The Reason for Close Communion
Have you ever noticed the little paragraph included in our Communion Sunday bulletins? It’s called, “Communion”. The paragraph explains what communion is and requests that visitors speak with the Pastors before communing at Trinity Lutheran Church. But WHY the paragraph? Why? Are we trying to be some “exclusive group?” Does Trinity feel it has exclusive “rights” to the Lord’s Supper or what? What’s the reason for this practice?
We practice what’s called “CLOSE COMMUNION”. Notice, it’s not CLOSED COMMUNION as if it were closed or shut tight against anyone else. It’s close. That means that those who commune together are CLOSE TOGETHER around Jesus Christ and each other. Those who commune are united together in the one true faith in Jesus Christ. They proclaim the same beliefs (doctrines) of God’s Word.
The opposite practice in the majority of other churches is called OPEN COMMUNION. This practice allows anyone present to commune. Visitors of different beliefs may decide to commune, even though they do not believe the same teachings of the Bible.
Why do we continue this practice of close communion at Trinity (and in other Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations)? Are we just being “strict” or “narrow-mined” as some have remarked?
The reason is that God’s Word teaches this principle. Sure, you won’t find the term “close” communion in the Bible, but the CONCEPT is taught. And even if we would LIKE to admit EVERYONE to the Lord’s Supper, we are not permitted to change Jesus’ Word for His Supper. Communion has been given as a gift to Christ’s people. He offers the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life in that Supper. It is a special, supernatural meal to be handled with great care. The local church, and especially its pastor(s), are responsible to admit, or not to admit, certain people to the Lord’s Supper.
Who should be admitted? Who should come to receive Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper? Here’s the Bible’s teaching:
The pastor(s), who is called by God to oversee the congregation (Hebrews 13:17), has the responsibility to speak with those who are visiting and see if they profess the same beliefs, as we profess as Bible-believing Lutheran Christians. He needs to determine whether they are in fellowship with us and our Synod.
Of course, much more could be said about this practice of close communion. But it is my prayer that we continue steadfastly in this practice, as did the early Christians. May we all take the Lord’s Supper, trusting in our Savior, examining ourselves, recognizing that Jesus is present, and closely unified around the teachings of God’s Word.