Why do Catholics believe in 7 Sacraments, while protestants believe in only 2?

One of the biggest conflicts between Catholics and Protestant during the reformation was the need of sacraments, holy rituals of the Christian faith. However, instead of doing away with the sacraments entirely, the Protestants kept two of them and each branch now uses them in one way or another. So, why does one side believe in two while the other believes in five?

Sacraments Protestants Believe

1. Baptism

Baptizing is a symbol of repentance, a sign that one has turned away from sins. Even John the Baptist said “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” (Luke 3:8 NASB). John the Baptist even baptized Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17. Even his final commandment in Matthew 28: 19 was to baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity. If we are truly called to be like Christ, then baptism is an acceptable way to declare your faith in Christ.

2. Communion

This is the moment of where Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Jewish holiday of the Passover. Here Jesus broke bread and passed a cup of wine, and gave a blessing over it, as described in Mark 14:22-24, saying that this was to be his body and blood. While Catholics and Protestants tend to disagree what exactly is being eaten during the communion, they both tend to agree that it is necessary because, again, this is also something that Jesus explicitly spoke about in John 6:54 (NASB), saying “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” This is something that his followers practice in the remembrance of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as a symbol of their dedication in Christ.

Sacraments Protestants Reject

3. Confirmation

This is the idea within Catholicism that in order to become a Christian it is a process, where one repents and receives the Holy Spirit through prayer and education by spiritual leaders within the church, just as Peter and John did in Acts 8:14-17. However, the Protestants challenged this idea in the necessity of someone to give the Holy Spirit. Protestants believe in having a direct connection to the Holy Trinity, there is no need in the belief of someone having to intercede.

4. Confession

Even after receiving the Holy Spirit, confession of sins is how one attains forgiveness in Christ. A common biblical basis of this is John 20:22-23, where Jesus gives his disciples the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive and even reject sinners. Protestants tend to take issue with this due to the way it is portrayed within the Catholic Church. The argument is that one should not have to approach a mortal man for the Holy Spirit as well as for the forgiveness of sins, as one can receive the Spirit and His Forgiveness independently and privately. Therefore, the question is if all believers have the Holy Spirit, which is the better situation of repentance.

5. Anointing of Sick

In James 5:14-15, James instructs that Elders of the church should anoint the sick with oil. Catholics even go as far to anoint the dead with oil, sending them off on their final passage. Protestants take issue with this as a sacrament because they don’t believe it is a necessity for salvation in Christ, as it does not affect the relationship between God and man in it of itself. The issue is especially present with death anointing, as nothing in Protestant faith can aide a man’s salvation after death.

6. Marriage

There are many passages throughout the scriptures that address the topic of marriage, and to a Catholic, marriage is one of the most necessary steps in one’s faith. Just as God is many parts in one, humans should be many in one through marriage, with the exception of the priesthood. To a Protestant, however, this is an issue because, just like anointing, this should not be a mandatory practice to be considered a Christian.

7. Holy Orders

In the Catholic faith, priests have certain duties to perform, and also the power to guide his followers, using verses such as Hebrews 5:1-4 to validate this claim. However, Protestants believe that the idea of this strict priesthood is only needed for the Jews, as Gentiles were given only four needed laws to follow in Acts 15: avoidance of idols, fornication, strangled meat, and blood. Considering that most Christians are not Jews, Protestants reject any strict priesthood of the Jewish laws.

There are many other minor sacraments as well practiced by smaller sects, but these seven are the most discussed and debated and practiced sacraments within the faith. Ultimately, there is nothing inherently evil about these sacraments the Catholics practice, but a Protestant protests the necessity of practicing such acts of faith. Perhaps take these things into prayer and consideration before the Lord, for true guidance along the path, he has for you.


Ian Tash has written for Cool College Helpers, the Haiku Journal, and the L.A. Times (more specifically, the L.A. Affairs column), and also tries to update his Ian Tash Facebook page whenever he has a chance. He has an incredible love of entertainment, both in creating his own and analyzing the works of others. Ian currently lives in Bakersfield, CA and works as a draftsman by trade and dedicated his time to building up local churches and fellow believers.


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