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Communion - Open, Closed or Cracked

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"In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.  And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised.  When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What!  Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I commend you in this?  No, I will not.

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me."  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world."[1]

Some practises among the churches have become so routine that they are no longer questioned.  As an example of unquestioned ritual, consider the ordinance of the Lord’s Table.  There are questions begging to be asked and answered.  Who belongs at the Lord’s Table?  Who is invited to participate?  In order to answer this question, we will need to ask and answer the question of the purpose for the rite.  All this will require us to look carefully into the Word at the risk of disturbing the status quo (Latin for “the rut we are in”).

We are fortunate to have the response of the Apostle to the Gentiles to an ungodly congregation which was abusing the Table of the Lord.  Had it not been for the Corinthian Church and their flagrant abuse of worship, we would have no detailed instructions for the observance of this rite.  We would have only the account of its institution in the Gospels and what can only be construed as rather vague references throughout the history of the apostolic churches.

Before you draw conclusions, either commending this message or condemning the same, please listen carefully and weigh the words presented.  Before God, I seek only to honour Him and to build His people.  I have approached my words this day with trepidation and concern to speak the truth in love.  Join me in seeking the Lord’s will.

The Table Belongs to the Lord — When we speak of the Communion Observance, we often use the term—the Lord’s Table.  In that reference is tacit acknowledgement that the Table belongs to the Lord.  He is the One who invites whom He wills to the Table.  It is not the role of the Pastor or of the deacons or even of the congregation to determine who may and who may not sit at the Lord’s Table, for the One who instituted this meal has that right alone.

This is a vital point, if for no other reason than to establish such practical questions as who may participate in the ordinance, the purpose for the ordinance, and the prerequisites for observing the ordinance.  Whatever we may say concerning this meal, we are obliged to refer to the revealed mind of Christ the Lord.  We may explore the institution of the meal, or observe the abbreviated accounts provided in the Acts of the Apostles, but we will receive the most practical teaching through exploring the account of the apostolic rebuke to the Corinthian saints.

Two passages of Scripture clamour for our attention.  Of course, we have the extended passage which directly bears on the ordinance in 1 Corinthians 11:17-32.  However, we are introduced to important considerations in the previous chapter.  Though the instruction the issue of the Lord’s Table is addressed tangentially, Paul does address one important issue which could otherwise be neglected.  In order to understand the Apostle’s teaching we need to focus on both of these particular passages.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.  I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.  Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?  What do I imply then?  That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God.  I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?  Are we stronger than he [1 Corinthians 10:14-22]?

Whatever I may have to say concerning this observance, I am constrained by the knowledge that the Lord has the final word in the matter.  He is the ultimate arbiter in the issue of who may participate in worship and who may not.  Though it is offensive to some people, it must be stated that God is not obligated to receive everything that is offered as worship.  Neither must God receive every person who presents himself as a worshipper.  The Scriptures make this abundantly clear in speaking of God’s election.

It is not as though the word of God has failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.  For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.”  And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills [Romans 9:6-18].

Again, consider the words of the wise man in Proverbs 21:27.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;

how much more when he brings it with evil intent.

An attempt to worship by one whom God considers as wicked is characterised as an abomination before the Lord.  Therefore, we must not attempt to coerce God into accepting any man or the worship which is uninvited or unworthy of Him.

The great Baptist divine, Dr. B. H. Carroll, writes concerning this point that the Table belongs to the Lord.  As an aside of considerable importance, Dr. Carroll was the founder of the largest seminary in the world, and a scholar of the Word.  In fact, the following exchange is from his magnum opus, An Interpretation of the English Bible.

Notice the fact that it is the Lord’s table, the Lord’s cup.  A man comes and says,

“May I come to your table?  I am perfectly willing for you to come to mine.”

I say, “Yes, come on in.”

He says, “Not that table; I am referring to the Lord’s table.”

“It was not to the Lord’s table that I invited you.”

“Well, won’t you take a sup with me?”

“Certainly!  Come over to my well and I will let you have cool, delicious, clear water.”

