An Open Letter to Closed Communionists: A Report from the Field, Part 2

February 5, 2010 by David Nelson

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This is the second part of a series I drafted while visiting overseas workers in the month of January. In my first post I offered a challenge to the SBC regarding our support of the IMB. This post gets at an entirely different issue upon which I reflected in the international context.

A colleague and I were recently overseas and on the Lord’s day we gathered with a group of believers who meet in a home setting. We enjoyed fellowship with one another, we prayed, we sang, we read Scripture, and were exhorted from God’s Word.

We met in a room that serves as living room and dining area, and twenty or so people were gathered in that space. Of those gathered I counted six people, myself included, who do not live in this location and were, therefore, “visitors” in this assembly of believers.

I have no hesitation in calling this assembly “church.” It appears in every way to be ekklesia. There I was, a “visitor,” welcomed into the presence of this band of believers. And as we worshiped I noticed a tray with several small glasses of juice with something wrapped in towels on top. I surmised this was bread and that we would at some point observe the Lord’s Supper.

After the teaching of Scripture we were informed that we were indeed going to take the Lord’s Supper. At that point a thought occurred to me: I wondered if this assembly practiced “closed” or “open” communion. And if closed, I began to play out in my mind what it would look like for the regular attenders to ask the six of us visiting to abstain from the Table because we were not “members” of the “local church.”

I quickly learned this was not the case, as the man leading the assembly welcomed all who were followers of Christ to participate in the Supper. He gave all the qualifications to that invitation that I think are appropriate, and we observed the Supper with all the dignity, sobriety, and joy that is appropriate for the ordinance. But in that moment I continued thinking of the debates that occur among Southern Baptists regarding closed and open communion. And it occurred to me that worship in such an intimate setting highlights what is the oddity we call closed communion. Previously I had conceived of closed communion in the context of a group of anywhere from eighty to even thousands of people. And in that setting, those who don’t take the elements are not so easily noticeable. In our churches in the US we tend to take the Supper by passing trays, and it is not so evident who isn’t taking the Supper.

In the house church setting this is not the case. If in a larger setting it’s hard to notice who doesn’t take the elements, in the house church it’s hard not to notice. And in this instance, if this assembly practiced closed communion they would have said this: We have gathered today to worship Christ, God incarnate who died for our sins and rose from the dead. We rejoice in the gospel, and we all worship God together. And we are now going to participate in the central ongoing act of confessing faith and celebrating the gospel (baptism is the central initiatory act, and is ongoing in the sense that the church celebrates it with each new believer, but not ongoing in the sense that we are each baptized again and again), and we want those of you who are not “members” here not to participate because you are not a part of this church.

I hope I’m not misrepresenting my friends who hold to the theory of closed communion. It seems to me that this is a fair representation of what closed communion actually is. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we can’t eat together because you don’t live here.

This, it seems to me, is actually antithetical to the gospel. The gospel welcomes the stranger, and it not only crosses but obliterates boundaries. The gospel invites people of faith to unity and harmony. If this be true, then how can the central ecclesial sign of the gospel be construed to show division and even disharmony? And how does placing a fence around the Table do anything but divide the Christian community, which is made one by Christ in the Spirit, formed in unity in Christian baptism (Eph 4:4-6) and existing as one body represented by the one loaf (1 Cor 10:17).

I’ve heard it argued that the Baptist Faith and Message points toward or even demands closed communion. Perhaps that is true, though I don’t think it does. It if does, then I think the SBC should rewrite the confession to be more consistently biblical. Regardless, I think that most Southern Baptists will choose to adhere to the Bible rather than a confession on this point, and make the Table the place of grace that it is given to be.

When I teach the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper to seminarians, I am often challenged by students who have been tutored by others to object that if we practice open communion, then we can’t practice church discipline like we should.

I agree that the Table is a place where the church may enact discipline. I think, though, that some mistakenly see the Supper as locus of the exercise of discipline. This confuses what is secondary with what is primary. The Supper is not primarily the place of discipline; it is only secondarily so. It is primarily the place of grace where we remember the gospel by means of physical elements. It is an enactment of faith, recalling that Jesus died for our sins, his body broken, his blood poured out.

