Articles on Closed Communion (Complete)

Closed Communion

What is a Strict Baptist?

These articles are about the historically, and more importantly, scripturally authentic church practice known as Closed Communion. The practice is also known as ‘Restricted Communion’, and it is from the word ‘restricted’ that ‘Strict Baptist’ churches take their title.

Although the casual or unsaved visitor to a Strict Baptist church may indeed find the congregation rather stern, dull or strange at first meeting, the designation ‘strict’ has nothing to do with any such behaviour or dress code which might exist in such a church.

Rather, it refers specifically and solely to the scripturally prescribed practice of restricting participation in the communion service to a specifically limited subset of the population. Neither does ‘Strict Baptist’ refer to a denomination, as does, say ‘United Reformed’, or ‘Baptist Union’. Instead, ‘Strict Baptist’ is simply a title describing the practice adhered to within the fellowship which bears its name.

In fact, a characteristic inherent to and logically springing from the doctrine of restricted (closed) communion is that even though Strict Baptist churches will often join associations so named, this is only for fellowship or joint projects with like-minded churches, and they never unite under a centralised hierarchical denominational authority, but instead retain complete autonomy. Nor should they share a communion table with other Strict Baptist churches, for were they to do so, they would obviously be committing a nonsensical paradox.

Where Did the Strict Baptists Go?

Actually Strict Baptists are still around, but on darker days sometimes it feels like there are only two or three of us left. To understand where the others went, it’s helpful to know where we started. Leaving aside the obvious contention that John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul were all Strict Baptists, (which I would be happy to prove from the scriptures on another occasion) let us zoom forward instead to Great Britain in the 1700’s to see where the actual title came from.

In the hundred years or so following the great 18th Century revivals, there was much debate and healthy schism among Christians and churchmen as they applied their newfound godly zeal and hunger for scripture and righteousness to discerning the finer points of church polity and Christian life. Thus, churches necessarily and willingly assigned to themselves the labels of strict communionists or otherwise as advance proclamation on the sign over their door of what form of worship and discipleship the visitor or prospective member of such a fellowship could expect.

With the passing of the passionately godly doctrinal schisms of the 19th Century evangelicals, and the advent of a godlessly unchurched broader population of unsaved, ill-taught and mostly only nominal and corrupted generation of new Christians who know and care nothing for these distinctions, also passed the culturally relevant necessity for churches to title themselves as ‘Strict’. Of the few Strict Baptist churches which still survive at all in the 21st century, almost all have dropped the word ‘Strict’ from their title, and from the sign above their door, (generally substituting it with ‘Grace’). This is partly due to (questionably) avoid confusion arising from the modern secular meaning of the word, (as if today’s lost souls of the general population have any greater understanding of the meaning of the word ‘grace’ than of ‘strict’)! However, it is mostly due because they more significantly and sadly no longer actually practice restricted communion, to the detriment of the Lord’s church.

While the title of ‘Strict’ may indeed be confusing and redundant in today’s society, many churches who do not own the name, (nor even ‘Baptist’) nevertheless, to their credit, still love and practice the doctrine of a restricted (‘closed’) communion table, and it is the contention of this writer that restricted (‘closed’) communion is the most beneficial and only proper mode for the Lord’s Supper.

What is a Strict Baptist?

These articles are about the historically, and more importantly, scripturally authentic church practice known as Closed Communion. The practice is also known as ‘Restricted Communion’, and it is from the word ‘restricted’ that ‘Strict Baptist’ churches take their title.

Although the casual or unsaved visitor to a Strict Baptist church may indeed find the congregation rather stern, dull or strange at first meeting, the designation ‘strict’ has nothing to do with any such behaviour or dress code which might exist in such a church.

Rather, it refers specifically and solely to the scripturally prescribed practice of restricting participation in the communion service to a specifically limited subset of the population. Neither does ‘Strict Baptist’ refer to a denomination, as does, say ‘United Reformed’, or ‘Baptist Union’. Instead, ‘Strict Baptist’ is simply a title describing the practice adhered to within the fellowship which bears its name.

In fact, a characteristic inherent to and logically springing from the doctrine of restricted (closed) communion is that even though Strict Baptist churches will often join associations so named, this is only for fellowship or joint projects with like-minded churches, and they never unite under a centralised hierarchical denominational authority, but instead retain complete autonomy. Nor should they share a communion table with other Strict Baptist churches, for were they to do so, they would obviously be committing a nonsensical paradox.

Where Did the Strict Baptists Go?

Actually Strict Baptists are still around, but on darker days sometimes it feels like there are only two or three of us left. To understand where the others went, it’s helpful to know where we started. Leaving aside the obvious contention that John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul were all Strict Baptists, (which I would be happy to prove from the scriptures on another occasion) let us zoom forward instead to Great Britain in the 1700’s to see where the actual title came from.

In the hundred years or so following the great 18th Century revivals, there was much debate and healthy schism among Christians and churchmen as they applied their newfound godly zeal and hunger for scripture and righteousness to discerning the finer points of church polity and Christian life. Thus, churches necessarily and willingly assigned to themselves the labels of strict communionists or otherwise as advance proclamation on the sign over their door of what form of worship and discipleship the visitor or prospective member of such a fellowship could expect.

With the passing of the passionately godly doctrinal schisms of the 19th Century evangelicals, and the advent of a godlessly unchurched broader population of unsaved, ill-taught and mostly only nominal and corrupted generation of new Christians who know and care nothing for these distinctions, also passed the culturally relevant necessity for churches to title themselves as ‘Strict’. Of the few Strict Baptist churches which still survive at all in the 21st century, almost all have dropped the word ‘Strict’ from their title, and from the sign above their door, (generally substituting it with ‘Grace’). This is partly due to (questionably) avoid confusion arising from the modern secular meaning of the word, (as if today’s lost souls of the general population have any greater understanding of the meaning of the word ‘grace’ than of ‘strict’)! However, it is mostly due because they more significantly and sadly no longer actually practice restricted communion, to the detriment of the Lord’s church.

While the title of ‘Strict’ may indeed be confusing and redundant in today’s society, many churches who do not own the name, (nor even ‘Baptist’) nevertheless, to their credit, still love and practice the doctrine of a restricted (‘closed’) communion table, and it is the contention of this writer that restricted (‘closed’) communion is the most beneficial and only proper mode for the Lord’s Supper.

Why Is This An Important Doctrine?

The writer contends that closed communion is not merely a practice dictated by a certain theological view of the church. On the contrary: A church which practices closed communion as the beginning of its theological thinking for church management, and diligently follows all naturally occurring corollaries of the full doctrine of closed communion, will soon discover that a closed communion table favourably governs correct practices in all areas of church life, and will preserve the existence of the local church.

The reverse has been demonstrably proved time and again: Churches holding open communion tend to be prone to heresy and worldly controversy, vulnerable to cultic invasion, sheep-stealing and division, tend to preach and practice a ‘soft’ or ‘social’ gospel having little if any evangelical impact on their neighbourhoods, thereby negating their role as a local church, and in this extremely Anti-Christian age of the 21st century, will have a limited shelf life, like so many other churches who practiced open communion and were thus forced to eventually close their doors and be demolished over the past thirty years.

The type of communion you hold dictates the type of church you will be.

Not for nothing did Christ institute the communion supper, it was no divine afterthought, and therefore its centrality and importance at the very foundations of church doctrine goes far beyond what many of today’s churches imagine. Closed communion is the cornerstone that most church builders reject, at their peril. Thus, the aim of this article is to champion the practice of closed communion as a governor and preserver of the church, and to answer some common objections to the doctrine.

