- The first generation of Protestants reexamined the Roman Catholic system of sacraments - the set of rites performed by the clergy for believers, which were seen as visible vehicles for delivering God's grace. Roman Catholics have seven sacraments. ideally, a believer participated in five of them only once - baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, and unction (now the anointing of the sick). The other two - the Eucharist (Lord's Supper) and confession/penance (or reconciliation) would be received frequently throughout an adult's life.The first issue before the reformers was the number of sacraments. in searching the Bible, they found justification for only two sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, as they tended to call it. Marriage, confirmation, and ordination were indeed important ceremonial occasions, they agreed, but not genuine sacraments. The remaining sacraments, penance and prayer for the ill, were continued but on a more informal basis; the regular confession of one's sins to a priest was intensely criticized and eventually dropped by all Protestant groups.All Protestants also reinterpreted the Eucharist, one of the two sacraments they did accept. Roman Catholics believed that during the ceremony, when the words of institution were pronounced, the invisible essence of the bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of Christ; this is called transubstantiation. Lutherans believed instead in consubstantiation, which affirmed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements along with the bread and wine. Anglicans also affirmed the real presence, without officially declaring its nature. Calvinists on the other hand affirmed that Christ was present only spiritually, and received by faith.Ulrich Zwingli, the reformer of Zurich, suggested another alternative - that the Eucharist was not a supernatural act, bur rather an ordinance to be performed as a biblical injunction. it assisted in assuring the faithful of the truth of their faith and became a sign of loyalty and belonging to the church. Calvin's position was an attempt to reconcile the Lutheran position with the radical desacralizing of Zwingli. Zwingli's position would be picked up by the Anabaptists, who, in searching the biblical text, discerned another ordinance, foot washing, to be practiced along with the Lord's Supper as an act of humility.The belief that the ordinances were to be followed as biblical precepts led some to reconsider the nature, proper time, and proper mode of baptism. The idea of the sacraments as ordinances was passed to the Baptists and from them to various Adventist and Pentecostal groups.Further reading:■ J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, 2 vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988, 1994)■ Charles L. Quarles, "Ordinance or Sacrament: Is the Baptist View of the Ordinances Truly Biblical?" Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, vol. 1, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 47-57■ Ronald F. Watts, The Ordinances and Ministry of the Church: A Baptist View (Toronto: Canadian Baptist Federation, 1986)■ James F White, The Sacraments in Protestant Practice and Faith (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1999).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.