Is it true that Sacraments have effects for Salvation?
If the Lord has commanded us to administer and receive the sacraments, how can they be unnecessary? The Lord’s command alone makes them necessary. Every believer ought to receive the sacraments in obedience to Christ.
Sacraments have effects for our salvation, but they are not mere symbols without effect. God’s word tells us that Christ’s salvation is made effective on the believer through the sacraments. Although we cannot rationalize how God brings us spiritual saving effect through material things or physical actions, with faith in God’s promise we trust that we can receive this effect when we accept the sacraments.
Hence, it is not true that we are saved the moment we believe and confess Christ..
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul is not saying that intellectual acceptance or open confession is the totality of faith and anything else would be deeds subsequent to faith. Nor is he concerned with the exact moment of justification. If he were, he would have said something like “when you agree that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Jesus as Lord, you are justified and saved.” In that case, the sacraments would be acts subsequent to justification. But is Paul referring to the time of justification? Notice that the sentence consists of two parts, namely belief unto justification, and confession unto salvation. As we know, confession doesn’t usually occur at the same moment in time as belief (in the sense of conceptual agreement). So does it mean that salvation is a separate event in time from justification? Where would repentance come in, then? Is repentance an act subsequent to justification?
In Ephesians 1:13, Paul’s message to the church may seem to suggest that a person is already in Christ the moment he intellectually agrees with the gospel. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of
promise” (Eph 1:13). It would be a mistake to interpret “heard” or “believed” as only intellectual agreement that occurred at a specific point in time. The hearing and believing must include accepting Christ, confessing of sin, repentance, receiving the sacraments, and entrusting one’s whole life to the gospel, all of which make up “the word of truth.” If Paul’s words referred to a moment in time, then he would be literally saying that a believer is included in Christ the second he hears a Christian message for the first time in his life (in this case, even before intellectual agreement). His confession of sin and repentance have no effect. They are only symbolic of the salvation he has received. Such interpretation is not only out of context, but also without Biblical support.
Sacraments are not just symbols. Sacraments have effects for our salvation. God works through them to bring us salvation when we receive them with faith.
The saving effects of the sacraments are clearly stated by the Lord himself. We cannot reduce them to mere symbols or even deny their necessity just because we do not understand how God’s saving effect can take place through some outward actions. If a person believes that God raised Christ from the dead but does not believe that he can receive a new life through baptism, he doesn’t qualify as a true believer. If a person confesses that Jesus is Lord but rejects footwashing, he would be like those who call “Lord, Lord” but do not do what he says (see Luke 6:46). True belief in the heart would encompass acceptance of the sacraments, and that is the belief that justifies. True confession would encompass receiving the sacraments in the name of the Lord Jesus, and that is the confession that saves.
Can good works of Christians who have never received the sacraments save themselves?
A person could perform good works without faith in Jesus Christ. So good works cannot be a sign of a person’s salvation. Cornelius’s good works were not enough. He still needed to hear the gospel, repent and be baptized to receive eternal life (Acts 10:1- 47; 11:18).
The sacraments are fundamental to our covenantal relationship with God. Without them, all subsequent works of faith would amount to nothing. Unless a person is baptized into Christ, he still stands condemned because he is still in sin. Unless his feet are washed by Christ, he still has no part with Christ. Unless he partakes of the Lord’s body and blood, he does not have life in him. The good works that he performs may seem to assure him that he is an elect of God, but these good works would not be much different from the works of the law because he has not received the righteousness of Christ.
Now do you believe that sacraments are fundamental and have effects for our salvation?
Believing in the Lord Jesus includes believing and carrying out his command (Lk 6:46-49). Those who only confess the Lord’s name without doing the will of God are not true disciples (Jn 8:31) and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21-23).
If belief means intellectual agreement without obedience, even Satan would be a believer (Jas 2:19). Faith without obedience is false faith; it cannot save (Jas 2:14).
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