Suppose someone were to ask the following, “if we are saved by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, why do I even need the sacraments? Isn’t it blasphemy to add to what Jesus did and say that we need to go through a series of rituals in order to experience the grace of Christ which the Bible tells us clearly, is given freely by the finished work of the cross?”
The assumptions in this inquiry have fallen victim to a little theological ‘slight of hand’ caused by a few verses misinterpreted and wrenched from their context in addition to subsequent leaps of logic based on those misconstrued verses. But before we dive in deeper, let’s first discuss, the definition of sacraments. What exactly is a sacrament?
What are Sacraments?
By definition, sacraments are religious rituals or ceremonies that transmit divine grace. It may sound a bit occult, but in the Catholic Church, sacraments are based from Christ’s actions, and teachings.
“It is Finished”
Looking at John 19:30, where Jesus says “it is finished,” some people conclude that Jesus wasn’t merely stating that His act of sacrifice was finished but that the entire salvation of every human being was finished. There is, of course, nothing in the text that would indicate anything even close to such an outrageous conclusion.
However, undeterred, these folks will attempt to press the same theological leap on philosophical grounds. I’m sure you’ve heard it. It goes something like this:
Do you agree that a person cannot make it through life without sinning? (which we would agree to of course)
Therefore, they continue, of our own effort, none of us can attain salvation, agreed? (again…we would gladly concede)
Then, they insist, Jesus came to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus, they conclude, paid the entire debt for us and we have no obligation whatsoever. In fact, they insist, that whatever good we do, in the pursuit of salvation, actually undermines and casts slurs on Christ’s perfect work.
Understanding Your Choices
This logic can quickly be taken apart by their own theology. Jesus asked the Pharisees, in Matthew chapter 12, if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Seems strange that He would even have to ask such a question, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, the question can be shortened, “Is it lawful to do good?” Pretty hard to make the case that it isn’t. We can, of course, go even further because the fact is that it is unlawful not to do good. So, which of the two is blasphemous?
- Doing good in hopes of salvation.
- Doing evil, thinking that your salvation is assured.
Now that we have made this point, let’s take it further. Did God not say that apart from Him, we can do nothing? Is God not the author of all good? Is Satan not the author of all evil? How then, citing the two examples above, can person one do good and yet be against God while person two can do evil and be with God? Jesus spoke of this dilemma.
Luke chapter 6:43-45:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
John the Baptist takes it further, with chilling clarity:
Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Salvation is a Process
How then, can God demand that we do good rather than evil, show us the awful, eternal consequences of not doing so, and then, see it as blasphemy when we do our best to do what we are commanded to do!? These folks come to this strange conclusion because they see salvation as an act. Salvation is not an act, it is a process.
Paul tells us that we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). How, they ask, can we who are sinners “work out” our salvation? It is a valid question. We Catholics have a valid answer for it too: grace. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
First, the argument that Jesus came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, is incorrect, although understandable conclusion. For God to do it For us, would be to violate His own promise of free will. Just as surely, for God to require, under penalty of damnation, that we do that which we cannot do, would violate His own perfect goodness and turn Him into the very definition of cruelty.
Fortunately, God’s goodness is beyond anything we can possibly comprehend. In order to give us a means of salvation, God Himself took on human flesh and suffered the most unspeakable horror we could imagine; He gave up His own body and blood for the sake of poor sinners like me and you. All legitimate Christians agree on this point. Where we part company, is in the first sentence of this paragraph. Jesus died to give us a means to salvation not to give us salvation itself. These folks will quickly point to a plethora of verses that state that Christ died once and for all.
One example: 1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; These good people are failing to make the distinction between the sacrifice (which is, indeed, once and for all) and the application of the sacrifice (which is perpetual).
When God instituted the priesthood, for the sacrificial offering, he declared that it would be forever. Exodus 29:9 – and you shall gird them with girdles and bind caps on them, and the priesthood shall be theirs by a perpetual statute. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.
The ‘once saved, always saved’ defenders dismiss today’s priesthood by asking “If the sacrifice has been abolished, what need do we have for a Priesthood?” To which, I would respond that the offering was never abolished and therefore we need a priesthood to offer it. That is why Exodus 29:9 tells us that the priesthood is perpetual (forever).
Before the coming of Christ, in human form, sin was atoned for as such:
- Sinner confesses the sin to a priest.
- A sacrifice is made
- The sacrifice is offered to expiate the sin.
- The sacrifice is consumed for benefit of all
What now? The process is the same with one exception. Rather than sacrificing over and over, the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ is reoffered.
- Sinner must confess the sin (John 20:23)
- Sacrifice was made once, for all. (Hebrews 9:12)
- Sacrifice is to be offered, and consumed. (Luke 22:19)
The fact is clear that the sacraments follow the clearly established formula shown in scripture. But why? Remember that word I brought up – grace? Grace is the great equalizer. No, Jesus did not die for us to give us salvation but to give us the means to salvation. That means is Grace. The Grace we receive through the merits of Christ’s death. The Grace we receive when we receive the body and blood of Jesus.
Grace does two things:
- It cleanses us of sin
- It makes us stronger, and more resistant to further sin.
