Forgive Me

About a month ago, my wife and I attended a Steve Green concert at a local church in our area. While I’ve known Steve Green’s music well since my teen years, my wife has been more or less unaware of him outside of the handful of songs she’d heard by him performed at church, namely, “People Need the Lord,” “Find Us Faithful” . . . that’s probably about it. Well, having taken my wife to see Steve Green perform, he’s earned a new fan. Chief among Steve Green’s musical offerings that my wife most appreciated was the song “Forgive Me” from his 2005 album “Somewhere Between.”
Here are the lyrics (click here for sample audio)
Forgive Me
As I hold Your broken body
And drink Your bitter cup
Help me realize the depth
Of Your redeeming love
And for all the sin in me
Any sin at all
Forgive me, forgive me
Through the constant struggle
That never seems to cease
As in life, so is the cross
It too was bittersweet
As I receive this sacrament
A holy mystery
I’m amazed You’re sharing it with me
You were crushed
You were bruised
You were scorned
You were used
So here am I with nothing left
But praise for You
Praise for You
As I hold Your broken body
And drink Your bitter cup
Help me realize the depth
Of Your redeeming love
And for all the sin in me
Any sin at all
Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me
Words and Music by Paul Marino and Greg Nelson© 2005 Van Ness Press, Inc. / ASCAP / McKinney Music, Inc. /
Being the recovering fundamentalist that I am, I couldn’t help hearing that once verboten (is that how you spell it?) word, “sacrament” in the song. My upbringing taught me that many Baptists avoid the word because in their black and white worldview, a sacrament is a Roman Catholic concept and those Protestants who prefer the term to the biblical word, “ordinance,” are going astray into error. While I’m aware that Reformed Baptists (among whom I’m becoming persuaded Steve Green counts himself) don’t necessarily object to the word sacrament, yet they did, back in the day, edit the word out of the chapter on the Lord’s Supper in the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, which is little more than a condensation of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith.
Knowing that the word sacrament is the Latin word for mystery, I began to search the New Testament for all the uses of the word mystery to see if I could learn something about why the Lord’s Supper is associated with the concept of mystery.
Romans 16:25
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Ephesians 1:7-10
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known [3] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 3:1-6
3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is [1] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
R. C. Sproul always defines “mystery” as that which was hidden which is now revealed, in keeping with the above passages. As I considered these and other passages in the New Testament, the dominant pattern that would relate to the Lord’s Supper included the revelation of the gospel in Christ, and the fact that Gentiles would receive the benefit of the gospel along with the house of Israel. Naturally, the bread is the broken body of our Lord, who suffered and died on the cross for our sins. The bread relates this to us, and indeed we participate in that sacrifice in a way that we otherwise could not. The bread also, in keeping with Ephesians 3:6, is a way that the church enjoys communion with each other in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17)–perhaps this is part of the “fellowship” referred to in Acts 2:42, one of the chief elements of corporate worship. More than merely gathering and chatting, our fellowship is with each other in the light of the Lord (1 John 1:7). Amazing that this reality is communicated to us as we commune with the Lord in the Supper.
In the light of scouring the New Testament on the word mystery, let us see how this information compares with Calvin’s definition of “sacrament” from Book 4, chapter 14, section 1 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
(The word “sacrament” explained: sacraments are signs of God’s covenants, 1-6)
1. Definition
Akin to the preaching of the gospel, we have another help to our faith in the sacraments in regard to which, it greatly concerns us that some sure doctrine should be delivered, informing us both of the end for which they were instituted, and of their present use.
First, we must attend to what a sacrament is. It seems to me, then, a simple and appropriate definition to say, that it is an external sign, by which the Lord seals on our consciences his promises of good-will toward us, in order to sustain the weakness of our faith, and we in our turn testify our piety towards him, both before himself and before angels as well as men. We may also define more briefly by calling it a testimony of the divine favour toward us, confirmed by an external sign, with a corresponding attestation of our faith towards Him. You may make your choice of these definitions, which, in meaning, differ not from that of Augustine, which defines a sacrament to be a visible sign of a sacred thing, or a visible form of an invisible grace, but does not contain a better or surer explanation. As its brevity makes it somewhat obscure, and thereby misleads the more illiterate, I wished to remove all doubt, and make the definition fuller by stating it at greater length.
2. The word “sacrament”
The reason why the ancients used the term in this sense is not obscure. The old interpreter, whenever he wished to render the Greek term “musterion” into Latin, especially when it was used with reference to divine things, used the word sacramentum. Thus in Ephesians, “Having made known unto us the mystery (sacramentum) of his will;” and again, “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-wards, how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery” (sacramentum,) (Eph. 1: 9; 3: 2.) In the Colossians, “Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery,” (sacramentum,) (Col. 1: 26.) Also in the First Epistle to Timothy, “Without controversy, great is the mystery (sacramentum) of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim. 3: 16.) He was unwilling to use the word arcanum, (secret,) lest the word should seem beneath the magnitude of the thing meant. When the thing, therefore, was sacred and secret, he used the term sacramentum. In this sense it frequently occurs in ecclesiastical writers. And it is well known, that what the Latins call sacramental the Greeks call “musteria” (mysteries.) The sameness of meaning removes all dispute. Hence it is that the term was applied to those signs which gave an august representation of things spiritual and sublime. This is also observed by Augustine, “It were tedious to discourse of the variety of signs; those which relate to divine things are called sacraments,” (August. Ep. 5. ad Marcell.)
So, the Lord’s Supper is an outward sign of the invisible mystery that Christ redeems sinners in his death and resurrection, and secondarily points to our communion with the brethren by virtue of our union with Christ by grace through faith. Thus, I conclude, “Sacrament” is a Christ-centered name for the ordinance, emphasizing what God is doing for us, while “ordinance” (although certainly a biblical word, as is mystery) centers on the fact that this is something man must do. No wonder other than Reformed Baptists prefer the word. Being an absent memorial, the only significance they see in it is their obedience in getting around to it once in a while, being reminded of Christ’s death in this manner for no reason other than they must because he commanded them to. I think I’m beginning to prefer the title sacrament.
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8 responses

