Thursday, December 06, 2018

Why is the Lord’s Supper reserved for believers only?

In the past Baptists have debated over the restrictions on communion, often using the terms open, close, and closed.[i] A decade ago I wrote about “theoretical unrestricted communion” as the belief that there are absolutely no restrictions placed on who can take communion. In practice, this would mean actively soliciting members of other religions and even the non-religious to participate in the observing of the Lord’s Supper. My understanding at the time was that for Baptists this could only be theoretical, in that they at the least believe the Lord’s Supper is for God’s people and is ideally restricted to them. Probably that was not accurate then, but I am certain that it is not now true. As ecumenism, liberalism, and tolerationism have made their inroads among Baptists, many of these now ask, “Why is it reserved only for born again believers?” The answer, to many, is that there is no limitation or barrier to observing the Lord’s Supper, and all who wish to participate are welcomed.[ii]

The Lord’s Supper is intended for the Lord’s disciples. This can be seen in the following.
  1. It is a memorial or remembrance of the Lord’s death (Luke 22:191 Corinthians 11:24-25).
  2. It is an expectation of the Lord’s coming (1 Corinthians 11:26Matthew 26:29).
  3. It was observed when the church came together out of the world rather than in the world (Acts 2:4220:7ff1 Corinthians 11:18).
  4. It is the new “Passover feast” of those who observe it in sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; cf. John 4:24).
  5. It is a communion for the partakers of “that one bread,” Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
  6. It is not ecumenical, in the sense of embracing other religions (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).
  7. It requires a self-examination and discernment in relation to the body and blood of Jesus Christ, with associated judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
The points above might be fleshed out for greater edification, but I present them in skeleton form for the time being. The point of this post is not to jettison the idea of closed communion for a more open version for all who believe, but to briefly point out that “all who believe” is the lowest common denominator for communion, and we must begin building on the biblical truth from that foundation.

[i] Although these terms don’t always mean the same things to all Baptists.
[ii] John Wesley, for example, believed that communion was a means of grace and that someone invited to the table might be converted to Christ at the table (The The Works of John Wesley, Bicentennial Edition, Richard P. Heitzenrater, editor, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1984, Volume 19: Journal and Diaries II (1738-1743), p. 159). While I disagree with Wesley, his motivation was not the same as modern ecumenicists. He viewed these as unbelievers in need of being born again. Many ecumenists, on the other hand, believe all religions are valid expressions on the way to God – therefore receiving with open arms and free communion those who reject Jesus as the only way whereby we must be saved.

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