“I mean drink with me out of the same communion cup.”

“Ah, that is Christ’s cup; I have no jurisdiction over that.”[2]

The Prerequisites for the Lord’s Table — Surely, no one doubts that only those who are saved are invited to participate at the Lord’s Table?  Even the liturgical churches agree with us that only those who are saved should participate in the Lord’s Supper.  When Jesus calls us to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him, what can be meant other than a call to examine ourselves to ensure that we are saved?

Again, there is no question but that only those who are baptised are invited to the Lord’s Table.  Again, not even our paedobaptist friends disagree on this issue.  The instructions we received from our Master before He ascended into the glory settles this issue.  Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:18-20].  According to the words of Jesus, we are to make disciples, baptise, and then teach those things which Christ has commanded, which would naturally include the Lord’s Supper. 

The late pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, Dr. W. A. Criswell, provides guidance in this issue when he wrote:

The ordinance of baptism logically precedes that of the Lord’s Supper.  This is a reasonable deduction for several reasons.  First, the practise of the New Testament church, in which baptism promptly followed conversion, meant that those who came to the Lord’s table were already baptised.  There is not a single example of a believer observing the Lord’s Supper prior to baptism, while there are several illustrations of believers partaking of the Lord’s Supper after baptism…  Second, the symbolism of the ordinances necessitates this order.  Union with Christ (baptism) naturally precedes communion with Christ (Lord’s Supper).  The two ordinances logically belong in that order…  [Lastly], the analogy of the Old Testament, circumcision served as the sign of the old covenant, and Exodus 12:48 specifically states that in ancient Israel a man was to bear in his body the sign of the covenant (circumcision) before he ate of the Passover meal.  The sign of the new covenant is water baptism.  When a person becomes a Christian, he is to be baptised.[3]

This position is neither new nor novel, but has its foundation in the Word of God.  Ancient saints recognised the veracity of this position, however.  In an ancient document circulated among the churches during the second century of the apostolic era, these terse instructions are provided to guide the readers.

Let no one eat or drink from your Eucharist except those who are baptised in the Lord’s Name.  For the Lord also has spoken concerning this:

Do not give what is holy to dogs.[4]

The writer did not worry about bruised feelings, but was concerned for doctrinal purity.  Everett Harrison also notes that the unbaptised were excluded from the Lord’s Table.

[E]ven catechumens were kept from participation in this sacred mystery of the Supper.[5]

Throughout Christendom, the prerequisites for the Lord’s Table are accepted.  Only those who are saved can remember the Lord and only those who are baptised are invited to share in the meal.  Where disagreement arises is over the issue of baptism.  Those christened as infants say they have been baptised, even though the mode was sprinkling and even though the event occurred without their choice.  Likewise, those baptised in order to make them Christians would claim to have been baptised.

I have previously demonstrated the ancient Baptist position of blood before water.  Only those who are saved can be baptised.  A goat cannot be transformed into a sheep by dipping.  In the ordinance of baptism, the believer openly confesses faith in the crucified and risen Son of God.  Baptism consists of identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  The one baptised confesses faith in the Living Christ.  Simultaneously, the one baptised confesses that though the old nature is dead a new nature has superseded that old, lifeless nature, and henceforth the one baptised walks in newness of life.  To agree to accept their presence at the Lord’s Table is to agree to accept as valid their baptism.  To accept infant baptism or sprinkling as valid is more than we can do.

Those invited to the Lord’s Table will have been saved and biblically baptised.  The implications of this statement need to be clearly stated.  This means that our unbaptised children ought not to partake of the Lord’s Table.  Parents have an obligation to see that their children are instructed in this matter and help those same children understand why the meal is so important.  Likewise, those dear friends who have never received biblical baptism ought not to partake of the Meal.

