Open and Closed Communion

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The question, “Who has right to participate in the Lord’s supper?” is a controverted issue among Sabbath keepers today.

Almost all the fallen churches make no distinction between members and non-members on this point.  Outsiders – Protestants, Pentecostals, Catholics or Spiritualists – who wish to participate in the communion together with church members, are welcome.

A similar practice, sad to say, has also been introduced among Sabbath-keepers who profess to be giving the threefold message to the world.  When the ordinances are celebrated, visitors from other churches are invited to participate.  This liberal stand in behalf of open communion is based on misinterpreted Spirit of Prophecy statements, which will be discussed further down.

The Passover

Before the meaning of the communion service can be properly understood, it is necessary to have a clear concept of the Passover feast.  The Passover was instituted during the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.  The Lord commanded Moses to give specific and detailed instruction concerning its celebration.

Exodus 12:3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth [day] of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of [their] fathers, a lamb for an house:  4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take [it] according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.  5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take [it] out from the sheep, or from the goats: 

The Passover feast was for the Jewish people a memorial of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt.  In it they would remember how the destroying angel spared the lives of the firstborn.  It was not a pleasant or joyous party.  A lamb had to be slain, its blood had to sprinkled on the doorposts, and its flesh had to be eaten with bitter herbs, in haste, as the people had their loins girded, in readiness to go.  Many Egyptians sought protection in the homes of God’s people, but they could not take part in the Passover feast.  Those who wished to participate had to be circumcised first.

Exodus 12:43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This [is] the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:  44 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.  45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.  46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.  47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.  48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.  49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.   

Summarising

“There shall no stranger eat thereof;”  “A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof;”  “No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof;”

Whoever wished to take part in it had to be circumcised first. The flesh of the lamb was not to be carried abroad, “out of the house,”

The congregation of Israel, not a mixed multitude, should keep it.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 

The Passover was not only commemorative but also typical.  The lamb without blemish represented the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

The Lords Supper

When the Saviour yielded up His life on Calvary, the significance of the Passover ceased, and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was instituted as a memorial of the same event of which the Passover had been a type.  PP 539.   

  The Passover was ordained as a commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God had directed that, year by year, as the children should ask the meaning of this ordinance, the history should be repeated. Thus the wonderful deliverance was to be kept fresh in the minds of all. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was given to commemorate the great deliverance wrought out as the result of the death of Christ. Till He shall come the second time in power and glory, this ordinance is to be celebrated. It is the means by which His great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds.  {DA 652.3} 

The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of our salvation through Christ’s sacrifice.  As we look back, we see the Jewish people showing their faith in the coming Saviour by partaking of the Passover lamb.  And we show our faith in the same Saviour, who already came, by taking part in the Lord’s supper.  In both celebrations the body and the blood point to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  The principles underlying these ceremonies are the same. Only those who were circumcised could take part in the Passover.   Circumcision had a special significance:

By the act of circumcision they solemnly agreed to fulfil the conditions of the covenant made with Abraham, to be separate from all nations and to be perfect.  If the descendants of Abraham had kept separate from other nations, they would not have been seduced into idolatry.  SR 147.

Circumcision meant separation from all other nations.  Also baptism – the spiritual circumcision through which a person joins the church – implies separation from all other denominations.

  Christ has made baptism the sign of entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He has made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. {6T 91.2} 

     Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Those who are baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the very entrance of their Christian life declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. {6T 91.3}

The fact that members of other churches are also baptised gives them no right to take part in the Lord’s supper with the people of God.  The position of the pioneers of the Advent Movement was very clear on this point:

“The supper is for those only who are fully church members, and it is celebrated repeatedly”.

“As the Lord’s supper belongs to church members only, it becomes important that we understand who are church members, or who are entitled to the privilege of communion.”

Many suppose that, whatever may be their church relations, or if they have no relation to any church, they are entitled to the privilege of ‘communion’ by virtue of their conformity to the rules and regulations laid down for the guidance of the church members.  Against their claim we enter our hearty protest.  ST August 6, 1885.

Those who are baptised in the truth are baptised “into the body” which is the visible church of God on earth.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so is also Christ.  13 For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

The body of Christ – God’s visible, organised church on earth – has nothing in common with other religious corporations.  Just as the members of our physical bodies cannot belong to, or receive nourishment from other bodies, or vise versa, and there is no physiological sympathy between members of different human bodies, so there can be no communion between the members of Christ’s body and those of other religious bodies. The communion service points to the oneness of the body formed by the participants.  Paul says:

1 Corinthians 10:15-17 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.  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. 

