Faith Alone and the Sacraments

Very glad to finally have a new video up. This one answers a question from a Baptist about how Anglicans can believe that we are saved by faith alone if we believe that we receive God’s saving grace through the sacraments.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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13 Responses to Faith Alone and the Sacraments

  1. Fr. Jonathan Trebilco says:

    What you have so clearly and simply expressed here is a truth which I found to be one of the most liberating aspects in my spiritual life after coming to Anglicanism. Great to see you back, Father.

  2. Pingback: Musings on Baptism part 4 | As You Go

  3. Lynda says:

    What you are discussing is predestination and I always find that a very difficult subject to understand. Is everyone part of the elect? If not, does that mean Christ did not die for all? Is it partial atonement? If someone is a terrible person, but is one of the elect, is he saved? If someone desires Christ, but is not of the elect, is he saved?

  4. dave says:

    Thank you for this video. As someone who is not a cradle Anglican — it sometimes hard for me to realize that one can be a reformational and still have a high view of the sacraments. I grew up cradle (Roman) Catholic and spent some adult years in the United Methodist church and the Anglican church has the great opportunity to be the best of both. I think its great to evangelize and care for other’s souls and have that grounded in the sacraments.

  5. Rev. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the video Fr. Jonathan. Being a sacramental (Wesleyan/United Methodist) Christian in the Bible Belt, I’ve been thinking of putting up a video addressing exactly the same question. It seems to me “is it faith…or is it sacraments?” (at least from the sacramental Wesleyan view) has a misunderstanding built into it. It is very much like asking “are we saved by grace or by Christ?” The question itself assumes a false antithesis.

    Our view is that all grace comes ultimately from Jesus Christ, is normally conveyed to us through the means of grace (Prayer, the Sacraments, and the Bible being the primary means) and all grace is apprehended, received, and experienced as transformative in my life by faith or trust in Christ. We are quick to point out, though, that God’s grace comes first; “he first loves us”; he gives us his promise first and that our faith is the response – that is, through Word and Sacrament he promises and offers his grace – and precisely in response to this promise, we learn to take him at his word, to trust him, believe him and receive all that he promises.

    Here is a “Q&A” catechism using Wesley quotes to address this question:

    As I read it, our full-communion agreement with the Lutherans also affirms this same view; would you say we are substantially in agreement?

  6. MIchaelA says:

    Great article. Many modern evangelicals are not aware that John Calvin made the same point. The sacraments are a means of grace to us, just as is preaching the word, yet they minister to us in ways that the preaching of the word cannot always do:

    “We have already seen that Jesus Christ is the only food by which our souls are nourished; but as it is distributed to us by the word of the Lord, which he has appointed an instrument for that purpose, that word is also called bread and water. Now what is said of the word applies as well to the sacrament of the Supper, by means of which the Lord leads us to communion with Jesus Christ. For seeing we are so weak that we cannot receive him with true heartfelt trust, when he is presented to us by simple doctrine and preaching, the Father of mercy, disdaining not to condescend in this matter to our infirmity, has been pleased to add to his word a visible sign, by which he might represent the substance of his promises, to confirm and fortify us by delivering us from all doubt and uncertainty.

    Here, then, is the singular consolation which we derive from the Supper. It directs and leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ and to his resurrection, to certify us that whatever iniquity there may be in us, the Lord nevertheless recognises and accepts us as righteous—whatever materials of death may be in us, he nevertheless gives us life— whatever misery, may be in us, he nevertheless fills us with all felicity.

    We can therefore say, that in it the Lord displays to us all the treasures of his spiritual grace, inasmuch as he associates us in all the blessings and riches of our Lord Jesus. Let us recollect, then, that the Supper is given us as a mirror in which we may contemplate Jesus Christ crucified in order to deliver us from condemnation, and raised again, in order to procure for us righteousness and eternal life. It is indeed true that this same grace is offered us by the gospel, yet as in the Supper we have more ample certainty, and fuller enjoyment of it, with good cause do we recognise this fruit as coming from [the Supper].”
    [Johannes Calvinus, "A short treatise on the Supper of our Lord", 5, 9, 10]

  7. DJ says:

    Thanks for this, Fr, Jonathan. And welcome back. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around such matters. As a presbyterian, we believe the sacraments convey grace but are not salvific per se (which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me). What would you say about the believer who ascends to true Faith in Christ, but has not been baptized, in regards to his or her state of salvation? (Not asking you to speak for God, whose power is not ultimately bound by the sacraments. Just your thoughts.)

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi DJ,

      Scripture promises that all who believe and call on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 3:22, 1 Timothy 4:10). The grace of Baptism isn’t a substitute for faith. It is the ground of faith. If a person who has faith in Christ keels over on the way to the church before he’s baptized, I have no doubt that he has been delivered into the arms of his savior. But the point is, always, that it is Christ who saves us and not we who save ourselves. Faith is a gift given by God through His Word. If we have faith in Christ, we have nothing to fear. Theologians often make a lot of hay out of parsing the differences between each of the sacraments, the precise nature of the grace of Baptism versus Communion versus the minor sacraments versus the preaching of the Word itself. But the truth is that all of these things, including preaching itself, are sacramental, and no one comes to faith without that tangible contact with God.

      On the other hand, sometimes what one calls faith is used as a bulwark against God’s Word and His promises. Can God give the saving grace that comes through Baptism by some other means? Certainly. But if a person claims to have faith in Christ and yet refuses to be baptized or refuses to share that same gift with his or her children or refuses to believe Christ’s own words when He says, “This is my body, this is my blood,” then how “true” is that faith really?

  8. Stephen says:

    An absolutely spot on analysis of Sacramental Christianity.
    And I’ve shared this video with family and friends who hold to Evangelical view and have had interesting conversations with them afterward.
    Thanks, and keep ‘em coming!

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