Discipline is evidence of God’s grace toward the unrepentant sinner by the body of Christ and, as such, the restriction of the erring brother from the Table is one means by which the church shows grace to the sinner. The notion that the church cannot have an open Table and at the same time restrict the disciplined and erring brother is ludicrous. The church can and does so. I have seen it happen. Not only can it happen, but it should happen.

The fact that we invite all who are baptized into the Church to the Lord’s Supper celebrated by the Church, in any given assembly of that Church, does not in any way prohibit a body of believers from disciplining an erring brother by withholding the elements from him.

This is more consistent with the nature of the gospel and the clear biblical call for the unity of the church. My chief concern here is that the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t exactly the model it should be with respect to Christian unity. We tend to keep those unlike us at a distance, and I think that is a great weakness. Perhaps if we get the Table right, we will be on our way to getting our relations to other Christians right as well.

A Closing Note: My friend Nathan Finn, who always reads these posts before they go live, posed a question to me that deserves to be answered. He asked why I didn’t include reference to a third option, what is commonly called “close” communion. This is a good question, and bound to be asked by others.

While open communion welcomes all believers, and closed communion restricts the table to those members of a local congregation, “close” communion, as generally described by Baptists, welcomes to the Table all believers baptized by immersion, but is closed to other believers. That is, if you are baptized by immersion, you would be welcome to the Table, even if you are not a member of a particular local congregation, but those not so baptized would be asked to abstain. So, close communion is more open than closed communion, but more closed than open communion.

I don’t hold to close communion – I prefer open communion. My rationale is as follows.

The Table is for the body of Christ – those who trust Jesus alone for their salvation and who, having called upon the Lord for mercy, are by the Spirit placed into union with the triune God and with His church (1 Cor 12:13). On that basis I would welcome all believers to the Lord’s Table (I have done so as a pastor). The Table is His, not mine; it is His, not some denomination’s; it is His, given to the Church under His Lordship. It is only our Table inasmuch as by the grace of Christ we are invited to come.

Therefore, I want to “sign” the gospel at the Table by inviting all of God’s people to eat there. I realize that this means I will eat with those who are different than I and with whom I may disagree on certain points of doctrine. But since the cross obliterates boundaries and divisions, and since the Table signs that cross, I think it is most consistent with the gospel to invite the church – the whole church – to the Table.

Of course, this makes for a less tidy meal than some may like. And, like at holiday dinners with family, little Johnny may smear his potatoes and peas on the chair, and dear old Uncle Eddie may drool food into his lap. Family meals can be messy that way.

But I’m less concerned with having a tidy meal than having a good meal. One that is most consistent with the nature of the gospel. So I’m happy to invite all believers to the Table, to allow them to exercise their conscience vis-à-vis 1 Corinthians 11, and to allow the grace of Christ to reign at His Supper.

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21 Responses to “An Open Letter to Closed Communionists: A Report from the Field, Part 2”

  1. Rick Patrick says:

    David,
    I’ve only read your last two posts, but I agree with both of them entirely, which troubles me. I’ve heard it said that if you always agree with someone, one of you is unnecessary. So is it you or me? Personally, I think it’s you.

  2. Ben Stratton says:

    David,

    You are quite right that the Table is the Lord’s and not man’s. Yet He has set forth the requirements and restrictions in His Holy Word.

    1. Both Acts 2:41-42 and Matthew 28:18-20 clearly teach that only those Christians who have been scripturally baptized should be invited to the Lord’s Table. All other believers need to take this step of obedience before they come to the table.

