William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 22 – Strict Communion

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XXII. Strict Communion.

We believe that the Lord’s Supper is a Church ordinance, and that it is scripturally administered to such persons only as have manifested their loyalty to Christ by being baptised, and by joining and continuing in honourable membership with a Baptised Church of the New Testament Faith and Order, one, that is to say, that is commonly described as a Strict and Particular Baptist Church: and who are assembled “in one place” as a Church, for the observance of this ordinance of their Lord and Saviour.


Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor 10:17; 11:18-22


“Strict,” is here simply an abbreviation of “restricted” (re-strict-ed), and is applied to the practice of such as welcome to the Lord’s Table those only for whom they judge it is scripturally spread.

A Christian or a Church Ordinance?

Note 1.—The Lord’s Supper is commonly regarded as a general recognition of religion; and a declaration of the unity and sympathy which exist among true Christians. Thus, on “Communion Sundays” in most chapels, Ministers invite those who love Jesus to remain and join in this act of worship, and assure them that all Christians are welcome. It is also common to conclude the Sessions of religious Societies with United Communion Services, at which Ministers of all Denominations assist.[1]

Such brethren regard the Lord’s Supper as a Christian Ordinance, and conceive it to be the duty and privilege of all professed Christians—whether baptised or not—and whatever their religious convictions (if they have any,) thus to assemble, when opportunity serves, to show their affection towards the Lord and each other.

The text they adduce to support this is—“Do this in remembrance” (not of your having been baptised—not of your holding certain dogmas, or belonging to a particular Denomination, but) “of Me.” 1 Cor. 11:24,25.

This the above Article opposes, insisting it to be a Church Ordinance, and rightly observed by none but the members of a Church of the New Testament Faith and Order, assembled for this purpose, and others who, for the time being, are worshipping with them.

Baptism by Immersion is often thought to be all we require as a pre-requisite to the Lord’s Supper—some inadequate Confessions of our Faith countenancing the idea. Our real conviction is, that not Baptism only, but Membership with a Baptised Church, and what this expresses and involves, should always precede and be conjoined with this act of devotion.

This Position we prove, firstly from plain and positive Scriptures:—

The Threefold Commission, Matt. 28:19,20.

The Apostles, as the Founders of Christ’s Church, on earth, were—Firstly: to evangelise men and women of all nations. Secondly, when any became disciples—the earliest name for Christians, Acts 11:26—to baptise them. Thirdly, to “teach” these disciples or Christians “to observe all things whatsoever they had learned of the Master and, among these, the Lord’s Supper must have been included. With these precepts, their practice coincided.

This appears in Acts 2:37,42. Through God’s blessing on Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon, several “were pricked in the heart,” or savingly impressed; and thus became, ”disciples,” or Christians. On their seeking guidance, Peter enjoined them to “repent”—perhaps with special reference to their Nation’s murder of Jesus—“and be baptised.” “Then they that received his word were baptised (page 159); and in that day about three thousand souls were added unto them,”—that is, to the Church, (verse 47.)[2] Then, in accordance with their Commission, the Apostles proceeded to instruct them. Nor in vain. “They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ teaching, and in the fellowship”—namely, Church fellowship—“and in the breaking of bread” and (public and united) “prayers.”

Acts 8:6,14-17. “A great persecution” of the Church at Jerusalem followed Stephen’s death, and all but the Apostles were scattered, many fleeing to Samaria. These were joined by Philip,[3] who preached Christ to them. Many of “the people” (of Samaria) impressed by his discourses and miracles, (verse 6) believed; and thus became “disciples.” Their Baptism followed. Peter and John subsequently visited them; instructed them; formed them into a Church; prayed that they might receive the (miraculous gifts of the) Holy Ghost: and laid their hands on them. The privilege was granted. The Lord’s Supper is not indeed mentioned, but it is clear that their Church life was made paramount to all else.

That they were, as we state, formed into an organised Assembly before these supernatural favours were bestowed appears from the fact that such powers were reserved for Members of Churches. Consult 1 Cor. 12:28, and 14:4,5,19,23,28,34,35, where the word “church” occurs no fewer than eight times.

Acts 10:48. Here again, Peter’s obedience to the Master’s Commission appears. Summoned by Cornelius, he firstly so preached as to make disciples of him and his household—and as they already “feared, and prayed to God alway,” the Holy Ghost, who was the Author of the Grace they previously possessed—now fell on them with miraculous demonstration and power. Peter at once commanded some unnamed saint (doubtless one of the six, chap. 11:12) who was present, to baptise them—and then he formed them into the first Gentile Church.

The Communion certainly followed, for Peter was charged with “eating with them,” (chap. 11:3); not, of course, at common meals, but at the Supper of his and their Lord.

Paul’s conversion also exemplifies the carrying out of the great Commission, though his case was exceptional, as he became a Disciple or Christian, “not from men, neither through a man” (Gal. 1:1.) Then he was baptised by Ananias (Acts 9:18.) He subsequently remained “certain days with the Disciples at Damascus,” not as the guest of one, but in fellowship with all—namely, he here first joined a Christian Church, worshipping with its members at the Supper of the Lord.—From “Strict Communion Vindicated,” by J. C. Philpot.

Our Position is further substantiated by these considerations;—(1) “The Lord’s Supper is a social and not, like Baptism, an individual act. (2) It does not lie, like Baptism, between the giver and the receiver, or between the Pastor, and the Church. (3) It is not, like Baptism, an individual testimony to the Truth; but the collective testimony of the Church. (4) It was designed for the Church, and not, like Baptism, for individual believers. At Jerusalem we find the Church observing it (Acts 2:42.) At Troas, upon the evening of the first day of the week, the Disciples (or the Church) came together to break bread (Acts 20:7.)[4]

At Corinth, the Christians “came together to eat” (1 Cor. 1:2, and 11:33) as a Church. The sin of the schismatics who split up their Assembly into parties, when convened for the Lord’s Supper, is described as ‘despising the Church of God’ or treating the solemn Assembly with contempt (1 Cor. 11:18,22) a further proof that it was a Church act.”—William Palmer, “Free Communion,” page 47.

The case of the Eunuch is also in point (Acts 8:27-39). To him, Philip preached Jesus, demonstrating that His character and life answered to what the Prophet wrote concerning the Christ or Messiah. He must also have given a compendium of the Master’s commands—as he explained and enforced Baptism. Its sister Ordinance must also have claimed notice. To the first, prompt obedience was yielded; what, then, was more appropriate than that they should at once attend to the second rite of the Gospel? Such a traveller must have been provided with bread and wine. The occasion, was important. They might never meet on earth again. But no. To prevent the possibility of surmising what did not occur, we are told that “when (as soon as, see Luke 15:30) they were come up out of the water, the Spirit caught away Philip, etc. (verse 39.) The Ordinance which is incumbent on Members of Churches only, would here have been incongruous and unscriptural. The Eunuch, therefore, went his way—a baptised believer—doubtless to connect himself in due course with an organised Christian Community. (See also pages, 84, 154, 175, and 197.)

The accumulated testimony of the passages we have cited surely amounts to absolute demonstration of our position.

Note 2.—We prove our case from the consensus of all Baptist Communities—whether Open or Strict, General or Particular—whose final act of admitting new Members into Fellowship, invariably occurs at the Lord’s Table, when such receive the “right hand of Fellowship” (Gal. 2:9; 2 Kings 10:15.) This surely expresses the conviction that those present appear on this occasion, in their proper character as members of the family of God, associated as such by common agreement, to witness to their Christian unanimity, confidence, and love, in the most striking and solemn manner. In a word, it is only when assembled as a Church, that they receive brethren into Fellowship, that these may observe the Ordinance which is appropriate to a Church convened as such. They thus, we submit, tacitly admit the principle here advanced.

Note 3.—It is clear from the New Testament that Churoh Life was the only form of Christian Life known in the Apostolic age, which set a pattern and a precedent to all Churches to the end of time. Isolated Christians there were none, and the Lord’s Supper was perforce confined to such as were in Church fellowship.

Note 4.—Our position is established by the Nature of the Lord’s Supper itself, which, we submit, can be observed in accordance with its high design by no congregation but a Church. When such an Assembly as is described on pages 9, and 131-134, is gathered together for the “breaking of bread” then only does this Ordinance receives Scriptural and consistent attention.

Its Members are banded together as heaven-born persons, and are spiritually related; they have all been baptised; and have all received the teaching of the Holy Spirit. They all love the Truth; share the same vital experience; and are all confidently persuaded that sympathetic affection for all the rest, exists in every heart. Their mutual remembrance of Christ and their confidence in each other, thus ritually expressed, can then be sincere and hearty; seeing that they “who are many are one (loaf of) bread, one body”; in token of which they “all” consistently “partake of the one (loaf of) bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17, R.V.)

Under no other circumstances is this practicable. At a united “Communion Service,” it is impossible for those present to be sure of the above facts. Fellowship is doubtful; Communion is impossible. The whole affair is simply an interchange of religious congratulations and compliments, in Christ’s name, by means of a perverted Ordinance.

“This is not” really “to eat the Lord’s Supper” which must be the act of a Baptised Church as such. Ritual without reality is a farce—an empty show, expressing what has no actual existence. With the objects symbolised, the dispositions implied, and the actions signified, no Assembly of men and women can have a full Spiritual acquaintance, save such as are truly joined together in Church Fellowship.

Note 5.—We argue from Church discipline, which the Lord’s Supper is an important factor in maintaining. Trouble will be caused, offences given, schisms originated, errors promulgated, aud sins be committed by those in nominal Fellowship. These must first be dealt with privately—but the formal and final judgment of the united Members is to be expressed at the Lord’s Table.

Personal Offences will be given (Matt. 18:15-17). Should private remonstrance, and the pleading of two or three witnesses fail, and the man remain recalcitrant, a final appeal is to be made to the Church (here for the socond time mentioned), which, if he neglect to hear, he is to be denied the privileges of Christian fellowship, of course including the Lord’s Supper, and treated as “an heathen man, and a publican.”

Schisms or divisions in the Church will be originated. These Paul deprecates (1 Cor. 12:25), and blames the Corinthians for their existence (1 Cor. 1:10.) Those who cause them are to be marked and avoided, and, promptly, excluded from the holy Rite which expressly testifies to the unity of the Body. (Rom. 16:17,18.)[5]

Errors will be promulgated, which should be dealt with, (1 Cor. 11:19.) “Men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth,” (1 Tim. 6:5), will foist their views on others. “They will creep in unawares,” Jude 4. The Antinomian will “turn the grace of our (not “their”) God into (a plea for) lasciviousness.” The heretic will “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ,” R.V., by repudiating His eternal Deity and everlasting Sonship, and subtly substituting forms of Sabellianlsm or Socinianism for them.

The duty of Christians towards such is plain. “A man that is a heretic, after a first and second admonition, reject (or avoid),” Titus 3:10. “Mark them which are causing” “the occasions for stumbling contrary to the doctrine (or teaching) which ye learned, and turn away from them.” Rom. 16:17, R.V.

How were Titus, in the discharge of his pastoral duties, and the Saints at Rome in response to Paul’s appeal, thus to act, save by the exclusion of the offender from the Lord’s table, which would be impossible were not this a Church ordinance, and subject to the jurisdiction of its Members as a whole.

A sound Christian who is so unwise as to attend a meeting for united Communion, or worship with an open Communion Church may see Arians, or grace-hating professors, or unbaptised persons, or those who are opposed to organised Christianity present. He can have no “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) with these—but his lips are sealed. He cannot “avoid” them, or turn away from them. His “eating with them” is a tacit assent to their views. He unites with them as trustworthy brethren, though he hates their errors.

The incongruity is avoided by keeping the Table of the Lord where only it should be—within the borders of a Scripturally constituted Church of Christ.

The Lord’s Table must be observed as a Church Ordinance, to afford Christians the opportunity for expressing abhorrence of open sin. At Corinth one of their number was guilty of flagrant wickedness. Paul commands the Church, when gathered together in the Lord’s name, to excommunicate him, or put him away from among themselves, and exclude him from their Communion, and forbids their keeping company with “any man” though “called a brother” if guilty of one of the six sins enumerated. With the world they as a Church had nothing to do. With one of their members they had. “Therefore put away from you that wicked person.” “With such an one, no, (ye are) not to eat”—and eating at the Lord’s Supper is clearly implied, further proving it to be a Church Ordinance. (1 Cor. 5:4,10,11,13.)[6]

Article xxii. enforces a fundamental principle of the Order which our Churches maintain. Disprove it, and the super­ structure falls; establish it, and our position is impregnable.

The Lord’s Supper—not a means of Grace for Invalids and the Dying.

Note 6.—The Popish Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Protestant Sacrament (or Ordinance) of the Lord’s Sapper, are vitally different. Some Protestants, however, manifest a serious leaning toward the former. The “Orders” for the “Visitation” and “Communion for the Sick,” are the most sacerdotal services in the Liturgy. Some Dissenters also send bread and wine from the Lord’s Table to bed-ridden Members, especially those that are apparently dying; which is a grave perversion of this sacred Rite. It is not, as the Church of Rome asserts, a Viaticum—affording “provision for the way” to those whose souls are shortly to leave this world for that “undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.”

The practice has no warrant in Scripture, while it is fraught with the great peril of producing superstitious reliance upon a mere Ceremony.

Earlier Dissenters sedulously eschewed it. The Assembly’s “Confession of Faith” (1643) states that “the Lord hath appointed His Ministers…to take and break the Bread, and to take the Cup, and to give both to the Communicants,” but “to none who are not then present in the Congregation,” xxix. 3. Gill also insists that the Lord’s Supper, “being a Church Ordinance, is not to be administered privately to single persons, but to the Church assembled as such for this purpose.”—Body of Divinity, (1769.)

It is in substance to be found in many of the “Articles of Faith” of our Churches, and it is implied in all, “that the Lord’s Supper is an Ordinance of a Church, and should be administered to those Members only who are assembled in one place for its observance.”

If this seems harsh, we submit that obedience to God’s Word is paramount to romantic sentiment.

“Sick-room sufferers need not [therefore] be anxious. The Lord’s Supper is not binding [upon any] unless they are able to join those who ‘are gathered together into one place’ (Acts 20:7,8, and 1 Cor. 11:20), ‘in His name’ This is a useful point to mark, for I constantly meet with sick people who have a half-superstitious feeling of uneasiness, if they cannot receive ‘the Sacrament.’”—Dr. C. Stanford. Letter to Dr. A. B. Grosart, “Memories and Letters,” page 180.


[1] For instance the Mildmay Gatherings, and the Pastors’ College Conference.

[2] Note on verse, 42.—“In the fellowship.” “Not the Apostles’ fellowship as the order in our version suggests.” Church fellowship is intended. Note on verse 47.—Neither “such as should be saved” nor “those that were being saved” R.V. Is happy. “Those that were in the way of salvation,” Alford, is preferable. The R.V. Omits “to the church” but David Brown, D. D., gives strong reasons for retaining it.

[3] This Philip was not the Apostle (John 1:43 and 14:8), but a Deacon, and subsequently “the Evangelist.” (Acts 6:5 and 21:8.) Thus, as such, he had authority to “make disciples” and to “baptise;” but to found Churches was the exclusive work of the Apostles.

[4] The literal translation of the most correct text would be:—“And on the first day of the week, we haying been gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them.”—On the Lord’s day, “we,” namely the Church at Troas, as the regular “Worshippers, and Luke, with Paul and the seven brethren mentioned in verse 4, as transient Communicants, “having been gathered together” (the same word in the same form is found in verse 7 and Matt. 18:20), Paul discoursed with them, that is the members of the Church to whom his remarks were specially addressed. The word rendered “discoursed” is dialego-mai (page 61) perhaps meaning that he encouraged those, to whom he spoke, to state difficulties or ask questions—clearing up these points as he proceeded.

[5] The word here is not schisma, as in 1 Cor. 1:10, which denotes an open and evident rent in the Church—and the actual separation of some; but dicho-statia, “a standing apart,” and indicates the first stage of this form of evil. One or two malcontents hold themselves aloof, in surly and selfish isolation. This is the sin of dichostatia. Others sympathise with and follow them as sheep a bell-wether. Thus “by good words and fair speeches” they “deceive the hearts of the simple.” A breach or schism (schisma) is made, and a “split” occurs.

[6] It were well if the obsolete custom of publishing the names of those whom the Church has excluded, at the next gathering for the Communion, were revived. Such were received at the Lord’s Table, and the termination of the Fellowship, then formerly recognised, should be as publicly proclaimed, in the same way. The Plymouth Brethren “read out” those that have been withdrawn from; and their frank manliness puts us to shame. (1 Cor. 16:13.) The act is most solemn and affect­ ing. and—when followed by Newton’s hymn “When any turn from Zion’s way’’—should be fraught with profit”.

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)