  1. cool…i got that album the week it came out. good good song. The word “sacrament” did rub against my fundy grain, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Now you know what the frog in the kettle felt like!

    Just kidding . . . well, kinda.

    Reformata, Semper Reformanda!

    I’m glad you linked to Steve Green’s site from your own site, that’s where I learned about his concert in my area. You’ve done us a service, Brother.

  3. Captain,

    Your thoughts regarding how the offended should relate to the unrepentant offender on Challies Dot Com were well said.

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    cdbrauns,

    Thank you for the kind word. And thanks for visiting over here!

  5. I have subscribed to your blog – – I’ll be back . . .

  6. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Looking forward to your input!

  7. John

    very very good stuff here!

    I am filled up and teeming with thought, charged in the “air”!

    I was coming to this about it, that where “two” or more are gathered together in His Name, “He” is in their midst!

    On the surface that is kinda spookie!

    But when you add the “physical” element to it, the sacraments it brings it out of the quote “mysterious” to something it is suppose to be, inviting, calming and sobering with a known physical focus not some mystical event!

    It also occurs to me that it should be done with at least two, not one as the Scripture is plain in meaning on that subject that where two or three are gathered together….

    This verse at Acts 14 is spookie enough but consider that there were at a minimum two guys in unity on Him and what they were doing for Him:::>

    Act 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

    “WHO BORE WITNESS” sounds a bit spookie until you consider what you just brought out hereon.

    I think it is my silly fantastic imagination that easily wants to make something so “down to earth” mystical! I guess Jesus died for mystics too seeing I am now being a down to earth kinda guy! 🙂

    Thanks for digging that wonderful knowledge up!

    Onward Christian soldier!

    This is fun and enriching!

  8. John D. Chitty | Reply

    I like your conclusion. It is easy for us to fill in the blanks of what we don’t yet understand about how God works by resorting to assuming his supernatural work is done apart from any ordinary means. Miracles are always exceptions to the rule, which means the rule is that God does even his supernatural work in our lives through ordinary means (like preaching, fellowship, bread, wine, prayer, study of Scripture, study of solid Christian literature).

    Some think that the presence of Christ in the elements of the Supper is “spooky” (or at least somehow Roman Catholic, which is spooky to them). But this is part of how the supernatural work of sanctification takes place in an objective way through ordinary means that are outside of our own subjective (mystical) selves. In other words, those who deny the presence of Christ in the elements are guilty of individualizing and subjectivizing the work of God.

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