ASK THE PASTOR: The Lord’s Supper & Baptism

the-lords-supper-image1This “Ask the Pastor” question is one I have encountered numerous times throughout my ministry. It is a very thoughtful and significant question pertaining to our practice regarding the observance of the Lord’s Supper, specifically, who should partake in the observance…

I have a question about who can take communion. First Corinthians 11:28 says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup;” yet our church requires that a person be baptized my immersion before being allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Why is that? Are there other verses that make baptism by immersion a prerequisite?

Let me begin my response by describing the various approaches pastors and churches take in whom they invite to participate in the communion service. These approaches have been described as open, close, and closed. The distinctions are as follows: Churches practicing open communion invite everyone, with no distinction, to participate. Churches practicing closed communion limit those who may participate to those who are members of that specific local church. Churches practicing close communion invite those believers who come from churches of similar conviction and practice to participate.

The overwhelming majority of Southern Baptist churches are in the last two categories, and primarily within the close communion approach. In our commonly held confession of beliefs, The Baptist Faith and Message, we as Southern Baptists have stated what we believe regarding baptism and the Lord’s Supper:

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.

[Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.] (BF&M, Article VII)

Within this context I have arrived at the following convictions and thus lead our church to practice our observance of the Lord’s Supper accordingly:

  • The Lord’s Supper is an act of worship of a great and good triune God. Thus only those who have reason to worship, namely those who have had their sins forgiven and have been adopted into His family, should participate. (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21; 2 Corinthians 6:15-16)
  • When Jesus instituted the observance of communion, He did so, as we read the combined testimonies of all four Gospel writers (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; John 13:21-30), only with those disciples committed to following Him. Judas was not present.
  • The Great Commission that Jesus has given to His church commands us to make disciples through going, baptizing, and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, the New Testament most frequently speaks of Christ’s people—His church—in terms of those individuals who have responded in faith for forgiveness of sins and then followed the Lord in baptism as a demonstrative act of obedience.(Acts 2:41-42; Colossians 2:12)
  • Southern Baptist churches have long stood on the conviction that local, New Testament churches are comprised in our membership of people who are born-again believers who were subsequently baptized by immersion—”Being a church ordinance, it (baptism) is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership” [BF&M, Article VII]. Therefore we see the instructions given by Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to the church in Corinth having “a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” as applying specifically to believers as have been described—”it (baptism) is a prerequisite…to the Lord’s Supper” [BF&M, Article VII].

This describes as concisely, and hopefully clearly, as I know how, the biblical basis for the way we approach our observance of the Lord’s Supper as a church. This is why I do my best to make a point of repeating these instructions during our communion services. I take it as my responsibility to clearly describe the purpose and participants in the observance so that everyone avoids the penalty (1 Corinthians 11:27-31) for wrongly approaching the Lord’s Table. After that instruction has been given, everyone is ultimately responsible for how they proceed during our communion service.

What a privilege it is for us as followers of Christ to remember what Jesus has done for us in securing our redemption as we eagerly anticipate His return!

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. Hello brother. Very good post on a tricky subject. I well appreciate that your SB church takes communion seriously. Unfortunately too man evangelical churches don’t.

    That said, I do have a question. I’m a member of a PCA church. I have alo been immersed after my POF many years ago. In light of this statement, “Churches practicing close communion invite those believers who come from churches of similar conviction and practice to participate,” if I visited your church on communion Sunday, would I be able to participate? I’m looking particularly at “believers who come from churches of similar conviction and practice to participate.”

    I understand that others from a PCA church who have not been immersed would not be allowed.

    Thanks brother.

    Les

    • Les, great to have you drop in, brother!

      Let me give you the short answer and then we can develop the discussion further as needed.

      As far as I am concerned (aka ‘speaking for myself’ and not any other Southern Baptist 🙂 …as I am certain you could find an SB church which differs from ours in this), you would be fine as would anyone coming from a PCA church practicing believer’s baptism by immersion. If I understand things correctly, there are many PCA churches that practice both infant and believer’s baptism as well as affusion and immersion. Your specific situation is a particular anomaly which, again, would be fine for me and our church.

      Yes, someone coming from a PCA church not baptized as a believer would be discouraged from partaking during our communion service. The particular issue at hand has to do with candidate and order and mode of baptism. Of lesser import to me relating to a church of “similar conviction and practice,” would be their ecclesiology (elder-led/ruled)…or even eschatology. 🙂 Similar conviction and practice relates, of first importance, to matters of salvation…by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone as revealed in Scripture alone to the glory of God alone…and the need for evangelism and missions, the authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity—the essential doctrines of orthodox Christianity.

      So, come on by anytime…and if you’d like to participate in our Lord’s Supper observance…stop by during the first Sunday in a given quarter of the year. 🙂

  2. Thanks. First, though, I may have been a bit confusing. My current PCA church does not practice both modes, though I wish they would. And they might if ever faced with the prospect. Don’t think it has ever come up.

    So, I was immersed as I said. In fact, you may know I was a Baptist pastor for some years. Graduated from MABTS in Memphis. Now in a PCA church that does not immerse. So, if I come from my current situation could I commune?

    I totally get the non immersed person being barred. And also glad to see that my post mil view wouldn’t bar me. 🙂

    Believe me. If I’m in your area, I’ll stop by.

    Blessings brother.

    • On your MABTS credentials alone you are highly welcome…I’m MABTS class of ’96, MDiv.

      Seriously though, if you were to be at our service and ask me, I would ask your testimony and based on what you have shared and your biblically faithful (mostly 😉 ) church affiliation, I would welcome you to participate with us.

      I would have to challenge you to work on your eschatology though! (historic pre-millennial) 😀

  3. Thanks. Class of 1987 (MARE). I went on to get my MDiv at Covenant Seminary here in STL in 1996. Hey, I was dispy premil way back then. The founding pastor of my current church (Twin Oaks PCA) was historic premil. He is now deceased. Great pastor. He sort of defies the caricature by non-Calvinists. He was Presbyterian, obviously a 5 pointer and was the most amazing evangelist and EE proponent I have ever seen!

    My org has a partner church in KC. Redeemer Church KC. You familiar with it?

    • It took me a couple of times reading your latest reply to realize you didn’t say DIPSY pre rather than DISPY pre…haaaa!

      Sounds like your pastor fit the type of a D James Kennedy. Excellent!!

      I am not familiar with that church.

  4. The verses of 1 Cor. 11: 26-32 state that an individual becomes guilty of the Lord’s body and blood by incorrectly assuming something about the Lord’s death. I think it might behoove you to understand that it is God’s objective to make the Lord’s enemies a footstool for the Lord’s feet. Acts 2:34 “Sit! at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” To do this and prepare his case God has placed this table in your presence. Psa. 23:5 The Lord’s table only sits in the presence of his enemies and by design its only purpose is to make you guilty of the Lord’s body and blood. There is no exoneration by participating in this ceremony.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s