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Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments – part 2
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Mark 2:5–7

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Number and Use of the Sacraments 

If we consider sacraments to be those rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to properly determine what are sacraments. Rites instituted by men will not, in this way, be properly called sacraments since it does not belong to human authority to promise grace. Therefore, signs instituted without God’s command are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps instruct or admonish the unlearned.

Pulling It Together: The sacraments have the express command of God for all the people of God. Go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching (Matt 28:19–20). Eat this bread and drink this cup (1 Cor 11:26). These are not commands for some people, yet not commanded to others. Further, these are not human traditions that are somewhat based in Scripture but modeled on a human construct. They are, instead, explicit commands found in the Word of God.

Sacraments also contain the promise of God’s grace, such as the regeneration of the fallen human condition (John 3:5), and the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28). These are not human promises since God alone is able to recreate and forgive sins (Mark 2:7).

So we enumerate these two things as necessary for a sacrament: one, the command of God, and two, his promise of grace. Some point out that a sacrament also contains a physical element such as water, bread, or wine. We might even consider one more thing, just to make our understanding of a sacrament very clear. A sacrament must have the clear command of God, and the promise of his grace, but that statute of grace must be made to all of his people, not to some yet not others—as to a priestly class but not the multitude, or vice versa. For God would bless all of his people with the promise of grace found in the sacraments.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your promise of grace. Amen. 

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