    2. While the Lord’s Supper is clearly connected with unity in the church, I believe it is the unity of Ephesians 4:5. How can the Lord’s Supper rightly be observed when you have believers from various denominations present holding to a varity of false doctrines? I Corinthians 12:25

    3. You are correct that discipline is not the main purpose of the Lord’s Supper, but it is clearly connected to it. 1 Corinthians 5:11 How can the Lord’s Supper be rightly observed when there are vistiors present whom the church knowns nothing about. Have they been saved? Have they been properly baptized? Do they believe like our church? Are they living in scandalous sin? This is why the Southern Baptist Church I pastor only invites the members of our congregation to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

    I understand that it can be uncomfortable when someone doesn’t take the Lord’s Supper in a small church setting. In the past, I have pastored churches where less then 50 gathered to take the Lord’s Supper. But it would be no more uncomfortable than if a lost person were present who didn’t take the elements. That would be just as noticeable to all those present.

    I could present many quotes from church history to show that the vast, vast majority of Baptists through the centuries have rejected open communion. I could show how illogical open communion is. But in the end we must base our beliefs on scripture. The Bible is clear. The Lord’s Table should be restricted.

  3. Perhaps what a friend in Latvia said the other day, about majorities also applies to agreeing: “Sometimes the majority only means all the morons are on the same side”. :)

    Naaaah.

    If I might be serious for a moment (ahem), this whole deal was instituted by Jesus Himself, and He didn’t even exclude Judas Iscariot. Are those in the church supposed to be more discerning about who should and shouldn’t participate, than Jesus was?

    Come to think of it, He even served it.

    :)

  4. Arthur Sido says:

    Whether or not the “vast, vast majority” of Baptists rejected open communion is irrelevant. What matters is what Scripture says and doesn’t say. Thanks to David for setting aside denominational prejudices in an issue that generates a lot of heat and not much light,..

  5. John says:

    I’ve always wondered about restricting Holy Communion to members of the local church. Did St. Paul carry his church letter with him from church to church? Did St Timothy carry his church letter when he served as St. Paul’s messenger throughout the eastern Empire?

    Probably not.

    Both Scripture and Church history clearly teach that early Christians recognized a unity of the Body that extended beyond the local congregation; any Christian traveling through the Empire found acceptance in churches far from home, an acceptance that included participation at the Table.

    On Ash Wednesday, my congregation will join with the Methodists down the road for a joint service to begin our Lenten observations. We’ll celebrate Holy Communion in that service. We’ll also celebrate Holy Communion with the Methodists on Maundy Thursday.

    It bothers me that so many people want to focus on the verses supposedly emphasizing division and separation. When will we finally decide to focus on John 17 for a change?

    As Baptists, we must focus on church membership solely because of our polity. Congregational votes require formal membership. I’ll agree with membership in matters of polity. However, our participation in the Body of Christ always supersedes our polity. We have no right to extend a polity issue beyond its rightful place.

    Like it or not, the SBC does not constitute the “Church,” and our lofty proclamations of the past 3 decades regarding doctrinal issues have no standing on the Body at large. We apparently think, as most modern Americans do, that we’ve found something in Scripture totally unknown to our ancient spiritual ancestors for nearly 2 millennia. Our hubris in this matter astounds me.

    As a member of the Body, I consider myself at home in any church I worship. I expect fellow believers to consider themselves at home in the congregation I pastor.

    C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The command, after all, was Take eat; not Take, understand.” I’d add the command did not include checking the membership rolls.

  6. Louis says:

    I do not believe that closed communion is mandated by the teachings of the Bible.

    I do not mind if a church wants to practice closed communion to emphasize some biblical principles. But saying the Scriptures mandate it, is a stretch.

    I, also, do not mind people advocating for closed communion. We should not be afraid of these discussions.

    I would and do object to the imposition, or the attempted imposition, of a closed communion requirement on the churches of the SBC, the employees of the SBC, trustees etc. It seems to me that even if those who believe in closed communion could muster 50% plus one (or whatver percentage it would take to pass a motion or revise the BFM or issue a rule for an institution), that it would be an unwise move given the number of SBC churches that see this issue differently.

    David, the story that you tell here made me think about Paul and the others in their missionary travels. We have no idea where the “membership” was. Did the transfer their letters each time they came to a new town. Or were they seen as Apostles and missionaries? I think it’s the latter.

