Vol.XII No.III Pg.4
May 1975

Sacraments And Grace

Robert F. Turner

Last month we devoted two pages to the priesthood of believers but the importance of this principle to restoration history can scarcely be appreciated unless we truly understand the relation of priest to sacrament. Consider this digest of material from a R.C. approved catechism. Q. What are sacraments? A. Sensible signs instituted for our sanctification. Q. Why? A. To communicate His graces to us. Q. What are the elements of the sacraments? A. Three in number: the matter, the form, and the minister. Q. Who are the ministers? A. Bishops and priests. (Catechism of Perseverance, by F. B. Jamison; 1850; my emphasis.)

On the basis that God confers His grace through visible signs, placed only in the church, and administered by church officials the church becomes something more than Gods people. It becomes a depository of truth and saving grace, dispensing or withholding at its discretion. We say the church is essential — meaning one must obey the Lord, resulting in our becoming a member of His body the church, and our service therein. The church does not save. Christ is the savior, and the church is the saved. But the Catholic concept gives the church power to forgive sins. On page 247, above Catechism: A. The remission of sins is the power given to the church to forgive sins. This power is found only in the church. . and cites Matt. 16:19.

The R.C. church has seven sacraments by which, they say, men can have communion with God. Protestants generally recognize two sacraments; baptism and the Lords Supper. But because most reformers never got away from the sacramental idea, they held to some form of official administrators, perpetuating the sacerdotal system. We are told that only certain ones can baptize, and the church must validate the Lords Supper. Then succession is not in the seed alone (Lu. 8:11), but we must prove an unbroken line of preachers, churches, or whatever. There could be no restoration, for the entrenched and corrupt church would judge itself, by its own standards (2 Cor. 10:12..f ). In theory the reformers rejected the sacerdotal system, raising the Word of God as the chief means of grace, and for this contribution to our thinking we should be grateful. But in practice, neither they nor we seem completely content with the individuals (priests) role as Bible student, who must answer to his own conscience before God. (It is as though we can not trust God to produce acceptable followers in His own way.)

Sacrament denotes sacred set apart. Certain teachings are put in a separate class and Gods grace is ours through these. But that leaves the rest of Gods teaching as common or ordinary. Efforts to list the doctrines that make for fellowship have this fallacy — though we do not call them sacraments. It is obviously true that certain commandments have assigned reasons or purposes (as baptism for remission of sins) but we are not at liberty to judge the law (Jas. 2:10-12), making one part more important than another. Our attitude toward the whole law of liberty indicates our attitude toward God, and the extent of our restoration.