Over the last century, the church has quantitively lost members, and qualitatively lost power, and the British landscape is now distinguished, or rather scarred, by the sight of myriad church buildings of every size and description now lying empty, demolished or converted into shops, housing, cinemas, gymnasiums and even nightclubs and pop-music recording studios. The blame for this lies squarely at the feet of churchmen who have scorned and discarded scripture as their first love, in mistaken favour of employing worldly methods of doing God’s work, and who, in particular, have declared such blessed and crystal clear doctrines as closed communion to be merely ‘secondary’, and thus disposable truths.

However, the mission, meaning, and power of Christ’s church resides in and flows from a closed communion table, while opening the communion table undermines the strength of the church and begins the decay and eradication of it from the nation, to the full and cunning premeditated intent and delight of Satan.

I wish to demonstrate that with the application of pure common sense and honesty to the scriptures, the only possible conclusion to reach for the correct mode of administering the Lord’s Supper is at a fully restricted, ie, closed communion table, therefore, in the preparation of this document, I have deliberately not consulted any previously published works of the classic apologists for closed communion, but scripture alone. I pray that readers who truly seek the revival, extension, preservation and empowerment of the Lord’s church to reach, convert and edify souls in this dark age, and who wish to rebuild and refill those lost churches on every street in England again, will be likewise convinced.

What Is The Purpose Of The Communion Table?

Closed communion is superior to open communion because it more effectively helps to protect and nurture the sanctity and industry of the church.

Christ himself instituted ‘the Lord’s Supper’, otherwise known to evangelicals and protestants as ‘the communion service’, or ‘supper’, and its overall purpose is to protect, strengthen and mature the local church, and so galvanize it to godly, productive and Biblically sound works of gospel witness in the local fellowship’s immediate neighbourhood and beyond. This can only be properly achieved from a closed communion table, and indeed it is the position of this writer that an open communion table is such a dangerous and serious departure from scriptural teaching, that technically such a fellowship cannot rightfully call itself a church at all. Indeed, a distinguishing feature of most false cults and pseudo-Christian organisations is that they either have a completely open communion table, or celebrate communion rarely or never at all. Why then should churches considering themselves evangelical stoop to mimicking the methods of God’s enemies? In doing so, they only spoil the household of faith through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:8)

Specifically, the purpose of the communion supper is fourfold:

1. To encourage you as a believer to remember Jesus’s sacrifice of His own life to redeem us as a people of His own, separate from the cursed human race. (1 Cor 11: 24-25)

2. To encourage you as a believer to look forward to Jesus’s return to earth. (1 Cor 11:26)

3. To encourage you as a believer to examine your own behaviour and service to God, both as an individual gospel witness in the midst of the external unsaved community, and as an interdependent member of your local church. (1 Cor 11:28)

4. Because God tells us to. It is a command. It is not optional. Jesus instructed the communion supper as a method of remembrance, and therefore it is logically an activity to be frequently repeated until He returns. (Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:26). After Jesus returns, we can stop having communion suppers. (this is explained in a later article).

What Are The Restrictions Surrounding The Communion Table?

Because the communion supper is a command, there are rules for doing it correctly, because if it is not done correctly, some or all of the four-fold purpose will be not be properly achieved. The correct way of conducting the communion supper is at a closed table. This is known as ‘Closed Communion’.

That is to say:

1. Closed to, ie, excluding, anyone except Born Again persons.

2. Closed to, ie, excluding, anyone except Born Again persons scripturally baptised (ie, by immersion).

3. Closed to, ie, excluding, anyone except registered members of the local church in which the communion supper is being held.

4. And also closed to, ie, excluding, any church member who is under discipline enforced by that church, permanently or temporarily, for behaviour considered to be either unChristian, or inexpedient and damaging to the church, and/or damaging to the spiritual life of the person concerned.

All of these exclusions are for the ultimate spiritual benefit of those both within, and outside of, the church membership.

What Exactly Is A Church?

Churches steeped in heresy, faction and administrative difficulties will invariably be discovered to be practisers of open communion, and owe their lamentable condition in large part to that particular error as the origin of their troubles. Moreover, churches who practice open communion or other errant forms of it generally do so because they misunderstand the nature and purpose of the church. This is because the twin concepts of church and communion are inseparable. The one has no meaning nor justification for existence without the other, which is why Christ Himself most emphatically ordained the supper as a system of remembrance. (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:26) Therefore, in order to formulate a proper mode of administering the communion supper, we must first have a proper understanding of the church.

In Paul’s epistles, he addresses all his letters to the churches in the same standard way, and nowhere is this clearer than in his letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:2 shows us exactly what Paul wrote on the envelope: “To the church (of God) which is at Corinth”, because he intended the letter for not just the pastor, or the church secretary, but for the whole group of new fellow believers. But he didn’t just address the envelope to “Bert, Ted, Fred, Sharon, Tracy and Bill” either. What’s he’s actually written on the envelope is “To the Church of God which is at Corinth”.

He has given the gathering the description and title of a “church”. The Greek word for church is ‘Ekklesia’, meaning ‘a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state’, or even “a gathering regarded as representative of the whole nation”.

Paul says elsewhere that Christ gave the name ‘church’ as the collective name of all His believers, and Paul’s use of the word here unlocks the full meaning of Christ’s statement that “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”.

Thus, an ‘ekklesia’ is a gathering together of two or three people (at least) to do state or civic business, and a church is a gathering together of two or three people (at least), to do Jesus’s business, because Jesus said that when such a gathering happens, there will He be, present and complete. A representation of Christ. When the town ekklesia meets, the gathering is representative of the whole town. And in exactly the same way, the local church of Jesus Christ is representative of the whole of Christ!

The gathering may be small in number, but it is a complete physical representation of the body of Christ. A local, active, manifestation of Jesus. The spirit of Jesus… …with legs.

Notice that Paul has not addressed the letter to the part of the church which is at Corinth. No, he’s addressed it to the “church” which is at Corinth – A complete church. A complete representation of Christ’s body which is at Corinth. Remember, Christ did not say “Where two or three are gathered together, there will be a part of me in the midst of you”. No, Christ said “I will be there”. To paraphrase, he meant: “All of me – Complete, entire, lacking nothing. My full and entire presence will be constituted by your gathering together”.

And in this letter that Paul has addressed to the Church of God which is at Corinth, Paul clarifies this meaning of the church still further by saying (in chapter 12 verse 27) “Ye are the body of Christ”, and this statement completes the whole picture, because where, indeed, wherever two or three believers are gathered together in Christ’s name, then there Christ is, in the midst. His body is right there. It is constituted from the assembled members of his body. Paul says “Ye”… (the plural of “you”) to say “Ye (you all, when are you are assembled together) are the body of Christ, and members in particular”.

Who Are The Members Of A Church?

The word ‘member’ is an old English word meaning ‘limb’, or a part, component or organ of the body, for example, a leg, foot, hand, eye or nose, etc. Christ said that when believers are gathered together, then He will be in the midst of them, and Paul in this letter to the Corinthians reiterates “Yes, that’s right, Christ spoke the truth, and this is how it works”: When believers assemble together, they form the body of Christ.

Apart, they are separate members of his body, but assembled together, they constitute a complete and healthy functioning body. The body of Christ on earth.

The body of Christ in Corinth.

The body of Christ in England.

The body of Christ in ‘Blank’ – (fill in the name of your town), or even,

The body of Christ in ‘Blank Street’ – (fill in the name of your street or city district or neighbourhood).

When you assemble in the local church of which you are a member, you can correctly profess that “The Lord is here.” Because the local church’s members are his body. (“and members in particular”).

1 Corinthians 12:12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”

Verse 14: “For the body is not one member, but many.

