Great Stuff Found on the Web — An Explanation of Closed Communion

There has been lots of discussion on Pastor Scheer’s recent post .. one commentator pointed out this article by Pastor Paul McCain, which I thought should be brought to the attention of our readers. This is always a difficult subject, especially when you bring friends and family to church, and people need to hear it again and again. I see from a google search for the original document that it is used on quite a few church websites, but as I say we can never hear it enough.

This article is extracted from Communion Fellowship by Paul T. McCain.

A PDF of this document can be found here.



By Rev. Paul T. McCain
(taken from Communion Fellowship: A Resource for Understanding, Implementing, and Retaining the Practice of Closed Communion in the Lutheran Parish)

The Lutheran practice of “closed communion” is often a thorny issue in our church. It is bound to cause problems when a member asks the pastor if a friend or loved one of another denomination may take communion and the pastor says no. It seems down-right rude! The reaction may be, “Who do you Lutherans think you are anyway! Are Lutherans better Christians than other people?” Unfortunately, the practice of closed communion is not very well understood. This leads to upset and frustration when the doctrine is put into practice. The best way to overcome these difficulties is with knowledge and understanding of what the practice of closed communion is really all about. It is important to understand first what Lutherans believe about communion, and then we can begin to understand the practice of closed communion.

At one time nearly all of the Lutheran church bodies in America (and indeed, most other Christian churches) practiced closed communion. Among Lutherans today only The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a few other smaller Lutheran bodies retain this practice. In our church and others, only those persons who have been properly instructed in the meaning, use, and benefit of the Sacrament may receive the Sacrament. Practically speaking, this means that Holy Communion is offered only to those persons who are confirmed members in good standing of LCMS congregations and those church bodies in full pulpit and altar fellowship with us. It should be noted also that communion is not to be given to the unrepentant nor unbelievers. With this in mind it is to be understood that participation in Holy Communion is never a “right” to be “demanded” but rather a privilege which we receive with thanks and great joy. The pastor of the local congregation is responsible for deciding who is to receive communion and who may not receive communion at the congregation’s altar, by virtue of his office as a called and ordained servant of the Word. Missouri Synod Lutherans will not wish to receive communion at non-Missouri Synod Lutheran churches for the same reasons that members of other church bodies should not want to receive communion at a Missouri Synod congregation.

Lutherans believe that Holy Communion is a sacrament-a very special gift from our Lord Jesus Christ. On the basis of Holy Scripture, we believe that Jesus Christ gives us his actual body and actual blood to eat and to drink, under the bread and wine, in this Sacrament. (See Mt 26:17ff; Mk 14:12ff; Lk 22:7ff; 1 Cor 11:23ff). We do not believe that the bread and wine are only symbols of Christ’s body and blood, or that they merely represent Christ’s body and blood. We take the Scriptures at face value and believe that the bread is the body of Christ and that the wine is the blood of Christ because Jesus said, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood.” We call this belief the doctrine of the Real Presence. We believe that when we receive the body and blood of Christ, under the bread and wine, God forgives our sins. This awareness causes us to be very careful in our celebration of the Sacrament. We know that those who do not discern the body of Christ in the Sacrament do so at their own risk. In other words, persons who are members of church bodies which do not confess the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper are better off not receiving it at our altar. In His Word, God says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

The Sacrament of Holy Communion is not simply a personal, individual act. The celebration of Holy Communion is also a public act of confession. In other words, it testifies to our unity in the” teaching of the Apostles” (cf. Acts 2:42). When you receive the Sacrament at a church’s altar, you are giving public testimony that you agree with that church’s doctrinal position. This is why we believe, teach, and confess that Holy Communion is the highest expression of church fellowship. We believe that to agree about the Gospel is more than agreeing to some generalities concerning Jesus or the Bible. There is no such thing as a “generic” Christianity. When we commune together we testify to our agreement in the Gospel and all the articles of the Christian Faith. Holy Communion, in this sense, is a mark of confessing the Christian Faith.

When we decline to give Holy Communion to persons not of our church body, we are not doing so because we think they are “bad people” or because they are “not Christians.” We practice a “closeness” at our communion rail because we sincerely believe that this is what the Word of God teaches and what God would have us do with his Son’s precious body and blood. Closed communion is not meant to be a judgmental practice, in the sense that we are condemning people. It is a practice which preserves and upholds the truth and power of the Sacrament. It is a practice which we Lutherans feel protects those who do not believe the same things as we do. It is a practice which recognizes that a person’s church membership does mean something. To belong to a church means to confess what that church believes and confesses. To commune at a church’s altar is the highest expression of confessing oneness with what that church teaches. A person must determine for oneself if what one’s church teaches is what the Word of God teaches. We respect each individual’s decision in this matter, but we cannot in good conscience create the impression that differences between churches are of no significance. Because the differences between churches concern the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, we know that the differences are important and do matter. This is why we choose to practice closed communion, a practice which is found in the historic, orthodox Lutheran Church since the time of the Reformation and a practice which can be traced back to the very early years of the Christian church. We hope that our beliefs will be respected by those who differ with us. We certainly do not intend to offend anyone or do we wish to create ill-will and hurt feelings. Hopefully, this brief explanation will help you or someone else understand that our love for the Sacrament, and our love for the individual, are the motivations for our practice of closed communion.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff Found on the Web — An Explanation of Closed Communion — 43 Comments

  1. How quaint. We still practice close/closed communion at the LCMS? 🙂

    Seriously I think more effort should be made to get our parishes to comply with Gods Word on this issue. So many simply post a statement in their handout and let the nonbelievers go hang if they fail to read it and abide by it.