Many times, we Catholics are accused of implying that Christ’s blood is not sufficient for the expiation of all sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the application of that precious blood to our sin that is the issue. That is why we need the Sacraments. It is true that we humans cannot earn salvation by our own efforts. However, with Christ, we can do anything…even be saved.
11 thoughts on “Why Do Catholics Have Sacraments?”
Catholicism takes the the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ and tries to
reoffer it, and reoffer it, and reoffer it each time they have Mass.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that a true sacrifice needs only to
be offered once. If it has to offered more than once, then it was unable
to complete the task of making the worshipers perfect before God.
Here is where God’s word presents the truth about this :
Hebrews 10:1-2 “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are
coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by
the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect
those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have
stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed
once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.”
Notice the writer of Hebrews says that a sacrifice which can truly make
perfect those who draw near to worship WILL STOP BEING OFFERED.
It will have cleansed the worshipers ONCE FOR ALL, and they will
no longer feel guilty for their sins.
Catholicism is worshiping a false Jesus whose blood is not powerful
enough to cleanse a Catholic once for all. The Catholic church claims
it is reoffering the blood of Jesus at every Mass. This is horrible!
This is going to sound ridiculous, but why would a demon request a sacrament? I keep having dreams about a bad thing. It comes in different forms and asks me for physical gifts in order to silence it. The first I can remember, it came as a bat-looking gargoyle and gave me a name that I couldn’t spell. It wants me to dedicate material objects to it, so that when I wear the piece of clothing or cook with that particular pan, I’d be doing so for it or in its name. Last night, it came as an evil little girl with ash on her face and kept aggressively demanding for a sacrament. I don’t understand what that means. I know that it has no power over me. It just traps and torments me in my dreams. I will not dedicate anything to it!
I don’t feel possessed or demonically attacked, not really. I just don’t know what this thing is, but it feels very much like the first cough of a virus and I’d like to nip it in the bud now. I feel cursed and I really don’t know how to stop it from attacking me. I study my devotions, referring to my bible, and write my prayers at least once a day. I attend church, volunteer in the name of Jesus, share the good word, and bless my food. We practice the sacrament as a church twice a year and I’ve been baptized. What am I missing?
Do you think this thing is just something psychological? It’s very specific for something that my own brain could come up with. Any suggestions or insight on how to remove it?
This gives no explanation as to why the sacraments OTHER than the confession are necessary. Where in the Bible does it indicate that Communion is necessary? It is to be done in Remembrance of Jesus, but nothing indicates it’s a necessary step for salvation. The same is true of Confirmation, Marriage, Last Rites, etc. If marriage is a Sacrament, why does the Catholic religion venerate Paul the apostle, who never married?
watch the documentary…” the history of the evil catholic church” This is not about the people who are in this religion because I have many family members that are Catholics and I love them. But it’s about the roots of the religion itself. I was once in that religion and was never encouraged to read the word of God(His hebrew name YHWH) the God of Israel. And until I began reading and studying the Bible the Word of God, my eyes were opened to the truth and understood what Jesus had done for me at the cross.
This is simply man’s creation, not the Lord’s. Please know, my stubborn Catholic friends, that sacraments border on evil. As an acolyte, the wine does has not turned to blood. I can pray whenever I want. My confession is to the Lord, not a squeaky preacher. You cannot excommunicate anyone. An indulgence?, sell all I have? perhaps I can reduce my time in purgatory. Christ does not work that way. At one time you had 3 popes excommunicating the other two. Worship of saints, icons and the dead is contrary to God’s Word. In fact it is expressly forbidden. Only 9 of 10 commandments? This doctrine is false. By last count 1253 ‘priests’ have been charged, guilty all, Some went to prison for the child abuse they inflicted ON SMALL CHILDREN. But the big ‘papa’ in roma writes a check. And the greediest of the world accepts it. Does your faith lead you to God? Or do you put that aside, and believe the cockerel in the pulpit in the fancy church? My email is here ([email protected]). You that want to honestly follow Christ, and have issues, do email me. The time is nigh. You hunger for the truth, keep on seeking it.
Mr yusha ibn nun nobody invited you to pray in Catholic church, beside who are you to judge the catholics, there’s only one judge, stopping judging n pretending to be knowing more as if you were there when those things happened, a person like u will die a sinner n go straight to hell! U hv no place in heaven
“nobody invited you to pray in Catholic church”
Wait, what? Jesus invites us all to be the Church. You going to fight over “flavor”?
People understand that we are PEOPLE and that equals SINNER no matter what Religion! The very first Religion is Catholicism! Folks left and started their own beliefs. Which stepped out on God! Right! Eventually a soul gets drawn back to the catholic church after realizing the truth. Great example people bring up the past on the roots of Catholicism they were people who were tempted or possessed! Any religion has the Devil there to destroy you cannot say only Priest only they are this and they do that… Okay what about the Pastor stealing from His own Church? Not Catholic or the Baptist who molested two young boys?? Again what are they? PEOPLE! Exactly! All we can do is learn about our faith and the real truth and never stop praying! The Devil wants to DESTROY starting with our relationship with our Father. It’s up to you to grow in learning about your religion (Catholicism).The very first Religion from God.
How did Catholics decide on how many sacraments to have, and how did they decide on exactly which ones there were? We’re there ever differing Cstholic opinions about how many sacraments there are, and/or about which ones they are?
Thank you Jon. May I post on FB?