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What is closed communion? Is it Biblical?

Personal Questions | VBVM Staff | Jan-23-2017

Q: What is "closed" communion? Is it Biblical?

A: Regarding the question of “closed” or “open” communion, these terms have different meanings in different churches. Some churches restrict participation in the communion ordinance only to those who are professing Christians, while others may go further by requiring church membership or water baptism. On the other hand, some churches permit anyone to partake of communion without restriction. 

Biblically speaking, the only requirement for partaking in communion is faith in Jesus Christ only. Communion was given by Christ to the Church, and therefore It is never appropriate for an unbeliever to partake of the communion meal. The ritual is a picture of the body of Christ united in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by the sacrifice of His body and the spilling of His blood for the remission of sins. Unbelievers have no part in these things. 

Jesus Himself modeled this restriction at the first communion meal (i.e., the Last Supper) when He dismissed the only unbeliever at the table, Judas, prior to the meal:

John 13:26 Jesus then  answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He  took and  gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
John 13:27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus  said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
John 13:28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him.
John 13:29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.
John 13:30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately, and it was night.

Judas was not included in the first communion meal since he was not a believer. Likewise, we must instruct those who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus Christ to abstain from participation in the communion meal. VBVMI also supports the practice of limiting the communion meal to believers who have consented to water baptism as a sign of their faith in Jesus Christ (though there is no specific biblical requirement to do so). 

For more information on the meaning and biblical practice of the communion meal, please listen to Lesson 11B from our 1Corinthians study.


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