A sacrament is a Christian rite that is recognized as being particularly important and significant. There are various views on the existence, number and meaning of such rites. Many Christians (particularly Roman Catholics) consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a channel for God’s grace.

Many denominations, including the CatholicLutheranAnglicanMethodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace, that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God’s grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant. I’m not totally sure I understand what this means…but heh-ho!

The Catholic ChurchHussite Church and the Old Catholic Church recognise seven sacraments: BaptismPenance (Reconciliation or Confession), Eucharist (or Holy Communion), ConfirmationMarriage (Matrimony), Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction).

Many Protestant denominations, such as those within the Reformed tradition, identify two sacraments instituted by Christ, the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) and Baptism.

The English word sacrament is derived indirectly from the Ecclesiastical Latin sacrāmentum, from the Latin sacrō (‘hallow, consecrate’), itself derive from the Latin sacer (‘sacred, holy’). This in turn is derived from the Greek New Testament word mysterion. In Ancient Rome, the term meant a soldier’s oath of allegianceTertullian, a 3rd-century Christian writer, suggested that just as the soldier’s oath was a sign of the beginning of a new life, so too was initiation into the Christian community through baptism and Eucharist.

I love the idea of going back to the earliest understanding of a term. I think that the concept of a “soldier’s oath of allegiance” being the sacrament ties in very well with my suggestion that today we look at 4 such “sacraments” or “oaths”: Baptism, marriage, going to “church”, communion.

As we do so, I am going to ask three questions of each one:

WHAT are they?

HOW do we practice them in our church?

WHY are they necessary?


  1. WHAT IS IT?

In recent days we have witnessed wonderful, happy, baptisms in our church building. In each case, the person being baptised has stood up and given their testimony and then “confessed with their mouth and believed in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Romans 10: 9-11 paraphrased) before symbolically being buried with Christ in the water and then raised up to a new life as part of the Church as they come out of the water (see Romans 6: 4). Baptism is many things – but at its simplest level it is a public declaration by the candidate that they have decided to “repent” – that is “turn from their old, selfish, way of living their life, in order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus from this day onwards. It is a declaration that Jesus is now their LORD. It is a declaration that they have become a new creation, are part of His church, trust in His death to save them from their sins, and to bring them to eternal life in Heaven.


When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus (a Christian) we encourage them to be baptised by “full immersion”. By this we mean that we shall take them into our baptistry and, when all is declared, we shall completely submerge them (briefly!) under water. This is done after a baptism course is undertaken to show that they know what they are doing and that we accept that they are ready to be baptised.

The reason we baptise in this way is our understanding of the meaning of the word “baptidzo” to mean completely covered by water in the same way as a sponge is completely soaked in a basin.

Are we saying that any other method of baptism, as practiced by other churches, is wrong or incomplete? Not at all! Let each church and each individual come to their own understanding before God of what form this sacrament should take. I was baptised (Christened) as a baby in the font of St Peter’s Dulwich. When I became a man, I felt that I should now make my own personal declaration (or “oath”) of my faith as I was unable to do this as an infant. So, I elected to be baptised by full immersion as well. If you have been so-Christened and are content in your heart that you have fulfilled this sacrament then that is completely OK and no office or ministry in this church will be closed to you.


Do you have to baptised to be saved? Of course not! We are told that being “saved” is by the Grace of God through faith – expressed by confessing with our mouth and believing in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord – it is the gift of God and not through any “work” (or a “doing it ourselves” – which could be what baptism becomes). Have a read of Ephesians 2: 8-9 to embed this in your heart and mind. So being baptised does not “save” you, and neither does NOT being baptised bar you from being saved.

So why do it!

Firstly – because it is a command of Scripture. And that alone should settle it.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2: 38)

Secondly – because it is part of your witness to your family, friends, neighbours and work-colleagues of what you believe and how your life has been changed and enriched. And, just as a soldier’s “oath” motivates them to stay true to their calling in the toughest of times, so being baptised will help you to stay true to your high calling to God when the going gets tough here on earth. Many baptismal candidates testify of how they feel far stronger, more committed to God and closer to Him – as well as an awareness of the spiritual warfare they are in – after they are baptised.


  1. WHAT IS IT?

Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally and often legally, recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.

