Sacraments

Sacraments are a plural item in Christianity as it is a term for multiple activities. Let’s look first at some simple definitions to get started…


Dictionary.com

 1.  Ecclesiastical. a visible sign of an inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace: the sacraments of the Protestant churches are baptism and the Lord’s Supper; the sacraments of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are baptism,confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.

2. (often initial capital letter). Also called Holy Sacrament. the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper.

Also called Holy Sacrament. the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper
3. the consecrated elements of the Eucharist, especially the bread.
4. something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance.
5. a sign, token, or symbol. a sign, token, or symbol.
6. an oath; solemn pledge. an oath; solemn pledge.

Etymonline.com

“outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace,” also “the eucharist,” c. 1200, from Old French sacrament “consecration; mystery” (12c., Modern French sacrement) and directly from Latin sacramentum “a consecrating” (also source of Spanish sacramento, German Sakrament, etc.), from sacrare “to consecrate” (see sacred); a Church Latin loan-translation of Greek mysterion (see mystery).

Meaning “a holy mystery” in English is from late 14c. The seven sacraments are baptism, penance, confirmation, holy orders, the Eucharist, matrimony, and anointing of the sick (extreme unction).


Obviously, there’s a broader context hear besides just “certain activities”.

Historically, there have been seven sacraments as mentioned from both dictionary.com and etymonline.com. I think the dictionary.com definition #1 does a particularly nice job in this case as it not only shows what are the sacraments but also points out an important distinction between Protestants and the Roman Catholic/Greek Orthodox churches.

In Protestantism there is baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper goes by other names too – namely communion or the Eucharist. If you are not familiar with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it’s practice is tied to Matthew 26:26-29 (as well as parallels in the other gospels). From this has come many practices observed but the common element are the “bread and wine” – representing the body and the blood of Christ respectively.

Baptism has it variances as well but it still involves belief and water in each instance – whether the water be a sprinkling on the individual or by submersion & whether it’s the believe of the individual vs. the belief of the parents.

Penance, confirmation, holy orders, anointing of the sick (extreme unction) – I don’t intend to treat these here, perhaps in the future, but they are commonly practiced today in the Catholic church as well as others.

Matrimony or marriage is the one I personally find most interesting here. Why? Well, its because of how the Catholic church sees it as a sacrament but Protestantism overall does not. This will be the topic of a future post.

I will end it here. It should be clear what a sacrament is from these definitions as well as what practices are commonly considered sacraments in historic Christendom. As always, you’re welcome back next week where I move onto the next term in the list!

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Regeneration

Here is a great example of a term in which its accurate meaning becomes a little different from the common use. Let’s begin with the usual…

Dictionary.com

noun
1. act of regenerating; state of being regenerated.
2. Electronics. a feedback process in which energy from the output of an amplifier is fed back to the grid circuit to reinforce the input.
3. Biology. the restoration or new growth by an organism of organs, tissues, etc., that have been lost, removed, or injured.

Etymonline.com

mid-14c., from Late Latin regenerationem (nominative regeneratio) “a being born again,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin regenerare “make over, generate again,” from re- “again” (see re-) + generare “to produce” (see generation). Originally spiritual; of animal tissue, early 15c.; of forests, 1888.


Overall, there is a sense of “being made new” in this word. As suggested in the above etymonline.com entry, you could also use regeneration as a synonym for rebirth.

For those who are followers of “The Way” (aka original title for those later known as Christians), regeneration goes further.

It is a radical change.

You see, human beings have been corrupted by the curse of sin. This is why everything in us is tainted – even when we try to do good.

God is so holy (set apart) that we cannot even stand in His presence as we are. This is where regeneration comes in.

Regeneration is one of the elements that accompanies a person’s salvation. By God’s grace, He regenerates us from our cursed state (gives us rebirth) such that we are thereby enabled to follow Him. Without God’s regeneration, we would continue to be lost in our corruption, left as rebels against Him.

It includes making us spiritually alive rather than being left in our dead state.

Regeneration is the beginning of preparation for each believer to one day be able to stand in God’s presence. …and it is all made possible through Christ!