Among the early Seventh-day Adventists, outsiders were not admitted to the communion service:

Then I was pointed back to the time that Jesus took his disciples away alone, into an upper room, and first washed their feet, and then gave them to eat of the broken bread, to represent his broken body, and juice of the vine to represent his spilled blood. I saw that all should move understandingly, and follow the example of Jesus in these things, and when attending to these ordinances, should be as separate from unbelievers as possible. Present Truth Vol 1 No. 11 Nov 1850. 86,87.

That the Lord’s supper is to be celebrated only “with in the church”, ie., exclusively among church members, is made clear from the following statement:

The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper are two monumental pillars, one without and one within the church.  Upon these ordinances Christ has inscribed the name of the true God. 6T 91.

It is a serious mistake to have communion with those who are in error, if we are not even permitted to attend their meetings.  Refer EW 124,125.

Many charitably – disposed brethren, in the kindness of their hearts, consider themselves under the obligation to admit to our communion or to go to the communion of those who appear to be honest, pious people… Is it consistent to admit to the privileges of church members those who have not the qualifications to become church members?  If you cannot fellowship them as members, how can you fellowship them not being members?  ST August 6, 1885.

The following paragraphs are used to defend the practice of sharing the bread and the wine with any person present at the meeting:

Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s Supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. 1 Cor. 5:11. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat? “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” For “whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” 1 Cor. 11:28, 27, 29. {DA 656.1}

When believers assemble to celebrate the ordinances, there are present messengers unseen by human eyes. There may be a Judas in the company, and if so, messengers from the prince of darkness are there, for they attend all who refuse to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Heavenly angels also are present. These unseen visitants are present on every such occasion. There may come into the company persons who are not in heart servants of truth and holiness, but who may wish to take part in the service. They should not be forbidden. There are witnesses present who were present when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and of Judas. More than human eyes beheld the scene. {DA 656.2

There is a comment on the ordinance service held by Jesus with the twelve apostles.  Though unworthy, Judas was allowed to take part.  But he was not an outsider.  He was a member, rather an ordained apostle, of the organised church, one of the twelve.  Sr White refers to the unconverted church members, like Judas, “who are not in heart servants of truth and holiness.”  Such, if present, should not be debarred. The apostle Paul says that every believer should examine himself, because if anyone eats the bread and drinks the wine unworthily, he becomes guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  If anyone who is a church member does not do so, but comes to the Lord’s table unworthily, we cannot stop him, unless we know that he became an open sinner.  This is what the Spirit of Prophecy says in DA 656, where there is no reference to outsiders.  If someone belongs to another church, or acts independently, or believes independently, or believes differently, or lives in open sin, we can have no communion with him.

1 Corinthians 5:11 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 idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

It is the Lord’s Supper – the Lord’s table – not ours, and we have no right to exclude any who wish to come and who profess to be the Lord’s servants.  But that is the very reason why we should be very careful, even exclusive.  If it were our own table, we would admit many who we cannot admit.  If the church were our own arrangement, we would accept many on the score of kindness, sympathy, and favour, whom we cannot now accept.  But it is indeed the Lord’s church, and the Lord’s table, and as those to whom the truth and the ordinances are committed, we are duty bound to keep the church as pure as possible, and admit to the Lord’s table those only whom we would admit to the Lord’s church.  ST August 6, 1885.

Posted on December 4, 2009, in Short Studies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I was checking the references for the ST and I cannot find the verification. Can you please tell me where you found them. I want to share it with others

  2. Thank God that you are not shy to show and declare the straight truth about Communion. One big problem tho, is that SDARM is not part of God’s remnant church!!! Please repent and come back to the one true flock 🙂

  3. I’m impressed to see someone who is willing to state the true meaning of open communion. It does not mean open to all denominations. It makes me sad to see how Gods church has compromised its position on communion and many other subjects (dress, jewelry, health etc.) We need more Daniels. Praise God that he has blessed you to stand for truth.

  1. Pingback: The Original Attitude Toward the Lord’s Supper « The Foolishness of Preaching (Sabbath Sermons)

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