SacramentalismJul 16th, 2009 | By Andrew Preslar | Category: Blog Posts
Sacramentalism is a soteriological position according to which the Christian sacraments are intrinsically efficacious means of grace. It is primarily, though not exclusively, by means of the sacraments that the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God accomplishes his salvific purpose of uniting all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:7-10).
The sacramentalist affirms that God extends saving grace to mortal men by means of the sacraments of the Church, according to his sworn word of promise, because of his infinite love and mercy, through the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and perpetual priestly Mediation of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This grace inwardly changes men by configuring them to Christ, purifying them of their sins, and blessing them with the gifts of divine filiation, justification, eternal life, spiritual strength, etc.
Those who reject this position have all sorts of opinions about the sacraments, but they are one in denying that the grace of God is objectively given in the Christian sacraments. Therefore, they deny that the sacraments themselves are unbreakable promises of God. For non-sacramentalists, the crux of our inward configuration to and union with Christ must be found elsewhere. This “elsewhere” turns out to be a moment of faith alone, wherein “faith” is interpreted as a psychological event to which the sacraments are extrinsically related, e.g., as mere symbols, signs, and/or seals of grace.
The sacramentalist, on the other hand, believes that the Christian sacraments are rooted in and flow from the Incarnate Son and Word of God, who is immortal for our salvation. The mystery of salvation, which consists of the loving union of God and man, is not an abstraction worked out in isolation from the material world. Believing in Christ, stepping into the divine life by “the obedience of faith,” is not merely a private, mental event. Rather, the life of grace, from baptism to eternity, is a family matter, lived in the communion of saints as fellow members of the Church, which is the mystical Body of Christ. It is therefore a theological mistake of the first order to oppose salvation by faith in Christ and salvation by means of the sacraments which Christ gave to the Church.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are “the masterworks of God” in the new and everlasting covenant. 
The following verses from the Gospel of Luke are referenced in the footnote to this paragraph of the Catechism:
On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. (5:17)
And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. (6:19)
But Jesus said, ‘Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.’ (8:46)
The Christian sacraments cannot come into being, or be, or be administered apart from Jesus Christ. Sacramentalists maintain that Our Lord instituted seven sacraments, which are constituted by specific material things (e.g., bread, wine, water, oil) together with his unbreakable word of promise. Jesus commanded his Apostles to administer these holy mysteries for the salvation of the world, until his coming again. The sacraments show forth and extend the new creation in Christ Jesus by communicating nothing other than the life of the Incarnate Word to mortal men, thereby transforming and translating the citizens of the world, of whatever tribe or tongue or station of life, into sons of God and citizens of the heavenly Kingdom.