The Sacramentals are those Means of Grace which have Sacramental qualities but which were not clearly established as Sacraments by our Lord in Scripture and, hence, are not counted as "Sacraments." Like the Sacraments, the Sacramentals require a human response of faith for them to operate in our lives as effective "Means of Grace." While there are many many many more Means of Grace than those which we will examine here in these articles, throughout the history of the church at least these Means have generally been recognized as avenues through which God provides Divine Grace to believers. Again, each Means listed has sacramental qualities, but we do not recognize them as literal Sacraments.
In The United Methodist Church we recognize Confirmation as the completion of the Sacrament of Baptism, and hence it is often ranked as part of the Baptismal rite. Indeed, if you will check the Hymnal in your pew next Sunday you'll notice that the Liturgy for Confirmation is contained within the Liturgy for Baptism (see the UM Hymnal, page 37).
But what does Confirmation do? It is the Affirmation of Faith, the response to Grace, the Proclamation of Faith of a believer who has been baptized and, for the first time before the congregation, affirms their faith in Jesus Christ in response to the Grace received in their baptisms. Confirmation, hence, completes the Sacrament of Baptism. For those who are baptized as infants, the response of Faith in Confirmation cannot come until the child attains the mental and emotional maturity to be able to affirm that God's Grace has moved them to Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For those who are baptized as either youth or adults, Confirmation may well occur immediately after the application of the Baptismal waters. This should illustrate that what is going on in the Baptism of an infant is IDENTICAL to what is going on in the Baptism of a "believer." BOTH reflects God's Grace, which comes before anything we do. Baptism may be understood as reflecting Prevenient Grace; Confirmation can be understood as reflecting Justifying Grace. In Confirmation, the believer affirms their Faith in Jesus Christ and enters into full membership within the Body of Christ. In Baptism, God claims us as His very own Children; in Confirmation WE proclaim God as our Eternal Father, and Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
© 1999, Rev. Gregory S. Neal
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