“Actions speak louder than words.” We’ve all heard this, right? It is not what you say that matters, but what you do. Words are empty and meaningless when not backed by a tangible thing or action. This is arguably incorrect in general, and it is simply not true when it comes to our God. He speaks the world into existence. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Jesus rebukes the winds and sea to calm the storm, and heals the centurion’s servant by simply declaring it to be so, even without seeing him. In the end, He declares that salvation has been secured for all, that “it is finished,” and so it is. Whether they accompany an action or not, the words that our Lord speaks hold immense power and bring about change all on their own.
This week’s episode of Ringside discusses the validity of the sacraments in Christian churches that don’t hold the same sacramental beliefs, specifically when it comes to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why do we uphold the validity of a baptism for someone who was incorrectly taught about it, but not accept the validity of their incorrect view of the Lord’s Supper? Why do we believe God continues to work through one, despite the flawed teaching, but not the other? Guest Rev. Tim Winterstein cut right to the heart of the matter, “It’s about the words. As long as the baptismal words are there, God’s Word is doing what God wants to do with them.” Tim continues, “When it comes to the sacrament of the altar, and you’re either changing the words or you’re saying that they really mean something else, then you’re changing what’s happening and creating doubt.”
It’s all about the words. Don’t get me wrong, having the proper elements in place here are important too. It is the combination of words and elements that turn it into the sacrament, but the difference between my baptism and me splashing water on my face every morning is God’s Word. The power here is in the words…the precise words. God tells us what is happening in these sacraments, and it is important that we faithfully convey that. “One of the great things about our spiritual tradition in the Lutheran Church is that when you read Luther, over and again he seems to default to his concern about the assurance and the conscious of the people that he is caring for. He’s trying to remove doubt…Why do we not rebaptize? Because we don’t want to bring doubt into the Word of God and what has been said. Why do we make distinctions when it comes to who receives communion? Because we don’t want to cause doubt,” reminds Rev. Paul Koch.
The words that we use in these sacraments are not our own, but God’s. He commands us to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and those who are thus baptized will be saved. Jesus states “this is my body…this is my blood,” and therefore it is so. At the end of the day, we go back to what God’s Word says, and that is where we place our trust and assurance. As Tim put it, “What are the words of Jesus regarding baptism? What are the words of Jesus regarding the Lord’s Supper? Let’s stick with those.”
This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, Rev. Ross Engel, Tyler the Intern, and special guest Rev. Tim Winterstein as they duke it out over “The Chosen”, the real reasons we should pray, the priesthood of Melchizedek and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “Review of The Chosen with Guest Timothy Winterstein”
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