Here’s the foreword which Sinclair Ferguson kindly wrote for Truth We Can Touch, my new book on the sacraments.
It is a privilege to introduce Truth We Can Touch and to commend it to you. This is a much more important book than its size might suggest, because it will help you to understand and enjoy two of Christ’s special gifts to you—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Reading it reminded me of two incidents in my life.
The first was a conversation I had years ago with a doctoral student from the Far East. I knew him as “Timothy.” But one day, when I felt I had come to know him well enough, I asked him, “Timothy, what’s your real name?” He smiled and said, “Timothy.” I smiled back, knowing he would see that I wasn’t convinced this was the whole truth! “Come on, tell me, what is your real name?” Again, he replied, “Timothy.” So, I tried a different maneuver. “What is the name your parents registered for you?” This time he responded with his native Asian name. Despite feeling we were in the endgame of a little chess match and that somehow he had a secret move up his sleeve, I said, “So that’s your real name!” “No” he said—and then theologically checkmated me! “Timothy is my real name. That’s the name I was given when I was baptized.”
Timothy taught me a great lesson that day. The name you were given at your baptism is even more important than the name by which your birth was registered. Timothy’s baptismal name had not changed Timothy’s heart any more than his ethnic name had. But since the day of his baptism, it had reminded him who he was as a Christian and had called him to live in the light of that.
The conversation left me wondering if Timothy was in the minority of Christians—someone who understood his baptism well enough for it to have an ongoing significance for him every day of his life.
You might think from this that it would be a neat idea to give people new names when they are baptized. But we don’t need to do that, because that has already happened. Your own baptism was a naming ceremony: you were baptized “in[to] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). That naming ceremony no more changed your heart than did the name you were given at birth. But like the registration of your family name, this new name expresses who you really are as a Christian believer; it is a constant reminder to you of the family to which you belong and what it means to be part of it. Our baptism is meant to be a daily reminder of this—for the rest of our lives. That is why the New Testament has so much to say about its ongoing significance for believers.
The second incident also happened in the Far East. With three other men I was invited by the owner of a famous hotel to have dinner with him—the kind of hotel where the suites would cost you more than $15,000—per night! The owner wore one of those watches you see advertised but learn online that you could never afford! He was a very gracious host. His splen- did European chef appeared in the private dining room to explain the menu he had chosen for us—including “zee special white truffle” on the soup, and a steak that almost melted in the mouth. The company was enjoyable, and the food was exquisite. The whole experience was memorable, not least the way, when we arrived, it seemed that a pathway through the hotel had been created by the staff—we were surely very important people to the owner!
But the truth is, all the evening gave me was a story to tell you. For all the kindness of our host, he inhabited a different so- cial world than I. The watch he was wearing was probably worth more than the house I live in. I could never afford to spend a night in his hotel. It was very thoughtful of him to invite me to come, and I said so as his driver opened the door of his magnificent limousine to take him home! It was a little like a holiday abroad—for a night!
But I tell you the story to make a point. An “experience” though it was, I would readily swap it for the opportunity to sit down at a table and have something to eat and drink with the Lord Jesus. And the wonderful truth is that I can and do, every time we share the Lord’s Supper. That is why many churches refer to it as the Communion service. It isn’t because we “take Communion.” It is because we experience communion with Christ. For that is what Communion is. The most expensive meal we ever have on earth cannot hope to compare to that.
This is what Truth We Can Touch will help you to see more clearly. It will help you to understand how your baptism can be a lifelong help to living for Christ. And it will show you that the Lord’s Supper isn’t so much something we do but the way Christ enables us to enjoy his presence. In it he says to us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). When that happens, we discover—as the two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus also did (Luke 24:28–31)—that when he comes and is present at the table, he becomes the host and gives us his little love gifts of bread and wine—visible, tangible, tasteable expressions of his dying love for us. And we recognize his presence with us. What meal could possibly mean more to us?
It is because the Lord Jesus Christ gave baptism and the Lord’s Supper to us in order to bless us that I especially appreciate Tim Chester’s whole approach in Truth We Can Touch. He has his own convictions about the various theological and practical controversies that have surrounded these gifts of Christ. But his goal here is not to satisfy our sometimes-warped desire to have the “right” positions on these sad disagreements. He has chosen a better way: to show us how to appreciate, rightly use, and enjoy the gifts themselves, because through them we come increasingly to know, trust, love, and enjoy their giver. This, after all, is why our Lord Jesus gave them to us.
So I, for one, believe that what Tim Chester writes here can only bring more and more blessing to us as individuals and as churches, and that it will enhance our appreciation and enjoyment of the privileges we receive as Christian believers. And in encouraging you now to turn over the page and read on, I feel sure that if you want to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed.
Sinclair B. Ferguson
Content taken from Truth We Can Touch by Tim Chester © 2020. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.