  2. @mames #4
    > So many simply post a statement in their handout and let the nonbelievers go hang if they fail to read it and abide by it. <

    Or let anybody who reads and disregards or interprets it differently for themselves commune anyway as if said statement suffices in regard to being a faithful steward of Christ's gifts, even His very body and blood.

  3. @mames #4

    Mames, you wrote close/closed in your post. Why did you write it this way? Is there a difference between close and closed?

  4. @mames #4

    “So many simply post a statement in their handout and let the nonbelievers go hang if they fail to read it and abide by it.”

    and also @ #5
    “Or let anybody who reads and disregards or interprets it differently for themselves commune anyway as if said statement suffices in regard to being a faithful steward of Christ’s gifts, even His very body and blood.”

    I too have pondered this very dilemma. I think it is naive for a pastor, the steward of the mysteries of God, to think a statement in the bulletin is sufficient. Even with the best trained ushers and elders visitors will come forward without first speaking with the pastor. Only once have I seen a pastor halt and quietly speak with the visitors (my family in this case and since they’re LCMS I don’t know what he would’ve done if they were not to commune).

    So I ask in all sincerity, is it liturgically taboo to have a public, spoken statement before the service of the sacrament or before the whole service begins? I know it’s not ideal, but reality dictates that something needs to be done.

    Also, it was expressed in the other thread that many of our own members simply come forward and are at just as much a risk of failing to discern the body of Christ. I think of my own times in life when going to church was merely filling an obligation to my conscience (how Roman Catholic of me) and the sacrament was little more than an extra 10 minutes between me and my precious NFL Pregame Shows.

    What follows is only a question, seeking the wisdom of older well-experienced pastors who can see the forest for the trees. Besides the problems of introducing a practice not found in our Lutheran hymnal which serves to unite us, would it be acceptable to have a more distinct seg-way between the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament? I am thinking of a time or statement somewhat akin to the old excusing of the catechumens in the early church. However, in this case it would be used to excuse members who would rather get the tailgate on and any visitors who should not be partaking. The wording could be delicate yet clear and direct. I am not a synodical liturgist so I will spare you a hypothetical example.

    Since we don’t want liturgical dead time or chaos, perhaps the Offertory could be done at this time, maybe it would need to be elongated (musically) and could include the bringing forward of the unconsecrated elements (or am I getting to Romanist? honestly).

    Looking at DS 1 & 2, it would be an easy addition because the OFfertory comes right before the Service of the Sacrament, DS 3 has the offertory before the offering and prayers, maybe it wouldn’t work in that case. DS 4 & 5 have no offertory, but I suppose something of this nature could be inserted between the offering and the service of the sacrament.

    Again, this is just a suggestion that has been ruminating in my head. Since I don’t have the experience as many here, I ask for your thoughts and corrections. The one thing that really bothers me is what if all but 3 or 4 people decided they’d rather leave than take the sacrament. I suppose that is better than having them take it to their judgment, it would give the pastor a good idea of who he needs to work on and what he needs to teach better. I just don’t know. This is just my elaborate, long-winded attempt at throwing in two cents.

  5. Rev Wurst #6

    Actually we are supposed to be practicing closed communion. Closed to those not yet ready to receive it. We do this out of love and to be in compliance with Gods Word. I have heard some refer to this as “close”. I believe this term “close” is used because it appears to be less “exclusionary” but the Supper is by its very nature exclusionary of those who are not yet prepared to receive it. I believe “close” is used as a PC term by those unprepared to fully explain who should receive it. We all understand that no matter how we explain the reason for exclusion some will see it as unloving even as many will see the Gospel as foolishness. We are called to faithfulness and are to leave the results to God.

    I have experienced a kind of reverse form of this shunning for being unloving for not purchasing mass cards at a Roman funeral but I do the right thing anyway.

  6. In addition to a statement in the bulletin, our pastor pauses and makes an announcement about closed Communion between the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament.

  7. @youngblood#7

    our pastor takes a moment to welcome everyone to the service on Sunday mornings, after which the acolytes will light the candles and ring the bell and our service will begin.. On those Sundays when we are to receive Lord’s Supper our pastor will announce it during his intro, explain that it is for members only, direct visitors to a written explanation about closed communion in the worship folder, and exhort members to examine themselves before coming forward for the sacrament..

    this approach still requires, at times, an alert pastor and distribution assistant for times when visitors come forward..

  8. Currently our congregation is holding services in a temporary location awaiting completion of a new church building, having already sold our previous facility. The temporary location happens to be a Seventh Day Adventist building (always available on Sundays).

    We have chosen to respect their non-use of alcohol and therefore have held separate Sunday evening communion services at a sister LCMS congregation in the same city.

    Having experienced the sacrament in this manner, attended only by our members and it being the sole focus of our worhsip attention at that time, I would be completely in favor of continuing the practice when we resume our regular worship schedule in the new church.

