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Ask A Pastor: Close Communion and Baptism?

Question:

In our denomination we practise closed communion. This means that it is possible for a person who isn’t a member of our church to participate in the Lord’s Supper. When it comes to baptism, we require at least one parent to be a member of that church to baptize their child. Doesn’t this mean we are treating baptism as the holier sacrament since we hold it to a higher standard?


Answer:

In the FRCNA we practice close communion. Closed communion is different. Closed communion means that only members of a particular church or denomination can come to the Lord’s Supper. The Canadian Reformed Churches practices this. Close communion, which is observed in the FRCNA means that a consistory can permit people from outside our own federation to the table if there is a closeness in doctrine and life. Usually, this means meeting with the consistory before the service in which the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated, to confirm that the person is a member in good standing in his/her own congregation and has a good testimony regarding their own salvation. In our federation, many have participated in our Lord’s Suppers while visiting or on vacation. Some consistories will write to the visitor’s home church leadership to inform them that “on such-and-such a date, your member was welcomed to our Communion Table”. Article 61 of our Church Order lays out our position in fuller detail, as does Church Order, Vol.2 Supplement, No.A-10. 

Regarding baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is true as you say that both sacraments are holy institutions of the Lord. This does not mean that they are equal, either in administration, meaning, scope, or parts. Baptism is the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace. Birth brings one into the Covenant of Grace and baptism puts forth and upon the child, covenant promises in the sign and seal. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper, however, is different. The Lord’s Supper is a personal expression (even confession) of believing on Christ for one’s salvation and feeding upon Him by Faith. 

So, there is a difference (these among many). In baptism personal activity is not present. You are passive, the sacrament happens to you. In the Lord’s Supper, personal involvement is active; Christ and you meet in the elements received by faith. Just because they are both sacraments does not mean they are equal.   

The primary reason only one believing parent is required for infant baptism stems from 1Cor. 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” “Sanctified” and “Holy” here, does not mean saved but consecrated and set apart. It is on this basis that the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches will baptize an infant of one confessing member. This passage declares a child’s nearness to Christ based on one believing parent. (See also Romans 11:16.) It sometimes does happen that only one person in a marriage confesses the name of Christ. This happens when someone comes to saving faith after marriage, or when an unscriptural marriage is entered into with an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:4) and the member comes to church alone. 


I hope this answer helps a little,


Warmly, Pastor Lewis


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