The Purpose for Observance of the Lord’s Table — Before discovering more from the text, permit me to make an important observation.  The Lord’s Table is not a sacrament, but it is rather an ordinance.  What is the difference between these two ideas?  Our paedobaptist friends insist that the Meal is a sacrament.  According to George Wesley Buchanan, a sacrament is “a religious rite which confers special grace.”[6]  Roman Catholics contend that there are seven sacraments, though most Protestants are content to claim two.  In the popular mind, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments.

Baptists observe ordinances.  In particular, Baptists observe the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Table.  We prefer the term ordinance as it stresses obedience.[7]  We see no evidence from Scripture that observing the ordinances confers grace, though we do acknowledge that freedom of relationship with the Lord results as we are obedient to His command.  Peter argues that baptism serves to provide an appeal to God for a good conscience [1 Peter 3:21].

The Apostle also states that the Lord’s Supper may be observed as often as a given congregation decides [1 Corinthians 11:26].  Whether weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annually, the ordinance should reflect the will of the church directing the Meal.  The sole instructions we have received for this meal lead us to believe it is to be observed as a congregation and in no other setting.  It is a church ordinance.  It is not a denominational ordinance, nor is it an individual ordinance.  It is the congregation, met in assembly, which is enjoined to worship by this means.

Paul wrote of the Lord’s Supper, reminding us of the purpose for the observance.  For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes [1 Corinthians 11:23-26].

He is not claiming that Christ gave him direct and specific instruction for the manner in which to observe this meal, but rather he is looking to Jesus as the ultimate source of information for observing the meal.  Our Lord instituted this meal and used the very words the Apostle cites in Luke’s Gospel.  He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” [Luke 22:19, 20].

Clearly, from Jesus’ words and from Paul’s recitation of this account, the meal is meant to be a memorial to the Saviour.[8]  This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  These words are recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:24.  When Jesus said, This is My body which is for you, the preposition for is the Greek word uJpe;r, which literally means in behalf of.  Jesus has performed an act in our behalf that we could never do for ourselves.  Only Jesus on the cross could have secured redemption for sin.  The observance of the Lord’s Table is an act of remembrance, as we recall His selfless act for us.  Thus, it is an act of worship as the child of God recalls the love of Christ in giving Himself as a sacrifice.  Believers actively bring to mind the broken body of the Master and they remember that He poured out His blood on their behalf.  Therefore, He calls those who believe in Him to keep this Meal as a memorial.

The Lord’s Supper is also an act of anticipation—a prophetic statement.  We are called to observe the Lord’s Supper until He comes again.  Paul said that as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes [1 Corinthians 11:26].  With these words, the Apostle echoed the word Jesus had spoken when He instituted the Meal.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom [Matthew 26:29].

Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is coming again.  We read the words the Apostle penned to a disheartened church, and we are encouraged.  Listen, saints.  The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17].

When the Lord returns for His people, He will have a reserved seat for every believer at a great heavenly banquet.  The Bible calls it the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:9].  While the church remains on the earth, she is to continue to observe the Lord’s Supper; however, the day will come when the Lord’s Supper will be superseded by the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Presently, the church observes the Lord’s Supper in anticipation of His coming; however, the observation of the marriage supper will be in celebration of his coming.  The Lord’s Supper is an earnest of what it will be like when believers sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.[9]

The Lord’s Supper serves also as a declaration of fellowship for the participant.  Though we partake of the Meal in assembly, the declaration of fellowship which is made and which is referred to here, is primarily a declaration that the individual is in fellowship with the Lord.  Thus, the Meal is frequently referred to as Communion, an old term which also meant fellowship.  The communion [koinwniva] which is declared is the individual’s communion with the Lord.  Whenever we participate in the Communion Meal, we declare that we are in fellowship with Christ.

There are many established ways for believers to show their love for each other, but the Lord’s Supper is not one of them.  In the Lord’s Supper, Assembly members are to show their love for the Lord alone.  All the saints were not present when the Supper was instituted.  Neither Mary, nor Martha, nor Lazarus, nor even the mother of Jesus were present.  Though absent, we know they loved one another.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself [1 Corinthians 11:27-29].

