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Adam Young concludes our short series on worthy and unworthy reception of the sacraments by examining the historic formularies of the Church of England.
As recent court cases have reaffirmed, the Church of England does have a clear doctrine and teaching: this doctrine is that of Scripture. The official interpretation of Scriptural truth for the Church of England is found in the Historic Formularies—the 39 Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), and the Ordinal. Until these foundational documents have their absolute authority abolished (by removing or altering canons A2-A7, C7 and C15) they remain the doctrinal standards of the Church of England to which everything else must be held accountable.
According to canon A3, all ministers should be able to use the BCP in “good conscience” and, following canon C15, the oath taken at ordination means that all ministers vow to “affirm your loyalty [to the historic formularies] as your inspiration and guidance under God.” Importantly, canon C7 demands that not only should no-one be allowed into ministry without having been found to have sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures but also “of the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England as set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” But what is the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England concerning who should receive the Lord’s Supper and who should refrain from doing so?
In the second of our mini-series on the issue of receiving the sacraments, Robert Brewis looks at some background to our understanding of the sacraments and then examines the Articles to see what they teach on this matter.
What does it mean to be a worthy receiver of the sacraments? As Article 25 says, ‘And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.’
Strong stuff! So what does it mean to receive the sacraments ‘worthily’?
Sacraments and sacramentalism
The consistent teaching of Hebrews is that a person is in the new covenant by faith alone (Hebrews 2:10-17; 4:3, 14; 7:25; 8:6, 10:22). Notice Jesus himself administers the new covenant, and a person shares in his rest, his work, and the new covenant by faith. The new covenant is entered into by belief, and the sacraments of the new covenant (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are God’s way of assuring believers that what he promised to do upon faith, he has done. For the person of faith, they seal one’s interest in the covenant. The new covenant is a promise of salvation upon faith flowing from Christ’s work, and therefore to be in the covenant one has to have faith, not merely receive a sacrament.
Director Lee Gatiss is interviewed on the GAFCON 2018 livestream.
Watch Lee Gatiss being interviewed on the GAFCON 2018 livestream calling for real change in the Church of England to allow greater flourishing for evangelicals. He also talks about our recent book on the Thirty-Nine Articles, Foundations of Faith, which he’s been giving away to delegates from the developing world.