08. The sacraments
Sacraments are fundamental acts of God’s grace. In these holy acts—which are performed by human beings upon human beings—God grants the recipient salvation.
The sacraments allow human beings to attain salvation: through them, human beings are adopted into the fellowship of life with God and preserved in it.
Receiving the three sacraments of Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion gives a human being the opportunity to be united with the Lord at the return of Christ.
A sacrament is comprised of four elements: sign, content, dispenser, and faith.
The “sign” is the visible element of a sacrament. In the case of Holy Baptism with water it is the water. In Holy Communion the “sign” is comprised of the bread and wine. In Holy Sealing, the “sign” is the laying on of hands of the Apostle.
The “content” is the effect that imparts salvation. In Holy Baptism with water, the “content” is the washing away of original sin and the fact that the baptised now enters into the proximity of God. In Holy Communion, it is partaking in the body and blood of Jesus. In Holy Sealing, the content is that the believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The “dispenser” is the person who imparts the sacrament. The Apostles dispense all three sacraments. By commission of the Apostle, the priestly ministers dispense Holy Baptism with water and Holy Communion.
Human beings can only receive the sacrament for their salvation if they believe in its effect.
Jesus Christ instituted three sacraments: Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion.
“And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” 1 John 5: 7, 8
Jesus Christ entrusted the administration of the sacraments to the Apostles.
Through Holy Baptism with water a fundamental change in the relationship between a human being and God comes into being. Through the washing away of original sin, the baptised is led out of his original state of remoteness from God and enters the proximity of God. He becomes a Christian.
Through his faith and profession of Christ, the baptised now belongs to the church of Christ.
“Original sin” is the condition of separation from God (remoteness from God) that came into being through the fall into sin. Since the fall into sin, sin has weighed upon all human beings (cf. Genesis 3: 20; Psalm 51: 7; Romans 5: 12, 18-19). Every human being is thus a sinner even before he is capable of acting or thinking.
Water is a prerequisite for life and a means of purification. In baptism, water is the outward sign for the inner purification of a human being.
Yes, the deliverance of Noah in the ark, which was carried on the water, is a reference to Holy Baptism with water. The sevenfold immersion of Naaman in the water of the Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5: 1-14) can also be seen as a symbol for the washing away of original sin in baptism.
“...when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism.”
1 Peter 3: 20,21
It was not necessary for Jesus Christ to be baptised, nevertheless He submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist. In so doing He put Himself on the same level as sinners. He thereby showed the way in which righteousness before God can be attained (cf. Matthew 3: 15).
The baptism of John was only a baptism unto repentance. It is a reference to the sacrament of Holy Baptism with water, which is performed in the name of the triune God.
After His resurrection, Jesus gave His Apostles the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19). Baptism is thus one of the tasks of the Apostles.
When the New Testament speaks of “baptism”, it is often referring to a twopart baptism, namely with water and with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 8: 14 et seq.). Holy Baptism with water and the baptism of the Spirit are thus closely linked.
“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptised?’ So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptised with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
Acts 19: 2-6
All human beings can receive Holy Baptism with water. The prerequisite is that they believe in Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Baptism is performed with water and dispensed in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The water used for baptism is consecrated in the name of the triune God. The baptising minister then uses the consecrated water to make the sign of the cross three times on the forehead of the person being baptised while speaking the words: “I baptise you in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
If the baptism is thus dispensed with water and in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (“rite”), it is valid and can unfold to its proper effect.
The designation “rite” is from the Latin and means “in the proper form”, or “conforming to the rite”.
The statement of Jesus: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10: 14) indicates that the blessings of God should also be made accessible to children. This includes the sacraments.
The New Testament attests that entire households were baptised together: “And immediately he and all his family were baptised...” (Acts 16: 33; cf. also 16: 15). Households and families include children. From this the Christian tradition of baptising children has developed.
Moreover, when children are baptised, those entitled to raise them profess belief in Jesus Christ on their behalf and take responsibility for the religious education of their children in the sense of the gospel.
