her.
The moral of the story is:
although the woman was wealthy, it took someone to help her receive the
wealth that was hers. What Spurgeon did for the woman is similar to the
Christian doctrine of Sacraments.
are not for Catholics Only
The word sacraments sounds very
religious and very catholic to most people. But it is a Christian
doctrine, not simply a catholic one, that should be embraced by all
The Catholic Church has seven
sacraments. The Anglican Church has trimmed it to two, maybe three or
more, depending on which Anglican you talk to. But I agree with the
Orthodox Church that there is an unlimited number of sacraments. God has
many ways to administer grace to us that we cannot count them.
A sacrament is a visible
means of receiving God's grace. Peter mentions what could only be
understood as sacraments in his first letter, "Each one should use
whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering
God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10). Grace is
administered into in our lives, not just in one form, but "various
forms." These "various forms" are sacraments. The word "form"
is clearly an outward form that grace must be "administered"
The word "administered" is
the same word we use for administration office. A company could
have money for employees or products for the customers, but they will
not get it, except through the administration office. God set up the
church to administer, like an office, God's grace to the people. This is
what Charles Spurgeon did for the woman. He brought the grace of Madam
So and So into the life of the woman.
Grace and Sacraments go together
like Peas and Carrots. Or to use a more apt illustration, Sacraments are
to Grace what indoor plumbing is to the water tower. The life-giving
water inside the tower must be brought through the indoor plumbing in
order for the people to enjoy the water. The same is true of Grace. God
provided Sacraments in order to bring grace in your life.
I have been preaching grace for
31 years. I am a firm believer in the finish work of the cross. God has
provided everything we need "for life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3).
Forgiveness, health, financial provision, holiness, peace and joy, and
everything you need to live an abundant life, as well as a godly life,
is provided at the cross. The cross contains all the grace you need.
Only recently has the grace
message been under fire. The reason is because some of the newer, less
experience ministers have unfortunately neglected the need for
sacraments. They often say, since everything is provided, there is
nothing for us to do. Just receive it. But how do we receive it?
Sacraments is the way to bring the grace to us, so we can receive it.
Yet some radical grace teachers have actually taught against the
sacraments. That is like preaching against indoor plumbing.
For example, when I was learning
about grace and faith, I heard a few people say, "The moment I
discovered what was mine in Christ, I stopped praying for it." Now,
think for a moment how unbiblical the statement is. What is prayer? It
is a sacrament—a means to receive what Christ provided for you.
It is not "legalism" or "repudiating the finish work of the cross" to
pray for what is already yours. It is statements like these that has
brought needless controversy to the message of grace. Let us look most
closely at the confusion of the radical grace message as it is being
taught by some.
The radical grace message has
skyrocketed in the church. Some believe this is the new great move of
the Holy Spirit and others believe it is Satan's ploy to lug God's
people into sin.
As I understand it, the radical
grace message teaches that all our sins are forgiven, past, present and
future, thus there is no need to confess sins in order to be forgiven.
The radical grace message affirms that preaching God's love and His
acceptance of us is the only key to changing one's behavior. So, as a
result, the radical grace message often views teaching on morality and
behavior as preaching legalism. Legalism and grace do not mix,
therefore, only grace—not morality and behavior—should be
preached, says the radical grace message.
Let me say this: grace is truly
amazing. We are saved by grace alone. We are holy and being made holy by
grace alone. We are healed by grace. We are blessed by grace. We receive
the gifts of the Spirit by grace. So the issue isn't whether a minister
believes in grace or not, because no true gospel minister denies grace;
the only issue is how people tap into grace. In other words, I feel the
missing ingredient in the debate is not grace itself, but the means of
receiving God's grace: the Sacraments.
The number one sacrament is
preaching the Word. God has chosen through the "foolishness of what
was preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1:21). God uses the
form of human beings, uses earthly language, a physical tongue to speak
forth God's Word, and God uses those words to put faith in the heart of
the listeners. The grace of faith is given. This is the main sacrament.
At this point, no one disagrees
with the importance of preaching. But I want everyone to understand that
preaching is a "means" and "form" for people to tap into grace. To talk
about how great God's grace is, but leave out the sacraments, is like
talking about how great the nuclear plant is, but you don't fit your
house with the wires and switches to tap into the electricity. You do
not benefit from the power plant, though you may brag how great it is.
The same is true of grace. We can believe in God's great love for us is,
and how He showed His love to us through the sacrifice of Christ and
that all the benefits of Calvary are now available to us, yet if people
do not know how to tap into the grace, then they will still be without
It is bewildering to me that so
much grace could be preached, yet little is explained on how to tap into
grace. If anyone should preach on the sacraments, it should be the
radical grace preachers, because they believe so much in grace. You
would think they would want the people to receive the grace. Yet, the
divisiveness really stems from these same grace teachers that view the
sacraments as legalism.
