To Deny the Saving Nature of the Sacraments is to Deny Christ Himself

By Graham Glover

It’s really quite simple.

Baptism saves.

Absolution saves.

Eucharist saves.

Baptism saves us from the stain of original sin.

Absolution saves us from the sins we daily commit.

Eucharist saves us from those sins as well, literally bringing us into the physical presence of our Savior.

In other words, the Sacraments are salvific. The act of baptism saves an otherwise damned soul. The pronouncement of absolution saves the sinner who has turned their life from God. The reception of the Eucharist makes the unrighteous, righteous.

Yes, indeed, the sacraments save. They save us from our sinful ways. They redeem our lost and condemned souls. The sacraments make us holy. Completely. Totally.

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To deny this – to reject the salvific nature of the sacraments, is to deny and reject the One who instituted them. To deny what they truly do, is to deny Christ himself. It is to deny what the Lord God is capable of doing – even if we cannot rationalize it in our minds our make sense of it in our earthly understanding. As the sacraments bring Christ to the faithful, in simple, yet utterly profound ways, we simply accept what He says to be true and rejoice in the graciousness they offer. Or, we reject Him. We reject Christ and His promise that His sacraments do what He says they do.

This shouldn’t be complicated. The Holy Scriptures are clear. Christ is clear. The Church is clear. The sacraments save the sinner.

The sacraments save because it is the Lord in action. God Himself is the doer. They are His commands, given to His Church, for the benefit of His people. They are His gifts for us.

The sacraments are not our doing. They are not our actions. We prove nothing by doing them. We gain nothing without receiving them. They are all God – all for us. They are eternal life.

So rejoice this day. Rejoice in our Lord’s sacraments. Rejoice in these glorious gifts, given for you!

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8 comments

  1. I will simply say this, those who err on the sacraments err to their own detriment of soul and conscience. That does not mean that such a person is an apostate or utterly apart from Christ. They reject the wonderful gifts of God, but this does not necessarily mean that they dismiss faith through which God on account of Christ saves the sinner.

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    1. I completely agree that to reject the sacraments does not necessarily mean that one rejects the Christ who is given in the sacraments. Speaking from experience, however, I understand that rejecting sacramental grace removes the objectivity of God’s love for specific sinners, and places His love in the realm of potentiality.

      As many of our brothers have pointed out, the sacraments must be replaced by something, otherwise Christians can never have any assurance of God’s love for them. Generally, it is either emotional experience, charismatic gifts, or our “good” works which replace the sacraments. Ironically, most Protestants (who oppose Rome so strongly for teaching a form of justification by grace plus works), end up trusting in their works all the same. The only difference is that they classify this as “assurance” rather than salvation itself. In practice, it’s generally less Christ-centered than the Roman Catholic system, because at least the Roman Catholics have the objectivity of the sacraments.

      I’d rather be a Roman Catholic and have some assurance of my ultimate salvation (even if I have to make a brief stop in purgatory), than be involved in a legalistic scheme that ultimately provides no hope of salvation apart from my works.

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    2. CALKE14, good point. But I think we could argue that by rejecting the salvific nature of the sacraments and for that matter, the real presence of Christ in all of them, that they are dismissing a key element of our faith. I’m not trying to suggest they are an apostate, but neither am I suggesting such rejection should be considered immaterial.

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  2. “Luther’s insistence on the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament is at the same time an insistence on the reality of the Incarnation. … He was well aware that his contention in behalf of the Lord’s Supper was only a part of that great struggle against spiritualism in which the church has always been engaged. He knew that it was only part of that conflict which was carrie on, even in New Testament times, with those who denied that ‘Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.’ [1 John 4:2]

    The rejection, by Luther and the Lutheran Church, of Zwingli’s and Calvin’s teachings concerning the Sacrament can be understood only in light of their consequences: these teachings must inevitably, although certainly against the will of those who represent them, eventuate in undermining belief in the Incarnation and particularly belief in the presence of Christ. A spiritualism which will have nothing to do with Christ’s humanity, and concerns itself, instead, solely with His divine nature, will soon lose even this.”

    Sasse, Here We Stand, 155-156

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  3. Luther himself says that those who deny the sacramental nature of God’s grace are breaking the first commandment and that any such thing is from the devil himself.

    “The fanatics, that is the Anabaptists, talk a great deal about God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, and the death of Christ, still, when the question is raised how to come to Christ and obtain grace, how to effect a union with Him, they tell me that the Spirit alone must do this. And yet they preach grace. That amounts to proclaiming the existence of a treasure in fine terms, but taking away the key and bridge that would put me in possession of the treasure. Of what benefit would the treasure be to them? They lock up the treasure from us, which they ought to lay plainly before us, and lead us upon a monkey’s tail. They deny me access to the treasure and refuse to hand it over to me that I may have and use it. Now, God has ordained that this treasure is to be offered and conveyed to men by means of Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the external Word. These are the means and instruments by which to obtain the grace of God. They deny this truth. To sum up, there can be no schismatic but must run counter to the First Commandment and stumble at Christ Jesus. All heretics meet in a grand ensemble at this article. Let us, then, abide by this article: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods,’ and let us diligently bear in mind its object and scope. For if we put it out of our sight, we are opening the doors wide to all schismatic spirits. God never proposed to set up His worship in this world without external means.” – Luther as cited in Walther’s Law and Gospel, Lecture 16.

    In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning from the first fall to the end of the world, its poison having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power life, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mohamed. Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. – Luther, Smalcald Articles: III, art. viii, par. 9-11

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