Why are sacraments important
In the sacraments, Christians experience that God comes close to them.
The word "sacrament" comes from the Latin sacramentum, which means something like "sign of salvation" or "means of salvation". The visible and tangible symbol (water, bread, wine) and the word of promise belong to the sacrament. Sacraments make the good and wholesome of faith visible and tangible. In them, Christians experience that God comes close to them.
There are two sacraments in the Protestant Church: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. At the Lord's Supper, Christians share bread and wine like Jesus of Nazareth did at the Last Supper with his disciples. When he gave bread and wine to his disciples, he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood”.
During the baptism, the head of the person to be baptized is wetted three times with water. The water stands for the fact that God gives repentance, new beginnings and new life. The sacraments are celebrated in a public service.
There are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Confession, Anointing of the Sick and Ordination. The reformers only recognized acts as sacraments that go back to Jesus. Jesus was baptized and asked his disciples to baptize (Mk 1: 9-11; Mt 28:19). And he celebrated the Lord's Supper with his disciples and commissioned them to continue doing this among themselves (Lk 22:19). The Reformers disagreed on the question of whether confession should also be part of the sacraments. Confession is not a sacrament in the Evangelical Church in Germany.
In the basic text of the Confessio Augustana, confession is not expressly counted among the sacraments. The Confessio Augustana is an important basic text from the time of the Reformation. It is one of the confessional documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and most of the regional churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In the Apology, a supplement to the Confessio Augustana, confession is certainly counted among the sacraments. The apology is also one of the confessional writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The basic script of the Confessio Augustana was significantly influenced by Martin Luther, the Apology was mainly written by Philipp Melanchthon. This suggests that the Reformers disagreed on this point. The Evangelical Church in Germany has decided against confession as a sacrament. Only baptism and the Lord's Supper count as sacraments.
The fact that the good news of the gospel is preached and the sacraments are celebrated are the two characteristics of the Church for evangelical Christians. The celebration of the sacraments in particular represents their community. In baptism a person is accepted into the community of Christians; in the Lord's Supper, Christians celebrate communion with one another and communion with Jesus Christ.
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Who May Distribute the Sacraments?
Answer: According to the evangelical understanding, sacraments work regardless of who distributes (or “donates”) the sacraments. That means: people do not need any special dignity to administer the sacraments. It is the faith of the people that makes the sacraments work.
In the Protestant Church, however, ordained persons, i.e. pastors, are usually baptized. They also speak the words of institution for the sacrament. In emergency situations, however, every baptized Christian can offer the sacraments. Meanwhile, in some regional churches, predicants, i.e. lay preachers, are allowed to donate the sacraments after special training.
After the Reformation, there was nothing the Protestant churches quarreled among themselves more than over the sacraments. All that was agreed was that they rejected the way the Catholic Church celebrated the Lord's Supper. The reformers Luther, Zwingli and Calvin disagreed about how the Lord's Supper should be celebrated instead. Different traditions developed in this way. Above all, it was about the question of how Jesus Christ is “present” at the Lord's Supper. The dispute over this led to the formation of different denominations: Lutheran and Reformed. Later some churches decided to join together to form “uniate” churches. This means that both the Lutheran and the Reformed tradition were recognized within a regional church.
Baptism was also controversial. The main issue here was whether or not children should be baptized. Even during the Reformation, the so-called Anabaptist Movement emerged, which split off from the other Reformation churches. Its members agreed that only adults who can profess their faith can be baptized. Because of this, they insisted on baptizing people who were baptized as children.
In 1973, many Protestant churches in Europe joined the Leuenberg Agreement, including the regional churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The Leuenberg Agreement establishes a "church fellowship". Church fellowship means that the participating churches recognize the sacraments and the preaching of the gospel among themselves. In the Agreement, the churches agreed on the formulation that Christ is present “through the Holy Spirit” in baptism and the Lord's Supper. So they have declared that the question of the “presence” of Christ in the sacraments is no longer church-dividing.
As before, however, there are dividing lines between the churches of the Leuenberg Agreement and other Protestant churches: The Evangelical Church in Germany also recognizes the sacraments of all Christian churches that have joined the Working Group of Christian Churches (ACK). That means: Christians who have been baptized in these churches are also considered baptized according to the Protestant understanding and are allowed to take part in the Lord's Supper. However, the reverse is not the case: many free churches, for example the Baptists, do not recognize infant baptism. The separation from the Catholic Church also persists. Catholics are free to join in the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the Protestant Church. Protestant Christians are not officially allowed to take part in the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, in the Catholic Church.
Baptism is the festive admission of a person into the Christian community. During the baptismal service, the pastor pours a few drops of water over the head of the person being baptized. The ritual goes back to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.learn more
The Church accompanies important events in the lives of its members with official acts. The most common official acts include baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial. But also the inauguration of a school or the introduction of the church leaders into their office are part of it.learn more
The course of a Sunday service may initially be alien to many. The fixed forms of the liturgy also make it possible to draw strength, to immerse yourself and to experience community.learn more
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