As we have been having our children present for our entire worship service, a question my kids ask me almost every Sunday is, “Dad, can I take the Lord’s Supper?” I love that they are asking! This season offers us a unique opportunity for us to think through or reexamine how to teach our kids about these important ordinances and what their participation should look like. Here are a couple thoughts as we seek together to better understand and live out these important parts of the Christian faith.
Scripture teaches that baptism is a one time event that signifies:
- identification with Christ,
- initiation into the Christian faith, and
- entrance into the Christian church.
Lots of passages point this way, and I won’t list them all, but think for example about the Great Commission (we are commanded to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit – Matthew 28:19), or multiple references in Acts, where people are baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:39, 8:16; 10:48), or the Epistles, where Paul speaks of being baptized into Christ and into the body (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5). Also consider, 1 Cor. 12:13 where Paul says that by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. In other words, baptism is what identifies someone with Christ and unites someone to the church. We also see this in Acts 2, where people repent, believe, and are baptized and thus are “added” to the church (Acts 2:38-41). Baptism does not save us (Romans 10:9), but it is the first step after we have place our faith in Jesus (Acts 2:38).
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is not a one time event, but meant to be something that we do on an ongoing basis (“as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup do this in remembrance of me”). The Lord’s Supper signifies:
- fellowship with Christ,
- continuance in the Christian faith,
- and unity with the Christian church.
This is especially clear in 1 Cor. 10:16-17, where Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” This shows us that communion involves both a special fellowship (“participation”) with Jesus and symbolizes our unity with the “one body” of Christ (“we who are many are one body”).
Baptism Precedes Communion
At Christ Church, we practice “open communion”. We believe that the Lord’s Supper should be open to anyone who has placed their faith in Him. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1Co 11:27-28 ESV) We see in this passage that the individual is directed to examine themselves. Asking questions like
- Why am I taking the Lord’s Supper?
- Am I actively remembering Christ and proclaiming Christ, or are there other motives?
- Do I have unconfessed sin that I need to bring before the Lord?
Taking the Lord’s supper is not a rote religious action. It is meant to be a moment of spiritual intimacy with God. That’s why you’ll hear us also refer to it as communion. We believe that communion should be open to anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus. You do not need to be a member of Christ Church or baptized in order to be welcomed at the Lord’s Supper.
However, since baptism is an initial profession of faith, and the Lord’s Supper (Communion) is an ongoing, continual, and repeated renewal of faith, it doesn’t seem to make sense for someone to participate in a renewal of faith through communion, if they’ve never professed faith through their baptism. The pattern we see in the Bible is always baptism first, followed by communion. So in Acts 2, for example, it is only those who are baptized and added to the church in verse 41 who then participate in the breaking of bread in verse 42. In 1 Corinthians, when Paul talks at length about communion (in chapter 11), the assumption from earlier in the letter (chapter 1) is that he is writing to baptized Christians. There are no examples in Acts or the Epistles of unbaptized people taking communion.
So whether you are considering taking communion for yourself, or helping your child think through whether they should take it, we’d encourage you to first start with considering baptism. This is why you’ll probably start hearing us say things during the Lord’s Supper like, “Scripture calls us to examine ourselves, to consider whether we have placed our faith in Christ and are living that faith out. We want to take a moment for all of us to bow our heads in prayer and spend some time before God in sober reflection and bring our hearts before him. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, we would encourage you publicly professing that faith through baptism as your first step, before taking the Lord’s Supper. Any one of our pastors would love to talk with you more about baptism. Let’s go before the Lord now in prayer.” Then we are looking to leave some space in prayerful examination before we invite you to come forward to receive the Lord’s Supper.
I look forward to continuing to celebrate the gospel of Jesus with you all through our celebration of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper.