Ex Opere Operato

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Ex Opere Operato means that if the communicative nature of the Christian sacraments is acknowledged, a sacrament properly performed is seen to convey God's grace independently of the faith or moral character of the celebrant or recipients. Its value springs from its divine institution, "from the work already done" (Latin ex opere operato), in which the sacrament participates. The opposite position has been maintained by some - that the value of the sacrament does depend in some way on those who celebrate and receive, ex opere operantis ("from the work being done").


Ex Opere Operato

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The historic Roman Catholic view of the way sacraments are effective is that they operate ex opere operato ("from the work done"). This position became official at the Council of Trent (1545 - 63). Canon VIII of the seventh session opposed the view that "grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace." The condition for the recipient is only that one does not place an obstacle (obex, sinful act or disposition) against the sacrament's administration. Grace is given by God when the sacrament is conferred rightly by the church. This ex opere operato working makes the sacraments unique conductors of divine grace.

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The Reformers rejected this view. Calvin said it contradicted the nature of the sacraments. Protestants have stressed the need for faith to be present in the recipient for a sacrament to have validity. Sacraments are the instruments used by God to confirm the word of his promise to those who believe.

D K McKim
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
G C Berkouwer, The Sacraments; O D C C; R Seeberg, Text book of the History of Doctrines; P Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, II; P Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought.


The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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