Excerpt from Chapter 9 – “BAPTISM AS A SACRAMENT”

Published October 31, 2017

Sacraments Defined

The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin word for sacred. It is derived from Ephesians 5:32 in the Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible), where the Greek word mystērion, meaning “mystery,” is translated to Latin as sacramentum (see also Eph. 1:9; 3:2; Col. 1:26; 1 Tim. 3:16). But the word sacramentum was first used in an essay by Tertullian in reference baptism as a pledge of loyalty to Christ as Lord as when a new recruit into the Roman army makes an oath of allegiance. Baptism is a sign of our commitment to Christ, especially for a new adult believer; however, in the Bible it is God who makes an oath of allegiance to us to be our God. So baptism is primarily a sign of God’s promise to us. The sacraments are visible signs to our senses of the inward work of the Spirit and the presence of Christ that he works in us by faith. They have been defined as “an outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual grace” or “the visible form or expression of an invisible grace.”1 Edmund Clowney defines a sacrament as, “a sign of participation in saving grace. It marks not simply the presence and work of God, but his application of salvation to sinners.” 2 They present to us the grace of God through Christ and the blessings of his covenant. Although a sign represents and signifies a thing, a sacrament additionally efficaciously confers it. In a sense, the relationship between the reality and the sign of it is mysterious, as is the relationship between “Christ and the church” by which he has “cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26, 32). God’s saving grace is proclaimed through the Word, whereas the sacraments physically mark and accompany that saving Word.