 


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Liturgy

What is liturgy?

 

Dictionary.com

noun, plural liturgies.
1. a form of public worship; ritual.
2. a collection of formularies for public worship.
3. a particular arrangement of services.
4. a particular form or type of the Eucharistic service.
5. the service of the Eucharist, especially this service (Divine Liturgy) in the Eastern Church.

Etymonline.com

1550s, Liturgy, “the service of the Holy Eucharist,” from Middle French liturgie (16c.) or directly from Late Latin/Medieval Latin liturgia “public service, public worship,” from Greek leitourgia “a liturgy; public duty, ministration, ministry,” from leitourgos “one who performs a public ceremony or service, public servant,” from leito- “public” (from laos “people;” compare leiton “public hall,” leite “priestess;” see lay (adj.)) + -ergos “that works,” from ergon “work” (from PIE root *werg- “to do”). Meaning “collective formulas for the conduct of divine service in Christian churches” is from 1590s. Related: Liturgist; liturgics.


Liturgy is a fairly straight-forward term – as you can see. Granted, it is used to specifically refer to the practices around the Eurcharist (or communion) in some circles, but it is more broadly used to describe the practices & formula of a worship service.

The term is not exclusive to Christianity as other belief systems will also observe various practice forms.

We see the expression of liturgy most clearly in the order of service. All churches follow some form of liturgy and there are various reasons for why one church will worship in one manner versus another. Tradition is a common element here but not the only. Various theological distinctions also contribute.

Examples of elements of liturgy are the songs sung (style, amount, when they’re sung, etc), whether or not there’s responsive readings, the language or Bible versions spoken from, order of events in the worship, handling of sacraments, and so on…

If your still curious about liturgy, try looking up the liturgy of various known denominations, like Presbyterian, and see what they do. Until next time!

 


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Justification

Stepping away from the “study of” terms we’ve had up to now, we get to the next term in the series – justification.

Dictionary.com
noun

1. a reason, fact, circumstance, or explanation that justifies or defends:
His insulting you was ample justification for you to leave the party.

2. an act of justifying : The painter’s justification of his failure to finish on time didn’t impress me.

3. the state of being justified.
4. Also called justification by faith. Theology. the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin.

5. Printing. the spacing of words and letters within a line of type so that all full lines in a column have even margins both on the left and on the right.


Etymonline.com

late 14c., “administration of justice,” from Late Latin iustificationem (nominative iustificatio), noun of action from past participle stem of iustificare “act justly toward; make just” (see justify). Meaning “action of justifying, showing something to be just or right” is from late 15c. Theological sense “act by which the soul is reconciled to God” is from 1520s. Meaning “act of adjusting or making exact” in typography is from 1670s.


Why would such a legal sounding term be involved with Christianity and the Bible?

To answer this we need look no further than the books of Genesis and Romans. In Genesis, we have the record of the fall of man where the first humans committed the first sin against God. This cursed mankind with the corruption of sin which impacts us to this day. We stood condemned (in a legal sense) before a just God.

Justification is an important element. God is so holy that our good actions, thoughts, etc. are mere rags by comparison. God is so holy (set-apart) that many early followers feared they would die when in just a fraction of His presence. Our sinfulness has made us imperfect, corrupted beings and it is only through His light and truth that we know to be otherwise.

Christ’s work on the cross brought us salvation from our sin. Any who truly believe in Him can be saved from there sin and no longer face condemnation, thereby becoming justified before God – accounted just. This status is brought to us by Christ alone.

Two chapters come to mind from Romans that specifically talk about justification. These are Romans 4 and 5. Three particular verses would be Romans 4:25 ; 5:16 & 18. These would be a good place to start for further reading and study.

 


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Homiletics

What is homiletics?


From dictionary.com we get:

noun, ( used with a singular verb)
1. the art of preaching; the branch of practical theology that treats of homilies or sermons.

From etymonline we get:

“the art of preaching,” 1805, from homiletic; also see -ics.  (noun)

homiletic (adj.)

1640s, “of or having to do with sermons,” from Late Latin homileticus, from Greek homiletikos “of conversation, affable,” from homilia “conversation, discourse,” in New Testament, “sermon” (see homily). Related: Homiletical.

