The second part of the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons deals with the office of the deacon. This Form is rather brief, dealing with just two matters. First of all the origin and institution of the office is recorded, and this is followed by a brief description of the office itself. To these matters we will return presently, but let us first make some general observations.
“I am a stranger here, dependent on Thy grace, A pilgrim as my fathers were, with no abiding p1ace.”
The branch of study which we purpose to treat in this rubric is formally known as Liturgies. With reference to the term Liturgy to the sphere of divine service, the Christian use of the word is based upon the Septuagint, which translates the Hebrew aboda, in relation to the temple service, by leitourgia.
Much has been written about the formulation, meaning, and interpretation of the three questions that are asked and answered in connection with the baptism of children in Reformed churches. Throughout the years they have been storm-centers of debate. Even today there is no unanimity of opinion concerning the precise meaning of some of the phrases.
Worship is the highest of all the functions of man. There is nothing physical or mundane in it, although it can and frequently is performed through the use of many physical media derived from the present world, Worship in its essential character is a thoroughly spiritual function of the entire nature of man in which he transcends the temporal and earthly and is consciously overwhelmed by the eternal realities of God. The creature who has been created in the very image and likeness of God Himself is brought into experiential fellowship with the Creator for the duration of worship.
“Do you promise and intend to see these children (this child), when come to years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?”
The above caption is a partial quotation taken from the third question that is asked by the church of parents when they present their children for baptism. It clearly defines the limitation of the sacred vow in which promise is made that we will arduously and faithfully instruct the children God entrusts to our care “in the aforesaid doctrine,” which, for us Protestant Reformed parents, can only mean the faith or way of life set forth in the Protestant Reformed credo! We will spare no effort.
Instructing our children in harmony with the truths of our confession is not an optional matter. It is a most solemn duty imposed upon us by God and, involving a grave responsibility. This responsibility is voluntarily assumed by us, the parents, in the baptism of our children; and its application is not limited to any given sphere of our or our children’s lives. It embraces the church, the home and the school. God Himself defines the limitation of this duty when He commands us in His Word:
The Form for the Baptism of Infant Children that is used in our churches contains two significant prayers. The first of these is uttered at the conclusion of the reading of the form proper and just before the parents are asked to answer the questions. The other one occurs at the conclusion of the ceremony and is a prayer of thanksgiving. To these two prayers we now give our attention because they also are an integral part of the administration of the sacrament.
To be “incorporated into Christ” is fundamental. As we wrote last time, “out of this all blessings flow, even as without incorporation into Christ there is no blessing, no grace, common or otherwise.” This fundamental idea is found throughout Scripture in various forms. It embodies both the legal and the organic idea.