Sacraments as a means of salvation

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retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
Hey all, I am hoping for some clarification here. I am still fairly new to reformed theology and am still trying to learn the details of some of the particulars. The question relates to the Westminster Larger Catechism.

Q. 161. How do the Sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered; but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ by whom they are instituted

To start, I would mention that I am baptised and I do take the Lord's supper at my church on a monthly basis. However, if this was not the case, is what this is saying is salvation is not possible, as in you cannot be saved?
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
Are you able to explain that a bit more practically (if that's possible)? Or, point me to a source that expounds on them a bit more? Sorry, for my ignorance, my background is in a mega church where not much attention was paid to the sacraments/ordinances.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Sacraments are signs. They point (like a sign) to the reality. For the believing, they are also seals. The seal or stamp God's promise onto us.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
I also got hung up on the sacraments as effectual. If you read the chapters and questions on baptism, the Lord's Supper, and saving faith you will see the writers were not espousing that the sacraments save us. I think what they are pointing out here is that due to the Holy Spirit working in us, the Lord's Supper and Baptism are not just physical, they have spiritual meaning as well. That would be differentiating from Zwingli's view of the Lord's Supper. I would recommend reading WCF chapters 11, 13, 14, 27, 28, 29 and Calvin on the sacraments.
 

RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hey all, I am hoping for some clarification here. I am still fairly new to reformed theology and am still trying to learn the details of some of the particulars. The question relates to the Westminster Larger Catechism.

Q. 161. How do the Sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered; but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ by whom they are instituted

To start, I would mention that I am baptised and I do take the Lord's supper at my church on a monthly basis. However, if this was not the case, is what this is saying is salvation is not possible, as in you cannot be saved?
To start, I would mention that I am baptised and I do take the Lord's supper at my church on a monthly basis. However, if this was not the case, is what this is saying is salvation is not possible, as in you cannot be saved?​

No, rest easy. That is not what it’s saying. The standards do not teach that one cannot be saved without the sacraments. What is being conveyed is that when God is pleased to use the sacraments as a means of salvation, the grace is made effectual not in the elements themselves or by the piety of the minister but by the Holy Spirit as ordained by Christ.

Also, keep in mind that the salvation in view is not justification. The sacraments aren’t converting ordinances. By God’s grace the sacraments are effectual by the Holy Spirit in our progressive sanctification, which is part of our overall salvation.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok thanks all for answers. This has been very helpful. I have read Calvin on baptism but not the supper yet, but have listened to a teaching on him on the subject. I will also check out the wcf chapters. I also looked into Luther and Zwingli on the subject. It would appear the wcf is strictly Calvinist in it's understanding, as the other two vary quite a bit.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I think another point that helps us to understand what is being said is that the sacraments function in a very similar way to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathes out the Word of God, and also breathes through the Word of God to make its message effectual in us. The Holy Spirit uses the sacraments in similar ways, with the caveats that Ron mentioned above. The Word of God appeals to the sense of hearing. The sacraments preach salvation to us through more of the senses, but still including hearing.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
I think another point that helps us to understand what is being said is that the sacraments function in a very similar way to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathes out the Word of God, and also breathes through the Word of God to make its message effectual in us. The Holy Spirit uses the sacraments in similar ways, with the caveats that Ron mentioned above. The Word of God appeals to the sense of hearing. The sacraments preach salvation to us through more of the senses, but still including hearing.
This makes sense.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Baptism is an Effectual Means of Salvation

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.—Mark 16:16​
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.—Acts 2:38​
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.—Acts 22:16​
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.—1 Cor. 12:13​

Baptism is Only Effectual When Accompanied by Repentance and Faith

Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. . . [But later, Peter would say] Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.—Acts 8:13, 21-23​

The Lord's Supper is an Effectual Means of Salvation

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?—1 Cor. 10:16​
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.—1 Cor. 12:13​

The Lord's Supper is Only Effectual When Accompanied by Repentance and Faith

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.—1 Cor. 11:27-30​
 
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