The sacraments of the Church are very important to not only practice but to understand the why. We have had disagreements on what, when, where, and how throughout Church history. So here is a crash course for you.
The Lutheran View
Baptism viewed in the Lutheran position is ineffective unless faith is already present . That is to say, the Lutheran review emphasizes that faith should be a pre-requisite for baptism and grace is the means of that faith. Faith makes it all matter.
The Catholic View
Catholic doctrine stresses the self-sufficiency of the sacrament altogether. Ex Opere Operato is at work, meaning that the sacrament works of itself without any need of any happenings. From this Catholic position, baptism actually confers grace. The sacrament is like faith transferred.
The Reformed / Presbyterian View
Reformed and Presbyterian theologians regard baptism tied closely to the concepts of covenant. Then baptism is both a means of an initiation into the covenant and a sign of salvation. Like circumcision, which was a sign of God working out covenant with His people, baptism, publicly, is a sign to declare God’s working within His people.
The Mennonite View
Mennonites, and generally those that identify as Baptists, also focus on baptism as part of the token of salvation. This views baptism simply as an outward symbol and an indication of the inward change that has been infected with in the believer and it is a public testimony of ones’ faith in Jesus Christ.
The Christian Church / Church of Christ View
The Christian Church and Church of Christ view water baptism as an essential element in the reception of salvation and closely binds baptism to faith. So much so that baptism becomes the point at which God actually gives salvation.
What about infant baptism?
Well, we can discuss infant baptism, but let me say I believe one could hold both the position of infant baptism and believer’s baptism in that an infant is dedicated with water and then later, the now adult believer, makes a personal public declaration. Infants could be part of a household as baptized in scripture, I agree, but I would take the Reformed view that at some point a believer’s baptism is necessary because of salvation not for salvation.
Is water baptism required for salvation?
The thief on the cross was not immersed in water, yet Jesus told him that he would be in paradise. The use of water is a symbolism of the death and resurrection of Christ.
John 3:23, Mark 1:10, Acts 3:38 and Romans 6:3 would all point yet again to Reformed view of this sacrament.
Think of it this way, if you have a headache you take aspirin. You don’t take an aspirin to get a headache. Baptism is because you are saved, not to be saved. However, I am always open to listening to the other perspective.
The Roman Catholic View
The Roman Catholic position believes transubstantiation happens. Transubstantiation is the belief that the elements are changed into the actual flesh and blood of Christ. The accidental properties still stay the same but what it is essentially has been changed. Another component of the Roman Catholic view is that the Lord’s supper, or communion, will always involve a sacrificial act. So, repentance is a prerequisite before participating in communion. Also, within the Roman Catholic view is Sacredotalism which holds that the priest is the only one that can present the Eucharist.
The Lutheran View
The Lutheran view maintains the Roman Catholic conception that Christ blood and body are physically present in the elements. However, Lutherans do not view the physical change, or transubstantiation, in all of the flesh and blood from bread and wine. The body in blood of Christ is viewed to be with the bread and wine. The Lutheran view also see benefit of the sacrament of communion for the forgiveness of sin and the confirmation of one’s faith.
The Calvinist / Reformed View
The Calvinist and Reformed view is not far from the influential presence of Christ in the Lutheran view. Calvin’s view of the elements holds that Christ is spiritually present within them. This is according to Romans 8:9-11 which says it is “by the Spirit, only by the Spirit, that Christ dwells within us. In the Reformed view, the elements of the sacrament are not arbitrary or separable from what they signify, which is the death of Christ, the value of this death, the believer’s participation, and the union of believers with one another. It further seals the love of Christ to believers and gives them the assurance and the promise of the covenant that is made with blood.
Zwingli taught that Christ is merely spiritually present during communion. This view maintains that the elements are mere symbols of Christ – He is not physically or spiritually present within those elements. This view claims the Lord’s supper is a commemoration and places strong emphasis on the role of the sacraments in bringing to mind the death of Christ to the believer. It is not so much different than the Reformed or Calvinist view, but it does focus strongly on the commemoration of Christ death.
What about me?
I would hold a “Zwing-vinist” view. I do agree it is by the Spirit that Christ dwells with us in and I also believe that the elements are symbols, only symbols, as Jesus himself used them as such. I hold true to the self-examination of Corinthians 11 and unbound to the tradition of Sacredotalism that is based in tradition not scripture as I see it.
I do affirm Timothy 3 that it is wise for those who are administering communion to meet the qualifications that Paul lays down for deacons but this is not a requirement. 1 Corinthians 11 shows, at least in part, there is a special relationship between the believer and the Lord, and this would allow them to participate in communion.
Can I use Sprite and Doughnuts?
The elements that are used during communion should symbolize the breaking of the body and the blood poured out. Traditional elements of bread and wine maybe unavailable and, as symbolism being the goal, substitutes would be allowed. Jesus used bread and wine, and if those symbols are available then do as He did as He says, “do this in remembrance.”