Sermon quotes on

the sacraments

Lewis Allen

Where did we go wrong, that we preachers have so undervalued the Lord’s Supper and baptism? A glance around evangelical churches shows that the sacraments are the church’s Cinderellas—tolerated, patronized, and even put to work, but little loved and even less gloried in.

We love to celebrate a baptism and share the joy of grace in a person’s life; but do we teach the saints to live in the light of their baptism, and to draw strength from the fact that they bear the name of the Trinity? And are our Supper services more obligation than celebration, something we would feel embarrassed to leave out of our worship, rather than something we love to share together?

The Preacher’s Catechism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 180.

Augustine of Hippo

If you receive this well, you are what you receive … for the loaf that contains Christ is made up of many individual kernels of grain, but these kernels must, to become the loaf containing Christ, first be ground up and then baked together by fire.

Sermon 272

Augustine of Hippo

Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side… whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The Church does not dispense the sacrament of baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God.

Unless You Become Like This Child


Herman Bavinck

The content of the Word and sacrament is completely identical. They only differ in the external form, in the manner in which they offer the same Christ to us…In the Lord’s Supper we indeed do not receive any other or any more benefits than we do in the Word, but also no fewer.

Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 479, 567.

Wendell Berry 

To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.” 

The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


Walter Brueggemann

It is there within and among us, for we are ordained of God to be people of hope. It is there by virtue of our being in the image of the promissory God. It is sealed there in the sacrament of baptism. It is dramatized in the Eucharist—“until he come.” It is the structure of every creed that ends by trusting in God’s promises. Hope is the decision to which God invites Israel, a decision against despair, against permanent consignment to chaos (Isa 45:18), oppression, barrenness, and exile.” 

The Prophetic Imagination


Frederick Dale Bruner

Luther and Calvin believed that both the Roman church on the right and the Zwinglian and Anabaptist churches on the left made the Lord’s Supper too much a place WHERE BELIEVERS DID THINGS FOR GOD – either by offering Christ to God (Rome) or by offering their deep devotion to God (the Radical Protestants). The main direction of the Supper, in both of these views, was up.

Matthew: The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28

John Calvin

Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.

John Calvin

Let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.14.17.

John Calvin

[With respect to rejecting the sacraments] Nothing is more odd than for the faithful freely to do without the assistance handed down by the Lord or allow themselves to be deprived.

A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke and the Epistles of James and Jude, ed. Thomas F. Torrance and David W. Torrance, trans. A. W. Morrison (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1972), 138.

John Calvin

The sacraments are 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.

Robert Farrar Capon

However grand our sacramental downsittings and updressings may be, they remain only and precisely sacraments: real presences, under particular signs, of the happier order that faith can discover under any and all signs. They’re a bit like the church. As long as we see them as an earnest of the kingdom, they’re all right; when we put on airs and act as if they were the kingdom itself, they look just silly.

Stephen Charnock

The gospel sacraments seal the gospel promises, as a ring confirms the covenant of marriage.

“A Discourse upon the Goodness of God,” in The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 342–43.

Stephen Charnock

In every repetition of communion by presenting the sacrament God confirms his resolution to stick to his covenant; and by eating it the receiver commits himself to keep close to the condition of faith.

“A Discourse upon the Goodness of God,” in The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 342–43, word order changed for clarity.”

John Chrysostom

How many there are who still say, ‘I want to see His shape, His image, His clothing, His sandals.’ Behold, you do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him! You want to see His clothing. He gives Himself to you, not just to be seen but to be touched, to be eaten, to be received within …. Let all of you be ardent, fervent, enthusiastic. If the Jews stood, shoes on, staff in hand, and eating in haste, how much more vigilant should you be. They were about to go to Palestine; … you are about to go to heaven.

Sinclair B. Ferguson

We do not get a different or a better Christ in the sacraments than we do in the Word…But we may get the same Christ better, with a firmer grasp of his grace through seeing, touching, feeling, and tasting as well as hearing.

The Whole Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 223.

Matthew Henry

Thou hast taken me into covenant with thee, for I am a baptized Christian, set apart for thee and sealed to be thine; thou hast laid me, and I have also laid myself, under all possible obligations to love thee and serve thee and live to thee.

“Before Partaking of the Lord’s Supper,” in Pray the Bible: An Online Edition of Matthew Henry’s “A Method of Prayer,” ed. Ligon Duncan with William McMillan.

Craig Johnson 

“I sometimes forgot about how spiritual Henry was. I had been raised as a Methodist where the highest sacrament was the bake sale.”

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire, #1)


Peter Kreeft 

Sacraments are like hoses. They are the channels of the living water of God’s grace. Our faith is like opening the faucet. We can open it a lot, a little, or not at all. 



Robert Letham

Nothing presents a starker contrast between our own day and the Reformation than the current neglect of the Lord’s Supper. . . . Today, the communion hardly features as a matter of significance. It is seen as an optional extra.

The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001), 1.

C.S. Lewis 

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. 