    This solves the issue of closed communion conflicts and brings the sacrament into greater focus for those participating.

  9. What about a LCMS Church where the Communion statement is on the back of the attendance card in the bible racks and the pastor asks everyone to fill one out so they know who has worshipped with them?
    There is NO mention of the Communion statement on the back. Rarely is it mentioned and if it is generally the senior pastor will state if you are in a personal relationship with Jesus you are welcome at the table, but usually nothing is stated. It is a large LCMS Conemporary Church and I wonder if that is why some of the senior pastor’s family that are on staff have come down with serious health issues. There are four pastors, one is the son of the senior pastor, who occassionally makes a statement of who should and shouldn’t take Communion, but that is rarely done.
    I know from our weekly bulletin that there are many people listed with various illnesses and life issues and I wonder if it could be because so many in this church come from a different denominational belief about the Sacraments and join or attend because they like the Worship Style or the various programs they offer for all ages, especially for the children, and take the Sacrament but do not believe in the Lutheran biblical understanding of the Sacrament but rather still hold to their previous denominational understanding of a remembrance or no understanding or are previously Roman Catholic and hold to that belief but still partake of the Sacrament in this LCMS Church.
    This is the church where the pastors no longer distribute the sacrament after Consecrating Communion, but pray for Communicants that stop and kneel at the prayer rail, after receiving Communion from the Elders.
    Is God long-suffering in matters such as these?

  10. I too have pondered this very dilemma. I think it is naive for a pastor, the steward of the mysteries of God, to think a statement in the bulletin is sufficient. Even with the best trained ushers and elders visitors will come forward without first speaking with the pastor. Only once have I seen a pastor halt and quietly speak with the visitors (my family in this case and since they’re LCMS I don’t know what he would’ve done if they were not to commune).
    So I ask in all sincerity, is it liturgically taboo to have a public, spoken statement before the service of the sacrament or before the whole service begins? I know it’s not ideal, but reality dictates that something needs to be done.

    The pastor of the congregation is responsible for admitting the saints to the Holy Supper. I do not usually make a public announcement unless it is a festive day with many guests in our midst.

    I don’t have to do this because I know every member of the congregation. However, when a visitor does attend worship and I did not have opportunity to speak with them before the administration of the Supper, if they come to the table, I take a moment and speak with them about their fellowship. If they are not in fellowship, I bless them. If they say they are, then I must trust them and so feed them. If I found out later that they lied to me and visit again in the future, I speak to them and inform them about fellowship.

    This has only happened once in 2 1/2 years. Normally, I know who is in the House of God before the Divine Service begins.

  11. @Young Blood #7

    This is one of those cases where our Lutheran Confessions are quite helpful, if we would only really confess them in the teaching and lives of our congregations.

    Simply put, “closed communion” is shorthand for what the Lutheran Confessions define and describe as the right practice in regard to our celebration and stewardship of the Sacrament of the Altar and the distribution of the body and blood of our Lord.

    According to AC XXIV: on The Mass
    “6 No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined. . . .
    36 Chrysostom says “that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others.” [Concordia: Reader’s Edition]

    Clearly, our subscription to the Lutheran confessions includes not only what we believe and teach, but what we do as well. Why? Because, as every parent knows all too well, what a person actually does and is seen doing is a potent teacher.

    Thus, even adiaphoron are judged to be beneficial or deleterious amongst Lutherans based upon what they teach or don’t teach. As Paul writes, “’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” [1 Corinthians 10:23-24]

    Our Lutheran forefathers not only gave us the catechisms as to what our churches should teach regarding the Sacrament of the Altar, but they also made it a point to describe what proper stewardship [as per above] and even celebration [see below] of The Sacrament consist of and look like.

    The aforementioned AC XXIV: on The Mass begins with a description of Lutheran worship practice.
    1 Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. 2 Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns. These have been added to teach the people. 3 For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught ‹what they need to know about Christ›.

    Furthermore, in Article XXIV of the Apology, once again the practice of Lutheran churches in regard to The Mass, i.e. The Lord’s Supper, is described.
    “1 . . . we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously keep and defend it. Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals. The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other such things.
    “80 Let us discuss the word liturgy. This word does not properly mean a sacrifice, but rather the public ministry. Liturgy agrees well with our belief that one minister who consecrates gives the Lord’s body and blood to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches offers the Gospel to the people. As Paul says, ‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1 Corinthians 4:1), that is, of the Gospel and the Sacraments.”

    So, as you can see, a study of The Lutheran Confessions and an honest and faithful subscription to them, involves practice as well as doctrine. And the Lutheran practice in regard to Holy Communion, not only closes or limits the distribution of the Lord’s Supper to those whom the pastor knows have been examined and absolved according to our Lutheran confession of the faith, it also consists of use of the historic catholic liturgy in the language of the people being served.

    Anything else simply isn’t Lutheran and is to be rejected as less than beneficial in teaching “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” [Jude 3]
    So, it seems to me the simplest, most effective, comprehensive, and faithful way for the pastor to handle this is to clearly state that any person who is unknown by the pastor needs to speak with him *before* expecting to receive the body and blood of our Lord.

