About 10 years ago I wrote about Participants in the Lord’s Supper and pointed out that the views related to participants can be broadly divided into two basic types of communion, restricted and unrestricted. I still think this is a good broad categorization. Nevertheless, when we start trying to define variations of those broad categories, things can get difficult. Different people with different backgrounds who use different definitions of terms come together to discuss it, and there can be much confusion.
Perhaps we would be better off discarding terms such as closed communion, close communion, open communion – not altogether, because they are in use and not going away anytime soon. But when discussing who should participate, the important question we are asking is not, “Do you believe in closed communion, close communion or open communion,” or “Does the Bible teach closed communion, close communion or open communion?” Better rather, the question is, “What restriction does the Bible place on participation in the Lord’s supper?[i]
I wonder if the following scenario might be helpful illustrating this.
- The entry door to the communion table is closed.
- Those who approach give the doorkeeper their password.
- If they give the right password they can come in.
- In some churches “the password” is “I’m a believer.”
- In some churches “the password” is “I’m a baptized believer.”
- In some churches “the password” is “I’m a baptized believer who is a member of a Bible-believing church.”
- In some churches “the password” is “I’m a member of this church.”