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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


Closed Communion:

The Baptist Position Stated and Defended

John T. Christian


The Baptists are strict communionists and are likely to remain such. We want to be just as close as the Word of God. If we have prospered as a people it is because we have rigidly adhered to the Word of God.

 

Whenever we turn aside from this well-trodden path for mere sentimentality or transient popularity. the day of our power and usefulness is gone. We are compelled to search for the old paths, and when we have found them to walk in them. Despite all criticisms and abuse, we have prospered as strict communionists.


The reason is not far away. In the face of all clamor we have adhered to God's Word and God has greatly honored us. What he has done in the past he will do in the future.


There is neither argument nor wisdom in open communion. It is based upon mere sentiment, and that a false sentiment. We are strict communionists and we are going to remain strict.


This is freely admitted by Rev. J. L. Withrow,. Presbyterian,  in an able article in the Interior


He says:


"Furthermore, in their favor it is to be said. They have proved, beyond peradventure, that narrow church doors and severe communion condtions do not bar people out of the Christian church. Against creeds and communion bars there is ceaseless outcry from some quarters.


“The Baptists have no chaptered creed, but their unwritten creed, as England's unwritten constitution, is more insurmountable than the Thirty-nine Articles of , Episcopacy, or the ponderous chapters of the Westminster Confession.


“Against chaptered creeds the complaints are so urgent that Congregationalists have recently made a new one.  You may safely offer a dollar for every new convert which has been captured by that new creed who otherwise would not have been secured.


“And now the Presbyterians are wasting a heap of hard-earned money (contributed, communionists much of it, by God's poor for better purposes), and are stirring bad blood between the brethren in an attempt to smooth off and sweeten up their creed. The claim is that we keep people out of the church, and candidates out of our ministry with such strict conditions as now exist. It sounds like arrant nonsense in presence of the fact that the Baptist church is the strictest church; and yet it is growing, not as a weed, but as the Word of God is promised to grow.


“There is no church, so far as we know, into which it is more difficult to enter than the Baptist through theological, ecclesiastical and ceremonial conditions. And yet there are throngs pressing through its narrow threshold. Whoever cares to study this subject of easy and exacting conditions or church membership, asking which is most likely to secure accessions to the fellowship of professing Christians, should compare the history of the Baptist church with that of the liberal churches, so-called."


The practice of restricted communion is no arbitrary affair with us. We think the Lord has laid down in the New Testament certain.


Prerequisites to the Communion.


We think the Scriptures warrant definite terms of approach to the Lord's Supper. The divine order is, first, faith; second, baptism; third, church membership; fourth, discipline; fifth, doctrine; sixth, the Lord's Supper. No man has a right to the Lord's table who has not exercised faith, been baptized, and is a member of the church, subject to its discipline, and agreeing with it in doctrine. This is so important that I shall illustrate and defend it from a number of standpoints.


The Lord Jesus himself instituted the Supper. A record of this event is given in Matthew 26:26-30:


"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives."


We have no right to change a qualification. Were these disciples baptized? There is no doubt about it. Robert Hall, the foremost defender of open communion, admits this. He says: "It is almost certain that some, probably the most of them had been baptized by John." (Works, vol. 1, p. 303)


In the Gospel of John at least four of the disciples were declared to be disciples of John the Baptist. (1:36-­40.) Jesus also made and baptized disciples. (John 4:1-2.) It is not reasonable to suppose that Jesus would have selected men to represent himself, who had refused to obey the first and plainest command of the Gospel.


Says Knapp:


"The practice of the first Christian church confirms the point that the baptism of John was considered essentially the same with Christian baptism. For those who acknowledged that they had professed, by the baptism of John, to believe in Jesus as the Christ, and who in consequence of this had become in fact his disciples, and had believed in him, were not, in a single instance, baptized again into Christ, because this was considered as having been already done. Hence we do not find that any apostle or any other disciple of Jesus was the second time baptized; not even that Apollos mentioned in Acts 18:25, because he had before believed in Jesus Christ although he had received only the baptism of John." (Christ Theology, p.45.)


