If you’ve been in our church long enough you’ve come to understand that we believe the sacrament of baptism is urged for all those who profess faith in Jesus for their salvation, and for their children. In respectful disagreement with our Baptist brethren, it is the conviction of the Reformed tradition that there is a correspondence to be found between the rites of circumcision and baptism that mandates the latter be offered to children of believers in view of how circumcision was instructed for children of believers. Can reasonable believers disagree on this matter? Of course. Mine is not to make a case for infant baptism beyond what I just have, but to set up another question:
I raise the question because our Assembly has spent now nearly 2 1/2 hours, last night and this morning, on the issue of some “ordinands” (those who come for ordination to teaching office in a local church) whose conscience leads them to take issue with how our Confession of Faith argues against offering the communion elements to those who have not yet professed faith in Christ. (Here’s a link to an article which sets this debate in context in the PCA.) On its face that may sound harsh and unkind: why withhold from young children something we make such a big deal about each month? Why shouldn’t they benefit from its grace like adults?
It’s an oversimplification of the case for restricting communion to professing believers in good standing, but the most explicit Scriptural text establishing this view is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 (some of which you’ll hear quoted each time we partake of the The Table):
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
It is the underlined part that instructs our view that partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ requires a certain reflectiveness: reflectiveness first about the meaning of the sacrament and second about their own heart before God in that moment. Partaking of the sacrament does not require sinlessness, else no one would be worthy to partake. But since the Table reminds us of our need for what the Table points to–namely, the loving, cleansing blood of Jesus–then one mustn’t take for granted the significance of the Table, nor partake in a presumptuous, unreflective way.
Since therefore the Table is not merely receiving the grace of the elements but reflecting upon such in the act of partaking, inviting young children who are not yet “equipped” to reflect in those ways makes it inappropriate to admit them to the Table. At such time when they or their parents discern a real and living faith of which they wish to make profession, the Session of the church invites them to make profession and to take the same vows their parents took when they joined the church. Then they would not only be welcomed but strongly urged to partake of this “means of grace” (more on that subject in time) as “oft as they will.”
We at CtK hope to develop soon something like a Confirmation Class for our young folks whose understanding of the Gospel is beginning to crystallize, and who wish to enter into full membership in our community. That class would seek to deepen our children’s knowledge of the beauty of the Gospel and clarify what it means to identify with Jesus and His Church. Upon completion of the class, they would be admitted to the Table as they are simultaneously asked to “examine themselves” in accordance with Paul’s admonition.
Until we’ve developed that class, the Session of CtK invites parents whose children are demonstrating a real and personal faith to contact us so that we might sit and chat with them about their grasp of the Gospel. (We don’t bite: Ask those we’ve had this conversation with already!)
Feel most free to ask questions about the topic I’ve given barely adequate treatment of.