    Here is the statement printed in our bulletin at Trinity, Layton on top of the first page with the outline and propers for the Divine Service.
    > In Christ’s church, every pastor is called to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1-2), admitting no one to the Sacrament who has not first been taught and examined according to the Scriptures (Augsburg Confession, Art. XXIV). Therefore, if you are visiting and have not spoken with Pastor prior to the service, he will be delighted to speak with you about our confession of the Christian faith following the Divine Service in order that you may receive the very body and blood of Christ at His table with us here in the future. Until then, you are welcome to receive the sign of the cross in remembrance of your baptismal forgiveness during the distribution of the Sacrament. <

    If I notice a visitor with whom I have not a had a chance to speak personally, I will make a short statement referencing the bulletin announcement as we move from the Prayer of the Church that concludes the Service of the Word into the Service of the Sacrament. I offer to serve the Sacrament to any who visit with me following the service, desire the Sacrament, and give evidence that they share the same confession of and fellowship in the faith.

    No Lutheran visitor should be offended by such a practice, because it should have been included in their catechesis prior to becoming a communicant member of any LC-MS congregation—indeed any congregation that claims to be Lutheran. That's what concordia and koinonia mean–that we agree to teach and hold in common this practice of the faith.

    Finally, any non-Lutheran visitor needs to be introduced to proper teaching and practice of the Lord’s Supper, regardless of how they may react to it–for the sake of their own faith and salvation, and in order that we might have the hope of true fellowship with them one day.

  12. Youngblood,
    I have a communion statement which I read before the service of the sacrament begins, if there are guests I’m not familiar with in attendance. This requires its reading about twice a month, otherwise it just sits in the bulletin bidding people to read. Actually I read it before the offering is taken, and inform the visitors that they should not feel obligated to contribute, as this too is an act of fellowship, and support for the work of the church, and if they don’t know what that is enough to commune with us, they ought not be making the confession of unity with us by donating either.

    I have crafted the statement to be an exhortation to my members as well as the visitors. This idea I got from Luther’s admonition to communicants. It is if you will a perpetual catechises bit for the congregation. I have found though that even reading the statement is not always a guarantee visitors won’t come forward who are not in fellowship with the LCMS. On some occasions I know ahead of time who the visitors are and give them a blessing. At other times I find out in follow up visits, and correct the issue there. But at least with Luther, to answer your question, there was the practice of an admonishment for those taking communion before the service of the sacrament, a sermon of sorts that was read and re read, and I think that is a good practice.

  13. And to follow up. What I have found the benefit of that to be is not so much for the visitors that come in off the street. But educating my congregation as to the whys and hows of it, so they are less likely to bring family members etc without first explaining it to them. And informing them enough to be able to talk about it with their friends and family later after church.

    The visitor off the street is normally another matter all together.

  14. Close Communion, as practiced by LCMS, WELS, ELS et al, has no Biblical basis; nor can the present practice be defended by any of Luther’s writings, sermons, etc.
    An honest look at the Word, without any pre-conceived notions, will demonstrate that a great deal of exegetical gymnastics are required to arrive at the present practice. Simply looking at the Maundy Thursday scene of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper is enough to cast serious doubt on the current practice.
    A distinction needs to be made between BIBLICAL Close Communion and DENOMINATIONAL Close Communion.

  15. Bill,
    Could you hash out that last sentence a bit more? It sounds an awful lot like some thoughts I have been having, but thoughts I am not sure about in totality. And one of the problems I have is how to be practical about the Biblical admonishments etc, without practicing a Denominational Close Communion. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

  16. My response is nothing but a loving, truly evangelical approach to a PRACTICAL application of properly addressing those who approach the Lord’s Table, who are not denominationally acceptable, from the LCMS, ELS, WELS viewpoint, and desire to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.
    My experience has revealed to me that those who are properly labeled as “fit” for Communion (LCMS, etc.) are not always truly “fit” Biblically; and those who are “unfit” Biblically are not to necessarily to be excluded. I have asked LCMS members if Jesus is truly present in the Sacrament, to be told that He is merely symbolically present. And I recently asked a “reformed” individual if Jesus is truly present to be told that “Yes, He is truly present”.
    In other words, my responsibility is to adminster the Sacrament according to Jesus’ own words; it is not to divine the beliefs, thoughts and motives of the recipient. That is between the recipient and the Lord.
    To refuse the Sacrament to someone who desires the Body and Blood of Jesus is a grevious sin (eg Denominational Close Communion). If we were to administer the “test” of worthiness to the Twelve Disciples present at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, NONE of the Twelve would be worthy according to out definition of worthiness. They didn’t even know or understand what Jesus was talking about when He said,”Take and eat…drink”, nor were they properly “prepared” according to our Catechetical prescription for proper reception. Yet Jesus offered His true Body and Blood to these “sinners” and(apart from Judas’ refusal) they partook. The proper reception is not about US and our “worthiness” , but it’s about JESUS and His offer of Himself and His unconditional Grace to falied sinners.
    Luther himself says that the proper reception lies in “those who have faith in these words,’Given and shed for you for the forgivness of sin'”.
    Luther knew of no denominatiuonal formula for Communion; certainly Jesus knew of none either.
    Denominational distinctions are artificial and betray the principle of sola scriptura. I hope that this has been helpful in being Biblically faithful to Biblical Close Communion (ie Communion to CHRISTIANS only).