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptised.”
Acts 18: 8
Holy Baptism with water signifies the end of a life in remoteness from God and the beginning of a life in Christ. It imparts strength to wage the battle against sin.
Baptism performed in the name of the Trinity is a binding element among Christians. Those baptised in the New Apostolic Church are entitled to partake regularly in Holy Communion.
The term “Trinitarian” (Latin trinitas) refers to the divine Trinity. To be baptised in the name of the Trinity is to be baptised in the name of the triune God. The baptised is baptised using the so-called “Trinitarian formula”, that is, in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing are two distinct sacraments, however they are closely linked to one another: by receiving both sacraments, the individual is reborn out of water and the Holy Spirit. In the process, Holy Baptism with water precedes Holy Sealing.
The Risen Son of God gave His Apostles the mandate to perform baptism (cf. Matthew 28: 18-20). In the New Apostolic Church, the Apostles have also assigned the authority to baptise with water to the priestly ministers.
Yes, the dispensation of Holy Baptism with water is possible and effective in all parts of the one church of Christ. Baptism with water is the first step on the way to perfect redemption. Wherever believers are baptised with water and in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the baptism is valid. Baptism with water has been entrusted to the church as a whole. The reason for this lies in God’s universal will to save.
The term ‘supper’ refers to the circumstances in which Jesus Christ instituted this sacrament: on the evening before His crucifixion He celebrated the Passover meal with His Apostles.
On the evening before their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites celebrated the first Passover meal at the instruction of God. A lamb without blemish was slaughtered and prepared. With it, the Israelites ate unleavened bread. God commanded that the Passover be celebrated annually in order to commemorate the people’s liberation from Egypt.
Holy Communion is also known as the “Eucharist” (from a Greek word which means: “to give thanks”), the “Lord’s Supper”, or the “breaking of bread”.
Yes, there is a relationship: according to the account of first three gospels, Jesus instituted Holy Communion with His Apostles during the Passover meal. Like the Passover, the Lord’s Supper is also a meal of commemoration. The Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Holy Communion refers to deliverance in a much broader sense, namely to the redemption of mankind from the bondage of sin.
Yes, there is another reference to Holy Communion in 1 Corinthians 11: 23- 26: “...the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
These words are the basis for the text that is spoken during the consecration of Holy Communion.
‘Consecration’ is the act of lifting the bread and wine out of the domain of the earthly. It is associated with dedication and sanctification (see explanation of “Consecration” following Question 503).
The elements of bread and wine are both required for the celebration of Holy Communion. Bread, like wine, represents human sustenance. In Israel, wine is also a symbol of joy and future salvation.
The term ‘symbol’ comes from Greek and is often taken to mean “emblem”, or even “hallmark” or “characteristic”.
Holy Communion is a meal of remembrance: it calls to mind the death of Jesus Christ as a unique event that is valid for all times. Jesus Christ commissioned the Apostles to celebrate Holy Communion with the words: “Do this in remembrance of Me...” (Luke 22: 19).
Those who partake in Holy Communion thereby profess their belief in the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ. Those who regularly partake of Holy Communion in the New Apostolic Church thereby also profess their belief in the Apostles of Jesus active today. In this respect, Holy Communion is also a meal of profession.
In Holy Communion Jesus Christ first of all has fellowship with His Apostles, and then with the believers. Beyond that, the believers also have fellowship with one another in Holy Communion.
Yes. Holy Communion also points to the future “marriage feast” in heaven. Thus Holy Communion also has an eschatological character.
When He instituted Holy Communion in the circle of the Apostles, Jesus said: “For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22: 18).
Until the reunion between the bridal congregation and Jesus Christ, the congregation experiences its most intimate fellowship with the Lord in Holy Communion.
The body and blood of Jesus Christ become present in the consecration.
Bread and wine are not changed in their substance through the consecration. In other words, the bread and wine are not transformed. Rather, the substance of the body and blood of Jesus is joined to the bread and wine. This event is described as ‘consubstantiation’.
