"Sacraments"1 is a term that refers to three New Testament institutions: baptism, footwashing, and Holy Communion. These three sacraments are instituted by the Lord Jesus and commanded to his followers (Mark 16:16; John 13:1-7; Matthew 26-29).
The sacraments all involve the use of physical elements or actions. According to the Lord's promise, the sacraments have the effect of salvation. In baptism, the effect of remission of sins takes place when the believer is immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ. In footwashing, the believer has a part with the Lord by accepting the washing of feet in water. In Holy Communion, the believer partakes of the eternal life of Jesus Christ. The sacraments signify the believer's covenantal relationship with the Lord and mark the beginning of regeneration.
1. In both Catholic and Reform theology, the word "sacrament" refers to the Christian rites, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper. Tertullian was the first to employ the word sacramentum, the Latin version of the New Testament term "mystery" (see Ephesians 5:32; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:20). The use of this word to refer to the New Testament divine institutions may be due to the spiritual effect, which we cannot rationalize.