The passage is a warning of impending judgement to anyone who would come to the Lord’s Table for any reason other than to memorialise His atoning death.  To come to the Lord’s Table seeking to add to the grace already received is inviting Christ’s judgement.  To come to the table while at odds with your brothers or sisters in the church without seeking reconciliation is to partake of the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner.

I must take a moment to note that the word unworthy is an adverb and not an adjective.  Were it an adjective, none of us would be able to partake of the Lord’s Table, for none of us are worthy.  Since the word is an adverb, however, the call is to examine the manner in which we partake of the Meal.  It serves as a call to examine our attitude.  Are we present with a desire to obey the teaching our Lord has provided?  Do we seek to honour Him as we participate in the Meal?  Because of His call to examine ourselves, it is a marvellous opportunity to discover those elements of life which displease the Lord and by His mercy rid ourselves of those unpleasant facets of our being.

The Participants at the Lord’s Table — When I taught at the Criswell College, the staff would often discuss issues of practical theology.  One of the issues discussed was whether communion should be open, closed or cracked.  Open Communion would invite all who confess Christ as Lord to share in the Meal.  The argument for this practise is that since the Lord has received one who is saved, whether they have been obedient or not, who are we to reject them.  After all, we will not have separate tables in Heaven.

It is a strong argument, but one without much scriptural support.  We have but few accounts of observance of the Lord’s Table in the Bible.  There are two accounts in the Acts which speak of breaking bread, and which may refer to observance of the Lord’s Table.  However, honesty compels me to caution against drawing unwarranted conclusions.  The passages may speak of the Lord’s Table, but the context in neither demand that they refer to that observance.

The first of those accounts is Acts 2:41-47.  Those who received [Peter’s] word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What is obvious from this passage is that those who broke bread together (whether as an act of worship or for meals) were those who believed the message Peter delivered and who, having believed, were baptised as members of that church.

The second passage is that found in Acts 20:7.  On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Whether this is an observance of the Lord’s Table or not can certainly be debated.  If it is an observance of the Meal, it appears to have included believers who could rightly be assumed to be members of the congregation in Troas.  Nevertheless, the fact that there is no mention of the cup and no clear statement that this was worship should give pause to those wishing to state authoritatively that this was an observance of the meal.

Today, many Baptists practise what is referred to as Close Communion.  One wag has labelled the practise, Cracked Communion.  It is a middle ground which acknowledges that the unsaved and those who are unbaptised should not be invited to the Lord’s Table, but that fellow believers who share our biblical heritage and who share our biblical view should be invited to participate in the Lord’s Table.  In essence, this view argues for a denominational restriction of the Table, a position previously addressed.

Against Open Communion and Close Communion is set Closed Communion.  Closed Communion would say that since the Lord’s Table is a church ordinance, it is restricted to those who are members of the local congregation observing the meal.  This seems to be the intent of the Scriptures, but again, I have grown cautious as I walk with the Lord.  Consider the following reasons for restricting the observance to the membership of the local congregation before you reject this view.

The instructions we have in our text are addressed to the church when they have come together as a church [sunercomevnwn uJmw`n ejn ejkklhsiva/].  Throughout the passage [vv. 17, 18, 20], the word [sunevrcomai] is a technical term for the coming together of the Christian congregation, especially to administer the Lord’s Supper.[10]  The Corinthians had come together in assembly— ejn ejkklhsiva to observe the Lord’s Table.

There was to be but one bread [1 Corinthians 10:17], just as there was to be but one cup.  The one bread was designed to teach that only one undivided body, not several churches, was authorised to celebrate this ordinance.  The symbolic teachings of the one bread is stultified whenever one church, with the fragments of a dozen others, attempts to observe the Lord’s Supper.  In that instance, could the administrator truthfully say, “We are one body” and still tell the truth.[11]

The ordinances were delivered to churches, and not to denominations.  The letter in which these instructions are presented is addressed to the church of God that is in Corinth [1 Corinthians 1:2].  It is neither addressed to individuals nor as an encyclical to all the churches.  Each local church has received the sole guardianship of the ordinances she administers.  She is taught to allow only members possessing certain qualifications to come to the feast.  If you think this statement extreme, may I remind you that we are to judge certain people.