Christian Behavior is not Legalism
Let me explain for instance by
taking the sacrament of preaching and show how some see the sacrament as
legalistic. Paul wrote to pastor Timothy some ministerial advice, "All
Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be
thoroughly equipped for every good work...Preach the Word; be prepared
in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great
patience and careful instruction." (2 Tim 3:16-17 and 2 Tim
The minister of God must use "All
Scripture" and must do five things when he preaches: 1. teach,
2. rebuke, 3 correct, 4 train, and 5 encourage.
Imagine for a moment that Timothy
preaches an hour-long message. In it, he spent 40 minutes teaching, 10
minutes encouraging, 7 minutes correcting and 3 minutes rebuking. Here
is the question: what part of the message was legalism and what part was
grace? As I understand the radical grace message, some would think that
50 minutes was the grace message, but the part of correcting and
especially rebuking was legalism. Yet, the truth is, all of it was a
message of grace. Because God says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and
discipline" (Rev 3:19). A father disciplines his children, even
though it is unpleasant, he does it for the good of the children so that
children could be better people. A father's grace cannot only be seen in
the gifts he gifts his children or the provision of taking care of his
children or the kind words he expresses to his children, but it is also
seen in the correction and rebuke toward his children. Of course it is
seen in his forgiveness toward his children. All is grace!
Unfortunately, some have
difficulty associating rebukes in a sermon as grace, but they can be a
manifestation of grace. Teaching on Christian behavior is not legalism.
It is God's care for us to live up to the calling we have received. The
Apostle of Grace, Paul, taught both God's love and behavior: "I urge
you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Eph
4:1). While the first 3 chapters of Ephesians deals with God's great
grace in our lives, the rest of the book of Ephesians deals with
Christian behavior, including what is acceptable and not acceptable. Yet
some radical grace teachers view teaching on behavior as sub-par to the
true grace message. But it is part of grace teaching. True grace
teaching includes both our position in Christ and our behavior
Here is another example. When
someone is sick, the Bible provides the remedy. It says:
"Is any one
of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him
and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered
in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If
he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each
other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James
Anointing the sick with oil and
the laying on of hands are both sacraments. They are God's means to
impart His grace of health and forgiveness to the sickly person. Some,
though, would suggest to bypass this biblical approach and simply
recognize that you are already healed and forgiven; thus, to them it is
legalism to call for the elders to pray for something that you already
Tommy was a faithful member of
the church I was part of before I became a pastor. He was suffering an
illness, yet he stood and confessed the Word of God. Then during a
Sunday service, the pastor's wife gave out a word of knowledge. She
said, "God wants to heal someone of a particular illness." She described
what Tommy was going through and asked the person with that specific
illness to come forward for prayer. First, Tommy thought to himself,
I should not go forward for prayer because I have already, by faith,
received my healing. If I go forward then I would be repudiating my
faith. After the pastor's wife insistence, he humbled himself and
went forward. He instantly received his healing. He almost allowed his
misunderstanding of the finish work of the cross to keep him from
Tommy's former understanding is
similar to many people. They hear about the finish work of the cross and
then assume, they must sit there and just receive it. Yet God was
pouring out His grace through one of the gifts of the Spirit. This is
the meaning of a sacrament. God used the pastor's wife to speak a word
of knowledge, coupled with the gift of healing, she was able to "administer
God's grace" to Tommy in the form of health.
Why tell people who are in need
of health and restoration, that they should not call the elders, or
confess their sins, because of the theory that they would be repudiating
grace? That is like telling someone, don't turn on the switch to get
light, because you already have light in the house. While it may be true
they have the potential of light, they do not get the light without
turning on the switch. Calling the elders and being anointed is turning
on the switch.
It is not legalism and human
effort to be anointed with oil, anymore than the light switch is
responsible for creating the electricity. The electricity is created
outside the house at the nuclear plant. So God's grace was created at
Calvary's Cross, but the benefits of the cross does you no good unless
you turn on the switch.
God actually uses the physical
oil, the human vessels called elders, and prayers uttered from their
human lips to bring healing to the sick. God also uses the confessions
of the repentant to restore and make him whole. The light switch is not
symbolic anymore than the anointing with oil is symbolic. It is the
"means" to tap into the power.
Rudy, one of my newest members,
told me, "Bishop, have you heard that some ministers have stopped doing
Holy Communion because they say it is simply a religious act, and they
want reality, not religion?" This is a great tragedy. Ministers should
know that taking communion is a means of receiving God's grace.
God uses the physical bread, real
juice/wine and with the words and confession of the congregation to
bring the benefits of the cross to people. People receive forgiveness
and health by taking communion. But when people have a flippant
attitude toward communion, and they do not recognize the body of Christ
within the sacrament of communion, then what Paul says can happen to
them, "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of
the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you
are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep" (1 Cor
11:29-30). Judgment belongs to the world, not to the saints, but if the
saint fails to understand that within the bread and wine, there is the
body of the Lord, then grace for forgiveness and health may not come to
them. God uses communion, then, to impart His grace to His children.