Verse 21. “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”

Is It Necessary For A Christian To Become A Member Of A Church?

Membership of a single church is not optional, but mandatory for every Christian, with said membership characterized by regular attendance, and not just attendance, but additionally some role of active involvement carrying a degree of personal responsibility, however small, (1 Corinthians 12:22).

In the epistle to the Hebrews, it is written that we are “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together”, because no member of the assembled body of Christ should ever say “I am not of the body” and choose to stay away. Because each Christian, each church member, is needed as a part of the body. Without an eye, where is the seeing? Without a nose, where is the smelling? Without a hand, where is the handling? etc…

The assembled body is incomplete without you. And in 1 Corinthians 12:18, Paul says that God has set the members, every one of them in the body as it has pleased Him. Therefore, it is for God’s pleasure that you attend church, not your pleasure.

What is The Purpose Of A Church?

The Purpose Of The Church is to do God’s business. The original civil Ekklesia of the city of Corinth was the assembly of citizens of the town for the purpose of discussing the affairs of the city, and conducting the business of the city, according to the will of the citizens. They might have been discussing the affairs of new traffic lights, or disputing the question of whether or not Corinth really needed a new supermarket in an already heavily commercialised area. There were many such things they might have discussed. But the will of the people was the purpose of the assembly.

But in church, it is the will of God that is the purpose of the assembly. Jesus’s disciples asked him once how to pray, and Jesus replied “When ye pray, say “Our Father, Thy will be done on earth”. Too many Christians worry about what the will of God for their life should be, but what they should be more concerned about is what the will of God on earth should be.

Therefore, the world doesn’t need any more civic ekklesias of town citizens. There are plenty of them already. The world doesn’t need any more town councils. What the world needs now, more than anything else, is God’s ekklesias. The world needs God’s people meeting together to do God’s business. That is the priority, because that is what brings Christ into the midst of us, to change the locality immediately around us.

Jesus said “Behold, I come to do thy will, O God – A body hast though prepared me”. And the assembly of God’s people is the body of Christ, each member in particular making a living sacrifice of themselves in order to prove and discern what is the perfect will of God on earth.

Jesus said “Ye are not of this world, but I have chosen (‘drafted’) you out of the world”, just as God called and forcibly extracted the Israelites from Egypt, so that they could serve Him in a place and manner unhindered by the world. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit. If you love me, keep my commandments.” Thus, the commandment of Christ is to assemble together. It achieves His spiritual, perfect, and fully operational presence, in any locality on earth, in order that God’s will be done on earth… …and specifically in your locality.

The local church should have priority over foreign missions, because correct missionary enterprise flows from a correctly established local church, and the purpose of missions is to plant churches worldwide, therefore a mission must not supplant or demote the very ideal and mechanism which brings it into existence. Yet this is what has happened: During the 20th century, most strands of denominational Christianity, seeking to justify themselves in an increasingly secular world, and to maintain tax concessions from government, have retreated from the task of local evangelisation at home, and instead rebranded themselves as a charitable force and as international aid providers. Thus many local churches have been psychologically coerced by their denominations (working in tandem with corporate charity and para-church missionary organisations) into believing that the real work and cutting-edge of the gospel is only on the overseas mission field, rendering local churches at home as mere collection stations existing only to channel funding and attention to overseas missions. Local evangelism has thus all but ceased, and with it, the self esteem, purpose, and indeed existence of the local church.

Therefore, Christians today worry disproportionately about foreign missions. They worry about the will of God in Somalia, or Bosnia, or South Africa, or China, but what they should be worrying about is what the will of God in their town is. What is the will of God for your unsaved neighbour? What is the will of God for your street? You can never know the answer to that, nor fulfill it, if you do not take your place in the assembly that God has pleased Himself to place you in at a local church.

For in this church age, the will of God is performed on earth in specific locations, according to the localities of churches that God has placed individual Christians in. These churches are local representations of the body of Christ, comprised of members in particular, ie, parts of that body, assembled together, not to conduct the business of the town they live in, but to conduct God’s business in the town that they live in. The work of God is not a distant foreign mission. The work of God is where you are.

Therefore, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, because it conflicts with the will of God. Not that God’s ultimate and eternal will can be frustrated by men – Because he is too powerful and has already ordained the future. But woe be to those who attempt to frustrate the will of God through neglect or transgression of the commands of Christ. (Hebrews 10:25-28 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is… …He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.”)

Does The Size Of A Church Matter?

Because of obvious administrative complications, a closed communion table can be managed best in numerically small church memberships, but, in much larger churches, only with difficulty, or perhaps not at all.

This not only suggests the invalidity of the 20th century ‘superchurches’ which boast thousands of members, but also perhaps dictates the ideal blueprint for church size at an absolute maximum of perhaps only a hundred or a hundred and fifty members, because any number larger than that is impossible to effectively administer a closed communion to, (ie, to teach, discipline, mature and mobilise the entire membership). It would seem then, that inherent in the practice of closed communion is the blueprint for correct missions strategy. For, just like the scientific principle observable in nature known as ‘cell-division’ in a healthy specimen of God’s created human body, perhaps the mark of a healthy church (Christ’s body) is that it grows to a maximum size of say 150 members and then willingly divides itself, 75 members remaining where they are and the other 75 securing a new meeting building in a different but neighbouring area, before growing again and repeating the process, thus, instead of only one five-thousand strong ‘superchurch’ locked in one location and dubiously serving an entire region or county, we would see the Christian population cumulatively mushrooming into many many small and perfectly functioning autonomous churches evenly distributed across the nation, one on every corner and in every village, and some in urban areas only a street apart, distinctly reaching into, touching and influencing the lives of local unbelievers with whom they exist in such close proximity.

Is it any wonder that in the 18th and 19th centuries, when closed communion and a generally greater care by churches for discipline and productivity in church membership was the norm, this is in fact precisely what we did see! There was a small non-conformist church of some description in every street and village, and concurrent with it, revival-borne Christianity and a higher moral standard of living was the predominant national culture. It is only in the last fifty years since closed communion has become universally disdained and ditched by so-called churchmen, that we have seen these many tiny once faithful and active local churches dying off and vanishing from the landscape, leaving vast areas of the nation unchurched and wallowing in godless lawlessness without any local Christian witness. Closed Communion is thus arguably a core church doctrine, and an indispensable key to church management, longevity, expansion, mission, and the righteousness of nations.

Is A Christian Entitled To Be A Member Of A Church?

Membership of church is not a right, but a privilege. When the body of Christ assembles together, you should be there, not because you deserve it, but because you are grateful to God for it.

We live in a secular age in which popular society has invented for itself the illusory concept of ‘human rights’. God however is not bound by His creation’s self-centred expectations of any rights they feel they may merit. Salvation is therefore God’s invention, His instigation as sole originator of the scheme, His gift of totally unmerited favour to Adams’s universal fallen race of naturally blackhearted blasphemers, children of Satan, enemies of God.

No human being could or would ever have conceived such a scheme as redemption through the death of the Creator’s Son, for pride would soon darken their minds to the beauty and logic of it, and at first thought they would reject such a scheme as unsettling and insulting and worthy of no further line of enquiry, just as they in fact do, for it is the invention of a holy God, and therefore distasteful to sinful man. And in like manner, the blessings and paraphernalia accompanying salvation, namely the church, are also God’s invention, His ordinance, His gift, the church’s mystic comforts, luxury, empowerment, protection and fellowship being as undeserved by humanity as salvation itself. Therefore no person, no, not even any Christian, should presume church attendance as a right.

