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Communion 2010

Denying Communion

Originally scheduled for January 31, 2010

On occasion the newspaper headlines will announce that some church body – often the Roman Catholic church – has denied communion to one of its members, usually a politician or other public figure. To many Evangelical Christians this seems very strange. Church discipline is rare in Evangelical churches, and the practice of “open communion” is frequent.

Open communion has its advantages. First, it is self-policing. You tell the congregation to examine themselves. Rarely is the possibility of refraining from communion mentioned, so it’s assumed that practically everyone who considers himself a Christian will partake. This method also has the advantage that there is no administrative trivia involved. No committees must meet; no announcements are made. It’s particularly appealing to Americans, for whom the concept of “individual responsibility” is practically an article of faith.

There are, however, advantages in closed communion too. The true believer, knowing that communion could be denied, is affirmed in a sense of approval and belonging. It’s also a form of warning: knowing that communion could be denied serves notice on the backslider that it’s time to repent. Indeed, telling the backslider that he might be denied communion can serve as a step on the way back to faith. The purpose of church discipline, after all, is the restoration of the sinner. God is not “tolerant.”

It is not our purpose to settle a theological debate. Rather, it is to warn and prepare the Christian for the Lord’s Supper. Please, therefore, consider:

· Communion is not a magic, empty ritual. Just because you partake does not mean you are right with God, any more than wearing a lab coat and stethoscope makes you a medical doctor.

· Communion is a time to examine your relationship with God – not whitewash it. There is no thought that you can “get away” with having communion.

· Indeed, it is the test of hypocrisy. To the hypocrite, communion certainly feels like an empty ritual. To the true Christian it is a spiritual experience.

Therefore, examine yourself. If the door to communion were watched, would the sentinels of Christ let you in?

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