Question About Closed Communion

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

In the past, many churches practiced “closed communion” – offered the Lord’s Supper only to members in good standing. We sometimes have questions today about who can be served the Lord’s Supper. This lesson will consider what the New Testament says relating to this idea.

Groups Under Consideration

  • Visiting Christians (non-members) – not usually an issue today, but it has been in the past
  • Unfaithful Christians – may have been withdrawn from; may be known to be in sin, but not yet disciplined
  • Non-Christians – ones who have never obeyed the gospel

Reminder: What is the Lord’s Supper?

  • Established by Christ (Matthew 26:26-29) – shortly before His death
  • Elements and what they represent (Matthew 26:26-28) – bread represents His body (Hebrews 10:5, 10; 2:14); cup (fruit of the vine) represents His blood (Hebrews 9:22, 14; Ephesians 1:7)
  • To be observed in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29) – the kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18-19); kingdom/church established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41, 47); the Lord’s Supper was observed from that point on (Acts 2:42)
  • To be observed in the assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 11:33)
  • To be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7)

Responsibility of Those Who Partake

  • Assemble with the saints – responsibility for all Christians (Hebrews 10:25); the Lord’s Supper is to be observed in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:33); therefore, to partake, we must assemble on the first day of the week
  • Remember the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:26; cf. Luke 22:19-20) – important that we partake in the right way (1 Corinthians 11:29)
  • Examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:28) – to be done in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27); the manner refers to how we partake, must do so in a worthy manner; examined by self, not by the church

Can We Offer the Lord’s Supper to…

  • Visiting Christians? … example of Paul in Troas (Acts 20:6-7) – traveling, not a member at Troas, but partook there
  • Unfaithful Christians? … social meals are restricted (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:22, 34; 2 John 10), not the Lord’s Supper – in partaking, each one examines himself (1 Corinthians 11:28)
  • Non-Christians? … assemblies are open to everyone (1 Corinthians 14:23-24) – non-Christians are not worse off for partaking (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; Galatians 3:27), should not offend unnecessarily (2 Corinthians 6:3); another possibility is that we just think one is not a Christian (Acts 2:47; 9:18, 26), and we should not prevent one from obeying the Lord’s command (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)

Conclusion

  • Our responsibility is not to judge whether or not one is qualified to partake – simply to observe the Lord’s Supper so those who wish to “do this” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) are able to do it
  • The Lord’s Supper provides an important reminder for everyone (Christians & non-Christians) about the death of Christ – sacrificed His life on the cross to make salvation possible for all
  • We need to take advantage of that sacrifice – conform to the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-5)

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