Without God, there would be no church. And that church is God’s. No human being has the right to walk into a church building, sit in the pews and take for granted the fellowship of the saints and presume to a component place in the Body of Christ Himself! For we are but vile sinners, incapable of coming to Christ unless God draw us (John 6:44). We have no right to church. It is God alone who invites us, He alone who chooses who shall and who shall not join the household of faith.

Therefore, in Acts 2:47, there is an important statement: “the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved”. For in spite of our unworthiness, and our deserving of Hell, God instead chooses us to receive forgiveness to be able to join the divine family and inherit an eternity in Heaven as was first intended for our common father Adam. It is not by our own will or merit, but the Lord himself who adds us to His church. Thus, nobody gets saved who shouldn’t be saved. And nobody gets lost who should be saved. And when you are saved, God sets you in the body of Christ, as, and when, and where, it pleases Him. The church is for God’s pleasure, God’s purpose, and God’s will.

So with these facts in mind, consider again how the communion supper, that solemn celebration of church membership, should be administered: For a Christian cannot fully understand who should be excluded from the communion table until you understand why you could graciously be allowed inclusion in it. In pondering this, we should thus be able to see the communion table as a grave and sacred place. The communion table is a holy place, a pure place, a purged place, and a privileged place. And it’s a hidden place, not exposed high up and open like on the cross, where the suffering Christ was lifted up and made a spectacle to those who jeered and hated Him. No, the communion table is hidden, as it were, in a valley. In a wooded glade, deep in a forest, far away from public gaze, far away from the broad way that leadeth to destruction, and found instead only by a few who pass through the narrow gate and find the path through the forest that leadeth to life… Under the old cedar tree, under the cross, under the thorns, under the ivy, there sits the communion table, cold and silent under the shadow of death, still stained black with blood, the unremoveable evidence of a murderous horror that happened two thousand years ago, in the fullness of time, by the pre-ordinate will and counsel of God the Father, to redeem such as he will call. There sits the communion table, and to sit on Christ’s right hand, or His left, is not even His to give (Mark 10:40) much less can a place be granted or assumed by mere human agency, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared from the foundation of the world, (Mark 10:40, Ephesians 1:3-5)

And when the body assembles together, if you are a church member, then you should be there, because His blood was shed for you. It is for God’s pleasure, God’s purpose, and God’s will, that you join a church and gratefully take part in the communion supper in remembrance of what God has done for you.

What Exactly Are The Elements, Bread And Wine?

Most Christians have a fairly clear understanding of the wine as the obvious red liquid representing Christ’s blood shed in payment for our sins and the purchase of our souls, but frequently less clearly understand or even much discussed in today’s churches is the symbolism of the bread. Adherents of the Roman Catholic cult claim that it ‘transubstantiates’ into Christ’s body, and once ingested, imparts holiness and saving grace to the recipient, or at least, the world’s millions of nominal Catholics misunderstand it to do so. Protestants of course reject the error of transubstantiated bread, but what teaching on the meaning of the bread in the communion service do they put in its place? Very little in fact, to the detriment of the communion service and to the church itself. So we must go to scripture to learn what the bread teaches us about the Church and the Communion.

1 Corinthians 11:23 “The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread… …and broke it, and said ‘Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you – This do in remembrance of me’”.

Paul then writes to the church of God which is at Corinth “For we being many are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:6, Paul writes to the body of Christ which is at Corinth about discipline. There was one heretical member of the body there, and Paul says to them “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”.

‘Leaven’ is another word for ‘yeast’, and it is yeast which makes dough rise in bread. Always in scripture, the word leaven is used to illustrate sin. Paul is saying that leaven represents heretical or discordant church members, and that one disobedient and uncorrected church member, will in time spoil and corrupt all the other members until the whole body is sick and corrupt.

One piece of yeast in the dough will spoil the whole lump of dough. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel. One dirty bacterial germ in a cut finger makes the whole hand get infected and swell up if it isn’t treated, and must be amputated if left too late.

Yeast in dough is like that. It is an infector. It makes the lump of dough swell up. One lump. One loaf. One Church. Not several lumps, or several loaves, but one loaf. Paul is describing conditions in one local church.

Thus, the ideal stipulation for bread to be used in the communion service of a local church is to use one loaf of unleavened bread (and this again indicates a numerically small optimum church-membership size) – Unrisen, without yeast – Flatbread, such as crackers or pitta bread. One loaf to portray Christ’s one sinless body, broken into pieces specifically for the members who God has placed in that local church.

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. One lump. But how can a little leaven leaveneth several lumps of dough? The answer is, it can’t, if it is only one lump. It is a careless Jewish cook indeed, who when preparing Passover bread, allows leaven to get into not just one breadcake, but all of them! Thus it is carelessness to allow heresy to spread from church to church, like leavening yeast which spreads from loaf to loaf of bread which is supposed to be unleavened. So to prevent this, church members should not drift from church to church. Those who do, tend to be heretics and other kinds of troublemakers within the local church, who must be dealt with by church discipline. And discipline begins with self-discipline which in turn begins with the self-examination which scripture instructs us is a prerequisite to partaking in the communion supper. (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Should Not the Communion Table’s Special Virtue be Available to All Christians?

The communion supper is not an impartation of grace. It is not a ‘topping up’ of spirituality. It is not a bonus or a treat. It is not an ice cream. It is the prescribed solemn opportunity for self examination and judgment of your own performance as a member in your local church.

Churches who refuse communion to visiting believers, or even to visiting preachers, are not judging such visitors. But they are setting up and maintaining conditions which will encourage a visitor to make a more effective job of judging himself.

For as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:31, “if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged”. Verse 27 says that a man must be allowed to examine himself and then allowed to eat the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. This self-examination can only be done properly in the context of your Christian service as a member within the local assembly of Christ’s body, within the fellow members who God has been pleased to set you in, that is, within your own church. This self examination can only be done in the context of your relationships with fellow members of that local church that God has already placed you in. It is self-examination of your relationship to Christ as a member of His body, and your relationship to other members of that local body, and is therefore a pointless and heretical exercise to attempt such examination in a church of which you are not a member, for you have already transgressed by forsaking the assembly of your own church, and all you are doing is presuming upon Christ’s grace while in a state of recalcitrance.

Christ’s local church is not a ‘drop-in centre’ for Christians on the road. The world is full of ‘spiritual gypsies’ who claim to be so experienced and enrichened with wisdom because they have travelled from church to church, possibly all around the world, picking up what seems to them to be the cream of the teaching they want to hear, a little bit here and a little bit there. But in doing this, they become their own judge, and are in fact more likely to be immature, intractable and selfish Christians, refusing to be bound by any accountability to the body of Christ or to fellow Christians. They ‘encamp’ in a church just long enough to feel their conscience urging them to volunteer for something they don’t want to do… And then they move on without ever having conformed themselves to membership in Christ’s body. The closed communion table screens out this type of parasitical vagrant.

‘Members only’ communion ensures that members remain faithful, and that spiritual gypsies are left in no doubt as to the seriousness of their offence in refusing to commit themselves to one local church. It is a simple and easy to understand contract: No commitment – No communion.

In Romans 13, Paul says “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers”. And for Christians, that naturally includes the higher power of Christ and his church. ‘Subjugation’ is not a popular word these days, but it is a Biblical concept, for subjugation is the act of bringing someone into subjection and it is the command of Christ for church members to be subjected to each other in the local church (Gal 5:13). “Serve one another by love”. As church members we are to be under the control of each other, for the sake of love. A man and wife are under the control of each other for the sake of love. That is Biblical subjection. It is a good word, a positive word, and it describes what church membership between members is all about. The heart in subjection to the mind, the nose in subjection to the hand.

The closed communion table also screens out wolves who come into churches and steal sheep. Never let a wolf think that what he is doing is okay, and more importantly, never let the sheep think that what the wolf is doing is okay. Closed communion cannot stop wolves stealing sheep, but it can often make it easier to identify them sooner, because they will often be the first to object to closed communion, because an open communion table allows them an instant guise of respectability.

Are Christians Allowed to Judge One Another in a Church?

The communion supper is God’s appointed time and place for church discipline. Discipline in the local New Testament church has largely gone out of fashion these days, but in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul discusses discipline, and says that the leaven must be purged out of the church. He says that fornicators, coveters, extortioners, drunkards, idolaters, slanderers and argumentative people should be purged out, literally expelled from the membership, temporarily or permanently. Titus 3:10: “A man that is an heretick, after the first and second admonition, reject.”

The definition of a heretic is someone who chooses a different belief to that commonly held by the body of which he is a member, and does not keep it to himself, but teaches his different belief to other members, either actively, or by example, and can therefore potentially instigate a division in the body, that is, in the local church.

2 Timothy 2:25 says “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”

This teaches us that the ideal is for the disciplined member who has been expelled, to repent and come back in to fellowship, and be unreservedly forgiven, as Christ said, seventy times seven times, if necessary.

Every parent knows the sobering effect that being excluded from family activities can have on a disobedient child. After spending time alone in its room, the child misses the rest of the family, and is willing to repent and return to resume normal family life.

According to the same principle, the church member under discipline should not be kept company with, nor eaten with, nor even spoken to, except with a view to encouraging his repentance, and that with the consent of the church leadership. 1 Corinthians 5:11 unequivocally instructs this. Paul is not referring to fellowship with unbelievers in this verse, (he dealt with them in the previous verse) for he says “brother”, so the object of this verse is fellow Christians (members or would-be members) within the church. Paul then reinforces this ruling in verse 12: “judge them that are within (the church)” and in verse 13 “put away (‘expel’) from among yourselves (“yourselves” meaning ‘the church membership’) that wicked person”. Thus, the church member under discipline should not be allowed to attend any church meetings and services, and that naturally and especially includes the communion supper.

The member under discipline should be fully reminded of what it used to be like to be a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope, without God in the world, in darkness, before the glorious light of Christ first shone into his heart. He needs to remember that he is but dust, but a vapour, wretched and miserable, poor, blind and naked. He needs to be brought to a state where he remembers his first love, remembers Christ, and repents and does the first works, and returns to his brethren, repentant and recommitted.

The communion supper, being a moment of focus on the church’s performance as the locally assembled body of Christ, is the natural and obvious time and place for open declaration and explanation of a member’s absence, the official announcement and conducting of discipline, and also for the introduction and induction of new converts and members.

An open communion table is thus a weak link in the discipline of the local church, for it disrespects and therefore destroys the boundaries of jurisdiction which give meaning, structure, and disciplinary leverage to the local assembly as being the body of Christ. It is therefore modern fallacy to suggest that church members are interchangeable between different local churches, for such a practice allows no meaningful or effective method for the enforcement of admonition and rejection which Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 5:7-11, 2 Timothy 2:25 and Titus 3:10. An open communion table also allows visitors from other churches to wrongly forget that they have a disciplined responsibility to their own church, and it allows Christians to wrongly forget that they are the nose, or the ear or the hand of the body of Christ, and that their home church has a nose missing, and that if they circumvent the system by seeking refuge in another church, that other church does not need two noses.

Churches who extend fellowship and admit to their communion table a visiting Christian who is under discipline from another church (his own) for heresy or ungodly living, commit the same crime as that wayward member himself, just as whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery, (Luke 16:18), and it shall be charged against that second church, and the church officers concerned shall give account to God for their part in the erosion of the sanctity and effectiveness of the Lord’s church by giving a church home to the incontinent and the heretic. Rev 1:11, 2:12-16. Amnesty can only be granted by the original church of which the member was in communion. But for a member under discipline to run away instead to another church where his heresies or sins are either unknown, condoned, or forgiven, is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was (James 1:23-24).

Are Not Likeminded Churches Allowed to Share Communion Together?

Not even ‘Likeminded sister churches’ or ‘likeminded brethren’ should share communion.

The communion service is frequently used as a tool to promote so-called evangelical unity, in which Protestants and Roman Catholics get together for shared communion services. On a fundamental level, not only does this completely jar with the correct definition of the church as already outlined in previous articles, but moreover, it is especially important to note that ecumenicalism is nothing more than a strategy invented by Catholicism to induce Protestants and non-conformists to convert to Catholicism. In all ecumenical ventures involving Roman Catholicism, it is noticeable that it is always the Catholics who call the tune and set the terms of the merger. At ‘interfaith’ communion services, the Catholics hardly bend one jot or tittle of their liturgy and process, and it is always the unwitting Protestants who find themselves partaking in a Catholic mass, rather than Catholics being enticed away from papal liturgy.

As an additional extension of this long-term Roman Catholic strategy, lower key shared communion services between solely Protestant groups (Anglican, Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, and divers free evangelical fellowships) at regional and local levels are also encouraged. This is always taught and perceived by the Protestants concerned as a positive exercise in ‘discarding our differences as fellow Protestants’, but in reality, it is simply a part of the wider Roman Catholic ruse to fuse the many strands of Protestantism into a more manageable united creed which can eventually be incorporated as one unit into the Roman Catholic order, in the same way that digestion occurs in the human body to break down the many types of bulky and diverse foodstuffs on your dinner plate into the basic final chemical synthesis required for easy absorption into the human bloodstream to feed the body. Ecumenicalism at a purely protestant level is thus simply the hoodwinking Roman Catholic digestive system at work, breaking down the unwitting opposition into manageable chunks in advance of the final smooth and defenceless absorption into the Papal cult.

Therefore, sharing communion supper with other denominations and churches is obviously a dangerous and satanically authored diversion, to be heartily avoided considering its intended end and the overall weakening of doctrinal resolve which it achieves along the way.

But can completely likeminded churches with historical ties, or neighbouring churches of very similar doctrinal persuasion, or even two Strict Baptist churches hold a ‘joint communion service’, or can dear brethren ‘in good standing’ known intimately to us from other likeminded churches not likewise share in our communion? No, they certainly cannot, and must not.

To clarify the objection, let us ask the question ‘Can Christ’s body be present and complete in a church in another locality at the same time as He is present and complete in your local church?’ The answer is yes. Because Christ said that wherever two or three are gathered, etc etc, there would He be”, the body of Christ is discretely yet wholly present in both local churches, that is, if they don’t forsake the assembling of themselves together. So holding a joint communion service would have no logical reason, no scriptural warrant, no profit whatsoever, only danger. That’s their church, and we’ve got ours. They are a separate body. A separate lump. They must formulate their own working relationship of corporate service to Christ in their locality. Christ probably has different plans for that church than for yours. Someone might say “Won’t it look a little stand-offish not to have a joint communion service? Kind of like ‘Us and Them’? Shouldn’t we make more of a show of unity, that the world may believe that God sent Jesus, according to John 17:23?” No. Because that idea is not according to John 17:23.

Jesus never commanded his churches to make any artificial show of ‘unity’ towards the outside world. We are not to pander to the unbelieving world’s idea of what the church of Jesus ought to look like! We are simply to preach the gospel.

If every church in the world simply got on with preaching the gospel, and each church looked tightly to its own affairs, and refused to compromise with doctrines of other so called religions and the tenets of science falsely so-called – Then the unbelieving world would soon see that us Christians were “one”.

