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Lutheran Confirmation

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Unit 4-A: The Sacraments
     God's Tools To Transform Hearts

                "For as many of you have been baptized into 
                             Christ have put on Christ."
                                             St. Paul in Galatians 3:27 (KJV)


The Sacraments:
   God's Means Of Grace


What Is A "Sacrament?"

The word "Sacrament" is a combination of two Latin words: "sacra-" (meaning "sacred" or "holy") and "-ment" (meaning "thing"). Thus a "sacrament is a "holy or sacred thing."

What is a "holy thing"? There are many things we could call "holy things." It is a holy thing to give offerings, to attend church, to pray, to share the Gospel with others and the study God's Word.

Since the word "sacrament" is not found in the Bible, Christians are free to designate whatever they wish as a sacrament. 

The Roman Catholic Church has seven sacraments. These include Confirmation, Confession (that is, asking for forgiveness of sin), Ordination (when a person becomes a priest), Marriage, Extreme Unction (that is, anointing someone just before the time of their death), Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion. Other Protestant Churches do not have sacraments at all.  

Following the teaching of Martin Luther, Lutherans recognize Sacraments as something so holy and so special, that they deserve to be in a special category. That is why Lutherans have  just two sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

The Means Of Grace

Why are Holy Baptism and Holy Communion so special? Because they, in addition to God's Word itself, are the exclusive way that God gives His grace. 

Lutherans recognize that these sacraments are the "means" by which God gives faith (Holy Baptism) and strengthens faith (Holy Communion). For that reason they are placed in a very special category called "Means of Grace."

Three Criterion For A Sacrament

In order to be called a "Sacrament," Lutherans insist that a Sacrament meet these three criteria:
      1) It Must Be Commanded By God.
What God has commanded us to do is especially
                       important for us to do. When Jesus said, "Baptize all nations" He commanded us
                       to share His grace with everyone throughout the world. When Jesus gave
                       Holy Communion, He commanded, "This do...."  For Lutherans, Sacraments are
                       special because they have the very command of God. He directs us to do them;
                       We respond with joy by respecting and observing His command.

     2) It Must Have Visible Elements ("Means"). This criteria for sacraments further describes--
                       and limits--what can be considered a "sacrament." There are many things in
                       the life of the church that are "holy", but very few have something visible attached
                       to them. Prayer is holy, but is not a sacrament because there is nothing visible. Holy
                       Baptism and Holy Communion both have visible elements (or "visible means").
                       These are water (Baptism) and bread and wine (Holy Communion). 

     3) It Must Offer God's Grace (that is, Forgiveness). For Lutherans, this is the most
                       distinctive thing about the Sacraments. Since they offer God's grace, they are
                       called--and recognized--as "Means of Grace." Because God has only promised
                       to give grace through His Word, Baptism, and Holy Communion, these means
                       of grace are absolutely essential and foundation to Christian Faith. 

Why Are Sacraments So Important?

The Sacraments are so important not only because God commanded them, but He has promised that through their use He will give us His grace. In Holy Baptism, God gives His grace so that we can come to faith and become children of God. In Holy Communion, God gives His grace so that even our weak faith will be strengthened. 

Through the Sacraments, God gives His grace in spite of our unworthiness to receive it. Through the Sacraments, God gives His grace to all who humbly receive His promised blessing.

Three Things Sacraments Do 

The Sacraments are also important to Christians because they do three things for those who receive them. Sacraments...

1) Grant us forgiveness of sins;
2) Deliver us from death and the Devil; and 
3) Give eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and
        promises of God declare.

Why Should You Receive The Sacraments?

The answer should be obvious. Without the Sacrament of Baptism, one cannot come to Christian Faith. Without Holy Communion, one denies the very real presence of Jesus in their lives to forgive and strengthen you each day.

Receiving God's Word and Sacrament is the necessary basis for coming to faith--and staying in Faith. After you are confirmed, will you read God's Word and receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion often? Or will you turn away from God's special means of grace?


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