  17. Well Bill I’m not sure we are going to have a lot of agreement after all.
    I would like to ask you what makes you think the disciples had no idea what Christ was talking about at the First Lord’s Supper? The words are pretty clear. Really, unless you come up with someway of saying that Jesus is not God, and thus it is an impossibility for the Sacrament to be truly his body and blood you have no reason to doubt him. The Disciples knew him to be God. They heard his words loud and clear. and if they didn’t understand it that night, than why did they understand it later? From the words of Paul who gives more commentary on the Lord’s Supper, you see that they did believe it to be his body and blood. So unless you have some letter of Peter to the contrary, I think it is safe to say that they did in fact know what he was talking about.
    As for Lutherans that believe it is a representation, well that is a shame, and needs to be corrected. I have run into at times the same problem, especially when I was new to my congregation. I found that a little one on one catechesis went far to correct the problem. I have also found that having a detailed communion statement that not only tries to bar the table but explains what communion is goes a long way changing people around on this issue.
    As for the reformed, of course they say he is truly present, they’ve always said such trite things, and meant by them completely different things than Lutherans. Ask the guy if an unbeliever receives the body and blood of Christ with his mouth, and then see what the
    answer is.
    Now I do get myself all twisted around over whether or not I should commune someone from the ELS or WELS or some other conservative Lutheran denomination that has declared itself not to be in fellowship with us, when they move to town, or are visiting parents from out of town etc. Sometimes I even have the same concerns with people wanting to jump the ELCA ship. I do think they all need some catechesis before they can become members of the LCMS. On the other hand, I’m don’t think that not communing them because the church body they are coming from has a different doctrine concerning the office of the ministry, is the epitome of responsible pastoral care.

  18. Hi Bror,
    My point concerning the disciples at the institution of the Lord’s Supper is that they did not FULLY comprehend what Jesus was doing until after His Resurrection. There are a number of examples of this (John 12:16, John 13:7, John 20:9, etc.) This does not mean that what Jesus did was made ineffective by their ignorance; it simply means that they did not fully comprehend until after Jesus’ Resurrection. At the Last Supper, the disciples expected the traditional Passover Meal. What they received was the true, final Passover in Jesus.
    I’ve never been able to convince people steeped in repristination thinking that denominations don’t matter in regard to administering the Sacrament, but that seems to be one of my many short comings. Repristination thinking prevents each Christian from each new generation from fully submitting to the Sola Scriptura principle. It was absolutely essential for Luther to turn his back on Roman respristination in order to conclude that “the just shall live by faith”. Each generation of Christians must do the same. Each generation needs a reformation to get us back to Solus Christus, based on SOLA Scriptura.

  19. Bill, right on brother. I’ve been saying and practicing what you speak of for a long time now.

    In my opinion the LCMS CTCR article regarding admission to the Lord’s Supper is not so much true biblical exegesis as much as LCMS eisegesis. (For those who are not familiar with the terms “exegesis” is reading “out” of the Text or letting the Text speak and “eisegesis” is reading “into” the text what you want it to say.)

  20. Bo. Hi. Your response is a breath of fresh air. Eisegesis is the perfect word. Luther appreciated deeply what the Church Fathers had to say on a number of issues, but he ALWAYS left them in favor of the Word and the Word ALONE when it came to determining what God says to us in matters of salvation, faith, etc. To honestly hear what God says in His Word, EXegesis is necessary.
    Unfortunately, when it comes to the practice of Close Communion, a DENOMINATIONAL approach to exegesis has turned the conclusions into conclusions that fit into a certain template; conclusions, by the way, that can be found no where in Scripture.
    How sad it is when we determine to turn away fellow Christians who sincerely desire the very REAL Body and Blood of Jesus for their very REAL sins, for the sake of loyalty to a TRADITION- a tradition that did not exist among the “first” Lutherans (a name that was NOT favored by Luther himself).

  21. Bill, you set up a straw man here: “loyalty to a tradtiion”. That is not what we teach and you know better.

    It is one thing to argue against the historic understanding of the majority of Christians throughout history. Give it your best shot.

    Twisting words doesn’t help your argument.

  22. Phillip. Hi. The term “loyalty to a tradition” is, indeed, accurate and relevant to the discussion. In my personal experience-and you’ll have to take this for what it is: anecdotal-the laity, by and large, accept the current practice out of sheer loyalty to tradition. I even go so far as to say that A FEW pastors I have known defend the position out of loyalty to tradition.
    I remember Luther being asked, and I paraphrase: “Are you the only one who is correct?”, implying that Luther was “throwing out” centuries of standard, “orthodox” systematics, to make his arguments solely from the Word. I don’t believe he was “throwing out” anything, but was teaching Christians to go to the Word, and allow Holy Spirit to enlighten and instruct them for conscience sake. My REAL hope through this wonderful discussion among brothers is that Christians will always go FIRST and FOREMOST to the Word for all things.

  23. @Rev. John F. Wurst #13

    I admire how Pastor Wurst treats visitors/guests who are not in fellowship with LC-MS. He is a pastor and not God and trusts those who come forward, and then if they come again, instructs them again about what closed communion means – a plus if members of the congregation invite the visitors to consider becoming members.

    I am a member of a church which practices open communion. When I attend a church on a special occasion that practices closed communion, I refrain from partaking because 1) that church has asked me not to participate, and 2) as important if not more so I do not want others to think that I am in agreement with beliefs of that church which my church finds false.

