By Wayne Crocker
Many denominations practice open communions of one form or another. Some make communion available to any and all who wish to participate. Others place some restrictions, but still allow those of other denominations to join with them in the service.
Primitive Baptists are sometimes criticized for our practice of closed communion. We invite only those who are members of our local church and other Primitive Baptist churches in fellowship with us to participate in this ordinance of the church.
Let me emphasize again that we do not do this because of a “holier than thou” feeling. We believe there are many good people who are following the Lord Jesus Christ in the best way they know, who do not understand some of the fundamental truths held by Primitive Baptists. They are blessed of God as they endeavor to follow Jesus according to the light or knowledge they have.
Yet, there are significant differences between what they believe and practice and what Primitive Baptists believe the scripture teaches. If this were not true there would be no point in having demominational distinctions. We would all be one body.
There is no place where unity or oneness is more important than at the communion table. Even in a local church, if there are divisions or differences among the membership that are significant, the church should postpone communion until unity can be restored. There would certainly be no such unity of other beliefs. Amos 3:3 teaches that two cannot walk together except they be agreed.
Completely open communion would not even require baptism of any kind. But, communion that would allow those who have been baptized into other denominations to participate is still considered open communion. We do not believe the scriptures permit us to engage in communion with those of other denominations. To do so would be to recognize their baptisms as valid, there is no need for separate bodies of religion. Can you imagine anything more confusing than having Primitive Baptists, Southern Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals all trying to worship the Lord together? As mentioned in last month’s article, we know that only baptized believers were able to participate in communion. “The first communion included Jesus and the apostles, all having been baptized. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:20-30 show this service is observed by the church – with the church being composed by baptized believers (Acts 2:41-47).”
Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for the way they were attempting to carry on communion. The first problem was that there were divisions and heresies among the church as they came together (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). Due to this and other attitudes, Paul lets them know that what they are engaging in is not communion: “When you come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20). The “therefore” refers back to the divisions and heresies that existed among the membership. Those who hold differing views on some of the basic doctrines of the Bible are not able to come together to eat the Lord’s Supper.
The church must not allow those who practice certain sins to remain in fellowship and engage in communion. Paul writes: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11). The phrase “not to eat” would certainly include the Lord’s Supper.
The church is not to pass public judgement on individuals who are not of the church body in the above matters, but only within the church membership. This is another reason why the Primitive Baptists cannot scripturally engage in communion with those who are members of various denominational churches.
The Primitive Baptists open their communion to all repentant sinners who want to be a part of the church body by being scripturally baptized in water into the fellowship of the church. The scriptures will not allow us to do more.Yours in hope,Elder Wayne Crocker