In Holy Communion, bread and wine are not mere images or symbols for the body and blood of Jesus. Rather, the body and blood of Jesus Christ are truly present after the consecration.
The term ‘consecration’ is derived from the Latin word consacrare, which means “to dedicate” or “to sanctify”. The term is used in the sense of “dedication” when bread and wine are consecrated for Holy Communion.
The word ‘substance’ derives from the Latin word substantia, which means “essence”, “constitution”, or “composition”. It thus describes what something consists of.
Yes, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is present in Holy Communion. This sacrifice is not repeated, however, as it has been brought “once for all” (Hebrews 10: 10, 14).
In contrast to the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing, Holy Communion is celebrated in every divine service because it sustains human beings in their fellowship of life with Jesus Christ. We thereby absorb the nature of Jesus.
The body and blood of Christ remain present in the consecrated wafers until they have reached the recipients they are intended to reach.
Forgiveness of sins is closely related to Holy Communion, since they are both based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The sacrament of Holy Communion does not at the same time effect the forgiveness of sins, however. The forgiveness of sins is necessary so that the believers can subsequently partake worthily of Holy Communion, that is, in a state in which they have been cleansed of sin.
Jesus Christ instituted Holy Communion in the circle of the Apostles and also entrusted it to them. Wherever the Apostles or priestly ministers authorised by them are active, all aspects of Holy Communion are present.
For the consecration of Holy Communion, the minister pronounces a fixed text based on 1 Corinthians 11: 23 et seq. and Matthew 26: 26 et seq. as follows:
“In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I consecrate bread and wine for Holy Communion and lay thereupon the once brought, eternally valid sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For the Lord took bread and wine, gave thanks and said: ‘This is My body which is broken for you. This is My blood of the new covenant given for many for the remission of sins. Eat and drink! Do this in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Amen!”
First, the wafers are consecrated. This happens when the authorised minister spreads his hands over the open communion chalice or paten and speaks the words of the consecration.
Then the ministers and the congregation receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of a wafer sprinkled with wine. The dispensation occurs with the words: “The body and blood of Jesus given for you.”
In addition to the forgiveness of sins, which is proclaimed beforehand, belief in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is a necessary prerequisite.
Holy Communion establishes intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. It imparts the nature and strength of the Son of God. Partaking of Holy Communion also serves to promote the unity of the believers with one another, because they develop together into the nature of Jesus Christ. Thus Holy Communion is an important means of preparation for the return of Christ.
“For we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread.”
1 Corinthians 10: 17
Those who have been baptised in the New Apostolic Church, those who have been sealed, and those who have been adopted into the congregation are entitled to regularly partake of Holy Communion.
Properly (rite) baptised Christians may also have access to Holy Communion as guests.
Important elements of Holy Communion are present in the communion celebrations of other churches. There too, the death and resurrection are commemorated with gratitude and faith. New Apostolic Christians should, however, be aware that by regularly partaking in the communion celebrations of another church, they are basically professing the doctrine of that church.
Holy Sealing is the sacrament whereby the believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and prayer of an Apostle. The believer thereby becomes a child of God with the calling to become a firstling.
In the letters of the New Testament, the term “sealing” / “sealed” refers to the imparting of the gift of the Holy Spirit: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1: 21-22).
“In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1: 13).
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4: 30).
Yes. As a person of the Trinity of God, the Holy Spirit was, like the Father and the Son, active from eternity. In the old covenant, He filled individual human beings who had been selected by God for specific tasks.
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”
1 Samuel 16: 13
“Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 51: 11
Yes, the Old Testament contains several references (for example, Ezekiel 36: 27) indicating that God’s Spirit would be poured out over many people. An important reference to this can be found in Joel 2: 28-29: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (see also Acts 2: 15 et seq.).
Yes, Jesus promised His Apostles on several occasions that He would send the Holy Spirit, for example: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15: 26).
It was on Pentecost in Jerusalem that this promise was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles and the disciples.
