What is Confirmation?
In Christianity confirmation is either considered a sacrament or rite (depending on the beliefs of the practitioners) ceremonially performed in a church, which signifies the faith and commitment of a person who desires to publicize their convictions to their family, friends, and church, such as one being baptized or one coming of age (e.g. a teenager).
Generally, Roman Catholic churches and Eastern Orthodox churches consider confirmation a sacrament, believing it to dispense grace (but not necessarily saving grace), while Protestant churches, including Anglicanism, teaches that it is a rite, meaning it is symbolic, though still very important.
(Note: A Jewish Bar Mitzvah is not an exact parallel to confirmation in Christianity. While it can be considered a "coming of age" ceremony, it private not public and the meaning of the act is different as well)
What is the Biblical Basis for Confirmation?
Confirmation often includes prayer and ritual recitation of beliefs and commitments. Practitioners site passages such as Acts 8:14-17 as a biblical basis for the activity:
"14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." (KJV)
What Does Confirmation Mean?
What confirmation ceremonies consist of and what confirmation means varies depending on the denomination and the church. In some denominations and churches, confirmation is understood as bestowing the Holy Spirit. In others it signifies entering adulthood. In still others, it results in church membership. To best understand what confirmation means it would be wise to study the tenets of an individual church or denomination. Here are some general beliefs of large denominations regarding confirmation.
Confirmation in Roman Catholicism
In Roman Catholicism, confirmation is one of the seven sacraments. Results of confirmation include grace that strengthens of one’s faith, draws a person closer to Christ, increases the effectiveness of spiritual gifts, and makes a person an effective witness for Christ.
Conformation in the Orthodox Church
In Eastern Christian traditions, confirmation is a sacrament and is called “Chrismation.” It is believed that the original apostles established this rite, but as the church grew it became impossible for them to confirm each person themselves. As the story goes, the apostles laid hands on a vat of oil, uniquely blessing it, and the oil was given to churches. It is believed that those vessels have never been depleted to the point of empty but refilled over and over by orthodox clergy.
Confirmation in the Anglican Church
The "39 Articles" of the Anglican church emphasize that Christ only required two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, many Anglican churches practice confirmation without the belief that the act contributes to the person’s salvation. Only bishops may perform confirmation in Anglican churches.
Confirmation in the Lutheran Church
In Lutheran churches, confirmation isn’t a sacrament but a profession of faith. It is done in the setting of the church, unlike Bar Mitzvah, for instance, which is a private ceremony.
Confirmation in the Methodist Church
In Methodist churches, confirmation isn’t a sacrament but a rite that acknowledges God’s grace upon their lives and sets them down a path of discipleship. Many Methodists are baptized as infants and confirmation affirms their commitment and belief.
Confirmation in the Baptist Church
In Baptist churches, people experience “believer’s baptism,” which is baptism that is based on a profession of faith as opposed to being baptized as infants. There is similarity in believer’s baptism and confirmation as it is practiced in other churches in regard to a public profession of faith and commitment to God.