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Savoy on the Sacraments. Part 12

12/10/2011

In this section of the Confession, Savoy insists that ungodly people – who cannot enter the presence of Christ with unforgiven sin, similarly are unfit to come to the Lord’s Table.

All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

In most Irish Congregational Churches we have, usually, what we refer to as ‘open communion’. We welcome all to the Lord’s Supper, with the strict warning that only those who know and love the Lord should partake. But we leave that up to their own conscience. (Actually, is it not good for unbelievers to ‘observe’ the Lord’s Supper? To sit and watch while the Christians receive the bread and wine, rather than to get up and go. Children too! After all, if the sacraments are a sign – a visual aid to help us to understand what Christ did for us on the Cross, would unbelievers not benefit from observing it’s enactment. And do we ask unbelievers to leave during a service of baptism?)

Contrary to our present Congregational practice, in the Christian Brethren and some other denominations, the communion table is ‘closed’- ie you would need a letter from another assembly, vouching for your profession of faith, before you would be permitted to take part.

It was thus also in earlier Reformed traditions. In Congregationalism and Presbyterianism, the elders would have examined the hearts and homes of prospective communicants, and upon finding that they were living Godly lives, would issue them with a communion token, which would gain them admittance to the Lord’s Table. The us the Communion was said to be ‘fenced’ – a reference to a literal fence which was placed around the table during communion seasons in Reformed Churches.

Savoy pleads with us to fence our communions. If we can no longer erect physical barriers and issue tokens, we should at least be aware of who is attending, and how they are living and make some effort to warn them of the consequences of accepting the elements while living ungodly lives.

1 Cor 11:27-29 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1 Cor 6:14-15 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
1 Cor 5:5-7. To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8
Matt 7:6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

One Comment
  1. Our church has open communion, and we consider the scriptures listed above to concern the way we as Christians interact with each other, except for Matt 7:6 which doesn’t seem to apply to the Lord’s Table.

    Just a question: Can an unregenerate participator in the Lord’s Supper be any more condemned than they stand already? Rather shouldn’t we be sharing with everyone especially when we believe we have come to meet Jesus at the table and there receive grace? Why would this not be a whosoever will time?

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