I believe that it was established as early as the Garden of Eden as God’s template of intimate relationship. Thus, we are told in Genesis 2: 18 and 24 –

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

What do we understand by this?

  • That man and woman were made for each other and are a “help” to each other in all things.
  • That marriage involves leaving the authority of your parental home and establishing a new family home.
  • That love (being “united”) to each other is crucial.
  • That sexual relationships are to be within the marriage commitment rather than casually entered into.
  • That marriage is between a man and a woman (we do not recognise same-sex “marriage” as being Biblical).
  • That becoming “one flesh” also means aiming to remain together “till death us do part”.

Some say that it is not necessary to have a formal, public, legal ceremony to be married. And maybe they are right – God sees the heart and knows whether a couple are united in the three ways outlined above. Increasingly a society that does not even believe in God or in the Biblical understanding of His ways, sees couples simply living together without any legal ceremony, able to flow in and out of relationships as they please.

This is not what we practice in our church.

Here, if a couple – by which we mean a man and a woman – are in love and wish to commit themselves to each other, then we will encourage them to:

  • Seek God’s will and blessing on their relationship.
  • Seek preparation for a life joined together and restrain from sexual relationships until…
  • Go through a formal marriage ceremony in our church.

Does this mean that we do not recognise a civil marriage ceremony that has taken place in a Registry Office? Of course we do! We simply believe that there is nothing more wonderful in a marriage ceremony than to make God front-and-centre of the commitment that a couple are about to make.


Do we REALLY need to have this formal ceremony – with in-laws and hats and confetti and awful speeches and expensive venues and posh clothing in order to be married?

Probably not. There are plenty of people out there who God recognises as being married because they satisfy the criteria of Genesis 2. There is nowhere in the Bible where a marriage ceremony is commanded (in the time of the Patriarchs it seemed to be enough for the woman to be simply  taken into the tent of the man! Have a look at Genesis 24: 67 if you don’t believe me!) though the practice of a wedding ceremony is clearly seen to be endorsed by Jesus who attended one at Cana in Galilee (see John 2: 1-12)

But we DO promote it, practice it and recommend it…VERY STRONGLY!

And why? Really it is for reasons that we have already mentioned. As a soldier makes a formal “oath” of commitment to their sovereign and this oath strengthens the relationship, so we believe that to make such a public oath in marriage is VERY helpful:

  • Research (just Google it!) shows that those who go through the marriage ceremony are more likely to stay together.
  • A wedding ceremony enshrines a commitment not just to each other, but to children and the wider family.
  • A wedding ceremony in the sight of God and all mankind cements the commitment of the couple to their relationship and seeks the blessing of God and man on their relationship.
  • A wedding ceremony (often accompanied by the giving and receiving of rings) makes it very clear to others to “keep off!” trying to break into the relationship either emotionally or sexually.


  1. WHAT IS IT?

The building that we are meeting in today is NOT the church…the PEOPLE are the church. The building is simply where we meet together.

This sacrament is the commitment that we make, as individual disciples of Christ, that we value meeting together in order to worship God together, “break bread” (take communion) together, pray together, share all that we have together, learn from the Bible together, go out to evangelise together (take a look at Acts 2: 42-47). The church is the “family” that we feel called by God to be a part of. We don’t always like the other church family members! We don’t always get on with the other church family members! But we meet together because we have made a commitment to do so together.


We encourage all those who wish to, to come together on a Sunday morning for our Celebration Service where we come together to glorify God through our worship and to be built up in the faith. We encourage all, who believe they are called to this church family, to meet together in each other’s homes, to join together for mid-week housegroups, Bible studies and prayer meetings, to give of our time and our money for the benefit of the work of God, and to serve one another. We invite you all to seek to formally join yourself to our church family which will then enable you to play a fuller part in the life of the church such as the election of Deacons and recognition of Elders.


Going to church does NOT make you a Christian! On the other hand, around the world are countless numbers who long to go to church but cannot due to persecution or work commitments.

So, is it REALLY necessary to go to church?

We believe that it is a wise commitment to follow the example of Jesus who we are told went to the Synagogue as a normal habit (see Luke 4: 16).

We also believe that failing to regularly go to church can be harmful to your spiritual life:

  • Like a coal that has fallen out of the fire, experience shows that the Christian who stops going to church quickly sees their faith going cold.
  • Fellowship with other believers not only benefits you in a whole host of ways, but benefits others as well. We need you here! You will be a blessing to us all!
  • Not going to church because other things are “more important” is disrespectful to the One who we say we are following.
  • Not coming under the good (???) teaching of the Elders puts you at risk of doctrinal error.