So, we have an area of study, that doesn’t use the ending -o-logy, focused on the art of sermons or preaching.

So, what does that all mean?

Homiletics is concerned with how to preach or even why to preach a certain way. As you can guess, philosophy easily comes into this – and so can other areas of theology.

Take a look at the following statement I came across during research:

“…I’m not preoccupied with technique and methodology. I don’t have a formulaic approach to preaching; I have a theological approach to preaching.” – Dr. Merida

I think this comment taken from an article that you can view here encapsulates what I’m trying to get at in my description of homiletics. Dr. Merida goes on to explain what was meant by this, but I want to point out the acknowledgement here that there are differing angles in homiletics as to the approach in preaching. It is obvious in this comment that his approach puts the study of God at the center. We also see that there are those who make a point of technique, methods, and/or formula when preaching or constructing a message.

Are such considerations necessary? Are they helpful? Why chose one approach, or multiple, over others?

I suggest reading the above article I quoted from as a great place to start.

 

 


Be back next week as I intend to target Justification next.

Also, there are new drop-down menus added to the site to make it easier to find older posts from previous series and more. More will be added to these as I am able.

God bless!

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Missiology

Missiology is a sort of forced word for the study of missions. The word started to come into use between 1920 and 1925. Combine its “forced” quality and the fairly recent appearance and you get a reason why I couldn’t find it on etymonline for this post. Nevertheless, here’s the dictionary.com entry:

noun, Christianity.
1. the theological study of the mission of the church, especially the character and purpose of missionary work.

It is the result of forcing the word “mission” to be married to o-logy for “study of”.

The mission of the church is to go out and spread the news of Christ and His truth. Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 28:16-20. Actually, I’ll just put the entire text below. Your welcome!

Matthew 28:16-20 – The Great Commission

“16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The very first to be charged with what we call missions today were those we call the Apostles. They were told to go out and make more people like them, disciples of Christ. This is were missions is most clearly given to believers to carry out (though there be other verses).

Today, in many Christian universities and seminaries you can study missiology. A common element to this area of study is in how we consider the target peoples’ culture in our approach to reaching them. History has shown us missionaries with a variety of approaches, each with varying success/failure. A common element in many of the failures is in failing to recognize and consider the culture of the people trying to be reached as it can have powerful impacts on the receiving of God’s truth. Sadly, history has also shown individuals who went with entirely wrong purposes as well.

Nevertheless, culture is not a magic bullet by any means as history also shows us missionaries who acted quite respectfully toward the people they sought (even by that peoples’ standards) but found themselves chased out or even killed. Even in these incidents we can look back and often see God’s guiding hand as such early events proved to set the stage for later attempts to succeed. It was not uncommon in the past or even recently for the death of a Christian to prick the consciences of the people they were trying to reach, making them more receptive when more Christians appeared with the gospel message.

 

 

I will leave this post here. My mind wants to go on dozens of rabbit-tracks with this topic which isn’t any good for a simple defining/introduction article. If you find yourself interested in this topic, I do recommend you research it further as there is much to get into. People even get PhD’s in this are of study so have at it!

 

Apologetics

At the root of the term “apologetics” is “apology”. NO, we are not talking about saying “I’m sorry” here. Let’s take a closer look as to its actual meaning & origin.

Dictionary.com

noun, ( used with a singular verb)
1. the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.

Etymonline.com

apologetics

“branch of theology which defends Christian belief,” 1733, from apologetic (which is attested from early 15c. as a noun meaning “formal defense”); also see -ics.

apology

“early 15c., “defense, justification,” from Late Latin apologia, from Greek apologia “a speech in defense,” from apologeisthai “to speak in one’s defense,” from apologos “an account, story,” from apo “away from, off” (see apo-) + logos “speech” (see Logos).

In classical Greek, “a well-reasoned reply; a ‘thought-out response’ to the accusations made,” as that of Socrates. The original English sense of “self-justification” yielded a meaning “frank expression of regret for wrong done,” first recorded 1590s, but this was not the main sense until 18c. Johnson’s dictionary defines it as “Defence; excuse,” and adds, “Apology generally signifies rather excuse than vindication, and tends rather to extenuate the fault, than prove innocence,” which might indicate the path of the sense shift. The old sense has tended to shift to the Latin form apologia (1784), known from early Christian writings in defense of the faith.”


