SACRAMENTS VS. ORDINANCES

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)

The Roman Catholic Church has seven sacraments. They are (1) Baptism (2) Penance or Confession (3) Holy Eucharist or Mass (4) Confirmation (5) Holy Matrimony (6) Extreme Unction or Last Rites, and (7) Holy Orders or Ordination. According to Roman Catholicism, these sacraments are the vehicles of grace by which salvation is obtained. Therefore, all non-Catholics are doomed to perdition due to their failure to observe the sacraments of the Catholic Church.

That the condemnation of all non-Catholics has been the teaching of the Catholic Church is indisputable. For instance, consider the following:

  1. “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved.” (Pope Innocent III)
  2. “Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins…Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII)
  3. “It [the Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics  cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which  was prepared for the devil and his angels’ [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life  the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body  is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of  benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and  exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever  almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can  be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic  Church.” (Pope Eugene IV)

The Council of Trent, which was the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation, boldly declared: “If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law [of the Roman Catholic Church] are not necessary for salvation but…that without them…men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification…let him be anathema [eternally damned].” Echoing the Council of Trent’s condemnation of all non-Catholics, Vatican I decreed that there is only one “true catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved.”

Although many Catholics today argue that the ecumenically inclined Vatican II “unanathematized” non-Catholics, their argument is tenuous at best and disingenuous at worst. Far from backing down from past decrees condemning all non-Catholics, Vatican II also affirmed “that the [Catholic] Church is necessary for salvation” and that “men enter” it through the necessity of “baptism as through a door.” Granted, Vatican II did hold out the hope of salvation to non-Catholics who “do not know the Gospel,” but it denied any such hope to all “who, knowing the Catholic Church was founded necessary by God through Christ, refuse to enter it, or to remain in it.” No wonder the official catechism of the Catholic Church still explicitly states that salvation flows from Christ though the Catholic Church.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church observes no sacraments, only two church ordinances. They are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unlike the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the ordinances of the Baptist Church are not believed to be necessary for salvation. Whereas Catholics observe their sacraments in hopes of being saved, Baptists observe church ordinances because they are saved. In fact, Baptists believe that the observance of church ordinances is commanded of and confined to the saved alone.

You don’t have to be in the Baptist Church and observe its ordinances to be saved. You just need to be baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, which occurs the moment you trust Christ for your salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13). Afterward, your observance of church ordinances serves as a public profession of your faith in Christ, not as the means by which you obtain your own salvation apart from Him or in addition to His expiation.

 “A sacrament is something you observe in order to be saved. An ordinance is something you observe because you are saved.”