    It is odd to conceive of Paul and Barnabas being told, “Well, since your memebership is at the Church at Jerusalem, and you are on a missionary journey, you will not be permitted to take communion with our local congregation.” I can’t imagine that happening. In fact, the NT does not present any example or picture of travelers and others in early church life, which would have been common for those in the Roman Army, sailors, merchants etc. being prevented or told not to take communion at a local church they may have been attending. I believe that Paul and the other missionaries, and Christians who traveled, sometimes for long periods, would have been welcomed into local bodies of believers. I can’t envision a structure where these people would not have been allowed to partcipate in the Lord’s supper for months or years at a time until they got back to their home church.

    Don’t we sometimes make up doctrines and rules from the flimsiest of real support or example in the Bible?

    I think that is what is happening here, frankly.

    Louis

  7. David Nelson says:

    Louis, I agree about the oddity of imagining Paul and Barnabas in the situation you describe. And I absolutely concur that a congregation has the right to practice closed communion. I would like those congregations to afford the same grace to those who do not.

    John, I find your point about polity in relation to participation in the life of the Body interesting. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before – I wish I had though. That merits development, perhaps upon the lines of how the polity and the liturgy of the church are related.

    Arthur and Bob, along with others, are getting to my real point, which is to let the Scriptures themselves guide us more fully in our ecclesial practice. With John I am wondering why John 17, for example, gets lost so easily in these discussions.

    Ben, my chief point isn’t about anyone being uncomfortable. Done rightly, the Table will always exclude the unbeliever, and that may be uncomfortable, but it is right. But we’re not talking about unbelievers, we’re talking about believers.
    I think you’re resting far too much on the texts in Acts and Matthew, without adequately considering other texts that force you to think in another direction. I’m not sure what point you’re making by citing Eph 4:5 as I could just as easily cite it in defense of my position. As for the cite of 1 Cor 12:25, that text is an encouragement to foster unity among the body and I think it supports my position better than yours. But of course piling up texts is not the stuff of good theology, so that may be beside the point.
    On discipline, again, I think you are requiring something at the Table that is counter to the nature of the Table itself. If, as you say, someone is involved in “scandalous sin” (presumably something like greed, or inhospitality or perhaps not loving others?) then they should repent or abstain from the Supper lest the Lord judge them. And if they are members of your church then by all means discipline them. As for “many quotes” from the “vast, vast majority of Baptists . . .”: by all means email them to me – I’ve read a good bit of Baptist history and haven’t found that many quotes along those lines – but perhaps I just haven’t read everything I should. Of course, as has been pointed out, the vast majority may be wrong, which we should always consider.
    Since you brought up logic, I’m open to any points where my argument fails – though my intention wasn’t to provide a logical treatise. But while we’re on that topic, I’m fairly certain there is some question begging going on in your argument that you may want to work out. Again, that’s likely a lengthy discussion and you’re free to email about that if you like.

    Thanks to all for the comments.

  8. Jay Wooten says:

    Does descriptive “clearly teach” prescriptive? And more the the point, does “I could show how illogical open communion is,” show biblical humility (James 4:6)? One can arrogantly condescend to the likes of me all he wants, but I would say Dr. Nelson has earned somewhat more respect. If something is worth doing, do it. Scripture is never at odds with logic except for those who deny the power of God.

  9. Ben Stratton says:

    Well, this has turned out to be quite a discussion. It is interesting to see the reasons that have been given to justify open communion.

    1. Someone pointed out that Judas may have observed the Lord’s Supper. But Judas was lost and none of the other members of the church knew his true condition. Does that mean that the unsaved should be invited to the table?!? That’s mighty poor reasoning for open communion.

    2. Someone else mentioned that Paul may have observed the Lord’s Supper at the various churches on his missionary trips. Yet Paul was a church planter / missionary. This is totally different from visitors showing up at your church on a given Sunday.

