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Perhaps the single greatest difference between the Salvation Army and other mainline Christian churches is the way it views the sacraments. The Vatican has always considered these sacraments essential to salvation, while Protestant denominations have not. Yet, Protestants practice communion and baptism, in keeping with Jesus example (Matt 26:26-28; 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22) and teachings (I Cor 11:26, 24-27; Matt 28:19, Mark 1:4, 5; as well as the examples of the apostles (Acts 2:38; 8:35-38; 16:31, 33). According to the WaterBeachSalvationArmy.org.uk website: "The Salvation Army has never said it is wrong to use sacraments, nor does it deny that other Christians receive grace from God through using them. Rather, the Army believes that it is possible to live a holy life and receive the grace of God without the use of physical sacraments and that they should not be regarded as an essential part of becoming a Christian. Salvationists see the sacraments as an outward sign of an inward experience, and it is the inward experience that is the most important thing. It should be noted that The Salvation Army did not cease to use the sacraments because of any prejudices it had against them or from any desire to be 'different'. The decision to discontinue their use was a gradual process…." The reasons given are as follows: 1. Christians were too dependent on the outward ritualistic signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself, personally received by faith. 2. Some Bible scholars had pointed out that there was no scriptural basis for regarding the sacraments as essential to salvation or Christian living, and they could find very few New Testament references to these practices. It was further argued that none of them showed any intention by Jesus that they should have become fixed ceremonies. 3. The sacraments were seen as divisive and the cause of bitter controversy and abuse. 4. The Army believed that women may take an equal part in its ministry, and, since some churches would not allow women to administer the sacraments, they avoided this issue altogether. 5. The Society of Friends (Quakers) appeared to live holy lives without the use of sacraments. 6. It was considered unwise to tempt reformed alcoholics with the wine used in holy communion. "However, it should be stressed that Salvationists have never been in opposition to the sacraments. Indeed, when they take part in gatherings with Christians from other churches, Salvationists will often share in using the symbols of the Lord's Supper as a sign of fellowship. Furthermore, Salvationists are not prevented from being baptised in other churches should they so desire." Given the bitter theological arguments of the day, it's understandable why the Booths desired to avoid division. However, neglecting baptism and communion contradicts Jesus and Peter's clear instructions (Matt 28:19-20; Mark 1:4, 5, 9-11; Acts 2:38; Luke 22:19-20; Matt 26:26-281: 1 Cor 11:24-28;). Jesus called us to an outward exemplification of our inward repentance in Mark 16:16, linking it closely to salvation, as did Peter in Acts 2:38. Similarly we were asked to outwardly remember him in the Lord's supper and this can be celebrated with alcoholic or nonalcoholic wine. Despite the fact others might abuse, misuse or overemphasize such actions, to preach the gospel without attention to these details would seem to me to be direct disobedience to our Lord and Savior, who said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15, 23)
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