Depending on what church you go to, your church teaches there are two or, perhaps, seven sacraments. If you go to a Baptist church the word “sacrament” is avoided entirely in favor of another: ordinance.
An ordinance is something we do because Jesus Christ commanded us to do it.
A sacrament has a greater meaning. The word means “mystery.” Calling an ordinance a mystery is a reference to the idea that something more than what we see is going on. In the following, I am going to make the argument from the Scriptures that there are two sacraments/mysteries ordained by Christ, and five more by the apostles.
The ordinance: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).
The mystery: “[A]ll of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death” (Rom 6:3-4).
2. The Lord’s Supper
The ordinance: “He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:24-26).
The mystery: “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).
The ordinance: “For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:16-17; See also Acts 19:6).
The mystery: “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
The ordinance: “[E]ach man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2).
The mystery: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).
5. Anointing the sick
The ordinance: “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
The mystery: “[T]he prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:15).
The ordinance: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16; specifically to the Elders in James 5:14).
The mystery: “[T]he prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him” (James 5:15).
7. The Priesthood/Ordination
The ordinance: “I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5).
The mystery: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders” (1 Tim 4:14).
- What is the “gift?” It is not merely teaching and setting an example. At a minimal, it is the gift of teaching, which is in view in 1 Tim 4. At most, it is conferring the ability to play a role in the preceding six mysteries. How so? Elders take part in the forgiveness of sins in confession. They can anoint the sick and heal them. And how about the profound spiritual realities in baptism and the Lord’s Supper? While in extraordinary circumstances these things are done by the laity (Ananias baptized Saul of Tarsus), normally the Presbyters perform these acts. The “gift” is internal (“in you”), conferred by the Spirit (prophecy), making it a great mystery.
Conclusion. Without citing commentaries and how the early Church understood these Scriptures, it may be unclear to some that these Scriptures alone definitively prove that there are really seven sacraments. However, it is my hope that my readers can see there is at least a Biblical basis and that they may know there are respectable interpreters throughout Church History which would see in these Scriptures the existence of at least seven sacraments.