“When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Acts 2: 1-4
After the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. John the Baptist attested the following: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” (John 1: 32). This event can be described as “anointing”.
“Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
John 6: 27
The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus are references to the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing.
The anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit distinguishes Him as the Messiah. It is a reference to the sacrament of Holy Sealing. It is also to this event that Acts 10: 37-38 refers: “That word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
Already in the old covenant, individuals were consecrated for specific duties through anointing. Such anointing was given to prophets, kings, and priests. See also “Messiah” (= “the Anointed One”), Questions 111 and 112.
When asked by his listeners what they were to do in response to his Pentecost sermon, Apostle Peter answered as follows: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 38).
An important reference to Holy Sealing is found in Acts 8: 14 et seq.: “Now when the Apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
According to this testimony from Holy Scripture, Holy Sealing is bound to the Apostle ministry. This is also confirmed in Acts 8: 18. Simon, who had previously practised sorcery but had come to believe and was baptised (cf. Acts 8: 9, 11 et seq.), “saw that through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given.”
From this event it follows that the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing are clearly distinguished from one another. We find a similar account in Acts 19: 1-6. In Ephesus, there were some disciples who had only received the baptism unto repentance from John. When they came to believe in Jesus, they were first of all baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. After this they received the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them.”
The sacrament of Holy Sealing is dispensed by Apostles when they impart the gift of the Holy Spirit in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to a baptised person. In so doing they lay their hands on the forehead of the baptised believer and pray.
The prerequisite for receiving the sacrament of Holy Sealing is belief in the triune God and the Apostles sent by Jesus Christ. The believer must also have been baptised with water in proper fashion beforehand. He must profess his faith and vow to follow Christ.
Any person who fulfils the necessary prerequisites can receive Holy Sealing. The sacrament is dispensed upon adults and children alike. When children are sealed, the parents or guardians responsible for their religious education must profess their faith on behalf of the children. They must vow to raise their children in the New Apostolic faith.
The two sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing together comprise the “rebirth out of water and the Spirit”. Through these sacraments, God creates a “new creation”—life from God.
“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’.”
John 3: 5
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5: 17
Holy Sealing is part of the rebirth out of water and the Spirit. In it, God completes that which He began in Holy Baptism with water. The renewal of a human being occurs through God, the Holy Spirit, who thereby reveals Himself as the Maker of the new creation.
In Holy Sealing, the believer is enduringly filled with the Holy Spirit. God thereby allows him to share in His being. God thus grants him His strength, His life, and His love for mankind: “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5: 5).
The sealed believer is now the property of God. God’s Spirit has taken up His enduring dwelling place within him (cf. Romans 8: 9).
The human being is now a child of God. He has been called to be a firstling: the rebirth thus has a present effect in childhood in God and a future effect in the calling to become a firstling.
As a child of God, the believer is now an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. The “Spirit of adoption” which is active within the human being as a result of Holy Sealing, now confidently addresses God as “Abba, Father”.
If the sealed believer gives the Holy Spirit room to unfold, divine virtues will come into being. These are described figuratively as “fruit of the Spirit” (cf. Galatians 5: 22).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...”
Galatians 5: 22-23
“For [...] you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
Romans 8: 15-17
The term “child of God” has various aspects:
- All human beings are children of God because they have been created by God and can therefore address the Almighty as “Father”.
- In the time of the Old Testament, God cared for the people of Israel like a Father. Accordingly He referred to the people of Israel as “My son, My firstborn” (cf. Exodus 4: 22-23). Israel thus enjoyed a kind of relationship of childhood with God. When Jesus spoke to the Jews in the Sermon on the Mount, He described God as their “Father in heaven”.
- As Christians, we have been given the Lord’s Prayer, in which we confidently address God as “Our Father”.
- Beyond that, the term “childhood in God” refers to that condition of a human being before God which is characterised by having received all the sacraments, believing, and aligning one’s life by the return of Christ. Childhood in God is attained through the rebirth out of water and the Spirit. As “children of God”, reborn believers are promised that they will be heirs of the Most High.