Slideshow image

One of the elders recently received a question regarding who should participate in communion (I.e., should children participate). This is a question that I have recently had to think through myself. With my daughters getting older, they desire to participate in the varying aspects of faith and practice. But my personal conviction led me to ask my daughters, to let the communion elements pass by until they have been baptised. So let me put forward some points, from scripture and history, not as binding practice for our local church, but merely for your consideration on the best way to respond to your own children on this matter.

Historically, credobaptists (I.e., Baptism on confession of faith) and paedobaptists (I.e., infant Baptism ) were in general agreement that communion should be restricted to those who have been Baptised. Let me highlight this with a quote. In his 1852 work, “Pedobaptists not Open Communionists,” the Baptist Pastor S. Remington writes:

"I shall state some of the prominent points upon which we agree, and one in particular upon which we differ,—and which one constitutes the barrier to the fellowship enjoyed by churches in the communion of the Lord’s Supper.

    1. We agree that Baptism is an institution of Christ; that it is a duty enjoined upon all Christians to be baptized; and, though it be not a saving ordinance, yet it cannot be wilfully omitted without disobedience to the requirements of the gospel.
    2. We agree that it is the visible line of distinction between the kingdom of Christ and this world, and consequently that it is the door of admission into the visible church of Jesus Christ.
    3. We agree that it is one of the essential requisites of an admission to the Lord’s Table, and that none, however pious, ought to be permitted to enjoy this holy ordinance previous to a compliance with this Christian rite."

The obvious point of disagreement that Remington mentions between credobaptists and paedobaptists, is the mode of Baptism (I.e., who should we baptise?) The Paedobaptist equates circumcision of infants in the Old Testament, and its symbol of entry into the people of God with the New Testament symbol of Baptism and hence, as a matter of conscience, baptise their infants. Credobaptists do not equate circumcision and baptism as parallel symbols, but rather understand that there are differences, one of which is that Baptism is to be administered by immersion to those who profess repentance and faith toward God. But as Remington notes, both positions understand that Baptism is the “door of admission into the visible church of Jesus Christ” and hence the prerequisite for admission to the Lord’s supper.  

Remington points to the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) as to why we should understand this to be the logical order of these ordinances. He writes,

"The order of this Commission is,

  1. Teach men the gospel plan of salvation;
  2. Baptize all that believe; and
  3. Then “teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded you.” Among the commands to be observed after baptism is, “This do in remembrance of me.”"

Namely, we baptise believers as the visible symbol of entry into the church, and then we teach them to observe the Lord’s supper.

Historically, Baptist churches restricted the communion table to only those who were immersed on a confession of faith, but not all. Men like the English Baptist, John Bunyan and the American Baptist Isaac Backus, opened the Lord’s supper to those in the congregation of either persuasion, acknowledging that the mode of Baptism, is an issue of conscience, not of salvation. Other Baptist churches in small towns or in new mission fields would open the communion table, with the persuasion that it was better to be in fellowship with the few Christians that existed around them, rather than excluding them from fellowship. This is much like our situation in Mount Isa, we lack the abundance of churches that exist in cities, where everyone can find their niche church, and so we do our best to be in unity with one another, and do so by opening the communion table to people who hold to different persuasions of Baptism.

So this is my position that my wife and I have agreed upon for our children, that we will invite them to participate in communion after they have been baptised, with Baptism being the visible symbol of entry into the church.

Grudem, in his “Systematic Theology,” provides an alternate perspective,

"But others, including the present author, would object to such a restriction as follows: A different problem arises if someone who is a genuine believer, but not yet baptized, is not allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper when Christians get together. In that case the person’s nonparticipation symbolizes that he or she is not a member of the body of Christ which is coming together to observe the Lord’s Supper in a unified fellowship (see 1 Cor. 10:17: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”). Therefore churches may think it best to allow non-baptized believers to participate in the Lord’s Supper but to urge them to be baptized as soon as possible. For if they are willing to participate in one outward symbol of being a Christian, there seems no reason why they should not be willing to participate in the other, a symbol that appropriately comes first."

My response to this is, that as Baptists, we should be excited and willing, and without hesitation to Baptise any believer who has understood the gospel and made a genuine confession of faith, hence removing that obstruction to sharing in the Lord’s Supper.

I would encourage you to think through this issue, so that when your child asks the question, “can I have some bread and juice,” you have an answer to give them.