    Instead if there is a refreshment hour, that is where I will have snack & beverage and some challenging and affirming conversations.

    Thank you, Michael He

  24. So it doesn’t matter if a person believes it is a mere symbol and nothing more. Not believing what Christ said is ok? Many don’t believe it is for forgiveness of sins.

  25. @Michael #27
    What, what …what??????? (and I say this in a loving tone, not looking down but of pastoral concern)

    No, it does matter what you believe, “if” you want it to be what it is, the Divine Meal that forgives sins and strengthens your faith. To some, just bread and wine, to us, so much more.

    I always add (most of the time), as I bless those that dine at the Altar Rail, “Depart in peace, your faith strengthened, your sins forgiven.”

    Now can you be forgiven for doubting Christ, not understanding what is going on? Sure (we confess, and are absolved), but truly time for some continuing education, adult ongoing catechesis for you.

  26. @Bill Metzger #19
    Luther knew of no denominatiuonal formula for Communion; certainly Jesus knew of none either.

    Luther was quite definite about his refusal to commune with Zwingli or the “Enthusiasts”.
    They may not have called themselves “denominations” but they certainly closed communion.

  27. @Bror Erickson #20
    Now I do get myself all twisted around over whether or not I should commune someone from the ELS or WELS or some other conservative Lutheran denomination that has declared itself not to be in fellowship with us, when they move to town,…

    No need. if they are strict ELS or WELS, they will do without before communing elsewhere.
    [If they aren’t, you have a mission field, perhaps?]

  28. There is a judge and He is the LORD and not the LCMS. God allows us free will and also expects that we will instruct all in His Word. LCMS church’s normally provide a Communion statement which states the requirements which are covered above; however we fallible people would be playing God if we ban others who maybe strangers with close communion language. This would not respect the free will God has given all.

  29. I have been Lutheran all my life, but have never agreed with a closed communion, nor do I believe that communion should necessarily be open to all. I am much more of the mindset that “close” communion is in line with what we see in 1 Corinthians.

    Why do I say this? First of all, I think both sides of the Real Presence issue can readily present what I feel are equally legitimate arguments from scripture regarding whether communion consists of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, or if the presence is symbolic in rememberance of Jesus death and resurrection. I personally take the words of institution literally, but I can see the other side as well. Ultimately, it isn’t the belief in whether the Real Presence is there or not that affects communion, it is the belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that affects communion. I think Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 11 as he starts off saying that the believers are doing things during communion that displays a lack of love for their brothers and sisters in Christ (by eating and drinking without their other brothers and sisters in a gluttonous manner and so excluding them from the body), he then talks about the words of institution and that by taking communion we proclaim Jesus death. So by doing something that hurts our brother and sister, we are violating the example that he set and not “discerning the body” of Christ. The fact that Paul takes up the complaint about eating and drinking at home rather than hurting their brothers and sisters lends some credence to the belief that the phrase “discerning the body” could be symbolic rather than physical. Either way, I don’t think it is a matter worthy of dividing the body of Christ. So from that standpoint I have a hard time excluding brothers and sisters who have bowed the knee to Jesus Christ from participating in Communion based on a bible passage that could be ambiguous on the subject of the Real Presence.

    The second reason I have an issue with closed communion is Paul didn’t address this letter specifically to the clergy, nor did he say anything about the clergy determining who is fit to receive communion. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians was addressed to the laiety. And what did he tell them regarding communion? “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” The responsibility for taking communion worthily was placed on individuals, not the clergy. If someone has a conflicting statement from the pastoral letters that says otherwise, I would be glad to revise my position on the matter.

    I have always believed that the sacrements are a means of grace, not something we earn. In regard to the Lord’s Supper, if I am going to err, I would much rather err on the side of grace. I think that a statement of our faith asking believers to examine themselves and to exclude themselves from communion should they believe another gospel is perfectly acceptable and in line with the teaching of the scriptures. That’s my $.02. God bless.

  30. @helen #29

    Actually, initially Luther was willing to engage in Communion with the followers of Zwingli, but was convinced otherwise by Melancthon who felt it would harm them from being able to reconcile with more liberal members of the Roman Catholic church.

  31. Can someone explain what are the risks of taking communion when you’re not worthy?? I told a non Christian friend she couldn’t take communion when visiting my church and she said fine, but what’s the risk?? In all my years at Lcms I’ve never heard the risks of taking communion wrongly.

  32. Paul says in First Corinthians 11 that those who partake unworthily, that is without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

    He also says that this is why many in the Corinthian congregation were weak and ill, and some even died.

  33. @Sean #33

    Actually, initially Luther was willing to engage in Communion with the followers of Zwingli, …

    Can you tell me where that’s reported?

  34. @Sean #32

    The fact that Paul takes up the complaint about eating and drinking at home rather than hurting their brothers and sisters lends some credence to the belief that the phrase “discerning the body” could be symbolic rather than physical.

    It wasn’t the sacrament, but their “pot-lucks” which were a problem; the well-off ate and others went hungry.
    [Another subject which does not affect the Real Presence.]

  35. @helen #37

    Helen, will address both comments in this thread.

