Of all the beliefs to which Biblical Christians and Roman Catholics agree, there are areas to which they disagree. The sacraments are one of those areas. Romans Catholics believe in seven, while Biblical Christians believe in two.
Roman Catholics believe in the following seven sacraments:
- Baptism (infant baptism)
- Anointing of the Sick (Last Rites)
- Matrimony, and
- Holy Orders (Priesthood)
Biblical Christians believe in two:
- Baptism (adult baptism), and
In a sense, having seven sacraments felt kind of energizing as a young Catholic. We already had Baptism under our belts, and even though Matrimony and Holy Orders were currently out of reach for a 7th grader, we did recognize that the Anointing of the Sick was just a matter of being close to a small population of Priests should we ever be on the verge of dying - any Catholic Hospital could accomplish that. But this was now our opportunity to finally receive communion. Even more, it was the holy grail—three sacraments in one fell swoop.
Our grade school class marched into the church pews around twelve years old to prepare for this sacramental trifecta: confession, confirmation, and communion. After the nuns again explained the sacramental trilogy to us, they passed out a piece of paper listing some of the potential sins we could divulge at our first confession. At twelve, we had little cognitive understanding of the many available deviant choices; blaspheme, bestiality, fornication, etc., but we were well aware that the priest meted out avenging penance and stood determined not to do anything that diminished our chance of receiving that communion host. So we stuck with the simpler sins: smacking our siblings, disobeying our parents, and looking over Mary's shoulder during the spelling test. We still got penalized, but it wasn't near as severe, and it didn't jeopardize our ability to get confirmed so we could finally partake in communion.
If nothing else, Biblical Christianity is certainly less ceremonial. But, it's not the quantity of the sacraments that are significant; what's important is the distinctions—specifically the differences in baptism and communion.
Baptism as a Roman Catholic was a way of washing away original sin. Remember, they were dealing with the whole Limbo problem and what to do with unbaptized infants. On the other hand, Baptism for Biblical Christians is more of a profession of faith and an acknowledgment of and identity with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. It is, in fact, a picture of that which Romans 6:3-4 explains, “Or do you not know that all 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 so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life...”
Communion for Biblical Christians is performed along the line of Luke 22:17-20, where Christ Himself fulfills the Passover and Last Supper on the night before His death on the cross, shares the bread and wine with His disciples, and states in verse 19, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
This sacrament of remembering Christ's death for our sins is explained in 1 Peter 3:18 as a single historical event “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” In stark contrast to the Old Testament Priests who sacrificed daily on behalf of Israel, we had as Hebrews 4:14 points out “…a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.”
In 1215 A.D., however, the Fourth Council of Lateran approved a concept known as Transubstantiation. This belief held that the Priest in the Communion service literally changes the bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Christ. It is no longer simply a remembrance but a complete change of the whole substance of bread into the Body of Christ and the whole substance of wine into the substance of the Blood of Christ. Christ is sacrificed over again at each mass.
To claim that this is a departure from "do this in remembrance of me" is self-evident. To claim Christ dies again at each communion service of the mass in opposition to 1 Peter 3:18, where the Bible claims He “suffered for sins once for all time...” is troubling.
Hebrews 6:4-6 warns, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
1 Peter 3:18 is clear that Christ “suffered for sins once for all time...” and the warning of Hebrews 6:6 about putting Christ to “open shame” by “again crucify[ing Him]” is something that should require serious contemplation.