May 21 18

Closed Communion

vmsmith

In thinking of the Lord’s Supper, I am prompted to regard the great privilege we have of being a part of the Lord’s church. The Supper is one of two ordinances Christ gave the church and both are observed only by those who are born again believers. The first ordinance is baptism which is a response of the believer’s obedience to show publicly he has committed his life to Christ. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward change. It occurs before church membership but is closely connected to it as it is the door of admittance into church relationship. As such, it is prerequisite to both membership and participation in the Supper. Most Christians have no problems with this order since it is clearly shown to be apostolic in Acts chapter 2.

However, when it comes to the privilege of taking the Supper, many churches stray from the biblical precedent by allowing unconverted, unbaptized people to partake of the precious symbolic elements of Christ’s body and blood. This is a more modern practice among evangelicals that is one of the most egregious violations of church order that is observed today. Although it is becoming more common, there are still good churches that are careful to avoid this as best they can.

We believe the Bible provides a better solution to the problem and one that is more doctrinally correct. The scriptures teach a more restricted communion than to limit it to baptized believers. The scriptural precedent is to drill down further to restrict the communion to members of the local body. In addition to salvation, baptism, and church membership, the further requirement is for the participant to be a member of the particular New Testament church body that is observing the Supper. Due to space and time, let me only briefly explain why this is true using only one argument.

The argument comes from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church regarding church discipline. The apostle enjoined the church that no one should take the Supper unworthily, meaning the church should do its best to ensure there were no open sins and as much as possible no hidden sins that would hinder fellowship with the Lord. In the case of the Corinthian church, there was open sin described in 1 Corinthians 5, a sin bad enough that Paul said even heathen idolaters knew better. Paul commanded the church to withdraw fellowship from the man who sinned until he was brought to repentance. Specifically, the church was commanded not to permit him or others that were guilty of offenses to come to the Supper (1 Cor. 5:11).

The withdrawal of fellowship in church discipline indicates that all who are permitted to partake of the Supper must be under the jurisdiction of the church. If a person is not a member of the church, there is no enforcement mechanism against him for his sin. We cannot withdraw fellowship from someone who is not in the body and neither are we apprised of their particular lifestyle and qualifications as we are those who are regular participants in our fellowship and activities (1 Cor. 5:12-13). The purpose of church discipline is first of all formative rather than punitive to help a person realize the need of repentance.

The practice of restricted communion, also known as closed communion, is not a judgment of the spiritual condition of any person who is not a member of this church. We have many friends that are good Christians from other churches and some who are denominationally different. We do not doubt their salvation. We simply believe in New Testament church order. The Supper is the Lord’s table not ours, so we only invite those in the same intimate fellowship that Christ and the apostles practiced. We have no more right to change the scriptural precedent in the Supper than we do to change the ordinance of baptism.

Our position is not meant to be offensive to anyone and does not make us better than any others. We are all sinners saved by God’s grace. We desire to honor Him in the best ways we know how.

 

Pastor V. Mark Smith