    With regard to your first question, this was mentioned in Here I Stand by Roland Bainton, in Chapter XVIII, section titled Protestant Alliance: The Marburg Colloquy. Granted, Luther evolved in his theology on many subjects throughout his lifetime. As I stated earlier in my responses, if I am going to err, I would rather err on the side of grace.

    With regard to your second comment regarding “pot lucks” I really don’t see that is the case. The entire section is specific to division within the church and its impact on communion. This is evident in that Paul implies it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat, but something entirely unworthy of the Lord’s name. He then goes on to describe the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Trying to turn that into a commentary about “pot lucks” is a huge stretch given the context and content of the entire passage.

    Thank you for your response though, I am glad that people are willing to engage in discussion on this topic as I feel it has an important impact on ministry.

  36. 1 Corinthians has nothing to do with LCMS closed communion and that is the only passage the Synod has to stand on and it is improper exegesis. The Corinthians were making communion out to be a party. When people come forward and in their conscience feel led to partake of the forgiveness of sins, by all means they are the kind, that especially need it. ALL sinners need the body and blood. Closed communion is stupid and Jesus would never have of it. You might as well be a Calvinist and say He only died for the elect because that is exactly what you’re saying in closed communion. He died for the sins of all, unrepentant, un-understanding, and all. Those outsiders need the ingestion of the Gospel to heal their souls and I concur the statement mentioned before that the disciples only understood Maundy Thursday after the fact. There simply is no Sola Scriptura about this and any denomination who thinks 1 Cor is, need to take a Homiletics class… @Sean #32

  37. 1) What is the Biblical basis for Closed Communion
    a. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (I Corinthians 10:16-21)
    b. Paul makes clear that Communion is a common union of the Body of Christ with their Lord and Savior and with their fellow member of that Body. We are indeed one body.
    c. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many (I Corinthians 12:12-14).
    d. Since the church is one body, it cannot do something without it affecting all of that body. Thus, as Paul said in the previous passage, You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. This means that we harm the entire body of the church when we unite the Lord’s Table with the profane beliefs of those who are not properly prepared and in agreement with our beliefs and understandings.
    e. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (I Corinthians 11:26).
    f. We ‘preach’ the Lord’s death and our forgiveness of sins by the shedding of His blood when we properly practice what He instituted on the night in which He was betrayed. It cannot be a valid proclamation without unity in message.
    g. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common (Act 2:42-44).
    h. So united was the early church that they dedicated themselves to four things that they were both united by and brought unity: 1) proper instruction in what the apostles taught (confirmation); 2) fellowship (the gift of community); 3) the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper); and 4) prayers (which were done as a body and in the context of worship).
    2) How then do we practice that unity of the proclamation of the Lord’s death?
    a. Paul’s prayer for believers as they congregate is that they “be like-mined one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That you may with one mind, and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6; cf. I Corinthians 1:10). Therefore, Holy Community of a holy people is for those who with one mind and one voice confess the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ as an act of God alone (Romans 9:16).
    b. The reason Lutherans practice Close Communion are two-fold: 1) to keep those who might partake of this Sacrament to their judgment from doing so because they take it without proper “examination,” and, or without “recognizing the body of the Lord”, (cf. I Corinthians 11:26-29); 2) to have all who commune with us truly be in communion with us, that is be one in faith, and one in the confession of that faith (cf. Acts 2:42; I Corinthians 10:16-18).
    c. When excluding members of another confession of faith from the celebration of the Holy Supper in communion with us we are not denying them our fellowship, nor are we judging their faith. Rather, we are being honest about our confession of the Christ and His salvation offered in the means of grace, and inviting them to be honest about what they believe in their confession of Christ and His salvation offered in the means of grace.
    d. The issue is brought about by their profession of beliefs and practices that are not in keeping with the Lutheran faith. Lutherans do not take communion in churches with differing beliefs and ask that they not offer offense by professing one set of beliefs in their home church and another by participating in communion in a Lutheran church.
    e. Any adult who is baptized and believes in Christ as his Savior is a full member of the Christian Church even though they may not commune with us. Note that infants are not communed at our altars, yet they are considered full members of the Christian Church. They are baptized and they believe in Christ as their Savior. Holy Baptism unites us in the Christian faith; Holy Communion unites us in the confession of that faith.
    3) Who should conduct the Lord’s Supper?
    a. This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1).
    b. A Lutheran pastor is called to “preach the Word, and administer the Sacraments.” ‘To administer’ means more than to just offer Holy Communion, it means to be accountable and responsible for what is offered.
    c. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
    d. The pastor is not the host, for the Lord is the host, but he does have authority and responsibility for its proper administration as the “steward of the mystery” (I Corinthians 4:1).
    e. Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
    f. The ordained minister is a bondservant of Christ, a “called servant of the Word.” Any pastor who acts contrary to the Word will be brought into judgment by the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5:2-4). And their congregation is also admonished to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).
    4) Close communion was the practice of the first century church
    a. In the early church, seekers first came to Bible studies and then, if they wanted to seek membership, would come to worship as hearers. If wanted to continue towards membership, they entered a confirmation class as confirmands.
    b. “These hearers and confirmands were then dismissed after the Service of the Word and before the celebration of Holy Communion. During Communion, the doors of the assembly were closed and guarded by deacons and sub deacons” (Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, Werner Elert, p. 75).
    c. Before a guest in the early church could be admitted to the Lord’s Table of the local congregation, one had to have on his person some proof that he was a communicate member of an orthodox Christian church. The Council of Carthage in the middle of the 4th century declared that no admittance to communion should be granted without a letter from a bishop. This explains the practice of “letters of transfer” today to show that those mentioned are ready to be received as communicant members of another congregation.
    d. Again, Elert writes of that time, “The modern theory that anybody may be admitted as a guest to the Sacrament in a church of differing confession, that people may communicate to and fro in spite of the absence of full church fellowship is unknown in the early church, indeed unthinkable” (p. 175).
    5) Actually, a congregation and its pastor that practice close communion as described in Scripture, is a very compassionate ministry of souls. Christian pastors and elders should take a serious interest in the spiritual welfare of their charge, and all who visit the Lord’s Table.

