Why Closed Communion?
I don’t want to insult your intelligence. I know that the controversy in the topic of communion is the closed, close, and open issue. Controversy has built in heat, hence interest. Who doesn’t want interest in what he writes? And then on one of these hot button subjects, pride could get involved. “I have the best things to say on controversial matters. What I have to say or write will settle the issue.” Doesn’t sound like love is abounding more and more. So, to start I don’t want this to be to stir interest or to write the last word on it. With that being said, I think I’m right in my position, but that will be for you to judge.
Our church once practiced close, that is, we allowed those from churches of like faith and practice to participate with us when visiting. During that period, I was under conviction every time for opening the Table to others outside our church. I thought I was wrong. Why didn’t I change? A few reasons. First, I think it was because I hadn’t studied enough to prove the closed position. Second, I didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Third, I assumed that Paul partook when he visited his churches. Fourth, I didn’t think it mattered enough. However, I was still under conviction every time. I’m telling you that now, but I subconsciously didn’t feel they were enough reasons to change.
What convinced me of closed was 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17. Since becoming persuaded, I have been challenged on that several times, and it still works for me in conjunction with a few other texts.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
The bread is the communion (koinonia, “fellowship”) of the body of Christ. Only the body of Christ fellowships at the Lord’s Table. If we practice open or close, we bring people outside of the body into the Lord’s Table. The Lord’s Table, however, is the fellowship of the body of Christ. That’s it. Close and open involve more than the body of Christ, therefore, they do not obey this verse.
This starts with the definition of the body of Christ. That was established in 1 Corinthians 12:27.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
The church at Corinth was the body of Christ. I do not want to confuse the Scriptural understanding of the body of Christ with my practice of the Lord’s Table. I do not want to pervert the right view of fellowship. The Lord’s Table is a communion of each church, not of all believers. I do not want to devalue church membership. We worship God at the Lord’s Table and I want to regulate my worship based upon what God said in His Word. He says that a local church is the body of Christ.
The ordinances were delivered to the local church. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:2:
[K]eep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
They are church ordinances. If the church is local only, then the Table should be limited to only church members. By including non-church members, we are redefining the church. Misunderstanding the church dishonors God and causes many related problems. The church is designed to keep the truth, so people better know what it is. The ordinances were delivered to the church, so should be exclusive to the church.
What about Paul at Troas in Acts 20? He wasn’t a member there.
When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed (Acts 20:11).
We cannot be sure what “broken bread” is in Acts 20. It may be a meal. Since it is inconclusive, we should follow the clear passage in 1 Corinthians 10. If “broken bread” is the Lord’s Table in Acts 20, then what was Paul doing with a ship full of unbelieving sailors in Acts 27?
33 Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. 35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. 36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. 37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
Was Paul encouraging unbelievers to take the Lord’s Table with him? Of course not. So “breaking bread” is not always the Lord’s Supper; sometimes it is a meal.
With the absence of any other reason for close communion, we should follow the clear teaching; interpret the less plain in light of the plain. We should practice closed communion. We should exclude the Lord’s Table from everyone except those in the membership of our own church.