J.C. Ryle said “Let your Christianity be so unmistakable, your eye so single, your heart so whole, your walk so straightforward, that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are, and whom you serve.” To the world, we may look foolish. But we confound the wise. We may look weak, but we confound the things which are mighty. Popular culture today however has put churches under immense pressure to trade in our apparent foolishness in exchange for the wisdom of this world. But if a church is worried that turning away so-called like-minded Christians from the communion table will deplete its numbers, then they should go out and evangelise to harvest a new crop of Christians to fill their church pews instead.

When I visit another church, I always refuse communion. But it is certainly not because I think I am better than them. It is simply because I am already a member of my own home church, and I take communion there. Even if I am visiting a Strict Baptist church exactly like my own church, and even if I know the pastor and all the members very well and on the best of friendly terms, I would still refuse their communion. Because I am not a part of their body, and it is my express duty to return to my own assembly as soon as possible and engage in my role as a member of Christ’s body in my own ekklesia. That is where God has placed me.

If a Strict Baptist church that you are visiting refuses you communion, you are not being judged, or castigated, or eternally ostracized from the whole of Christendom. It is simply assumed by that church that you are already in obedient and responsible membership of your own church.

Churches which wrongly hold an open communion, wrongly say of visitors “We assume he’s in good obedience with his home church, so we’ll give him communion”. But remember that the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrament. So a Christian does not need communion wherever he goes, to top up his salvation or spirituality as he travels, (as Roman Catholics think). For scripture teaches that ‘once saved, forever saved’, and no human endeavour can ever add to that. So if you are visiting another church, they don’t owe you anything. In fact, a correctly functioning Strict Baptist church operating a closed communion table should say: “Because we assume he’s in good obedience with his home church, we will not give him communion. We don’t need to, because we know he’s going to get it when he gets back to his own church”.

So, I am a member of a Strict Baptist church, but by refusing you communion when you visit my church, we are not judging you. We’re judging ourselves! It’s the business of your own church back home to judge you. We’re certainly not judging you. We don’t have time. We’ve got our own affairs to get on with here. We wouldn’t want to drag you into our affairs. We want you to enjoy your visit with us. We don’t want to drag you into a disciplinary procedure. You’re nothing to do with us, and were nothing to do with you. If you are out of fellowship with the Lord, then your own church should be dealing with you. Not us.

Thus, closed communion that is restricted to members-only is not an exclusion of committed believers. Rather it is the opposite, in that it is an invitation to uncommitted believers to become more committed believers, more committed to responsible participation in a local assembly of the body of Christ. More committed to our assembly, or to some other assembly closer to your home.

We exclude you because we want you to want it more. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, fasting makes the body hunger, being out of communion should make you want to be in communion, and should make you examine yourself while you are away from your home church… …and then determine to go home and get involved again where God has placed you.

An invitation to the Lord’s Supper is not something we give away cheap. Why is that so hard to understand? Jesus gave His very life to procure salvation for us, and yet people expect churches to dish out the remembrance elements of that to every Tom Dick and Harry who comes in the door? No way. You don’t get into the privileges of the Church that easily. You should either take this seriously, or else go away again, and don’t come back until you are truly hungry and thirsty enough for a part in the body of Christ to play by the rules next time. We’ll be waiting. How important is your salvation to you? The prescribed self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:27-28) prior to joining in the communion supper is designed to clarify that to you.

What About Church Members Who Go on Holiday?

A frequent objection which closed communion churches hear is “What about Christians who are visiting your church because they are on vacation? Should not they be given communion?”

The answer is no. No communion supper is necessary or should be granted to the Christian tourist. For it must be remembered that the travelling holiday is a relatively modern phenomenon. People have only been doing it for about two hundred years. In Paul’s day, people didn’t just clear off to another part of the world or the country for two or three weeks every year. They were too busy, or too poor, many of them were slaves, and the technology for high-speed travel did not exist. Just because the world changes its customs and technology is no reason for the church of Christ to change its doctrines. Remember, Christ called us out of the world, to serve Him!

It is good for travelling Christians to make a point of visiting a local house of the Lord on the Lord’s day, for no Christian should ever think that he is on holiday from the Lord. Therefore, it is even more important that Christian tourists should be made to feel homesick for their own church.

When they are excluded from communion in the holiday church, it should remind them of the bonds of fellowship they have left behind in their home church, and this should encourage them to pray for their home church, because they are still responsible to that body of Christ which they have left behind for two weeks in the pursuit of leisure, and they are indeed ambassadors for it.

Does a Closed Table Influence Where a Christian Chooses to Live?

Membership of your church should be more important than where you take your vacation, or even where you live. If you ever think of moving house to another area, because of more comfort, or easier travelling to work, you should always first consider if there is a good Bible-believing church in the area to which you are thinking of going. If there isn’t, then don’t move there, unless you are capable of starting a new church there yourself.

It is a fact of record that many fine, active Christians fall away from the faith, leave church completely, fall into sin and become adulterers and even murderers. This sad chain of events often begins when they move house to a different area, an area with no church. They wanted a bigger house. Or a ‘safer’ neighbourhood to live in. Or their employer promoted them to a different regional office. For whatever reason, they thought they were moving to something better. But in becoming geographically disconnected from their church, their life changed to something worse.

Oh, how the world would change if Christians started moving and migrating, not to places where there was better employment, or more sunshine, or a more convenient railway station, but to places where there was a needy church. Or better still, never move at all and stay in their home church. “No thanks boss, I don’t want that promotion, because my local church needs me to stay here.” That would be following Jesus. (Matthew 4:18-20). That would be understanding the will of God for your life.

Christians should stop thinking that God uses the circumstances which human society arranges as opportunities to work His purpose in our life, and start thinking instead that we should be using the instructions in the Bible to work God’s purpose in human society.

By exercising faith, we can take control of our social surroundings for God’s use and glory, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (Ephesians 3:20)

We can be active, not passive, for as God is not a slave to human culture, neither need Christians be enslaved to it. Christians have the power to reverse the status quo and influence and govern human culture. Historically, we accomplished this before, establishing a widespread western Christian culture in the 19th century, there is doctrinally nothing to stop us accomplishing it again in this church age, and one day we shall also yet again govern universally under Christ’s rule. 1 Corinthians 6:2 says “Do ye not know that the saints (you and I) shall judge the world?”

We should therefore start influencing circumstances instead of letting circumstances influence us. Instead of saying “Oh dear, people have to move around so much these days because of modern employment trends, that we’d better have an open communion table”, we should say, “Be not conformed to the image of this world” (Romans 12:2) and close our communion table, stop moving around, stay with our church and watch what happens next. We would see a change! The Bible repeatedly records how God accomplished extraordinary things through the lives of believers who served Him by the book. Correct policy on church membership, activity and missions, flows from the correct procedure of a closed communion table.

What About Travelling Missionaries?

What about travelling missionaries who are ‘on the road’ all their life? Should they be given communion when they visit another church, even their sending church? No, because a missionary, wherever he is in the world, should never be too far away from his home church to be able to get back there regularly to take communion. This reinforces the purpose of missions, to plant churches. The missionary should therefore concentrate on planting a church wherever in the world he has been sent, and then call it his home church and join it as a member. The local church on his mission-field, or the one he has planted himself, should be the one in which he takes communion.

This begs the question, what is a missionary? Is a missionary an evangelist who constantly jets around the world spending only a few days or months evangelising a place and then rapidly moving on to somewhere different? No, it cannot be, because that would mean that the missionary had no local church to take communion in. A Biblical missionary is one who plants a church, and having planted it, joins it, and subjects himself to the service and love and discipline of the body membership of Christ in that local church. He does not need to jet back to his home country to take communion. If someone walked into our own church and said “I’m a missionary, let me take communion with you”, our answer should be “No, there is no need for us to open our table to you. We don’t have what you need. What you need is communion with your home church, back wherever you’ve just come from. Go take communion there, back where it has a meaning for you. It has no meaning for you here”.

If a missionary plants many churches in different places all over the world, he should pick the one that seems to need him the most, or the one that’s easiest to get to, and join it, and take communion there. And that will be where his responsibility as a church member and child of God will be based.

It is true that missionaries often need to be away from their mission field (that is, their communion church), for long periods of several months, for deputation, medical reasons, other complications, or furloughs of half a year or more. In such circumstances, they should (with the church’s permission) take communion in (or perhaps even temporarily join) whatever available and like-minded local church is most conveniently located during this interruption to their usual work and location on the mission-field.

We can see then, how the correct Biblical administration of the Lord’s Supper dictates the correct Biblical way of doing missions. Not the other way round. A proper scriptural management of the Lord’s Supper that is to say, Closed Communion, is the beginning and the centre of church life and management. Communion isn’t just something extra that we do on the side. It’s the focal point of what we should be doing as a church, and all other Christian activities flow from it and are governed by the meaning of a closed communion supper.

Are There Any Benefits to a Closed Table?

We might get lots of other things in our church management wrong at first. But if we get the Lord’s Supper right, making it a closed table for members only, the rest of everything we have to do will fall into place correctly.

An open communion table is the beginning of bringing error, impotency and misery into the church. But a closed communion table will dictate the correct procedures for a healthy, empowered, industrious and happy local church. As I repeatedly stress, everything flows from the communion table. The communion table is the heart of your church. The way you have it set up will determine the way the whole church is set up, and will determine the flavour and effectiveness of everything the church does. It’s like the steering wheel on a car. If the wheel is twisted, the car won’t drive straight. If the communion table is twisted, the church won’t drive straight.

Is the Communion Table Mandatory for a Church Member?

In the same way as church membership is not optional but mandatory for the Christian, neither is taking communion optional. It too is mandatory. It is not the right of an individual church member to refuse the supper.

Some Christians mistakenly think that it is in their individual power to discipline themselves, or to point out the faults in others within the membership, by unilaterally choosing not to partake in the communion supper, using such abstinence as an attempt to either ‘punish’ themselves, or to instigate a controversy within the membership.

This is wrong, for there are only four legitimate reasons why a person should not partake in the communion supper. These are:

1. If they are not born again.

2. If they are not baptised by immersion.

3. If they are not a member of the local church in which the communion supper is being held.

4. If they are under discipline enforced by that local church. (Indeed, in this latter case, they should not only not partake, they should not be present in the assembly at all.)

But sometimes, perfectly eligible church members choose not to partake in the communion supper for additional reasons. This is wrong, because no such additional reasons exist in scripture, and members taking it into their own hands to abstain reverses the logic and leverage by which a church can be properly managed and matured through the mechanism of closed communion. For this reason, as with error arising from an open communion table, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (1 Corinthians 11:30), for it results in the church membership being populated by self-willed and contentious grieving members, drawing attention to themselves and working only what seems right in their own eyes, without regard to their subordinate position as interdependent members in the local body of Christ as he has placed them. Thus, to the detriment of their church body as a whole, these blunderers commonly abstain for one of two main reasons, both of which are wrong. We consider these reasons in the following articles.

“I don’t Need to Partake, Because I am Offended!”

The first wrong reason for a church member refusing of his or her own accord to partake in the communion supper is that they are annoyed with someone else in the church, and so, as a visible protest, they refuse to partake in the same communion supper with them. But that is both wrong, and childish. Scripture enjoins us to make things up first with the brother we are annoyed with, and then eat the communion supper together. Matthew 18:15-17

If necessary, the communion supper for the whole church should be delayed, by hours, days or even weeks until this reconciliation has been made. Of course, if a church cannot resolve the problem within a few minutes or hours, it is an indication of how poor, loveless, unscriptural, far from the Lord, and deeply rooted its problems really are. Nevertheless, the church cannot profitably go forward as a body while a root of bitterness festers in its members. Churches today who practice a classic open communion, sidestep this issue by neither turning away communicants, nor insisting that their members be present to assemble for communion or church services in general, and it can thus readily be concluded that an open communion church is riddled with factions and petty controversies which have no concord with the gospel of light, and no system for dealing with them, thus rendering the whole church vulnerable to our adversary the devil, who, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Open communion is thus a large part of why the church has become impotent in this age. The road to Hell is most effectively paved through an open communion table.

We are therefore, with all speed, to prioritise making peace with our adversaries, especially they of the household of faith, fellow members in our local body of Christ. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:22-25). Note the prescribed order: First reconciliation, then bring the gift. “Then come and offer thy gift” in Matthew 5, precisely parallels “and so let him eat” in 1 Corinthians 11:28. Bringing the gift is mandatory, as is eating the communion supper, and the transaction of peace is not complete without it.

“So let him eat” is not a passive statement permitting some personal reservation to abstain, as the King James translation implies to those unfamiliar with 17th century grammar. On the contrary, the phrase means “and then (having examined himself and righted his wrongs) he should eat, (being now free to eat, having cleared all obstruction)”, just as the gift should be given in Matthew 5:24. A feud is not an excuse to skip the supper. Rather, the supper is the instigation to mend the feud.

The Lord’s Supper is designed as a crisis point, in the mathematical sense of the word, a parabola charting your impending progress upwards towards a crucial decisive moment of self examination and resolve, a time to focus on your spiritual position, to correct anything which needs correcting, and then prayerfully acknowledging and meditating afresh on the forgiveness that is always there at the foot of Calvary. God forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matthew 6:14-15). Addressing ourselves afresh, and regularly, to the remembrance of Christ’s propitiary sacrifice for us, safeguards us from backsliding, and nurtures spiritual maturity.

The communion supper is thus a crunch that you come to, a regular, scheduled taking of your own spiritual temperature, an occasion which forces you to examine yourself, the opposite of sitting on the fence and avoiding an issue, because ‘a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). The communion service should therefore be held monthly or even weekly in order to regularly bring church members to a point of self-examination, so that the body of Christ may be systematically purged of all evil or inexpedient behaviour, not by means of inquisition, punishment and ostracism by a draconian leadership, but in the first instance by our own individual self-examination of our service as a body-part of the church. 1 Corinthians 11:31 “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged”. The communion supper is that moment when we judge ourselves, that is to say, we examine ourselves and take steps to amend our failings during the communion service, if indeed we have not already done so (as we should) on a moment-by-moment basis every day of the month prior to the supper, knowing that Christ covers all our sins and leads us in the paths of righteousness.

“I don’t Need to Partake, Because I have Committed a Sin!”

The second wrong reason why church members sometimes abstain from the communion supper, is that, because of some recently committed sin which besets their conscience, they think themselves unworthy.

This wrongheadedness is yet another manifestation of the devilish cultural influences of Roman Catholicism, poisoning unlearned Christians and unschooled churches with the incorrect notion that the elements of bread and wine are sacraments imputing grace, thus in a wholly unscriptural and therefore misguided display of false humility, they choose to openly ‘punish themselves’ by denying themselves the supper. Those who commit this error have entirely missed the point both of the communion supper and indeed of Christ’s death, and as, significantly, this foible can sometimes arise in senior church members who profess to have known the Lord for a great many years, pastors should take note that such a demonstration might credibly be taken as a telltale symptom that the member concerned is in fact unregenerate.

Certainly, it is good for church members to be led into a few moments or minutes of silent prayer just before taking the communion supper, during which they examine themselves, but in fact a Christian’s period of self examination should be constant. We should especially spend the week leading up to the communion service in grave self examination, and even anxiety, pondering within ourselves the question “Am I worthy to eat and drink of the bread and cup, the body and blood of the Lord?” The answer to that is of course, no, on every occasion. In every case, we are unworthy to share in the propitiary body and blood of Christ. So it is both false theology, and false humility to opine that this month we are suddenly unworthy of God’s salvation, and so abstain from the supper, while last month and all months before, we were worthy of it and so did eat the supper! The truth is, we are never worthy of it! Never were and never will be.

Nevertheless, if we conclude that we are indeed less worthy, our conscience will soon prick us to make amends, for we very well know our faults and transgressions without need of giving voice to them, as does God, therefore we must make amends before the day of the communion service, so that, on the day, we can obey the command to eat and drink… yet without damnation. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) And just as in Matthew 5:24, in 1 Corinthians 11, there is no missing extra verse between verses 28 and 29, or between verses 29 and 30, no ‘get-out clause’ that says we should not partake of the communion supper. Such an exemption just isn’t there: “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup”.

Thus, as this verse clearly instructs, the injunction to church members is always to partake, even if we are in a state of sin, anger and disobedience. The guiltiness of such a state comes not from eating the supper in that state, it comes from being in that state and not resolving to correct it before we take the supper. In the parable of the wedding garment in Matthew 22:1-14, hundreds, indeed as many as could be found in the streets, were invited to the wedding, but he who was expelled from it was not expelled because he was there unworthily. He certainly was unworthy, being a mere common man from the streets and wholly unrelated to the royal family. Yet he was present for the wedding with official sanction, having been invited by the king himself, regardless of his low estate. But the reason he was expelled was because, having been invited, he disrespected his host by not dressing in the required, correct clothing for the occasion. He should have first dressed in the right clothes, and then come to the wedding. So it is with the communion supper. We should first make our peace with God and fellow church members, or at least resolve to attempt to do so, and then come to the supper and partake. The command and the whole point of the communion supper is to come and partake at all costs, having first, and without fail, resolved to correct and improve our performance as Christians. It is a self-regulating system of church discipline which also constantly reminds us that the cross and blood of Christ is always there to propitiate our sins and failings, and give us a fresh start, on at least a monthly basis. He who feels he must drag a burden of addictive and unforgiven sin around with him month after month has clearly misunderstood the gospel and is probably living in open heresy and self-damaging depravity outside of church hours. Pastors and fellow members should therefore be on watch for this type of behaviour evidenced during the communion supper, take such a one aside, and teach him the first things again, that such a sufferer of misconception may make his calling and election sure and learn the logic and joy of genuine salvation.

However, most modern churches have discarded this scriptural teaching altogether, therefore, the mistaken view of the Lord’s Supper by so-called evangelical protestants today is that everyone should be allowed to partake, but that individuals can choose not to partake. But that is incorrect. The scripturally correct Strict Baptist view is the exact opposite of the common error: Only local church members can partake, and all of their members ought to.

It is not the right of an individual church member to refuse the supper, but it is the duty of the church to exclude such a one if necessary, however, neither does any individual have the right to demand the Lord’s Supper, no, not even in his own church, because that is tantamount to demanding the grace of God, which neither you nor I deserve, and these two paradoxical sides of the same coin constitute the conflict between love and the law which was reconciled evermore for us in the death of Christ.

Will the Lord’s Table be Observed by Church Members Forever?

Eschatologically, there is in fact a time for open communion, but that time is not yet. There is a Divinely prescribed time, indeed a day in world history set aside for the practice of closed communion to cease altogether. That time is when Christ returns. 1 Corinthians 11:26: “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come”. That is to say, after He comes, we are to cease holding communion, for its purpose will then be redundant.

In recent years, many churches have discarded the doctrine of Christ’s pre-millennial return, and indeed many strands of Christendom, including destructive liberal cults such as the so-called ‘Emergent Church’ and the ‘Purpose-Driven’ movement, have deliberately ceased teaching or become woolly-headed about eschatology altogether. Those such churches who dismiss the clear scriptural teaching on Christ’s Second Coming as being “too vague to be worth teaching” or “of only secondary importance” therefore deny themselves the logic and rich encouragement of its tandem doctrine, the communion supper, and predictably, they hold an open communion table which further impoverishes their understanding of the doctrine of the communion and its specific relationship to endtime events. Liberal churches in which Satan has such a strong foothold do not like members to ponder the return of Christ, preferring instead to teach a social gospel which incorrectly emphasises a gradual spiritualization and improving of the world by human effort, undervaluing the redemptive work of Christ, and feeding on the pride of man.

We have already seen why it is wrong for churches to try to join themselves together in a show of unity by holding so-called ‘inter-church’, shared communion suppers, or to open the communion table to all-comers. But next, and finally, I will show another reason why open communion should not be conducted yet. That is because there will be a time for open communion, but that time is not yet.

It can readily be seen that it is a futile and indeed obvious practical impossibility in this church age, for the whole church of God all over the world to gather together to simultaneously partake in the Lord’s Supper. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that there will be a future time when it is God’s will for a universally shared communion supper to take place. That time is not yet, but look at what Hebrews 12:22-23 says: “ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…”

This verse is talking about the heavenly Jerusalem. The great marriage supper of the Lamb of God, when we shall all be in heaven forevermore. Verse 23 defines it as “The General Assembly” of the Church. The General Assembly is the only time that the whole church, the only time that all the Christian churches around your locality, and around the whole world, will all be together in one place. That is the only time that we can, the only time that we will, and the only time that we should, all sit down together and eat a meal around the same table… That will be our final destination, when we Christians all around the world will all truly and finally be ‘one’, because we will be assembled together in Heaven, as it is written in Revelation 19:9 – “Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb”.

Remember that Christ said “Whenever two or three of us are gathered together, (in this current earthly church age) there will He be. But that is completely different from the final marriage supper in Heaven, because for that, Christ Himself will gather us together, that where He is, there shall we be! This is significantly the complete opposite of the arrangement of the communion supper: For the final supper in Heaven, everything is reversed from how the church was in its previous earth-bound state.

Observe again how this doctrine unfolds in the scriptures:

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Ephesians 1:10: “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”

John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”.

For this reason, it is wrong for churches to try to join themselves together in open communion before Christ comes to gather us together Himself around one table.

For when Christ comes at His Second Coming, the ceremony of the communion supper will anyway be defunct and discontinued, because Christ has come and will gather us together in heaven for His supper. Christ only instructed us to do it until He comes again, because afterwards there will obviously be no point: We will no longer be on earth, but in Heaven, where He has gathered us. Faith will finally be that which is seen, not that which is hoped for. And on that day, I shall raise a glass to you and share your cup and your plate and say “Hallelujah Brother! We are finally one! The body is now complete in one place, Heaven”.

But until that day arrives, Christ has organised His church into individual, autonomous, local assemblies, in order that they might be better discipled, disciplined and organized, and the communion supper should be both the reflection, and the instrument of this period in God’s dealing with mankind that is known as The Church Age, that is to say, The Body Of Christ on earth manifested in local assemblies of Gentiles called out of the world to be grafted into the covenant of Abraham, by grace through faith in the propitiatory death and resurrection of Christ.

Adam Nixon, born in Lincolnshire, England, received a strictly non-religious upbringing, but was later saved at All Souls Anglican Church, London. He served as Associate Pastor of Bethesda Baptist Church between 1984 and 1991, then pastored Harvest Baptist Church, Lincolnshire, for six years. He and his wife moved to Rome, Italy in 1997, where he continues an itinerate ministry. In the 21st Century, observing the new worldwide power seized and consolidated by atheistic culture through the Internet, Adam was awakened to a new urgency to proclaim the gospel fundamentals.

Articles on Closed Communion (Complete)
Lectures On Closed Communion