  38. @Dan #39

    You REALLY need to read my post and understand that if your Homiletics class misled you on this it is because they did not respect the Bible as God’s Word, but want to twist it to what they want it to say and not say.

  39. @Sean #32

    1) God is always physically present when He saves
    a. At the right time, for the sin of the whole world, God sent His one and only Son Jesus to live for you and to die on the cross for you.
    b. So they gathered for the Passover meal. Jesus took the bread and said, “Take and eat, this is my body.” He took the cup of wine and said, “Drink from it, all of you, this is my blood.”
    c. God’s love and commitment to your life have always meant His participation and presence. Holy Communion is an extension of what He has always done.
    2) Jesus’ Body and Blood and the Bread and Wine
    a. All three Gospel accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23) explicitly state that Jesus took BREAD, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat; this [i.e., this BREAD, which I have just blessed and broken and am now giving to you] is My body.”
    b. Jesus uses similar language in referring to “the cup” (of wine) as “His blood.”
    c. A plain and straightforward reading of these words leads to the conclusion that BOTH bread AND body, BOTH wine AND blood are present in the consecrated elements of the Lord’s Supper.
    3) Paul Addresses the Real Presence
    a. St. Paul ran into doubts about the real presence in the church at Corinth. These doubts weren’t a theological question, but were being lived out in the carelessness in the administration of Communion. In I Corinthians 11, Paul expressed dismay at what was happening during the worship services of that congregation:
    i) But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not (I Corinthians 11:17-22).
    ii) Paul is teaching that the Lord’s Supper is a common union (communion) of the Body of Christ (the church) in which they should be united. It is not a time for having a pot luck or (as in Paul’s day) a picnic in which each brings what he can afford.
    No. It is the Lord’s Supper, and, as such, Christ is both the Lord and the host of it. It should bring unity to the church, not disunity, and certainly not engender covetousness.
    b. Paul then went on to describe exactly how the Lord’s Supper should be approached:
    i) 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, 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.” 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
    ii) Here we have Jesus’ own words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, recounted three times in the Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20).
    c. So “real” is this participation in Christ’s body and blood, in fact, that (according to Paul) those who partake of the bread and wine “in an unworthy manner” are actually “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (I Corinthians 11:27). The result may be sickness or death (vs. 11:30)
    i) 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (I Corinthians 11:27-30).
    ii) Remember in the Old Testament when coming into the presence of God as an unprepared, unconsecrated, or unrepentant sinner meant death? Take a look at an example from Exodus 28. These are instructions for Aaron’s priestly garments and his entry into the Holy Place of the tabernacle. Notice that if Aaron comes into the presence of God unprepared, he will die
    All around the hem of the robe make pomegranates of violet, purple, and bright red yarn with gold bells in between—a gold bell alternating with a pomegranate all around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he serves as priest. The sound of the bells must be heard when he comes into and goes out of the LORD’S presence in the holy place so that he won’t die (Exodus 28:33-35).
    iii) Just so in I Corinthians, people died when they came into the presence of God unprepared and unrepentant! They did not come into the presence of a mere symbol in Communion. Symbols do not cause death. Only the presence of God—HIS PRESENCE for THE PURPOSE OF SALVATION—could cause such things.
    iv) Chief among the Corinthians’ many problems was their failure to recognize and nurture their community life as an expression of the Gospel and its power. They were missing the connection between union with Christ and loving unity with one another.
    d. So, in communion we receive in, with, and under the bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ shed on the cross. Jesus is present, although not in exactly the same way that He was corporeally present when He walked bodily on earth. The Formula of Concord explains it as “the incomprehensible, spiritual mode of presence according to which He neither occupies nor yields space but passes through everything created as He wills….He employed this mode of presence when He left the closed grave and came through closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper….” [FC SD VII, 100].
    4) From what Paul says in I Corinthians, it is clear that some members were showing disdain toward the poor in their congregations. This was causing them to misuse the Lord’s Supper, the common meal in which all members of the church receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins.

  40. I am an LCMS layman. I have attended with family members a certain church in the Anglican Church in North America denomination several times when they offered communion. They invited all to come forward: those who were members to receive the Sacrament and for those who were not members in communion with their church to receive a blessing from the priest. A person seeking a blessing were to cross their arms on their chest to signify that they wanted a blessing. I went forward for the blessing. I thought that this was a really good way to make the Holy Supper available to all in some fashion but yet emphasize the closed communion practice in their church.

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