I appreciate everyone who participated in and attended a Fifth Annual Symposium in Kilgore last Sunday discussing the topic “Why church?” In answering that question, the main presenter, Dr. Glenn Young of First Baptist, Kilgore, helpfully distinguished between religious traditions that do and do not connect salvation to sacraments. We all could benefit from a closer examination of what the Bible actually teaches regarding that connection.
For example, in my response as a panelist, I mentioned what Jesus teaches in St. John’s Gospel account about the need both to be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5) and to eat Jesus’s flesh and drink His blood in order to have life (John 6:53). As Jesus teaches, those two sacraments are, under normal circumstances, necessary for salvation, and, since they normally are administered by the Church and at the center of the Church’s life, one’s having a connection to the Church is normally necessary for salvation. Outside of the Church there is no salvation.
People can ignore what the Bible teaches, but they do so to their own peril. Others can claim that their misunderstandings of worship and the sacraments are Biblical, but, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), we need to examine the Scriptures daily to see if things really are so. As the Bible teaches, and as Martin Luther and other faithful confessors have believed, taught, and confessed, Sacraments like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not about what we have done or do to save ourselves but about what God does in order to save us.
At the Symposium we talked about relationships. God created people to be in relationship with Him and with one another, but our first parents ruined those relationships. Since then, we have needed God to restore that right relationship with Him and with one another. God did so in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for all people. When, thanks to God’s action through His Word and Sacraments, we repent and believe in Him, then we are made God’s children and brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.