But the Scriptures do not leave us in doubt on this subject. When an apostle was to be chosen in the place of Judas Iscariot, he was required to be a disciple of John, as were the rest of the apostles. I quote Acts 1:21, 22: "Wherefore of these men which have accompanied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection."


This passage undoubtedly teaches that an apostle must have been a disciple of John. In fact this is made an absolute qualification. This interpretation is sustained by the foremost scholars.


Alexander, Presbyterian, says: "The idea evidently is, that the candidate must not only have believed Christ's doctrines and submitted to his teaching, as a disciple in the widest sense, but, formed a part of that more permanent body which appears to have attended him from place to place, throughout the whole course of his public ministry." (Acts of the Apostles Expl.)


Gloag says: "In these verses Peter assigns the necessary qualifications of the new apostle. He must have associated with them during all of the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them; that is, during the whole of his public ministry. He states the commencement of that period to be the baptism of John, and its termination to be the day of the ascension." (Cris. and Exeget. Comn. on Acts.)


Burkitt says: "That is one who had followed Christ from his baptism to his ascension."


Adam Clarke, Methodist, says: "They judged it necessary to fill up this blank in the apostolate, by a person who had been an eye witness of the acts of our Lord. Went in and out. A phrase which includes all the actions of life. Beginning from the baptism of John. From the time that Christ was baptized by John in Jordan; for it was at that time that his public ministry properly began." (Com., vol. 3, p. 694.)


Barnes, Presbyterian, says: "The word `beginning from' in the original refers to the Lord Jesus. The meaning may be thus expressed, 'during the time in which the Lord Jesus, beginning (his ministry) at the time he was baptized by John, went in and out among us, until the time in which he was taken up.' etc. From those who had during that time been the constant companions of the Lord Jesus must one be taken, who would thus be a witness of his whole ministry."


It is no answer to assert that John's baptism was not Christian baptism; for beyond doubt this was all the baptism Christ ever received and none of the persons baptized by John were ever rebaptized. It answers every requirement of the Lord Jesus and we ought to be satisfied.


Says Knapp:


"The object of John's baptism was the same of that of Christian. And from this it may be at once concluded that it did not differ essentially from the latter. John exhorted the persons baptized by him to repentance and to faith in the Messiah who was shortly to appear, and make these duties obligatory upon them by this rite, And as soon as Jesus publicly appeared, John asserted in the most forcible manner that he was the Messiah, and so required of all whom he had then or before baptized, that they should believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Now in Christian baptism, repentance and faith in Jesus as the Messiah are likewise the principal things which are required on the part of the subjects of this rite." (Christ Theol., p. 485.)


Turrettin maintains with great learning and force that "the baptism of John was the same essentially with that of Christ," or Christian baptism.


Calvin says:


"This makes it perfectly certain that the ministry of John was the very same as that which was afterwards delegated to the apostles. For the different hands by which baptism is administered do not make it a different baptism, but sameness of doctrine proves it to be the same. John and the apostles agreed in one doctrine. Both baptized unto repentance, both for the remission of sins, both in the name of Christ, from whom repentance and remission of sins proceed. John pointed to him is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, thus describing him as the victim accepted of the Father, the propitiation of righteousness, and the author of salvation. What could the apostles add to this confession?" (Inst. Christ. Relig., vol. 3, pp. 332, 333.)


We are not, therefore, left in doubt about baptism preceding the Lord's Supper.


You will also notice that in the celebration of this first Supper there was no one present except the twelve apostles. His mother was not there; Mary, Martha and Lazarus were not present; the seventy were not admitted, indeed there were no other participants, and no spectators. There was no foolish sentimentality about this observance. Not one argument that open communionists urge can be based upon the institution of the supper by Jesus.


