Sunday, August 05, 2007

Curious take on communion

XVII. The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper
We believe and practice “open communion.” We believe that the instruction given by the Apostle Paul governing the partaking of the Lord’s supper to be one of self-examination (I Corinthians 11:23 -34 with emphasis on verse 28 and verse 31). We believe and assert that our example, as always, is the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Bible we find that Jesus Christ allowed Thomas (a doubter – John 20:24 -29), Simon Peter (a curser – Matthew 26:74), and Judas Iscariot (a devil – John 6:70) to partake in the first Lord’s Supper; thusly we believe that the practice of “closed communion” is to impose a more strict code of conduct than even the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe the scriptures teach “open communion.” However, let it be clearly stated, we believe that only a saved child of God who has truly examined and judged himself is worthy of partaking of the Lord’s supper. Additional Scriptural Support: (Romans 14:10 ) – (Romans 14:12 ) – (I Corinthians 2:15 ) - (II Corinthians 5:10 ) – (II Corinthians 13:5) – (II John 1:8) – (Revelation 20:13 )
Battlefield Baptist Church, Russell Springs, KY

I found the above doctrinal statement from Battlefield BC intriguing. I have often heard Judas' participation at the institution of the Lord's Supper used in argument against closed communion, But this is the first time I believe I ever heard Thomas being a doubter and Simon Peter being a curser used as support of open communion.


J. Guy Muse said...

Jesus is the "friend of sinners". We are much more judgemental of sinners than He. Most of the Gospels is about Jesus relating to sinners, not the just. He came for us sinners.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Guy, I am in general agreement with your statement. But I'm not sure just how you are relating it to a communion position. Are you saying the doubter and curser arguments do not apply to communion, or that commmunion should not be restricted, or just what? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I used to announce beforehand, "As baptized believers we will partake of the Lord's Supper. Let a man examine himself......"

Whilst I believe in closed communion, I always left it up to the person to make judgement as to their suitability to partake.

Other churches practiced a "closed" communion, including Anglican and RC Churches. Why should Baptist churches be any different?

On Judas, I have always taught that Judas did not take the bread and wine of communion. He departed after the "meal" which preceded Jesus' instructions on remembering Him by bread and wine. I think to rightly understand the order, one must follow the gospels with a harmonized copy of those scriptures.

The fact that Thomas was a doubter, and Peter actually cursed at the crucifixion, has any bearing on either closed or open communion. It simply says that we are not perfect, yet we must come to the table with a pure heart and no unconfessed sin. Let a man examine himself....Can I truthfully take the elements of communion?



R. L. Vaughn said...

Concerning Judas, I mentioned on the other thread why I don't think his participation would make any difference. Some think that if Judas participated it would support open communion. But both open and closed communionists believe that the Supper is only for believers. On that prerequisite Judas comes up short for either position.

Anonymous said...

If anyone can show me where anybody "joined" a local body or "moved their membership" from one local assembly to the other in the New Testament, then I would enter the discussion on "open' vs. "closed" communion. In Acts were are told that many were "added" to the church. We are not told this by some word that means 'join'. We are added to the church by salvation, through Grace...and by Grace, wherever it is offered, we take communion. Let a man examine himself?--yes, but not whether or not he's sitting in the right building, or whether or not his name is written in ink on some roll in the office. That Paul did not take communion except that the church where his "membership" was is ludicrious. The fact that we do not "join" the church, but are added to THE Church, makes the whole argument about open/closed communion moot. The local assembly is just that: the local assembly of the same Church, or body of Christ. Why do you guys make everything so incredibly complicated? In Christ I am free from the law...even yours. Peace, Brothers, but for the love of our Lord please cease from the meaningless debate of whether or not a baptised believer should worship the Lord at 'your church' who name you have not written down in ink on some piece of paper in the church office. If a person who has been "added to the church" walks into your assembly, let him eat, let him drink...if his self examination allows him to.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comments on the subject of communion. Here are a couple of points in reference to yours.

1. I have no interest in defending all the nuanced practices that have grown up around church membership. But to say that there is no need of outward acceptance by visible disciples, I believe misses a NT concept. Saul/Paul's own case illustrates this in Acts chapter nine. He attempted to join the disciples at Jerusalem. We see these disciples had the right and ability to choose whether or not to do accept him. They chose not to until Barnabas convinced them that he was a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Acts 9:26 - And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

Or if one doesn't like the KJV:
ESV - And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.
NASB - When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.
NIV - When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

2. The question of church membership is a debate among those who hold strict communion. But the large divide between open and closed communion is whether baptism is prerequisite to communion. This is not a "moot" question. Is baptism (immersion) a New Testament requisite that must come before communion? What unbaptized persons received communion in NT times?

