Several years ago I was visited by my friend, Nikolay, who is a pastor in Bulgaria. I wanted him to experience life in the American south, which includes Friday night high school football. This was the first time Nikolay had attended an American football game. As the game progressed I noticed that Nikolay seemed to be somewhat unimpressed, even uninterested. I asked, “What do you think of American football?” He replied, “I guess I could enjoy it if I understood what was happening.”
In Pentecostal Sacraments I have suggested that Pentecostals are intuitively sacramental. In other words, even though most Pentecostals do not have an informed sacramental theology, nonetheless they encounter the presence of God in the various sacramental observances.
In my research and writing on Pentecostal sacramentality I have come to appreciate the tension between ex opere operate and ex opere operantis. Please bear with me. The classic Catholic understanding of sacraments is that they convey God’s grace ex opere operate, that is, by virtue of the act. The faith of the recipient is not required. As long as the sacrament is properly administered and grace is not resisted, grace is conveyed. The classic Protestant understanding of sacraments is ex opere operantis, that is, by virtue of the work. Grace is conveyed because of the faith of the recipient and/or the celebrant.