This grave error of sacramentalism persists even a majority of those who call themselves Christians. They imagine that through participation in the visible and thus temporal, sacrament, they receive invisible and eternal spiritual benefits. Clearly, this is impossible. The Bible declares, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews:11:1). Salvation, because it necessarily involves the eternal and invisible, not that which is seen and is therefore temporal must be by faith, not by physical works or ritual.
Furthermore, ritual and sacraments have nothing to do with either justice or punishment and therefore cannot possibly pay for sin. One might as well imagine that some ritual could satisfy a court of law in paying the penalty prescribed for a major crime as imagine that God would accept sacraments in payment of the infinite penalty He has prescribed for breaking His law.
The Bible gives two sacraments for the Christian: baptism and communion (also called the Lord’s supper). Both are symbolic reminders of a spiritual and eternal transaction that has already taken place: Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and our identification with Him by faith in His full payment of the penalty for our sins.
Neither baptism nor communion is efficacious. To imagine that they are—and therefore to rely upon either or both of them to effect, even partially, one’s salvation—is to reject the salvation God offers in grace to those who believe His promise.
In none of the world’s religions is there any concept of God’s perfect justice having to be satisfied for the sinner to be forgiven. Instead, works and rituals and mystical experiences are offered to appease God and/or to earn one’s salvation. The Bible, however, finds all the world guilty of rebellion against God and insists that human guilt can be forgiven only on a righteous basis. The penalty that God decreed must be paid in full.