Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are by Christ’s own appointment means whereby his grace is imparted to the members of his body—the one, relating to entrance through union with Christ in his death and resurrection into newness of life and the fellowship of the church; the other relating to the nourishment of that life through believing participation in the elements of bread and wine as showing forth the Lord’s death till he come. But there are, apart from the two sacraments, other means whereby God’s grace is imparted to men. As Charles Hodge says, “A work of grace is the work of the Holy Spirit; the means of grace are the means by which, or in connection with which, the influence of the Spirit is conveyed or exercised” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 654). Thus the sacraments or ordinances, although unique in their institution, are not the only agencies through which divine grace is received. For both Scripture and life bear witness to the fact that the Holy Spirit influences men in many different ways.
So manifold are these other means of grace that to discuss them within the compass of a brief essay imposes a problem of selection. But the problem may be solved, in part at least, by considering first those means which, although different from the sacraments or ordinances, are in particular relation to them—namely, the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship (communion of the saints)—and then by considering some of the many means that come through common grace.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper do not stand in isolation. They are intimately related within the Church to the Word of God. Thus Calvin declared, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, ...1
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