    3. It was pointed out that Jesus prayed that all His followers would be one. (John 17:21) Yet in that same chapter Jesus said that His followers should be sanctified through the truth of His word. (John 17:17) True unity is based upon doctrinal truth. How can there be unity at the table when people are present who believe in infant baptism, sprinkling, or apostasy? None of us would want the Supper served if our church was in the midst of division. But does this not also apply to doctrinal division? That’s why I pointed out Eph. 4:5 and I Cor. 12:15

    4. When I mentioned Acts 2:41-42 and Matthew 28:19-20, it was claimed that these verses are descriptive, not prescriptive. Yet the fact remains that everyone in the N.T. who observed the Lord’s Supper had previously submitted to believer’s baptism. Can any of you give one example of anyone in the N.T. who was unbaptized taking the Lord’s Supper??? Is this not the order and pratice of the Bible?

    5. My illogical comment was not directed against Bro. Nelson or even his article. It was directed against open communion in general. But is it logical to allow visitors to take the Lord’s Supper and not vote in a buisness meeting? Which is greater? Why allow visitors one and not the other? Someone will claim these are not the same issue, but they are. It’s all about church membership.

    6. As far as what Baptists have historically believed about the Lord’s Supper, please see my article on this subject at: http://sbctoday.com/2008/12/08/restricted-communion-and-the-opponents-of-landmarkism/

  10. Les Puryear says:

    David,

    Excellent article. You articulated perfectly my own position on the Lord’s Supper. Now when anybody asks me what I believe about the Lord’s Supper, I can point them to this article.

    Thanks.

    Les

  11. Kirby Vardeman says:

    To my mind, the two most compelling arguments against closed communion are also the two most simple: Jesus served Judas with His own hand, knowing that Judas was not His follower and that Judas was soon to betray Him. And, we are called to be one in humility. Judging others for sins you are not even aware exist seems the height of hubris, to me.

  12. James Williams says:

    I believe that the Baptist Faith & Message is right when it affirms the Lord’s Supper to only those who are members of a local church:
    “Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

    The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

  13. A. Amos Love says:

    Just wondering about the word communion.

    The word communion; What does it mean in the Bible?
    Not from a religious standpoint, or a religious tradition,
    or a religious sacrement, or a religious ritual,
    but what does the Bible have to say about communion?

    And have you ever noticed this,
    In 1st Cor it says, Jesus said,
    “this is my body which is broken for you.”

    But, not a bone of His body was broken
    in order to fulfill prophecy.

    And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
    Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:
    this do in remembrance of me.
    1Co 11:24

    He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
    Ps 34:20

    For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled,
    A bone of him shall not be broken.
    John 19:36

    If not a bone of “His body” was broken?

    What did Jesus mean when He said,
    This is my body which is broken for you?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace.

  14. David Nelson says:

    Amos, I take it you want us to see that Christ does not desire His body, the church, to be broken. I concur, of course, and think the Supper should reflect that.

    James, thank you for reminding us of what the BFM says.

    Kirby, I share the same concern you do. It isn’t that I don’t believe the church should practice discipline. I have long advocated the recovery of that ministry. But I fear where some seem to want to go with this, and fear we will lost the gospel for another version of moralism.

    Les, thank you for your kind words. If Rick’s comment at the first is correct, then you and Rick and I may be in trouble. By the way, I hope you’re doing well these days.

    Jay has reminded us of an important interpretive issue that we must consider when we grapple with these matters. Jay, I really don’t mind anyone questioning my logic. If I’ve erred, I want it to be exposed. In this case, I remain unconvinced by Ben.

    Ben, I doubt anyone was suggesting that the Supper be open to unbelievers. There is another point there, but you appear to be predisposed against hearing it.

    I gather, given your comments about Paul, that you would welcome a visiting missionary to take the Supper with your congregation. I commend you for that. How would you distinguish between allowing them to come to the Table and, say, the visiting family of believers (who are not missionaries or church planters) who happen to be in your locale on a given Lord’s Day?

