Defining The Sacraments (Vos)

Who is the first to have begun giving a definition of the concept of sacrament? 

Augustine. He said, “A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace”; sometimes as well, “A sacrament is a sign of holy thing.”Both of these definitions sound too indefinite. Although by them Augustine is thinking mostly of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he nevertheless still uses the word with other meanings. (Some say that the first definition first occurs with the Scholastics.) For present-day Roman Catholic theology, these definitions no longer apply. In the sacraments of penance and of marriage, for example, the visible thing is lacking. Moreover, it is not said that the sacraments communicate grace. The catechism of Trent meets both objections by saying: “A sacrament is a thing that is perceived by the senses and has the capacity not only to portray grace but also to effect it.”

  • Geerhardus, Vos. (2014) Reformed Dogmatics. Bellingham, WA 98225: Lexham Press.



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