Nancy came to church one Sunday
even though she was sick. As she came forward to receive communion, she
felt the power of God come all over her as she ate the bread. Instantly,
the symptoms left her body. She was so overjoyed, she begged me to allow
her to share her experience with the church. I did. It was a great
testimony to the power of Holy Communion. (Click here for a fuller
treatment on Holy Communion)
Jesus was blunt, "Whoever
believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe
will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). It is hard to imagine that any
minister would neglect baptizing people. Baptism is a sacrament; it is
the visible means to obtaining salvation.
God uses the physical water, the
public confession of the Lordship of the candidate and the minister's
words, "I baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit." The minister's action of putting the person in and out of
the water brings salvation to the baptized. This is not faith plus
works. This is simply a biblical action of faith. It is a real means of
imparting grace. (Click here for Bishop Brown's teaching on Water
We all make mistakes. Radical
grace people do, too. God has a remedy. He has the sacrament of
confession. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will
forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John
1:9). What is God's answer when we sin and fail God after our salvation.
It's simple. Confess your sins to God.
There is nothing more
controversial with the radical grace message than the view that
confession of sin is not necessary for forgiveness. While some radical
grace preachers say it is okay to confess their sins, others say it is
not. Those who say it is a good practice to confess sins, will often
mitigate their approach by saying that God does not really forgive
you when you confess, because, in their view, God has already
forgiven you. They may encourage forgiveness for your own peace of
mind, but they do not believe you should confess your sins in order
to be forgiven. In other words, confession, in their view, does not
really bring God's grace of forgiveness; it is not a sacrament.
But the Bible tells us
differently. It explains why we should confess our sins. We confess our
sins so God "will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness." He does not symbolically forgive, He actually
forgives. Confession does not simply give you peace of mind, it actually
brings God's forgiveness to you.
Someone might say, "What if I
fail to confess every sin I ever committed, will I not be forgiven?"
First of all, no one has ever fully confessed every sin, because we are
not aware of every sin we have committed. The above passage says that if
we confess the sins we know of then God will not only forgiven those
sins but "purify us from all unrighteousness." Halleluiah! Not
just the unrighteousness of our confessed sins, but "all
unrighteousness." The important thing is that we maintain a humble
heart and daily confess our sins.
I am most concerned that the
radical grace message is encouraging people to neglect this sacrament of
confession of sins. As a result people are abandoning confessing their
sins; they are unwittingly giving room for the devil to bring
destruction through their unforgiven sins. Satan has access in your life
only through sin, but once it is forgiven, he can legally do nothing.
The teaching that we do not need to confess our sins is very dangerous
indeed. It can give room for the devil. (Click here to read Bishop
Brown's teaching on Confessing sins.)
Another concern I have is the
disunity that I see taking place concerning the radical grace message.
Grace is supposed to impart unity, not division. It's ironic that God's
grace could become so divisive. A pastor told me, "I have lost half of
my members because they accused me of not preaching the radical grace
message." It's sad to see the message of grace bringing division in the
church. Even with my concern, there is great good that can come through
preaching God's great grace.
The part of the grace message
that is very helpful to people is the biblical message of God's love and
acceptance of us. "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein
he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph 1:6, KJV). For
someone who lacks self esteem, feels condemned, this message is exactly
what they need to hear. It transforms them, including their behavior.
But to conclude that every
believer needs to hear only this message would be wrong in the
same way that we need to eat only one food group. We need all the
vitamins and minerals that come from various food. If someone lacked
iron in their diet, then they would feel weak and anemic, but once they
got the needed iron they would feel invigorated. This is how God has
used the message of grace to spiritually invigorate a believer's dead
routine. But to say that everyone lacks iron in their diet and suggest
that iron is the only mineral people need would be ridiculous. The same
is true of teaching God's love and acceptance.
The Forms of
The grace message is needed, but
it is not the only thing that "All Scripture" teaches. As I said
earlier, I consider myself a grace preacher. As a grace preacher, I
would fail the people who listen to me by not telling them the means and
forms of God's grace. So I preach and practice the sacraments; by doing
so I preach the way into grace. I do not see my preaching and practices
as preaching and practicing the law. Sacraments are the way to
administer God's grace. I see sacraments as a missing piece of the
In this controversy, please don't
take sides against people.
It is not helpful to pit brother
against brother when it comes to their views on grace, law, and
morality. Some ask me, "Are you on Joseph Prince's side or Michael
Brown's side." The answer: I am on both their sides.
"So then, no more boasting
about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or
the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours"
(1 Cor 3:21-22). My inheritance includes every minister of the gospel.
There is something they can give me, and I am not going to shut out any
true minister from my life.
I do not like the lines being
drawn. Are you for him or her? We need to quit judging each other.
I make my appeal to all
ministers: preach grace and practice the sacraments. Do not lie
and say sacraments are legalistic. They are not. Sacraments do not
create grace, they only transmit it. While sacraments seem like an old
doctrine, it is the answer to the growing misunderstandings of the grace
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