    As for unity, you say “True unity is based on doctrinal truth.” Much hinges then on what you mean by “doctrinal truth.” And certainly local congregations will have to make determinations about this, and should. But I hear you saying (and correct me if I’m wrong), that anyone who is not in your congregation cannot be judged by you to hold to “doctrinal truth” to such a degree that you consider them to have unity with you. If you could ascertain this, would you then invite them to the Table? My difficulty with your view is that you effectively now have no doctrine of the church, but rather have a doctrine of the churches. It would be impossible on your view to pursue the unity of the church, I suppose.

    My point about the texts you cited remains. You think they demonstrate far more than they actually do.

    As for your point about the Supper and church votes, the first is clearly commanded in the Bible, while the latter is one form of exercising church polity, but it is not commanded in the Scriptures. So I’m not so eager to even make the comparison one way or the other. To say it’s all about (local) church “membership” is, again, an instance of question begging on your part. Since you’ve disallowed us to be illogical I can’t allow you to do that.

    I read your article. Well, what can I say? Very many Southern Baptists in the convention’s early years, and into the 20th Century opposed open communion. You say the reason that changed is the “liberalizing” of the convention. Whatever that means. Would you even consider other possible explanations? I wonder, for example, if some determined that whatever closed communion got right, it got more wrong, and therefore modified their practice. I doubt, of course, that every church did what they did for purely theological reasons. Church practices don’t usually hinge simply on theology (even if we wished they would more than they do). But we may want to give the good people of the SBC a bit more credit than that, don’t you think? And attributing something to “liberalism” is so easy but very often so off point.

    Thanks to everyone for the engaging discussion.

  15. Carter Mundy says:

    Dr. Nelson, I hope you will continue to voice these opinions and fight this good fight. Please don’t give up. Unfortunately because some have confused “conservative” with “traditional” this kind of discussion is deemed as sensitive. But it is more than necessary to sharpen our theological beliefs as a convention. I wish we as Southern Baptists would learn from other brothers of the Faith and not simply adopt catechisms, but perhaps develop our own, or something like it. The BFM is a very broad statement of beliefs, as is every treatise that we seem to come up with (take the SBC stance on environmental issues, for example). So I hope you’ll continue down this path of development as our convention matures. My prayer is that the SBC will not simply see the Conservative Resurgence from the past as the “Traditional” Resurgence. I believe the Great Commission Resurgence that has come about is only a further development of the Conservative Resurgence in that this mentality to be conservative does (and should) bring us back to the Bible and bring us closer to Jesus, not back to tradition and closer to a pharisaical mindset. Thanks for your article.

  16. JSB says:

    David,

    I wholeheartedly agree. It is amazing how signing the gospel in majority non-Christian environments brings into sharp relief certain aspects of our theological positions. I live in the Middle East (as you know) and Table fellowship is one of the primary ways we sign our unity in the body of Christ and his coming Kingdom. Participation in it is a blessing that should leave no professed believer in Jesus as Messiah and Lord outside looking in. We would all do well to remember the roots of the Lord’s Supper in the Passover Seder. It was inclusive of all Israel-of all those who were in covenant with God. No one was to be left outside for this meant they were outside God’s covenant. It is therefore easy to see how this inclusion in the body of Christ extends to all professed followers of Christ.

    Scott

  17. Kirby Vardeman says:

    Dr Nelson, I too am a vocal proponent of Biblical church discipline. And the first tenet of church discipline is that it MUST be done with love for the transgressor (but for grace, there go I) in our hearts. Exclusion of a saint from the Lord’s table is a non-loving, de facto church discipline.

    Open communion for all confessing Christians is the only way we can be both graceful and obedient in this matter.

  18. A. Amos Love says:

    David

    These statements were in your article and the comments.

    Open communion
    Closed communion
    Holy communion
    Take communion
    Invited to the Lord’s table
    The table

    Are any of these statements found in scripture?

    When you hear words that are not in the Bible
    don’t you wonder why we use them?
    and where they came from?

    Isn’t it challenge enough understanding the truth of the words that are written?
    How much harder word’s and phrases we invent?