Anonymous said...

To your #1: I don't think 'church membership' is what is meant by "join" as it relates to Paul's attmept to associate, participate, fellowship with the disciples at Jerusalem. Paul just wanted to be around other Christians, and there were some in Jerulalem. "Join" is an informal action, like my joining you and your church for a singing, or an ordination service, or joining you for Sunday School. If I know you're mad at me for some reason, I might not want you to join me and my friends on a planned fishing trip; but it would have nothing to do with me writing your name down as being an accepted participant in the event. "Joining" is not a formal matter...then or now. If it is, then I say again, show me a formal "joining" in the Bible. Better, show me where someone "moved their membership".

To your #2: I would prefer to know that one has been baptised (immersion) before taking communion. But here we are again: Baptism is the outward symbol of what has taken place in the heart. It is symbolic (though some have expressed a "feeling" after baptism; and maybe they had one). Baptism seems to be more supported as an outward showing of Christ being received than it is a prerequisite to "membership"--a word not used in relation to baptism in the NT.

Sure, diciples, members of the local assembly, should make some determination as to whether a "new comer" is in the faith, but it's not some formal thing we do. Whether or not they've been baptised is a fair question, yes; and if they have not, we should offer it. (If we get into Baptised believers vs. believers who have yet to be baptised, then we'll get into ALL sorts of stuff.) When we look at whether or not a believer who is not baptised can witness to a lost person and lead them to the Lord, can preach the Word on the street corner to the eternal benefit of his listeners, can be in Christ and have a very personal relationship with Him, then we begin to look at the formal issue of Baptism as some prerequisite in a different way. Baptism is not a prerequisite to the things I've listed above, but would be for communion? Membership (joining to Christ)? I think it best if a person is baptised before communion, but only as a "cover" for ME, not them.

A person walks into your assembly bringing 20 people he has led to Christ with him; you're having communion that day, and you ask if he has been baptised yet. He says he has not. You require him to be baptised before taking communion at your church.

This puts the "formal" vs. the "informal" into better perspective...I hope. Baptism is a desire of every believer. It is an "ordinace". All believers who wish to directly participate in the affairs of the local assembly should be baptised. Baptism is an outward sign of salvation. But membership...the joining to Christ...has already taken place in the beliver by the work of the Holy Spirit.

I like your site, but left the law for Grace long ago.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Dear Bro. Anon,

Thanks for your kind comments regarding the blog. I am glad you like it and appreciate your taking the time to share your opinion on this subject.

As I mentioned in the other post, I don't feel the need to defend modern practices that have arisen re church membership -- I want to join, motion and second, etc., etc. I don't even have a problem agreeing with you that New Testament "joining" is not a formal matter. But there was no cross participation between the disciples of Jesus Christ and those who were not His disciples. When a disciple who was not known in the assembly came amongst them, he had to be "sized up" as to whether or not he was a disciples of Jesus Christ. This is what happened in Paul's case. It wasn't a formal action, but it was a very real barrier that Paul had to overcome with the help of Barnabas. I think there is little doubt that if the church at Jerusalem observed the communion in the interregnum from when Paul arrived until he was accepted as a disciple, that the participation was closed to him.

This brings us to think again of baptism as well. Would baptism have been part of what indicated that Paul had truly become a disciple? The Scripture specifically mentions not only how Paul had seen and heard Jesus in the way, but also how he had boldly preached the gospel. What unbaptized NT disciples are there? Was it not part and parcel of becoming a disciple? "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." Certainly new life comes by the work of the Holy Spirit. But I believe we Baptists have erred in diluting baptism to a "mere symbol" when it is a vital part of the new relationship with Christ. Peter used such strong language in a command on the day of Pentecost -- Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins -- that Restorationists and others have mistaken baptism as the act of salvation. But let us not run from true words. If we cannot urge inquirers to "repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins," don't we lack that much reflecting New Testament Christianity?

It seems that Paul thought baptism a vital part of the new walk with Christ when he wrote, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

May we leave the law for Grace, but let us not leave the the law of Christ. "If ye love me, keep my commandments."