The sacraments aren’t the same as salvation

We noticed the small crowd of people in waters about waist high. They were just off the shores of our local beach. My curiosity was raised as I craned my neck to get a look at what was going on. Ah….as I thought…a baptism. The hugs of joy from those on the sand encircled the man, dripping wet from going under these waters made holy.

I was 12 the first time I saw someone baptized. I don’t know what brought my family to this church that wasn’t ours. I remember it being quite large and every pew filled and there she was, in front of friends and strangers, being dunked into this pool of water. Interesting.

My husband and I are from a church that doesn’t practice baptism. This isn’t to be confused with not believing in or accepting of baptism or the sacraments.

 

Ours is not a sacramental church. That is to say, we don’t baptize or have communion in our denomination.

‘Life (ie eternal) does not come by a sacrament, nor is it maintained by a “sacramental substance” but by a Divine Person consciously revealed in us as a present redeeming, life-giving Saviour.’ – Bramwell Booth, son of Salvation Army founder

There are documented reasons for this choice that was made by William Booth, our church founder. He was from the Methodist tradition, a church that regularly practiced communion.

The Oxford Dictionary defines sacrament as “a religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular”. (Emphasis mine)

A summary of the reasons for this can be found here.

The explanation I was taught was that for many, the outward act became their salvation. We’ve probably heard people talk about their baptism as if it ensures their place in heaven. As if act of baptism is their salvation.  Actions and works don’t save us. Jesus through his gracious forgiveness saves us.

Rather, our denomination suggests we live a sacramental life daily.

Communion is shared around the lunch table with coworkers. Baptism of the soul is evidenced in our character. Our words and deeds are offered as visible signs of inward and spiritual divine grace. Shouldn’t this be the real sign of our salvation?

However, we’ve created our own ceremonial sacraments.

We dedicate our babies and enroll our church members. The church flag is is prominent at each ceremony, emblazoned with the words Blood & Fire.

Our ministers are ordained and commissioned in a sacred ceremony, signing covenants, again under this flag. The outward signs ever present in our traditions, our sacraments.

Is it arguable that we’ve chosen not to practice water baptism and communion? There is always argument in the church.

Will the omission of these two outward acts keep one from salvation?

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 15:11 NLT

Grace abounds for all. For the baptized by water and the baptized soul. For the tangible sacraments of cup and bread and the daily sacramental living. Grace flowing in a figurative daily baptism for all who believe on the name of Jesus.

The tide is now flowing, I’m touching the wave,
I hear the loud call of the mighty to save;
My faith’s growing bolder, delivered I’ll be;
I plunge ‘neath the waters, they roll over me.

verse 6 of O Boundless Salvation
written by William Booth, founder, Salvation Army

10 Comments

  1. Annie Rim said:

    I grew up in a church that offered communion once a month, and then as the church grew, once per quarter. If you missed that Sunday, well you missed communion. In some senses, I grew up without communion. In college, I attended an Anglican church that offered communion every Sunday and passed the peace of Christ beforehand – a way to reconcile and come to the table in peace. Now, our church offers communion every Sunday, though as an Evangelical church it’s a hybrid of the two. All that to say!! I love receiving communion every Sunday. Anyone can serve and there is something so powerful about having someone hand you a piece of bread, whispering, “Christ’s body, broken for you.” Someone once described this practice as “bread for the journey, a table for those who need to stop for refreshment.” I don’t think it’s necessary and I do think that when we gather with our supper club or with friends, we are practicing communion.

    Obviously, so many thoughts!! Thank you for this. I love that Booth’s point is that we are living the sacraments all the time. That really is the point, regardless of how you practice on Sunday. Thank you for this!

    April 4, 2017
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      It took me a long time to understand what real communion was, Annie. Sometimes you miss the sacredness of what you naturally do.

      April 7, 2017
      Reply
  2. Debby,
    Interesting points you’ve raised for discussion about the church’s traditions and carrying on customs. I always think deeply about these things, too, wondering if they’re just rituals and how much they matter — and I think sometimes I come up with varying ideas and thoughts about them! But grace does abound — as you point out — and it flows for all of us who follow after God! xo

    April 5, 2017
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Yes, Valerie it’s grace that we should remember more than traditions and customs. So many we mistakenly think are more important than our daily practice of following Christ.

      April 7, 2017
      Reply
  3. Wise Hearted said:

    Glad I stopped for I have learned something today about the beliefs of the Salvation Army. The thief never took the cup and bread and was not sprinkled or put under the water but went straight to heaven. LIving overseas has taught me one thing, God is never meant to be put in a box filled with man traditions. You are so right it is grave that abounds not traditions and there are tons of those in all kinds of churches. Interesting post.

    April 5, 2017
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      I imagine living abroad would be an education in more ways than one would think. Interesting and though-provoking I’m sure. I’m thankful God continues to show us we can’t limit him or his grace. Thanks for adding to the conversation Wise Hearted.

      April 7, 2017
      Reply
  4. Linda Stoll said:

    Thanks for this bit of instruction today, friend. It’s been helpful.

    I’m guessing there’ll be no denominations in heaven. Just a complete and joyful focus on Jesus Christ. We’ll be casting our crowns, falling on our knees, singing holy.

    Everything else will fade.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

    April 5, 2017
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Isn’t that wonderful Linda? No denominations. I wonder if some will be surprised 😉 Yes, I imagine the words of the hymn now… Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty. May it be so.

      April 7, 2017
      Reply
  5. Lux G. said:

    That’s true though. It is our personal relationship with God that will redeem us.

    April 5, 2017
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Oh yes, Lux, redemption in Christ and Christ alone.

      April 7, 2017
      Reply

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