In baptist circles there are three positions regarding who are the proper communicants to receiver the Lord's Supper: closed, close, and open communion. These positions are not addressing the spiritual readiness of the individual (see yesterday's post), but are focusing on the stewardship of church authority and "fencing the table." Fencing the table is the means by which we protect people from partaking of the Lord's Supper in an "unworthy manner" (1 Cor. 11:27, 28)
Closed Communion is the practice of only admitting members of that particular church to the Lord's Supper. Visitors from other churches cannot partake. These churches are working to fence the table by limiting it to those they know, covenant with, and who are accountable to the leadership for purposes of discipline.
Close Communion only admits believers who have been baptized by immersion as a believer (credo baptism). This means those Christians who have been baptized as infants, or as a believer by some practice other than immersion (outing or sprinkling), are not admitted to the Lord's Table. They believe that since baptism must precede taking communion, and that baptism necessarily means immersion of those confessing Jesus personally, those who have not been properly baptized are not ready for the second ordinance.
Open Communion is when a local church admits all believers who have trusted in Jesus Christ to the table, differences in views on baptism does not bar them from it. All who know the Lord, and are "visible saints" are welcome to participate in communion. John Bunyan, in his classic, Differences in Water Baptism, No Bar To Communion, said,
[T]he church of Christ hath not warrant to keep out of their communion the Christian that is discovered to be a visible saint by the word, the Christian that walketh according to his light with God.
Bunyan argued that in spite of our differences in secondary issues our unity as Christians compels us to unite in the preaching and receiving of the word of God verbally and sacramentally. If it is true that "there is one body and one Spirit... one hope... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all," how can we forbid brothers and sisters with whom we share all of this from partaking of the Lord's Supper (Eph 4:4-6)?
Good churches may hold to any of the above three options, but at Redeemer Fellowship we fall in line with John Bunyan (and more importantly the testimony of Scripture).
Yes, we're open. Come on in!
Coming Up, The Lord's Supper: A Means of Grace