Growing as a Christian - Publicly

What are the public Means of Grace?

By Earl Blackburn

Assembling together for worship is The first public Means of Grace.

God never intended the true believer to live the Christian life alone. After Christ’s ascension, the apostles went everywhere starting churches and ordaining elders in each (Acts 14:23). They did this so the young Christians could be strengthened, encouraged, guided, instructed, and above all worship God together. God, not man, ordained that by publicly assembling for worship, each believer would receive divine help and blessing for the days ahead. Together the people of God would not only receive God’s benediction, but mutually fortify one another. Christians are commanded not to for sake the assembling of themselves together in public worship (Hebrews 10:25).

Historically, Christian churches have always worshipped on Sunday. It was on Sunday, the first day of the week, that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and secured the fall of Satan’s empire. Fifty days later, at Pentecost, again on the first day of the week, the Holy Spirit came as a mighty rushing wind filling and empowering the Church. Since then Christians have met on Sundays, the first, best, and brightest of days, to worship the first, best, and brightest of Beings, the LORD God of hosts and His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

The elements of public worship are: public reading of Scripture, joined with preaching and teaching; the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; offerings; and prayer. In the reading and exposition of the Scripture, God speaks to us; in the singing, offerings and praying, we speak to God. While each of these elements of worship is important, the preaching of the Word of God is the most important. Our forefathers realized this when they wrote:
“The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word of God, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, ...” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 89)

The ordinances of The Gospel are The second public Means of Grace.

An ordinance is a custom and practice began by the Lord Jesus Christ while on the earth. In the true churches of Jesus Christ there are only two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism is the first ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ while on the earth. He commanded it to be performed by His apostles and churches until the end of the world (see Matthew 28:18-20). A professed believer who has neglected this, Christ’s first command, has no right to call himself a Christian. Baptism is to be performed by total immersion in water, and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is reserved only for believers. It is not for unbelieving infants. There is not one instance of infant baptism in the New Testament. It has always been for those who repent and believe and are thus converted and saved (see Acts 2:41, 18:8). This ordinance was designed to be a testimony to the world that we are followers of Christ and to strengthen our resolve to follow Him.

The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is the second ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus while on the earth. It is a divinely appointed means of strengthening the faith of believers. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice offered to God, but only a commemoration of that one time offering up of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, on the cross, for sins. As often as the Lord’s Supper is observed, it is to be in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). It should never be missed unless providentially and legitimately hindered!

The elements of the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine, are symbols. Each element represents a different aspect of Christ’s atonement. The bread is symbolic of the bruised and broken body of the Saviour, broken because of our sin. The wine symbolizes the blood of Christ which was shed for the cleansing of our sin. There is nothing magical about the bread and wine. They do not change and become the literal, physical body and blood of Christ, but remain what they are.

A careful study of the Scriptures reveals the requirements for partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The person must be one who is a true convert to Christ, baptized, seeking to walk in a way pleasing God, and a member of one of Christ’s churches. Remember this ordinance was not given to individual Christians, but to local churches and their members.

Fellowship with brothers and sisters in christ is the third public Means of Grace.

God’s people come from all types of background. Yet, the one thing that unites them all: they are in Christ! Christ loved them with an everlasting love and drew them with lovingkindness. All barriers fall before the electing, redeeming, saving love of Christ (see Ephesians 2:14-16).

Fellowship means “share together” or “shared life”, especially as it relates to other Christians. Again, when Christ saved you He did not intend you to live in isolation. You were meant to be a part of one of Christ’s churches and to enjoy fellowship with other believers (see Acts 2:41, 42). One of the most blessed things you realized after your conversion is the bond you have with true Christians.

Fellowship is not Christians socializing about sports, hobbies, weather, jobs, or politics. Although there is no harm in this. Instead it is the shared heart and life with one another in the things of the Lord Jesus and His Word. The uniqueness of Christian fellowship lies in being able to talk about and share together the joys, happiness, victories, problems, trials, sorrows, temptations and blessings of our walk with God. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Fellowship with Christians, in a local church, is iron sharpening iron. Fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ is a means of grace to keep us spiritually sharp and healthy.

Corporate Prayer (Acts 2:42) is the fourth public Means of Grace.

The early churches not only continued in the apostles doc- trine, the Lord’s Supper, and in fellowship, but they were faithful in praying together as a group. Church gatherings for prayer was one way of bearing one another burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). In the book of Acts, there are many examples of the early Christians praying together. On the day of Pentecost, what were the believers doing? Praying! (1:12-14, cf. 2:1). Through the means of corporate prayer, the church saw the Lord God deliver them from the hand of their enemies (4:23-33). Peter was set free from prison because the church prayed together (12:5). The history of the New Testament churches is a picture of the blessing and necessity of prayer meetings.

All that is true of private prayer is true of public prayer, except public prayer is corporate, instead of individual. If God is with His people and individually blesses them with His presence, how much more is this true when the church comes together for prayer. If He hears and answers the prayers of one, how much more will He hear and answer the prayers of many? One of the Puritans, David Clarkson, has said, “The presence of God, which, enjoyed in private, is but a stream; but in public becomes a river, a river that makes glad the city of God.”

A gracious, wise and loving Father in heaven gave these means to His children for their good (see Deuteronomy 10:13). He did not give them to put you in bondage to man made rules, but to bless, strengthen and encourage you. The private means of grace are given for your daily Christian life in a work-a-day world. The public means of grace are given for your benefit in a local church of Jesus Christ. Put each of them into practice right now and watch your Christian life develop, grow and blossom. Pursuing these God ordained means will glorify God, increase Christ’s kingdom and bring you righteousness, peace and joy.

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