  1. WHAT IS IT?

Also known as “The Lord’s Supper” or “The Eucharist” or “Breaking of Bread”, Communion is the time in a church service when the “Bread and the wine” are taken to “remember and proclaim the Lord’s death until He come” (1 Corinthians 11: 26 paraphrased).

It was instituted by Christ Himself who, at the Last Supper before He was arrested and crucified, led the disciples in this act. Matthew 26: 26-29 describes what happened:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

When we “take the bread and the wine” we are remembering with gratitude that Jesus died in our place (1 Cor 11: 24,25) – sacrificing His body on the Cross and allowing His blood to be shed so that the sins of all who believe in Him are washed away. So, at the start of communion, we will always thank God for the bread that we eat together which reminds us of His life given for us; and for the “cup” from which we drink which reminds us of the blood that he shed for us. We are remembering the greatest act of love ever shown to mankind.

Because He gave His life for us, when we take communion, we are:

  • Proclaiming His death until He comes again (1 Cor 11: 26).
  • Participating (sharing) in the blood and body of Christ (1 Cor 10: 16).
  • Declaring our deep relationship with Him because of what He has done through His death (John 6: 56).
  • Joining in united fellowship with all Christians as one worldwide body of Christ (1 Cor 10: 17). It’s so wonderful to know that, when we are taking communion, all over the world Christians of different races, colours and languages are taking it too…we’re part of a BIG thing here!

We feel that the remembering of the death of our Lord is SO important that we choose to celebrate communion every week. There is a paradox in that it is both a solemn and a joyful occasion – thinking on the death of Christ and yet knowing that it was through His death that we have life.

In accordance with Scripture we ask you to first examine yourselves as to your motives in taking the elements of bread and wine (1 Corinthians 11: 28) – particularly asking yourself if there is any reason why you should not take communion (such as a sin, or an argument with your “brother” that you need to put right; or that you simply don’t believe yet that Jesus died for you). After this, take the elements with thanksgiving and worship.

There is no real right or wrong way to serve and take communion. In an Anglican church the disciple tends to go up to the altar rail, cup their hands and receive a wafer and wine. In our church we take around pieces of real bread and small, individual, cups of wine juice. It doesn’t matter – it is the heart of the receiver that matters. In our church we usually eat the bread as soon as we receive it and then drink the cup at the same time when all have been served. It doesn’t matter! This is a tradition and not a legal requirement – so be prepared for some to serve it differently. It is the heart of the receiver that matters.

Parents and carers are asked to take responsibility for their children (and their children’s friends). Some parents will not want their child to take communion until they are older or have been baptised. Other parents and carers will be happy with their child taking communion when they are certain that their child has made a personal commitment to the “faith”. We ask that we do not judge another over their taking of communion – it is God who knows the heart and we should only be judging ourselves in this matter.


Again, we declare that this sacrament is not a prerequisite for eternal life. Some streams of Christianity believe that unless you take communion before you die you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not believe this.

Communion, as a sacrament, is an “oath” of commitment that you are making before God, a recognition and thanksgiving of what He has done for us.

As such Communion “keeps us on the tracks”, reminding us, week-after-week, of the foundation of our hope in Christ. We humans are so fallible. The less we take communion, the more we will forget about what He has done for us. The more regularly we take communion the closer we get to feel to Him and to each other.


There are those who will say that you HAVE to be baptised, and you HAVE to go through a marriage ceremony (if you want to join in union with another), and you HAVE to attend church, and you HAVE to take communion. Well, these people are kinda-a right…in that these “sacraments” are good things that are often commanded of us.

But those people who say you HAVE to do these things in order to be “saved” and enter Heaven are TOTALLY wrong! And I thank God for this – because I do too many things wrongly, and forget too many things too often, and get too distracted more than I could tell. None of these things “save” you – thank God! We are saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved by His Grace and not by any works that we can do.

So, as we commit ourselves to God, let us commit ourselves to these sacraments as a way of making our oath to God to follow Him and live for Him and remember Him and thank Him – and as a way of telling others about our commitment to Him and to one another in His Name.