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The Lord's Supper

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By
Pastor Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
(412)822-7255
The sixth Baptist distinctive states that baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper are the only two ordinances of a Baptist church. Seeing as how the Lord's Supper is one of only two ordinances, it must be of great importance, and thus should be handled properly. It is commanded by God that Christians partake of the Lord's Supper in I Corinthians 11:26, which reads, "For as often as ye do eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Thus, Baptists should make certain that their method of partaking of the Lord's Supper is proper and Biblical.

First of all, the purpose of communion should be discussed. (For the purposes of this paper, the terms "Lord 's Supper" and "communion" will be used interchangably.) Primarily, it is conmemorative. "It was designed to commemorate the death of Christ for human redemption, and to be a perpetual memorial sacrifice for man." (1)When believers partake of the Lord's Supper, they are reminding, themselves of Christ's death on Calvary. I Corinthinas 11 states that the loaf represents the body that was broken for Christians and the juice is a reminder of the blood that was spilled. Secondly, the Lord's Supper is predictive.(2) I Corinthians 11:26 states that communion will show the Lord's death till He comes. This gives to the believer blessed reassurance that Jesus Christ is indeed coming, back to earth someday. A third reason for partaking of the Lord's Supper is for fellowship. "Christian communion is Christian intercourse."(3)This means that the Supper is a time when Christians can meet with fellow Christians and fellowship together and praise the Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He made.

Certain guidelines must be followed, however, in partaking of the Lord's Supper.

We think the Scriptures warrant definite terms of approach to the Lord's Supper. The divine order is, first, faith; second, baptism; third, church membership; fourth,discipline; fifth, doctrine; sixth, the Lord 's Supper.(4)
First of all, the participants in the Supper must be saved. Nowhere in the Scriptures are there any indications that unbelievers partook of the Supper. On the contrary, all references show that those who partook were desciples of Christ.(5) When Christ instituted the ordinance, the only partakers were his disciples. No unsaved were present, save for Judas, and if he took the Supper, which itself is not certain,(6) than he did it in the character of a disciple, having fooled the other disciples into believing his regeneration. Thus, only saved were at the first communion. Secondly, I Corinthians chapters ten and eleven repeatedly mention that the Lord 's Supper is to identify the participants with Christ and to show that those who partake are receiving the benefits of Christ's work on the cross. This would be impossible for the unsaved individual to do, for he has never tasted of salvation, and thus can not be aligned in any way with Christ. So salvation must be the first prerequisite to the Lord's Supper.

The second prerequisite is baptism by immersion. Immersion must be the mode of baptism, because all other modes are not Scriptural batpism. In all cases, the Bible speaks of people being baptized by going down into the water. John left the Jordan and went to Aenon because there was much water. Philip baptized the eunich by going down into the water and then coming up out of the water. (7) Thus, it can be seen Scripturally that it is not real baptism unless the individual is immersed. And it is also seen that baptism comes before communion. "It is certain that baptism is enjoined as the very first public duty after discipleship...the ordinance of the Supper must come in as a subsequent duty. (8)

The third prerequisite is church membership. Acts 2:41 states that those who were saved were baptized and added unto the church. It is seen that this follows immediately upon following the Lord in believer's baptism. It is a prerequisite also because communion is a symbol of church fellowship, between those who partake.(9) I Corinthians 10:17 states; "For we being many are one bread, for we are all partakers of that one bread." This shows communion to be an expression of fellowship, which can only be found through membership in churches of like faith and practice.

The fourth and fifth prerequisites revolve around the individual's personal life. I Corinthians 11 commands those who would partake of the Supper to "examine themselves", so that they might not be unworthy to be participants at the Lord 's table. The Bible puts strong emphasis on this. The Scripture says that those who partake unworthily may fall into sickness, or even death. So it is plain to see that a proper lifestyle is imperitive to eating at the Lord's Supper.

Having established the prerequisites, the next step will be to look at the various methods of celebrating the Lord's Supper. There are three different views of communion. These are open communion, close communion, and closed communion. Each of these views communion in a dtfferent way. In a nutshell, open communion refers to the requirement for participation being salvation. Close communion requires individuals to be saved, baptized, and a member in good standing of a church of like faith and practice. Closed communion implies that only members of the particular assembly which is serving communion may partake.

The first view to be discussed is open communion. Basically, open communion advocates believe that those who have been saved can participate. However, there are really three categories of open-communionists. The first class states that individuals should also be baptized if they are coming to the Lord's table. How(10)ever, most of these people advocate sprinkling as a proper mode of baptism. As shown earlier in this paper the only proper Scriptural form of baptism is that of immersion. So they are off base Scripturally here. Another group that practices this form of communion are the Pedobaptists, who baptize children. Whether they immerse or not, their baptism is incorrect because the Scriptural order is salvation and then baptism, not the other way around. If the individual was not saved first, his baptism is improper and counts for nothing. So these open communionists are not taking a proper, Biblical stand.

