Summary: What does the word "sacrament" mean? Is it in the Bible? And what effect does this concept have on the church?
OPEN: When I was in my early 20s I worked in a mobile home factory. My job was to help install insulation in the sides and roofs of the trailers as they made their way down the track.
One day, as I was blowing insulation onto the roof of one trailer (walking along the trusses), I stepped a little too much to one side and my foot went right through the ceiling tiles into the living room of the mobile home (I was able to my body from falling all the way thru the ceiling).
Aside from making a mess, the entire line had to be shut down for the repair of that one long tile. To make matters worse, the boss came storming over and is NOT HAPPY!!
I was flustered, and I seriously want to make up for my failure, so I volunteered to measure and cut the tile to replace the one I damaged. The man on the roof measured the distance and called down the feet and inches. Then I pull out of my pocket the measuring tape I’d brought from home… mom’s clothing measuring tape (PAUSE).
I dutifully measured and cut the tile and then handed it up the other worker on the roof… who promptly found that it was about 3 inches too short.
Do you know why the tile was 3 inches short? It was 3 inches short because I’d used the wrong kind of measuring tape. I thought all measuring tapes were the same… BUT I was wrong. Mom’s cloth tape measure wasn’t as accurate as the ones used for construction. And because it wasn’t accurate enough for the worksite it gave me the wrong information - and this created confusion and inaccuracies and disappointment.
Now… we as Christians have a measuring tape.
We have a tool that God has given us to accurately and precisely tell us how to measure our lives in accordance with God’s will.
Do you know what that measuring tool is?
That’s right – it’s the Bible (HOLD UP BIBLE)
This is God’s instructions on how to make our lives measure up to His desires for our lives.
In His prayer in John 17:17, Jesus prayed to the Father:
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
This book – the word of truth - is God’s measuring tape AND it sanctifies us.
Remember that… because there’s going to be a test later.
Now, there are religious people who are not satisfied with just having God’s Word to serve that purpose. They feel the need to add to what God has given us in Scripture and thus they end up creating additional measuring tapes they think are just as good.
But they’re not.
And because they feel the need to add to God’s Word they end up creating confusion, inaccuracy and disappointment.
That brings me to our word for the day
The word is SACRAMENT.
Unlike all the other words we’ve studied over the past few weeks, this word is NOT found in the Bible.
What is a “sacrament?”
A sacrament is a ritual that supposedly imparts God’s “sanctifying” grace (or blessings) on the lives of worshippers. But that sanctifying grace is ONLY imparted by duly recognized priests.
Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time I said it…
the word “Sacrament” NEVER occurs in the Bible.
Now that’s not necessary a bad thing.
The word “Trinity” (for example) never occurs in Scripture either, but that word describes a Biblical reality. We have one God with three personalities – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
But the problem with the word “Sacrament” is that - not only does it not occur in Scripture - it doesn’t even describe a Biblical truth.
Let me repeat what I said earlier:
A sacrament is a ritual that imparts God’s SANCTIFYING grace on the worshippers, and this sanctifying grace is only imparted by duly recognized priests. In short, if the PRIEST doesn’t perform these sacraments, you aren’t “sanctified” - you don’t receive God’s grace.
Now, for the test I mentioned earlier:
Do you remember what Jesus said would “sanctify us”? (God’s Word)
Jesus said – we are sanctified by God’s Scriptures.
But churches who practice “sacraments” declare: it’s the ritual, under the oversight of the ordained priests, that sanctifies the believer.
Jesus said it was the Bible.
These churches say it is the sacraments.
You tell me: who is right?
I’ll stick Jesus.
Back in the 12th century, the church recognized 30 different sacramental rituals. But by the time of the Council of Trent, that number was whittled down to just 7.
Now why did the church of that day reduce the number to 7 sacraments?
Frankly, because they liked the number 7.
Seven was a very Biblical number and that appealed to them.