In Christianity we mean “apology” in the older sense of the word as is seen above from etymonline. As such, it is entirely focused on giving not only an accurate representation of the Christian faith, as seen in the Scriptures, but also communicating that message to those in and out of the faith. It can be easy to think that giving a defense is only against those easily seen as outside the faith, but it just as much includes defending against those who claim the faith (but are actually in heresy) or are simply in error and still in the faith (thereby simply receiving correction).

Within apologetics includes two predominant schools of thought – presuppositionalism and classical apologetics – which define effectively two different approaches to apologetics. Of course there are various other named areas of apologetics (like moral apologetics) but these can easily be connected to the two approaches or describe “giving a defense” that isn’t connected to Christianity exclusively.

Apologetics, as you may have guessed, gets into the realm of philosophy despite its heavy use of the Scriptures. As such, it could be argued that there are other positions besides the two mentioned – and that’s fine. I’m not here to debate. I would say though that presuppositional & classical are the two I see most in my circles and what I hear debated most (a.k.a. whether to use one over the other).

You may be saying, well that’s all well and good – what are those positions? How/Where do they stand?

A good question. I would direct you to the following site. Here you will see presuppositional, classical, and a couple others. If you are looking further reading on this topic, start there.

Soteriology

The study of salvation or, more specifically, the doctrine of salvation from our sins.

Etymology: (from etymonline)

“1847, in reference to health; 1864 in reference to salvation, from German soteriologie, from Greek soteria “preservation, salvation,” from soizein “save, preserve,” related to sos “safe, healthy,” of uncertain origin (perhaps from PIE root *teue- “to swell”). With -ology.”

Studying salvation helps us to understand our faith more deeply as well as enables us to give account of it to those outside the faith (aka witnessing).

Key questions discussed in this area of study today include:

Is baptism required for salvation?

What does it mean to be a born again Christian?

Once saved are you then always saved? (Can you lose your salvation?)

…and more.

It ultimately helps us understand other related doctrines such as redemption, sanctification, justification, propitiation, and substitutionary atonement. Many of these doctrines will appear in later posts.

This should at least give you an idea of what this area of study covers as well as provide you some material to begin digging into the doctrines of salvation.

 

Until next time!

Oh! And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers and your families!

Enjoy this time spent with family and remember the greatest gift we could be given was given to us by God in the birth of His Son!

 

 

 

I’ll get back to regular posts next weekend.

Defining & Where to Next

This week I thought I’d take a short break from the series to give you a preview of what I’ve got planned coming up.

So far I’ve gone over Theology and then moved onto other “ologies” that are related to the study of God. Those have included Epistemology and Eschatology, each with their own posts after the first two weeks just being on Theology overall.

Going forward, there will be more “ologies” and the next one planned will be on Soteriology. But that’s not all. I will also be digging into key terms that people often have difficulty with or trip up on as they aren’t necessarily common terms in everyday English. Two examples will be Justification and then another post on Epistles. Those more versed in the faith will know what I’m talking about, otherwise (unless you work in law) you may not truly understand words like Justification. We’ll be getting to that.

Currently, I’m planning to end the series with posts on Biblical Theology, Systemic Theology, Covenant Theology, and Dispensational Theology. Each of these will receive at least one post each if not more.

If I count up my current topics left to hit, I have…1…2…3…………..  …16 more topics to hit. So, I have at least 16 more posts/weeks of material at the minimum. Now, some of these will likely be in 2 parts which could stretch this out but I may just post more than once in a week to keep from stretching things out too far. I currently have no plans to have a particular topic stretch more than one post; however, with the finale being in bigger areas like Covenantal & Dispensational Theology….yeah, those may take more.

So, at this time it is 16 more posts in the series after this post which means 16 more weeks or, just be all the more obvious, 4 months of posts. No need for us to rush. On that note, expect Soteriology next week!