What is a sacrament? An outward representation of an inward reality. Originally, the acts of baptism and communion were understood by the Greek word “musterion”. It is better translated as a secret rather than a mystery. The idea was something that had once been hidden but was now revealed or known through Jesus Christ. (cf. Eph. 3:9). Latin did not have a corresponding word to musterian so when the Bible was translated into Latin, the word “sacrumentum” was introduced. That word refers to an oath.
Here is a bit more about how the original meaning of sacrumentum in military practice:
To perform their transformation from Roman citizens into Roman soldiers, the selected men would then have to swear an oath of allegiance. This swearing of the sacramentum, changed the status of the man entirely. He was now utterly subject to his general’s authority, and had thereby laid down any restraints of his former civilian life. His actions would be by the will of the general. The legionary could only be released from the sacramentum by two things; death or demobilization. Without the sacramentum, however, the Roman could not be a soldier. It was unthinkable.”
From the website http://www.roman-empire.net/army/becoming.html
In addition to a complete status change, the soldier was branded with a number to externally mark him as a member of his military unit. It was both something inward an outward.
For some people the receiving of the Lord’s supper is referred to as an ordinance: a demonstration of the participant’s faith but not an event that is a means of God’s grace and presence in a particular way. It is very different from a sacramental understanding of the celebration where God’s spirit is present in a real way when practiced in faith
Read 1 Cor 11:17-34
- What does receiving the Lord’s Supper each week mean to you?
- Can you remember a particular time where taking the Lord’s supper was particularly meaningful to you?
- Why does the Scripture teach that it is important to “examine yourself” before receiving the Lord’s supper? Is that something you have practiced?