What do sacraments do? Do they anything or are they just rituals we perform? These are some of the questions Les, Tanner, and I discussed on this episode of the Pubcast. The most fundamental question is whether God ordinarily uses means? In the Reformed tradition we speak of “means of grace” (media gratiae), which is our way of talking about the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and prayer. The question, of course, is not whether God could (i.e., has the power) to bring us to new life and to true faith by the work of the Spirit without means. He certainly could. Neither is the question whether, e.g., the sacraments are magic such that they necessarily work mechanically (ex opere operato). The Scriptures do not teach an ex opere or mechanical/magical view of the sacraments. Nevertheless, there is clear and compelling evidence that God uses means and instruments to accomplish his saving purposes.
Here is the complete episode.
Here is an archival (abbreviated) version: