Study 10. The Sacraments

[ The Catechism on the Sacraments

The section on the Sacraments in the Catechism was added in the revision of the Prayer Book in 1604.

From the time our church broke away from the Roman Catholic church there has always been tension between those who want to move back toward a more "catholic" form of church life and those who want to continue its reformation. The reforming group was first called "Puritans". During the period of parliamentary rule under Oliver Cromwell they were called "Presbyterians", while today they are called Reformed (Presbyterian) Evangelicals. The "catholic" group are today called Anglocatholics.

The section on the Sacraments reflects the influence of the "catholic" party in the early seventeenth century. Many Anglicans don't like this section of the Catechism. They feel it doesn't quite fit with the purpose of the Catechism: to lead us to repentance and faith, and a life lived in honour to God.

Q12. How many sacraments has Christ given his church?

Two: baptism and the Lord's Supper which is called the Holy Communion.


In our church we accept two. The Lord's Supper was certainly instituted by Jesus. He did this on the Thursday evening before he was crucified when he replaced the Jewish Passover meal with a meal of bread and wine celebrating the giving of his life for the life of lost humanity. As for Baptism, this was an Old Testament custom of washing for purification, adopted by the John the Baptist and continued by the disciples of Jesus.

Q13. What do you mean by the word 'sacrament'?

I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us by Christ himself, as a means by which we receive that grace, and a pledge to assure us of this.


A sacrament is something we can see, having a meaning which we can believe, but not actually see. Yet, it is important to remember that the sacrament itself, that is the "outward and visible sign", in no way conveys a blessing from God. God's blessing comes through what the sign represents:

Baptism is a sign of repentance. Repentance gains God's gift ("the grace") of forgiveness.

The Lord's Supper is a sign of faith in Christ. Faith gains God's gift ("the grace") of life eternal.

Q14. How many parts are there in a sacrament?

Two: The outward and visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

Q15. What is the outward visible sign or form in baptism?

Water, in which the person is baptised 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'.


Sprinkling, dipping or dunking in water is the sign used in the Christian church. In our church we usually sprinkle "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" The sign of the cross is made on the person's forehead.

Q16. What is the inward and spiritual grace?

A death to sin and a new birth to righteousness. Because human nature is sinful, a new birth is needed to make us children of God.


In the simplest of terms, forgiveness is the inward and spiritual grace. When a person repents, that is when they turn to Jesus and put their trust ("faith") in him, they are forgiven. The result of God's forgiveness is "new birth"; we are made "children of grace".

So, the outward sign or symbol of baptism is:

our act of washing or sprinkling in water,

the cleansing.

The inward thing signified is:

our act of repentance,

the forgiveness of God.

Q17. What is required of persons to be baptized?

Repentance, by which they reject sin; and faith, by which they believe the promises made by God in that sacrament.

Q18. Why then are infants baptized?

They promise these things by their sponsors at their baptism, and they will take this responsibility upon themselves at their confirmation when they are old enough to do so.


Infant, or as it is often called, family baptism, is in keeping with earliest Christian custom. We read in Acts 10:48, and 16:33 of the apostles baptizing whole households and we assume this includes children. This corresponds to the Jewish practice of seeing children as part of the family of God. It was also the desire of our Lord that children should be brought to him, Mark 10:13-16.

So, with children we give them the sign of repentance before they actually repent. We do this because of our belief that the children of a Christian home are "blessed" by God. The family is God's creation and he honours it by blessing the children through the faith of the parents. The blessing for the children is not automatic salvation, but they certainly have a greater opportunity to come to know Jesus as their personal friend. The blessing certainly doesn't take away the child's responsibility. We all have to personally turn to Jesus.

Q19. Why did Jesus give the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?

"For the continual remembrance of his atoning death, and of the benefits we receive from it."


Once a year, at the Passover meal, the Jews would remember how they were once slaves in Egypt and how God, with a mighty and outstretched arm, rescued his people from slavery and guided them to the promised land. On the Thursday evening before his crucifixion, Jesus met with his disciples in an upper room to share the Passover meal. At that meal Jesus changed the meaning of the Passover meal for his disciples. They would now remember that it was Jesus, who through his death and resurrection, freed his people from sin and death and gathered them into the presence of the living God.

The following Bible passages teach us about the Lord's Supper. Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:17-20, 1Corinthians 11:23-26.

Q20. What is the outward part or sign of the Lord's Supper?

"Bread and wine, which the Lord commanded us to receive in remembrance of him."

Q21. What is the inward part, or thing signified?

"The body and blood of Christ, which are truly taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper."


This answer is not suggesting that the bread and wine are the actual body and blood of Christ. The bread and wine remains bread and wine, and what we eat and drink is bread and wine. These elements are but physical signs of a spiritual reality.

The bread and wine represent the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, his body broken, his blood shed. As the Bible puts it, Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is an Old Testament idea. Sin is serious, for it destroys relationships, particularly our relationship with God. To illustrate its seriousness and the need for sin to be dealt with, God instituted the Old Testament sacrificial system. The blood of sacrificial animals (which by the way were cooked and eaten later) illustrates our need for what is called a "substitutionary sacrifice". We need something or someone to pay the penalty of our sin, for its penalty is death. Jesus became that someone for us.

When we eat and drink the bread and wine we remember that Jesus gave his life for us that we might live. As we affirm again our faith in the sacrifice of Christ, so we affirm our possession of eternal life.

Article XXVIII says, "The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith."

So the outward sign or symbol of the Lord's supper is:

the bread and wine,

our eating and,

the nourishing of our body.

The "inward part, or thing signified" is:

the sacrifice of Christ

our faith and,

the gift of life eternal.

By the way, "eternal life" simply means a new and everlasting friendship with the living God.

Q22. What benefits do we derive from this?

We are spiritually refreshed and strengthened by the body and blood of Christ, as our bodies are nourished by the bread and wine.


As eating bread and drinking wine nourishes our physical body, so believing in Jesus' death and resurrection nourishes our spiritual self. When we join in the Lord's Supper we reaffirm our faith in Christ's death and resurrection, focusing again on what Jesus has done for us. In this act of faith, we draw on Christ's resurrection power and again touch the source of life itself. When we touch the living Christ we tap into his life-giving power.

Q23. What is required of those who come to the Lord's Supper?

They should examine themselves to see whether they repent of their sins and intend to live a new life. They should have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death and resurrection, and they should love their neighbours as themselves.


The Catechism identifies a number of worthy aims. In summary they are: , examine ourselves and reaffirm our repentance and faith.

Q24. What do we look forward to as we participate in the Lord's Supper?

"As we express our unity by gathering at the Lord's Table, we proclaim his death and look for his coming again."


Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Prayer of Preparation from the Lord's Supper)


The Catechism has taught you the ABC of the Christian faith:

A. Admit your need of God. You know you have rebelled and must turn back to Jesus - "repent" ("renounce").

B. Believe that Jesus died and rose again that you might live with God

C. Commit your life to Christ. Let the Holy Spirit control your life and help you grow as a Christian.