    Doesn’t Jesus warn us about the dangers of
    “The Traditions of Men” that make the Word of God of non effect?
    Mark 7:14

    The question asked was…
    “The word communion; What does it mean in the Bible?
    Not from a religious standpoint, or a religious tradition,
    or a religious sacrement, or a religious ritual,
    but what does the Bible have to say about communion?”

    Don’t most folks just go along with what is taught
    from the pulpit and from the seminary, “The Traditions of Men?”

    Don’t most just assume “The Lord’s Supper” and “Communion” are the same.

    How many have gone to the scriptures asking;
    What does the word “communion” refer to in the Bible?

    And, If not a bone of “His body” was broken?
    Why did Jesus take the bread and break it?
    and say take and eat “This is My body?”

    Out of heaven he made thee to “hear his voice,”
    that he might instruct thee.
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.
    John 6:45

    To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world,
    that I should bear witness unto the truth.
    Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
    John 18:37

  19. David Nelson says:

    Amos, of course we use words that are not in the Bible to explain what the Bible teaches. It’s impossible to, for example, “defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints” without doing so. As for the term “communion,” we take it to refer to some instance in which people commune. So it may refer more than one action, and more than one action commanded or allowed by Scripture. We have adopted the term as a technical reference to the Supper and I think most know what we mean by. It you’re suggesting we shouldn’t use the term, I’m fine if you don’t use it. But I also don’t object to those who do.

    Kirby, I think you have this right, and you’ve put succinctly what I am in part trying to say.

    To our friend from the Middle East, thank you for reminding us of something too often overlooked – the connection of the Supper to the Seder, and it’s place in the life of Israel. Surely, since the Supper is the sign of the New Covenant, there is much to learn along these lines.

    We’ve had differing viewpoints regarding the post, and I appreciate all of them. A friend and I were talking through this today and in the end, this is a fairly simple decision for me. If Ligon Duncan (a Presbyterian) or Michael Green (an Anglican) is sitting with me in worship this Sunday, I think it is right to share the Table with them. They are brothers in Christ and we will all eat together in that Supper of Suppers depicted in Revelation 19. I will not deny them in this age what the Lord will not deny them in the next.

  20. Ben Stratton says:

    David,

    Referring to Ligon Duncan (a Presbyterian) or Michael Green (an Anglican) you wrote: “They are brothers in Christ and we will all eat together in that Supper of Suppers depicted in Revelation 19. I will not deny them in this age what the Lord will not deny them in the next.”

    Your logic here fails you. These two brothers will be in the general assembly (ekklesia, church) in heaven. Why not allow them to join your local church (ekklesia, assembly) here on earth? Why deny them in this age, what the Lord will not deny them in the next?

    You see the Bible not only restricts the membership of New Testament churches to properly baptized believers, but it also restricts the Lord’s Supper to properly baptized believers. Both are true. Both stand together. Both fall together.

    You also seem to doubt my claim that the liberal takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention is what lead many Southern Baptist churches to adopt open communion. Yet this claim is true. Study your Baptist history. In the 1800′s there were no Southern Baptists defending open communion. None. The first Southern Baptists to teach open communion were liberal professors in our seminaries. Men such as W.O. Carver, Dale Moody and the twelve professors fired by Duke McCall at Southern Seminary in the 1950′s.

    You claim that open communion is “clearly commanded in the Bible.” Where? I have not read a single scripture verse from you that teaches open communion. Where is this clearly commanded?

    On the other hand, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:41-42, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Cor. 11:17-20, 1 Cor. 12:25, etc. all teach a restricted Lord’s Supper. Let us as Southern Baptists stand for the teaching of God’s Word of this subject.

    ++++++++++++++

    “Question: Why ought Baptists not to take the Lord’s Supper with believers of other denominations?
    Answer: Because we think they have not been baptized, or are not walking orderly as to church connection.”

    - From John A. Broadus’ “A Catechism of Bible Teaching” (1892)

  21. Micah Mattix says:

    A much-needed article, David. Thanks for this.
    Micah

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