- instituted by Christ Himself;
- in which Christ joins His Word with visible elements;
- by which He offers and bestows the forgiveness of sins which He won for us through His death and resurrection.
The Lutheran Confessions leave open the exact numbering of sacraments. Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper are certainly regarded as sacraments. Holy Absolution is regarded as the "third sacrament" even though it does not have a visible element according to the three point definition described above.
Our faith does not make a sacrament what it is. However, it is through faith that we trust in and receive the benefits promised us in the sacrament.
In his Small Catechism, Luther writes that Holy Baptism is "not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word."
"Baptize" means to wash with water whether by immersing, pouring, or sprinkling in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With this Triune name, we are "tatooed" as God's own child.
Holy Communion, also known by other names as The Eucharist, The Lord's Table, or Sacrament of the Altar, is, as Luther writes in his Small Catechism, the "true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us to eat and drink."
The Words of Institution spoken during that part of the worship service in which the sacrament is celebrated, particularly the words "this is my body..." and "this is my blood..." center on one small word: "is". The Doctrine of the Real Presence is based upon that one word and is the belief that while the bread and wine remain bread and wine, Christ's body and blood are "in, with, and under" that very bread and wine.
The Doctrine of the Real Presence is not to be confused with the Roman Doctrine of Transubstantiation in which it is believed that the priest, during the Mass, converts the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus while still retaining the "substance", or the "look and feel", of bread and wine.
The Doctrine of the Real Presence is also not be confused with the Calvnist belief that the bread and wine merely symbolize, or represent, Christ's body and blood and His suffering and death upon the cross.