Sacraments

In the Lutheran view, sacraments are the “sign and testimony” of the divine will through which faith is awakened and strengthened. Essential features for the Evangelical concept of the sacraments are, on one hand, their institution through Jesus Christ himself, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, and, on the other, the connection between the explanation of their meaning and a visible element (water, bread or wine). This is the reason why the Evangelical Church recognises only two sacraments: Baptism and the Holy Supper.

Therefore, Johannes Brenz, who was a friend of Martin Luther and a Württemberg reformer, referred to the sacraments as “signs of the divine Word”. It was the risen Christ to commission the Church to baptize (Matthew 28, 18-20), just as Jesus established the Holy Supper (Mark 14, 22-25) and Confession (penance) (Matthew 18, 15-18), although the latter lacks an external visible sign. On the other hand, in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches there are seven sacraments – Baptism, Eucharist (Communion, Holy Supper), Confirmation, Anointing of the sick, Matrimony and Ordination (the consecration of deacons, priests and bishops). The question whether Confession is a sacrament is still controversial (see, for example, Art. 13 of the Augsburg Confession).

Since, according to the Reformed conception, in the Sacraments it is God himself who acts on us human beings, in the Evangelical Church there is Baptism of children as a sign that grace is given to us by God regardless of our ability to recognize it. In times of doubt or despondency, Martin Luther himself could cling to the certainty: “I am Baptized!” Similarly, during an Evangelical worship service, all the baptized are invited to the Holy Supper, whatever their confessional affiliation, because it is Jesus himself who invites them.