Five Reasons Communion Should be Closed
local church only)
The church Jesus founded has two and only two ordinances. These are rites that were instituted by Jesus to mark the church as a body, symbolize their faith and memorializes the Savior. The two ordinances are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, sometimes called communion, though not often by Baptists.
Tonight we are going to look at the Lord’s Supper and why it should be limited to the fellowship of the local church body only.
Matthew 26:26-28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:22-24 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 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. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
The ordinance was meant to “show forth the Lord’s death till He come” and it was a remembrance, a memorial of Jesus sacrifice for us on the cross. There was never any sense of the Lord’s supper conferring salvation, cleansing from sin or any other purpose other than being a memorial to remember Jesus’ death for us.
Defining Terms – Open, Close, Closed
Now we come to the terms and the differeing views on communion. Christians practice the Lord’s supper in one of three ways, Open Communion, Close Communion or Closed Communion.
Open communion means that anyway who claims to be a Christian may participate in the supper. The individual alone in their own heart makes this decision and the church allows them to participate or in many cases there is no church and the group, family or individual acts whenever and wherever they please.
Close communion means that the supper is open only to member of the same denomination or to members of other churches of like faith and order. Baptists can participate at any Baptist Church.
Closed communion is defined as allowing only the member of the local church body or family to participate in the memorial. In this case the church determines who is allowed to join the supper based up their confession of faith, baptism and membership in the local church.
So which view is closest to what we see in scripture? Which view does not violate the memorial as it is practices in the New Testament. Here are 5 reason why I believe the Bible teaches that the Lord’s supper should be closed, limited to the local assembly only.
Reason 1: Scriptural Precedent
Matthew 26:26-28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
After the Passover and after Judas had left to betray Him, Jesus, took the elements of the Passover and instituted a New Testament rite, the second ordinance of the church after Baptism. As we read of Jesus taking the bread, blessing, breaking and giving it to the disciples and following that with the cup it is very obvious that only the Lord’s church was present.
The apostles had been gathered by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry and brought together as the first church. It is impossible not to see that the first memorial supper by Jesus was given to only His church. There were other believers during this time, but Jesus limited the memorial to only these 11.
Reason 2 Church Authority
1 Corinthians 11:27-34 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
Paul is very clear in telling the church at Corinth to not take the supper in an “unworthy” manner. This seems to be one of the areas where the church was having problems due to the divisions that were tearing the church apart.
He tells them “when they come together” vs. 33 so we know that the supper was observed in assembly not by individual and not in separate groups.
He tells them this is not a potluck or as they called them then an Agape Meal, vs. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.
Earlier in the letter he told them to not eat with one who was under discipline by the church. 1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
All of these apostolic, Spirit inspired directions tell us that the church was to be the judge of who could come to the Lord’s supper. If Communion is open or even close, then no local church can make such a judgment for it will not have the knowledge of any given person taking the bread and cup.
Though each man must examine himself on an individual basis, this is done as a member of the church. It is the church that must judge who is invited to their communion and that is only fully possible if they are members of that local body.
Reason 3: Church Membership Identity
Another reason the church should limit the Lord’s supper to the local church only is that it shows those who are perennial visitors that they need to formally join the church.
Many people today do not understand anything about the church or church membership. They believe that they are members simply because they have been attending or that they are members of any church wherever they attend. This is neither scriptural not good for their spiritual growth. We are told in scripture to join ourselves together. Baptism is administered by the church after the church as a body votes to accept a new member on their confession of faith. Yet many churches and many more Christians do not realize this and therefore never formally join a church. This deprives them of the blessing of being a part of the local church and one day of the place as the bride of Christ. They will observe as guests but miss the reward of being part of the bride.
When a church announces they will have the Lord’s supper on a given date and that is limited to only the members of the local church, it draws a line of distinction between the long time visitors and those who have formally joined by baptism or by letter from a church of like faith and order.
Just as a lost person will never seek salvation until they know they are lost, a nonchurch attender will never seek membership until they understand that they are not a part of the membership of the church they may have been attending for months or even years.
Reason 4: Kingdom, Family and Church
Closed communion also helps Christians to better understand the difference between the Kingdom of God, the Family of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ. Again to many people these three aspects of God’s redemptive work are one and the same but the Bible teaches that they are three distinct parts of God and Jesus’ authority and work in this world. They may overlap but they are clearly not the same thing.
Reason 5: No Scriptural Example of Open or Close Communion
The only examples we have in scripture of the Lord’s Supper being observed (Gospels) or the instructions for it (1 Cor 11) are all closed. There is no instance anywhere of other members of the local church joining with a separate church and partaking of the communion.
Paul instructed the church at Corinth in the second person, not include himself when talking about the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:26 26 For as often as ye (not we) eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
1 Corinthians 11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
Some have cited Acts 20:7 as an example of Paul at Troas observing the Supper with the church in that city.
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
The breaking bread in this passage obviously refers to a meal shared with the church at Troas but not the Lord’s supper. It took place after midnight on Monday and it says nothing of the cup, which would have been present as one of the elements of the communion.
The phrase, “breaking bread” was a term used when sitting
down to a common meal. Use still use the phrase today.
A plain and unbiased reading of the scriptures concerning the Lord’s supper shows that it was instituted to only the first church by Jesus himself.
As an ordinance it is under the authority of the church, not individual Christians. When a person is told to examine the manner, they partake of the supper, it is concerning their unity with the church, and the manner in which they eat the supper. It is not related to their authority as individuals to oversee or initiate the ordinance without the authority of the local body.
Finally, the Lord’s supper shows a clear demarcation between the member and the visitors of a church as well as helping us understand there is a difference between the Kingdom, Family and church of God.
If we are to truly heed Paul’s directive to take the Lord’s supper in a worthy manner then the first step would be to make sure it is under the authority of a local church and that it is limited to only those members.