The Weight of Glory


C.S. Lewis

Long since on Mars and more strongly since he came to Perelandra, Ransom had been perceiving that the triple distinction of truth from myth and both from fact was purely terrestrial-was part and parcel of that unhappy distinction between soul and body which resulted from the fall. Even on earth the sacraments existed as a permanent reminder that the division was neither wholesome nor final. The Incarnation had been the beginning of its disappearance. In Perelandra it would have no meaning at all.” 

Perelandra (Space Trilogy, #2)


Thomas Manton

Now the covenant mutually binds us. God binds himself to give grace to us, and we bind ourselves to live for God…So sacraments on God’s part are signs and seals of the promise of grace; on our part, they are an obligation to obedience. God binds himself to be our God, and we bind ourselves to be his people.

“A Sermon on the Ends of the Sacrament,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet, 1873), 493.”

Malcolm Muggeridge

Christianity . . . sees the necessity for man to have spiritual values and it shows him how to get at those through physical sacraments.

Alexander Schmemann

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom. We use the word ‘dimension’ because it seems the best way to indicate the manner of our sacramental entrance into the risen life of Christ. Color transparencies ‘come alive’ when viewed in three dimensions instead of two. The presence of the added dimension allows us to see much better the actual reality of what has been photographed. In very much the same way, though of course any analogy is condemned to fail, our entrance into the presence of Christ is an entrance into a fourth dimension which allows us to see the ultimate reality of life. It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.” 

For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy


Alexander Schmemann 

Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence…To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.” 

For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy


Eugene Peterson

Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what’s common in human experience and turns it into something holy.


Eugene Peterson

Spirituality is no different from what we’ve been doing for two thousand years just by going to church and receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, and reading Scriptures rightly. It’s just ordinary stuff.

Charles Spurgeon

Have your heart right with Christ, and he will visit you often, and so turn weekdays into Sundays, meals into sacraments, homes into temples, and earth into heaven.

Rodney Stark

Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. 

John Stott

Baptism with water is the sign and seal of baptism with the Spirit, as much as it is of the forgiveness of sins. Water-baptism is the initiatory Christian rite, because Spirit-baptism is the initiatory Christian experience.

John Stott

The primary movement which the gospel sacraments embody is from God to man, not man to God.

The Cross of Christ

Evelyn Underhill

The Eucharist is the very heart of Christian worship because it is so rich and far-reaching in its significance; because it eludes thought, eludes emotion, relies on simple contact, humble and childlike receptiveness, sense quenching soul. It mixes together the extremes of mystery and homeliness; takes our common earthly experience of suffering, love abandonment, death, and makes them inexpressibly holy and fruitful; takes the food of our natural life and transforms that into a channel of Divine Life.

Daily Readings with a Modern Mystic

Gerard Wisse

The promise of God in Christ Jesus is of such extraordinary magnitude that it seems almost impossible that it also applies to someone like me. Therefore the Lord, by means of His Supper, stamps the seal of confirmation upon this promise…God, so to speak, places the ring of spiritual betrothal on our finger.”

“May I Partake of the Lord’s Supper?,” in Wisse, Christ’s Ministry in the Christian: The Administration of His Offices in the Believer, trans. Bartel Elshout and William Van Voorst (Sioux Center, IA: Netherlands Reformed, 1993), 100–101, modernized.

Ben Witherington III 

We have seen some gatekeeping or fencing-the-table language already beginning to rear its head in this context. One needed to be baptized to take the meal; one needed to repent to take the meal; one needed a bishop or his subordinate to serve the meal. This was to become especially problematic when the church began to suggest that grace was primarily, if not exclusively, available through the hands of the priest and by means of the sacrament. One wonders what Jesus, dining with sinners and tax collectors and then eating his modified Passover meal with disciples whom he knew were going to deny, desert, and betray him, would say about all this. There needs to be a balance between proper teaching so the sacrament is partaken of in a worthy manner and overly zealous policing of the table or clerical control of it.” 

Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper


N.T. Wright 

But to reject, marginalize, trivialize, or be suspicious of the sacraments (and quasi-sacramental acts such as lighting a candle, bowing, washing feet, raising hands in the air, crossing oneself and so forth) on the grounds that such things CAN be superstitious or idolatrous or that some people might suppose they are putting God in their debt, is like rejecting sexual relations in marriage on the grounds that it’s the same act that in other circumstances constitutes immorality.” 

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Leonard J. Vander Zee

Ask most any Protestant about the meaning of the Supper, and you will hear the word remembrance. The problem is that a too-simplistic understanding of the Lord’s command has limited the meaning of the sacrament in the minds of many to the recollection of a long-ago historical event. It tends to place the weight of the sacramental meaning in the minds, heart and faith of the participants, as he or she struggles to remember, with faith and gratitude, what the Lord did for them on the cross.

Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 210.

John Calvin

The sacraments are 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.

Tim Chester

The sacraments are, as it were, God’s “body language.”

Taken from Truth We Can Touch by Tim Chester, © 2020 pp.65-66. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

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