Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sacrament vs. Sacrifice

I participated in a brief and (I hope) gentle discussion on a forum about different views of baptism.  Then this morning I saw a quote from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXIV(XII) 17-19 in Treasury of Daily Prayer.  Here we go.

"Theologians are rightly familiar with distinguishing between a Sacrament and a sacrifice.  Therefore, let them be subdivided into either a ceremony or a sacred work.  A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us what the promise of the ceremony offers.  Baptism is not a work that we offer to God.  It is a work in which God baptizes us.  In other words, a minister baptizes us on God's behalf.  God here offers and presents the forgiveness of sins, and so forth, according to the promise "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).  A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work that we give to God in order to provide Him honor.
"Furthermore, there are two kinds of sacrifice and no more.  One is the atoning sacrifice, that is, a work that makes satisfaction for guilt and punishment.  It reconciles God, or reconciles His wrath and merits the forgiveness of sins for others.  The other kind is the eucharistic sacrifice, which does not merit the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation.  It is practiced by those who have been reconciled, so that we may give thanks or return gratitude for the forgiveness of sins that has been received, or for other benefits received."

So here, baptism is God's work and actually delivers something.  None of us can fully understand how God can do that.  It's yet another of those things we have to accept by faith.

If I were to make an assertion like what I just typed above I would be mocked by many people.  "What do you mean, baptism is God's work?  Obviously it's man's work."  Does it work better when someone from the 16th century says it?

Dave Spotts
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