Members who have fallen into heresies, or whose Christian walk is unbecoming to godliness—the sexually immoral, the greedy, idolaters, revilers, drunkards and swindlers—with such a one she is not even to eat [see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13].  The church of God at Corinth was not merely permitted, but peremptorily commanded, to prohibit the table to everyone she did not know—so far as she had the ability to learn—was free from leaven.  Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened [1 Corinthians 5:7].  The design of the Meal argues for Closed Communion.

Christ has declared the rules, regulations and standards for His assembly.  He made the congregation responsible for the observance of these standards.  He commands the congregations to exercise watchful supervision over their members, to reprove the errant, to withdraw fellowship from those who reveal themselves to be incorrigible.  Therefore, the requirement for church discipline argues for Closed Communion.

If [the one disciplined] refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.  And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector [Matthew 18:17].

Christ gave His assemblies authority to exercise discipline.  Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us [2 Thessalonians 3:6].

To Titus, Paul directed the stern commandment for discipline.  As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned [Titus 3:10, 11].

Peter, also, commanded discipline, knowing that it would vitiate evangelism.  For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God [1 Peter 4:17]?

Christ’s assembly is to judge those that are within, to discipline its own members [1 Corinthians 5:12, 13].  One congregation cannot discipline a member of another congregation.  Each assembly is independent of every other.  Members of one congregation cannot vote in another congregation.  Each Baptist congregation is taught to serve the Lord’s Supper to its own members, over whom it has disciplinary authority.[12]

I believe that our Baptist churches came from the pierced hands of Christ.  I believe that the gates of hell have not, nor ever shall prevail against this Body which is called the church.  At times, the witness of this church has been almost drowned in blood.  Days without end its life seemed about to perish in the flames.  Its scattered flock suffered no less than its martyred pastors.  But the church lived.  It lives today.  It will always live, this beloved church of the Lord Jesus Christ, these people called Baptists.

A Call to the Lord’s Table — The Pastor is not called to police the Table of the Lord.  It is my job to teach and instruct the people of God.  It is my responsibility to point those who listen to Christ.  Some will no doubt be offended that I have taught as I have this day.  I did not make the restrictions which I find in the Word of God.  Christ Himself gave the restrictions as to who may participate.  It is His Supper.

Baptism was placed before the Supper in the Commission [Matthew 28:19, 20].  The Apostles followed that same order [Acts 2:41, 42].  They gave instruction that this order should be maintained.  The people to whom Paul was writing in 1 Corinthians 11, were the same ones spoken of in Acts 18:1-10.

Bible baptism is the initiatory rite.  It pictures the beginning of the Christian life.  The Supper pictures the nourishment of the spiritual life of the believer.  That makes it necessary that baptism precede the Supper.  Baptist who are taught in the Word of God require Scriptural baptism before the invitation to the Lord’s Table.  Those who have not been scripturally baptised are not invited.  In voicing this proscription, the congregation merely observes the Lord’s restrictions.  There is no efficient Bible discipline in the congregation without a restricted Table.

In one sense, it is unfortunate that I have been compelled to invest the time speaking of the restrictions on the Lord’s Table.  However, instruction is gravely neglected in our day, and Christians are not particularly well taught.  We who are called by the Name of the Saviour are seemingly more concerned with how our fellowman views us than with how we honour the Saviour through obedience to His Word.  Dr. Criswell spoke a great truth in the words found in his study on the doctrine of the church.

