Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Last Supper and Lord's Supper

Many denominations practice closed communion. One traditional rationale for "fencing the table" is 1 Cor 11:29, glossed in terms of the real presence (although that's a dubious interpretation).

Here's another argument for closed communion.

As baptists we're not denying that paedobaptists have a right to their own perspective, we are simply maintaining the integrity of our own convictions. Our consciences will not permit us to welcome into membership and communion those who have not obeyed Jesus at the point of baptism.
This is the whole reason there are Baptist churches at all. This is why baptists don't commune with Presbyterians, though it doesn't close down the possibility of cooperation in gospel efforts that are wider than local church ministry (such as T4G and TGC). If this issue were not big enough to divide over, to deny membership over, then why did the baptists ever separate from the presbyterians?

One question this raises is whether Jesus practiced closed communion:

14  And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21  But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. (Lk 22:14-23)
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper.
18  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side,[e] 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25  So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. Jn 13:2-4,18-30.

The Last Supper is the paradigmatic Lord's Supper. The exemplar of the Eucharist. Yet Jesus administers the "sacrament" to Judas, even though Judas is a closet unbeliever–something known to Jesus. On the face of it, Jesus is practicing open communion.


  1. Satan was present too (John 13:27). Looks like they were just letting anybody in the door!

  2. Judas partook of the Lord's Supper unworthily, eh?


    "F. R." Your question is an interesting and important one. "Does the permitted presence of Judas Iscariot in our Lord's chosen band on earth furnish any argument in favour of our toleration of evil in communion with us as Christians?" We would say, most assuredly, it does not. If the argument, so constantly based on the case of Judas, proves anything, it proves too much. To what does it amount? What does it prove? Why that we ought, knowingly and deliberately, to have at the Lord's Table a man capable of selling Christ for thirty pieces of silver — knowingly and deliberately to have fellowship with a traitor. This is the amount of the argument; and we know that what procures too much proves nothing at all. But it may be asked, Why did our Lord, who knew what he was, permit his presence? The answer is very simple. Our Lord allowed Judas to manifest himself. Had He acted on His divine knowledge of what was in the heart of Judas, it would have been no example for us; for we cannot judge the heart, but merely the life and doctrine. To say that we may ignorantly have a traitor in our midst is true; to say that we ought knowngly to have one, is false. In the former case we confess and mourn over our infirmity; in the latter we openly defend a piece of downright wickedness. We cannot understand how any one with a single atom of spiritual sensibility can have recourse to this argument respecting Judas. We deem it not merely weak and foolish, but very wicked.


  4. It's hard to find an argument in that paragraph. It's mostly rhetorical indignation.

  5. Holdon - what do you suppose Mackintosh would say about the practice of using a little piece of unleavened bread and a sip of grape juice as 'the Lord's supper' instead of having a full meal as was the practice and expectation of the early church?

    He seems pretty indignant that we would suffer unbelievers at the table, but is he also as indignant that it is no longer a table in any meaningful sense of the word?

  6. Jeff,

    You perhaps know (as the gospels make it very clear as well Paul's treatment on the subject in 1 Cor. 11) that the symbolic tokens of bread and wine taken as instituted by the Lord for His remembrance were taken AFTER the meal was over.

    Also, perhaps you will like the following of Mackintosh on the use of wine at the Lord's supper.


    "G. H. S." We have looked through the lecture which you have so kindly sent us; and we have only to say that we believe the principle of it is utterly false, and some of its statements most reprehensible. We dare not transfer to this page the epithet which the lecturer ventures to bestow upon the cup in the Lord's Supper, in cases where fermented liquor is used. We can only marvel at the temerity of the man who could use such language. He would rather urge upon us to partake in one kind, or not to partake at all, than that we should use fermented liquor. Now, dear friend, we feel called upon to express our most decided condemnation of such teaching. We firmly believe that the wine spoken of throughout the Holy Scriptures was intoxicating. To adduce proofs would fill a volume. Various cases are recorded in the Old Testament, in which persons experienced and exhibited the intoxicating effect of wine. And the precepts of the New Testament distinctly imply the same thing. "Be not drunk with wine" would be pointless, if wine were not intoxicating. But we would ask you, dear friend, where is there any authority in Scripture for singling out any one creature of God, and calling upon people to make a vow against touching it? We read in Scripture, that "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." (1 Tim. 4: 4, 5) Timothy was exhorted by the inspired apostle to "use no longer water, but take a little wine, for his stomach's sake, and his frequent infirmities." Ought he to have refused the apostle's advice, because many were in the habit of over-indulging in drink? We might as well say that it is wrong to eat a morsel of meat, because there are gluttons in the world; or to have a shilling in one's purse, because there are misers in the world. You are aware, dear friend, that we have recently ventured to give full expression to our judgment on the subject of the use of stimulants; but in doing so, we took care to guard against the idea that we were writing in defence of the principle of total abstinence. We are anxious that Christians should exercise godly care and self-control, in reference to the use of stimulants; but we utterly repudiate the principle set forth in this lecture; and, as you have sent it to us, we feel called upon to give you our judgment plainly, lest our silence should be regarded as a proof of our sympathy with its sentiments.

    From: "