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Summary of Sacraments

I. Definition
      A Church sacrament is a holy ordinance through which the believer receives an invisible grace under the form of an outward sign, visible or audible. It should be instituted by Christ Himself. Some Protestants argue that the sacraments are mere symbols and "signs of the new covenant," and that they are simply outward rituals through which "the church of Christ confesses her Lord and is visibly distinguished from the world."


However, our Church maintains that there is real efficacy in the sacraments themselves and that they truly convey invisible graces to the believers.
    1. For example, it is stated that Baptism brings salvation. "When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (1 Pet. 3:20,21)

    2. And the Holy Communion brings true life in this world: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53), and brings eternal life: "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. He that eateth of this bread shall live forever." (John 6:54-58)


The same can be said of the other sacraments.

II. Number of Church Sacraments

    1. There are seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, penance, Holy Communion, unction of the sick, matrimony, and holy orders.

    2. The first four sacraments are necessary for every believer: and although the other three are not necessary for every believer, matrimony and holy orders are very necessary to the church. The first is necessary for the preservation and growth of mankind, and the second for consecrating the clergy required to perform the various church services, because they can never be performed by the laity.

    3. Other churches accept only two of these: baptism and Holy Communion. However, the following evidence proves that the sacraments are seven in number and not two:

        a. The definition of church sacraments in general can be equally applied to all seven without any distinction.
        b. The Bible contains instructions regarding each of the seven sacraments.
        c. Even the practice of those churches shows that although they accept only two sacraments, they celebrate the others, refusing to consider them as sacraments.
        d. The writings of the fathers in the early centuries make it clear that there are seven sacraments. Although they did not expressly declare the number to be seven, they mentioned each one separately.
        e. All the Orthodox and Catholic churches, throughout the East and West, agree on maintaining the seven sacraments despite various differences among them. They also declare that they received the seven sacraments from the very early fathers.
        f. The church gives another reason, considering that the seven sacraments resemble, or rather represent, the seven pillars upon which "wisdom" built her house. (Prov. 9:1)
        g. Additionally, it may be worth mentioning that this number signifies perfection.


III. Performance of Sacraments
    Specific prayers are set for each sacrament to request the blessing of the Holy Ghost.

    IV. Who has the right to perform Church Sacraments

    1. A bishop may perform any church sacrament, but there must be at least three bishops for the consecration of a bishop in the sacrament of Holy Orders; a priest cannot confer Holy Orders but can perform the other six sacraments; a deacon can only assist the bishop or the priest in celebrating the seven sacraments.

    2. Some Protestants believe that sacraments and all church ordinances can be celebrated by any layperson, arguing that all Christians stand on the same ground, and Christ did not distinguish anyone in His church. For a counter-argument, please refer to what is mentioned in this context in the sacrament of Holy Orders.

    3. Others think that the sacraments lose their efficacy if the minister's life is not virtuous. However, our church teaches that the blessings obtained through the Sacraments do not depend on the minister's life for the following reasons:
        a. The Apostle Paul asserts that the work of grace in the heart does not depend on any human effort, but solely on God. "Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." (1 Cor. 3:7)

        b. Although the Lord did not personally baptize, and baptism was administered by the disciples, it was said that it was He who baptized. (John 1:33; 4:1, 2)


      Similarly, it is not the minister who performs the sacraments, but God who works in him, with him, and through him. "For it is God which worketh in you." (Phil. 2:13) "We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also..." (2 Cor. 6:1) "I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. 15:10) "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20)

        d. When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses and against God and offered incense in their censers, they were severely punished; however, God commanded that "the censers of these sinners against their own souls" be made "broad plates for a covering of the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are hallowed." (Numbers 16:37, 38)

        e. The Lord commanded us to accept the teachings of even wicked teachers and not to imitate their poor examples. (Matt. 23:1-3)

        f. John Chrysostom emphasized that the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend on the clergy's virtue. This principle assures that the legality of ordinances is not compromised by examining the priest's life, as everything depends on the power of God, who alone grants grace through the sacrament performed.


     St. Athanasius clarified, "The priest does not consecrate the water (of baptism) but merely performs the due service, for which he obtains grace from God." He further stated, "If we baptize, confirm, and forgive, everything is due to Christ who performs it." It was also mentioned that the effectiveness of the sacraments is not contingent upon the righteousness or wickedness of the ministers, likening sacraments to seeds scattered by a farmer, which will yield a crop regardless of the farmer's cleanliness; thus, if the efficacy of the sacraments were dependent on the minister's virtue, it would imply that our salvation is at the mercy of their discretion."

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