This is the teaching of the great commission. Matthew 28:19, 20, states: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."


 I love to go back to foundation principles, and learn what Christ has commanded, and then I know how to obey. By this law we are required in the first place, to teach or preach the Gospel; secondly, to baptize those who believe; and thirdly, to instruct such baptized believers to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded: and the order in which these several duties are here stated, is as imperative as the duties themselves.


This argument is so important, and the logic, of Dr. Hibbard, the Methodist writer, so just, that I transcribe a paragraph from him:


"The reader will perceive that the argument is based entirely upon the ORDER of the apostolic commission. It may be questioned by some whether the argument is genuine, and whether it is entitled to any considerable force. But suppose we assume in opposite ground? Suppose we say that the things commanded are important to be done, but the order observed in the commission is a subject, of indifference. Now what will be the consequences of this position? What but total and irretrievable confusion? The apostles go forth; they are intent upon doing all that Christ commanded them, but the order of the duties is a subject of indifference. The consequence is that some are baptized before they are converted from heathenism; some receive the holy supper before either baptism or conversion; others are engaged in a course of instruction before they are discipled; and the most incoherent and unsuitable practices everywhere prevail. Improper persons are baptized, or baptism is improperly delayed; the holy supper is approached before the candidate is duly prepared, and it is therefore desecrated, or it is unduly withheld from rightful communicants. Is not the prescribed ORDER, therefore, in the administration of the ordinances, and the duties of the apostolic commission, all important? And thus we hold that Christ enjoined the order as well as the duties themselves; and, in this order of Christ, baptism precedes communion at the Lord's table." (Hibbard on 13 Apt.. P. 2, p. 177.)


The custom of the apostles is in line with the commands of Christ. The divine order is beautifully set forth in Acts 2:41, 42: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." The order is, teaching. gladly receiving the word, baptism, and the Lord's Supper. The Syriac, the oldest existing translation of the New Testament, so understands this passage.


Calvin says: “I would have breaking of bread understood of the Lord's Supper." (Com. on Acts.)


Blount, Episcopalian, says: "I consider 'the fellowship' or 'communion' and 'the breaking of bread' to stand in close combination, and to indicate that another bond by which these first Christians were joined to the apostles, to one another, and to a unity in Christ, was a collective participation in the Lord's Supper." (Christ. Ch. First Three Cent.)


Baumgarten, Presbyterian, says: "The third characteristic that is noticed in respect to the baptized is the breaking of bread. The communion of the Lord with his disciples may very properly be characteristic that the disciples who, after his resurrection, had recognized him neither by his form nor by his discourse, immediately knew him upon his breaking of bread with them. This mode of communion was thereby consecrated; and appears as the proper medium of a community which lived together as one family." (Com. Acts of Apos.)


Burkitt says: '"Another religious office which they continued constant, was the breaking of bread; that is, receiving the sacrament.-


Bengel says: "The Lord's Supper is included in this expression." (Gnomon of New Test.)


Every instance of baptism in the New Testament confirms this view. The first duty after repentance and faith was baptism. As soon as the Samaritans believed the things Philip preached they were baptized both men and women. (Acts 8:12) The eunuch was baptized at once upon a profession of his faith. (Acts 8:36, 37) As soon as the scales fell from the eyes of Paul, he was baptized (Acts 9:18); and the Philippian jailer was baptized the same hour of the night in which he believed. (Acts 16:33) In none of these cases was there any time to celebrate the Lord's Supper between a profession of faith and baptism.


I read in Acts 20:7: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." The Syriac version, and well nigh all commentators agree that this passage refers to the observance of the Lord's Supper. We know that none but disciples were present, for the passage distinctly says this.


Gloag says: "That is to celebrate the Lord's Supper..'


Paul in writing to the Corinthian church says:


"For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it... For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye. as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."


Paul distinctly says he was addressing the church, verse 18, at Corinth, There is not a word said about outsiders. Indeed the whole of this epistle is in regard to disorderly members in the Corinthian church. This passage proves beyond doubt that the Lord's Supper is a church ordinance.


In chapter 12:12, 13 Paul says that baptism precedes the Lord's Supper. Says he: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized 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 argument is clear. They have all been baptized into the one body or church; and they have been made to "drink," or participate of the Lord's Supper, into one Spirit. Bloomfield says of this passage: "This is the interpretation adopted by almost all commentators, ancient and modern, who here suppose an allusion to the two sacraments."


Olshausen says: "The allusion in this passage to is unmistakable, so that we may see the epotistheemen point, to the communion." (Cum.. vol 4, p. 346.)


Burkitt says: "By baptism we were admitted into his church; and this union of ours, one with another, is testified and declared by our communion at the Lord's table, which is here called a drinking into the Spirit."


Dr. Charles Hodge says: "The allusion is supposed by Luther, Calvin, and Beza to be to the Lord's Supper."


Van Oosterzee, Presbyterian, says: "It is worthy of notice that baptism and the Supper are at least once mentioned by him in one breath, and placed upon a level." (TheoL of New Test., p. 328)


MacKnight says: "For indeed with the gifts of one Spirit, we all have been baptized into one body. or church, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or freemen, and all are equally entitled to the privileges of that one body, and derive equal honor from them; and all have been made to drink in the Lord's Supper of one Spirit of faith and love, by which the one body is animated."


The priority of baptism to the Lord's Supper is likewise taught in 1 Cor. 10:1-3. The passage reads: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink."


Olshausen says: "Thus in this passage the history of Israel is typically conceived as referring to the sacramental rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper, which contain like holy vessels all the blessings of the gospels; and thus in this very passage lies a powerful argument for these two sacraments." (Corn., vol. 4, p. 309.)


Meyer says: "Just as all receive the self-same type of baptism (verses 1, 2), so too all were partakers of one and the same analogue of the Christian ordinance of the Supper, so that each one therefore stood on the very same level of apparent certainty of not being cast off by God."


Bishop Ellicott says:


"The spiritual food referred to was, it hardly need to be said, that which typified one part of the other sacrament." Godet says: "As the holy Supper serves to maintain in salvation those who have entered into it by the faith professed in baptism, so the Israelites also received, after the initial deliverance, the favors necessary to their preservation. These benefits, corresponding to the bread and wine of the Supper, were the manna daily received, and the water which God caused to issue from a rock in two cases of exceptional distress."


Afford says: "They had what answered to one Christian sacrament, baptism; now the Apostle shows that they were not without a symbolic correspondence to the other, the Lord's Supper."


Dr. Hodge says: "As the miraculous deliverance and miraculous guidance of the Israelites was their baptism, so being miraculously fed was their Lord's Supper."


Stanley says: "This is the natural expression for the voluntary pledge involved in Christian baptism. The food and drink are parallel to the Lord's Supper."


On this point the authorities are conclusive.


From these considerations we think the arguments for baptism as a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper are most conclusive. When once this proposition is admitted our argument is impregnable.


But we can go a step further in this argument. We are not only called upon to obey the ordinances of the Gospel, but we are required to obey them in the divine order. The Scriptures are unmistakable on this point. Notice the instructions to the churches.


To the church at Corinth Paul writes: "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor. 4:16, 17) "Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." (1 Cor. 11:1, 2) "For I have received of the Lord that which I have delivered unto you;" and he immediately gives directions in regard to the Lord's Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23)


To the church at Philippi: "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample;" and this exhortation: "Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Phil. 3:16, 17)


To the church at Colosse: "For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness in your faith in Christ... Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Col. 2:5, 8)


To the church at Thessalonica: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." (2 Thes. 2:15) "And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you." (2 Thes. 3:4)


No comment on these Scriptures is needed.