The Sacraments in Scripture

This article gives the Scriptural support for the Seven Sacraments. However, a preliminary explanation is in order here.

In the Incarnation, Jesus assumed a human nature, a part of creation. He joined Himself to creation in order to redeem us creatures, so the Incarnation actually made the Atonement possible! Jesus' physical Blood has redeemed us (see Rev 5:9, Eph 1:7, Col 1:14, Heb 9:12, 1 Pet 1:2, 1 Jn 1:7), His bodily wounds and sufferings have saved us: "By his bruises we are healed" (Is 53:5). Our Redemption is not a purely "spiritual" reality; it is obviously "physical" as well!

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus often conveyed His healing power by created means: touching, spittle, mud, words, the hem of His garment, etc. He could have always healed with just a word (as He occasionally did: Lk 17:11-14), but still chose to work many healings through elements of creation.

In keeping with His earthly practice, Jesus established permanent signs for His Body, the Church, to use to carry on His work. These are the Seven Sacraments. Each one involves some physical outward sign, such as water, oil, bread and wine, words, gestures, etc., which convey God's healing, forgiving, nourishing and life-giving power.

("Sacrament" comes from a Latin word meaning "mystery": equivalent to the Greek term "mysterium". So the Sacraments are "mysteries": created signs through which God has chosen to convey His power.)

Though human beings perform them, the Sacraments are ultimately the work of Christ in and through His Body. Christ alone baptizes, Christ alone forgives sin, Christ alone consecrates, Christ alone anoints each of us. Priests who confer the sacraments are acting as representatives of Christ, but the Sacraments are ultimately *Jesus' work through His Body the Church*. So the Sacraments don't save us in and of themselves; Jesus saves us *through* them, even as He healed the woman through His garment, healed the blind man with mud, etc.

Here is the Scriptural evidence that Jesus established all seven Sacraments:

1. Baptism

Most Protestants would agree that Our Lord established this Sacrament (Mt 28:19). Yet Jesus also said that Baptism is necessary for salvation: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)

As soon as He finished explaining the importance of baptism to Nicodemus, He heads out with His disciples to baptize: "After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized" (Jn 3:22).

The Bible shows that Baptism saves us (I Pt 3:21) and forgives sin (Acts 22:16). So it is necessary for salvation.

2. Eucharist

Protestants also generally believe that Jesus established this one. Jesus established the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper:

"Take, eat; this is my body"...."Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)

Earlier He stated that Eucharist is necessary for salvation:

"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:53-54)

3. Confession

Jesus' ministry involved the forgiveness of sin (Mk 2:5; Lk 7:48). He wanted His Body to continue this aspect of His ministry, and so established the Sacrament of Penance by giving His Apostles the authority to forgive sins in His Name:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:21-23)

The common Protestant assertion that we should "only confess sins to God" is unbiblical, because James tells us to confess sins to other human beings: "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16).

The Bible records early converts confessing sins before the Apostles: "Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices" (Acts 19:18). (Thankfully, confessions later became private.)

Since forgiveness of sins is clearly necessary for salvation, this Sacrament is necessary for salvation.

4. Confirmation

The Bible calls this Sacrament "Baptism in the Spirit", "sealed with the Spirit" among other things. Jesus established it by promising and then giving the Holy Spirit to His Apostles:

And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5)

At Pentecost, St Peter said that it was as necessary for believers as repentance and Baptism:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; *and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit*. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation" (Acts 2:37-40)

The Apostles conferred the gift of the Spirit by the laying on of hands:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17, see also Acts 19:1-6).

St. Paul calls this Sacrament a "seal":

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:13-14).

5. Matrimony

Marriage was instituted in the beginning by God (Gen 1:27-28; Gen 2:18-24). Over the millenia, men had corrupted it with divorce, polygamy, etc. Jesus reestablished the indissolubility and unity of marriage:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." (Mt 19:3-9)

Jesus also gave Christian marriage new meaning by relating it to the union between Himself and the Church, His Bride. Jesus' favorite depiction of the Kingdom of God is that of a wedding (Mt 9:15; 22:1-9; 25:1, 10; Mk 2:19-20; Lk 5:34-35; 12:35-36; 14:6; also Jn 3:29; Rev 19:1, 5-9; 21:2-4)

St. Paul writes of marriage as the sign of the conjugal union of Christ and his Bride, the Church (Eph 5:21-32). He even calls it a "mystery" ("sacramentum" in Latin):

"For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great *mystery*, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church (vvs 30-31).

In Holy Matrimony, husband and wife are united by the very same bond that unites Christ to the Church! In fact, all of the Sacraments are a sharing in this central mystery, the mystery of the Bridegroom and the Bride.

6. Holy Orders

Jesus intended the Sacraments to be dispensed by special representatives. This is why He chose the twelve Apostles. He explicitly charged them to dispense the Sacraments many times:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)

"The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Co 11:23-25)

"Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:21-23)

Before their deaths, the Apostles passed their Holy Orders down to successors, in order to keep the line unbroken. Like Confirmation, Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you (1 Tim 4:14; see also Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; Acts 14:22-23; 2 Tim 1:6)

7. Anointing of the Sick

As noted above, Jesus used many created elements to convey His divine healing power. When He sent His disciples out two-by-two, they used oil:

"And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them." (Mark 6:13)

They were acting in His name, so surely Jesus must have told them to use the oil! Thus He established the Mystery of healing by anointing with oil. James tells us that the early Church carried on this instruction from Our Lord:

"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:16)

Notice that this anointing does two things: heals and forgives sins. That is exactly what the Sacrament does! So Jesus clearly established Anointing of the Sick (and again, since forgiveness of sins is necessary for salvation, this Sacrament is necessary for salvation).

So the above verses show that Jesus Himself established the seven Sacraments, and that the early Church conferred them.

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