As for the other two classes of open communionists, they are in worse shape than the first group. The second class feels that only faith is necessary for participation, and the third class states that "the Supper is based on no ground of perscribed conditons, on no ritual preparation, but entirely on one's own sense of fitness and duty.(11) These two attitudes are of course completely wrong in the light of the Bible's teaching on the prerequisites for communion.

Another problem with open communion is that it is impossible to put into practice.

There is no principle upon which it can be conducted. Who are we to receive? If it is replied, all Christians, the difficulty is not removed. How are we to know who are Christians? We can not stop to examine candidates... It we receive members of two, or three, or four denominations, and reject others, we are still on close communion grounds.... Shall we admit all who have taken upon them the Christian name? This, I presume, will be considered out of the question. (12)
Thus, open communion can really not be put into practice without opening the door to a policy which will eventually bring reproach upon the Lord's House and His table.

The second view of communion is the close view. This view holds that three Scriptural conditions are necessary to partaking of the Lord's Supper. These are regeneration, baptism, and godliness.(13) Within these three are the five prerequisites mentioned earlier in this paper. This is the Scriptural method of administering the Lord's Supper. Nowhere in the Bible is there found any instance where the participants in the Lord 's Supper are not saved, immersed, church members who are walking with God. So, on this account, the close communionists have the right Biblical principles.

Also, the close communionists have the right idea about whose responsibility the administration of the Supper is. Baptists, being close communionists, believe that the Lord's Supper is a church ordinance to be observed by churches only.(14) In addition to this, close communionists believe that the church is responsible for who partakes of the Supper, because it is a church ordinance. This, too, is the Biblical way of having the Lord's Supper. If the church does not distinguish which individuals may come and which may not, then this will open the door for compromise, ecumenicalism, and worldliness.

This opens the door to the third mode of communion, which is closed communion. This view states that only members from the specific assembly may partake of the Lord 's Supper. This view also uphold the five prerequisites but adds one more. This last addition helps to close the door against all forms of inclusivism by making the Supper available to members of that particular church. This way, the pastor knows exactly who is being served, and what their relationship to God is. This way, no unsaved or unbaptized people will be present because they will not be church members. Those who are not walking in an orderly fashion may have been disciplined by the church, thus making them ineligible for the Lord's Supper. (15) So this should help to keep the Lord's Supper pure and undefiled by those who are unworthy to partake.

The Lord's Supper is an essential part of the ministry of the local church. However, there are certain requirements which must be met before one can partake. Open communion denies these requirements. At best it requires salvation only. This view is unscriptural because it destroys all Biblical separation and because it does not meet the requirements set down in the Bible.(16) Close communion fulfills all the Biblical requirements, as does closed communion, which adds an additional blockade against inclusivism. It is the opinion of this author that either close or closed communion is satisfactory. Closed communion may be argued from the standpoint that only Christ and His disciples were present at the first communion. But this need not necessarily be true in all instances. In order to partake in the Lord's Supper, an individual must be saved, baptized by immersion, and walking a godly life, which would include being a member in good standing of a strong fundamental, Baptist church. Any person fulfilling these responsiblities may come, and partake of the Lord's Supper.


1. Edmund Hiscox, The New Directory for Baptist Chruches, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1970) p. 135.

2. Ibid., p. 136.

3. Robert Howell, The Terms of Communion at the Lord's Table, (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1846) p. 21.

4. John Christian, Close Communion, (Louisville: Baptist Book Concern, 1892) p. 23.

5. Albert Arnold, The Scriptural Terms of Admission to the Lord 's Supper, (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1860) p. 12.

6. Ibid.

7. John Broadus, Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism, (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1880), p. 8.

8. W. Gardner, Church Communion, (Cincinnati: George S. Blanchard and Co., 1869), p. 47.

9. Arnold, op. cit., p. 43.

10. Hiscox, op. cit., p. 448.

11. Ibid., p. 449.

12. Howell, op. cit. pp. 213, 214.

13. Hiscox, op. cit. p. 451

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., p. 184.

16. Christian, op. cit., p. 202.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, Albert, The Scriptural Terms of Admission to the Lord 's Supper. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1860.

Broadus, John, Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1880.

Christian, John, Close Communion. Louisville: Baptist Book Concern,1892.

Gardner, W., Church Communion. Cincinnati: George S. Blanchard and Co., 1869.

Hiscox, Edward, The New Directory for Baptist Churches. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1970.

Howell, Robert, The Terms of Communion at the Lord's Table. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1846.



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