Wheaton: IL, Crossway, 2020
The great desire of every human heart is to have true communion with God, and communion with one another, and this is why Tim Chester’s Truth We Can Touch is an indispensable treatise for the contemporary church. Chester shows why the sacraments — baptism and the Lord’s Supper — were not just for the early church but are Christological signs and seals God has given His church to reassure us of the promises of the gospel.
Particularly for those living in the highly individualised and secularised West, Chestertaps into the God-given need and longing we all have for true communion and sees the sacraments as tangible gifts God has given us to point us back to the gospel which saved us. Winsomely, Chester avoids the debate between credobaptism and paedobaptism and rather holds the focus on how the sacraments are fundamentally theocentric and Christological in nature and were given to us by God to point us His promises for those who trust in Him. He writes:
“One issue I’m ignoring is whether infants should be baptized (the paedobaptist position) or just those professing faith (the credobaptist or Baptist position) … Indeed, I fear it often distracts us from a serious consideration of the wider significance of the sacraments to our daily lives as Christians and congregations” (pp. 20-21)
Nonetheless, something I would have appreciated Chester to have addressed is the issue of viewing covenant theology, and how the sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant community. More engagement with Calvin’s Institutes and other Reformed authors would have set the sacraments in their appropriate theological category and would help believers to see how these signs and seals of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are vertical promises applied to God’s people as a community.
Rich in Biblical Theology and church history, Truth We Can Touch sees the sacraments as woven into the tapestry of God’s redemptive plan throughout human history. Chester addresses false views of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism with Biblical truth, showing that the signs and seals were never intended by God to be idolised, but rather to point us to the promises of God.
Chester explores the critical aspects of Christian unity and identity that the sacraments communicate, whether it be the need for us to reconcile with one another, the need to address sin through church discipline, and even the ability for the sacraments to communicate the gospel to non-believers who are present. As Chester writes, baptism is primarily about ‘union with Christ,’ while the Lord’s Supper is about ‘communion with Christ.’
By embracing the Biblical perspective, we can expect to see the profound longing for intimacy with God and one fulfilled through the tangible, ongoing, and God-given sacraments. Overall, the modern church will do well to take heed to Truth You Can Touch, because if we do, we should expect to see the transforming and invigorating power of the sacraments for our unity, intimacy, growth as disciples of Jesus.