Baptists have been so busy talking about who should be excluded from the Lord’s table that we have forgotten to insist that all believers should be in regular attendance at the Lord’s Supper.  In all of my years of ministry I have never been able to understand why some professed believers deliberately shun the Lord’s Supper services.  The Lord’s Supper should be one of the most meaningful services in the life of the local church.  If it is not, the pastor and the people ought to work together to make it so.[13]

This is where I must conclude.  Our call is to men and women to make a decision to commit themselves to obedience to Christ’s call to openly identify with Him in baptism.  Likewise, we call those who have believed in Him to openly unite with a congregation where He is honoured and where the Word is taught.  Having joined heart and life to the congregation of the Saviour, we invite you to worship Christ the Lord.  Even as He has taught us through the institution of this Meal, so we call on all who are led by His Spirit to obey the Word of God.  Amen.


 

Notice the fact that it is the Lord’s table, the Lord’s cup.  A man comes and says,

“May I come to your table?  I am perfectly willing for you to come to mine.”

I say, “Yes, come on in.”

He says, “Not that table; I am referring to the Lord’s table.”

“It was not to the Lord’s table that I invited you.”

“Well, won’t you take a sup with me?”

“Certainly!  Come over to my well and I will let you have cool, delicious, clear water.”

“I mean drink with me out of the same communion cup.”

“Ah, that is Christ’s cup; I have no jurisdiction over that.”

The ordinance of baptism logically precedes that of the Lord’s Supper.  This is a reasonable deduction for several reasons.  First, the practise of the New Testament church, in which baptism promptly followed conversion, meant that those who came to the Lord’s table were already baptised.  There is not a single example of a believer observing the Lord’s Supper prior to baptism, while there are several illustrations of believers partaking of the Lord’s Supper after baptism…  Second, the symbolism of the ordinances necessitates this order.  Union with Christ (baptism) naturally precedes communion with Christ (Lord’s Supper).  The two ordinances logically belong in that order…  [Lastly], the analogy of the Old Testament, circumcision served as the sign of the old covenant, and Exodus 12:48 specifically states that in ancient Israel a man was to bear in his body the sign of the covenant (circumcision) before he ate of the Passover meal.  The sign of the new covenant is water baptism.  When a person becomes a Christian, he is to be baptised.

Let no one eat or drink from your Eucharist except those who are baptised in the Lord’s Name.  For the Lord also has spoken concerning this:

Do not give what is holy to dogs.

 [E]ven catechumens were kept from participation in this sacred mystery of the Supper.

The instructions we have in our text are addressed to the church when they have come together as a church [sunercomevnwn uJmw`n ejn ejkklhsiva/].  Throughout the passage [vv. 17, 18, 20], the word [sunevrcomai] is a technical term for the coming together of the Christian congregation, especially to administer the Lord’s Supper.  The Corinthians had come together in assembly— ejn ejkklhsiva to observe the Lord’s Table.

Baptists have been so busy talking about who should be excluded from the Lord’s table that we have forgotten to insist that all believers should be in regular attendance at the Lord’s Supper.  In all of my years of ministry I have never been able to understand why some professed believers deliberately shun the Lord’s Supper services.  The Lord’s Supper should be one of the most meaningful services in the life of the local church.  If it is not, the pastor and the people ought to work together to make it so.


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[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright Ó 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

[2] B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible: James, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI 1948) 180

[3] W. A. Criswell, The Doctrine of the Church (Convention Press: Nashville, TN 1980) 104-5

[4] Jack  N. Sparks (ed.), The Didache, in The Apostolic Fathers (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN 1980) 314

[5] Everett F. Harrison, The Apostolic Church  (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI 1985) 137

[6] George Wesley Buchanan, Sacraments (art.) in Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1985) 890.  Electronic edition

[7] Claude L. Howe, Jr., Ordinances (art.) in Trent C. Butler, Holman Bible Dictionary (Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN 1991) 1054

[8] Harrison, op. cit., 136

[9] Criswell, op. cit. 102-3

[10]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vols. 5-9 Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 Compiled by Ronald Pitkin., ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976).  Electronic edition.

[11] Cf. J. R. Graves, Old Landmarkism: What is it? (Calvary Baptist Church: Ashland, KY 1880) 60-67

[12] Frank A. Godsoe, The House of God (Lanakila Baptist Press: HA, 1973) 144

[13] Criswell, op. cit., 106

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