The Sacraments as Visible Words

Means of Grace

In addition to the Word of God [the chief means of grace- J.F.), there are the sacraments. Broadly considered, the sacraments are connected to the Word, being visible words. The sacraments’ status as visible words is evident by their institution and practice. Concerning the Lord’s Supper, for example, Christ identifies the bread as His body and the wine as His blood, and as such the supper invokes the remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ.

Paul saw the Lord’s Supper as a visible proclamation of the gospel.

Likewise, baptism invokes the remembrance of the crucifixion, as Jesus calls His crucifixion a baptism (Mark 10:39; Luke 12:50), but Paul also connects the death of Christ with baptism (Rom. 6:1–4). The death of Jesus is inherently and inextricably bound with the Word and the preaching of Christ crucified. Apart from the Word, the sacraments are empty symbols indistinguishable from any other washing or meal. The preaching of the Word with the explanation of the symbolism of the sacraments sets the washing with water and the meal of bread and wine apart as sacraments, as means of grace. To this end, Paul reminded the Corinthians that as they celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, they proclaimed the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26). Paul saw the Lord’s Supper as a visible proclamation of the gospel.

J.V. Fesko, Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism