Monday, March 23, 2009

Why I Believe in Closed (Close, or Strict) Communion

The first thing that I must address here is terminology. Not all people mean the same thing by "closed communion." Some, when they hear the term assume that it means that only those who are members of a particular church are admitted to partake of communion. I don't believe in this, and I don't think that this is historically what is meant by the term "closed communion." What I believe this historically meant is that baptism is a prerequisite for communion. It's also called "strict communion." It is a practice that Baptists have historically been maligned for because we do not permit those who were so called "baptized" as infants to participate in communion in our churches--though we recognize that they may be genuine Christians. Baptists have been called bigoted for this practice. Even some Baptists have shied away from this practice because we don't want to offend our gospel believing friends. However, I think that if one is convinced that the Bible teaches believer baptism and wants to be consistent in practice, closed communion is the logical position to hold. There are more reasons for this than I care to go into here; however, I will list a few:

1) Everyone practices some type of closed communion. No one would admit unbelievers to the Lord's Table. One has to draw a line at some point, or communion would be a meaningless event.

2) All other denominations have historically seen baptism as a prerequisite for membership. Baptists are actually in agreement with the majority of the Christian tradition in maintaining that Baptism is a prerequisite for communion. I once went to visit an Episcopal church, just to observe, and when it was time for the "Eucharist," the rector invited "all baptized Christians" to partake. In practicing closed communion, Baptists do not practice anything different regarding communion than other denominations--we just disagree about what baptism is.

3) Baptists, by definition, believe that baptism is an ordinance for believers only. This means that when an infant is sprinkled it is NOT baptized at all. If a Baptist is consistent, he will not recognize an infant baptism, or even a sprinkling, a legitimate baptism at all. With this being the case it is not that Baptists are making a judgment about the salvation of those who are so called "baptized" as infants. We are making a judgment about the legitimacy of their baptism. If they are not baptized at all, then according to my reason #2 above, they ought not be admitted to communion in any church.

These are just a few arguments for why I believe in closed communion. This is not an exhaustive list, and I admit that I haven't even begun to make a Scriptural argument yet. The case that I make here is based on history and logic. I admit this, and I am prepared to use Scripture to defend the case that I am making here.

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