Apostolic Communion Practice

Home

       
 

When you participate with the Church during the Lord’s Supper, you receive the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ: His same Flesh which was crucified on Good Friday; His same Blood shed at Calvary; His same Body & Blood in which He now lives, glorified, in heaven above; all who commune receive these. Our Lord says of the sanctified Bread, “Take, eat; this is My body, given for you.” Christ says of the Cup, “This is My blood of the New Testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” St. Paul asks rhetorically, “Is the Cup we bless not a communion [share] of His blood? And is the Bread which we break not a communion of His body?”

The Holy Spirit commands you to examine yourself before eating, to discern the Real Presence of Christ’s Flesh and Blood, lest you profane these Holy Gifts and so receive God’s punishment [1 Corinthians 11:28-32]. We must repent of our sins which we've committed against family & friends, our fellow Christians, and our neighbor. We also ask Christ to help us love them more in thought, word, and deed. As a congregation of the saints we must examine ourselves, to see if we are faithful to all Christ has taught, and believe all His Promises. Finally, we must remember the Sacrament’s purpose: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

When you partake of Christ's Supper at His altar, you share in what is taught there [1 Corinthians 10:18-22]. By communing at our Lutheran altar, you publicly declare full agreement with all Lutheran Teaching [1 Cor. 11:26]: on Christ’s suffering, death, and return, Baptism, Christ’s Flesh & Blood being actually present {not symbolically nor just by faith} etc. While believers in other churches do have faith in Christ [Eph. 4:4-5], those churches variously reject God’s Word on the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:19], what blessings Baptism gives, and other facets of Christ’s One Biblical, Apostolic Doctrine. To make conflicting public statements about Christ takes God’s Name in vain. We do not wish to lead our guests to sin in such a way, nor can we in good conscience break His commandment by permitting conflicting public proclamations at His altar. We don’t want our guests to receive condemnation by unworthy eating and drinking Christ’s Flesh and Blood [1 Corinthians 11:27-32], and by denying His continual coming to us in His Flesh. [2 John 6-11].

For all these reasons, especially out of love for Christ and His whole Church, we keep this ancient Church practice which is properly called “Closed Communion.” Before celebrating the Lord’s Supper, ancient pastors proclaimed before Communion, ta ‘agia tois ‘agiois, “the Holy Things for the Holy People,” Christ’s Body & Blood given only for those who held the true public confession of the One, True Apostolic Faith. Communicant members in good standing of an LCMS , TAALC, or LCC parish may commune with us after announcing their wish to commune to our Pastor. Other guests must first speak with our Pastor about communing in the future. In this way we hallow God’s Name,  and all who receive Christ’s Flesh and Blood at Christ's altar will receive the blessings of the Sacrament: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. 

Christ’s peace be with you! -- Pastor Gross

Please read this month's Pastor's Message

 

Church Calendar

 

The Christian Faith

 

Luther's Large Catechism, Lord's Supper

 

Formula of Concord, Epitome, Lord's Supper

 

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Lord's Supper

 

Sharing Our Faith

 

The Apostles Creed

 

The Nicene Creed

 

 

Bethlehem Home

 

 

Scriptural Testimonies

Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,
and I will  raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 

-- St. John 6:54-55, KJV

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast,
not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

But now I have written to you not to keep company
with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous,
or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—
not even to eat with such a person.

-- 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, 11, KJV

mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine
which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such
serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly;
and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

-- Romans 16:17-18, KJV

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest
that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way;
first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

-- Saint Matthew 5:23-24, KJV

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.
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.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.*
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord,
that we should not be condemned with the world.

-- 1 Cor. 11:27-32, KJV 

[*“sleep” = “are asleep in death.” They've died because of their sinning
in their false communing.]

Top of Page

The Christian Faith

Bethlehem's Home Page

 

Questions & Answers about the Lord’s Supper

Q.     Where in the Bible does God say not to let other Christians
eat the Lord’s Supper with us?

A.     In 1 Corinthians 5:6-11, the Holy Spirit says:

7 … Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast,
not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. …

11
But now I have written to you not to keep company with
anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous,
or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—
not even to eat with such a person.

        We must eat “the feast” of the Lord’s Supper, in sincerity and truth. We must sincerely believe the truth about Christ and all that He says. Teaching or believing false doctrine is the same as idolatry. Idolatry is to make false images of God, whether those false images be of wood, stone, or of words. Baptism is “for you and your children” says St. Peter (Acts 2:39). If other Christians tell us baptism is not for children, we cannot in sincerity and truth eat the Supper with them, because they reject the Spirit’s promise to us. Christ says of “the bread we break” (1 Cor. 10:16) in the Feast, “Take, eat; this is My Body.” If other Christians say the bread isn’t Christ’s Body, but only represents or symbolizes Christ’s Body, we cannot in sincerity and truth eat the Supper with them. To reject what Christ says of infant baptism or His Body & Blood in the Sacrament, or what He says about morality, is to reject Christ, Who tells us to “keep all things whatsoever I have taught you.” (Matt. 28:20). The Holy Spirit commands you not to eat with Christian ‘brothers’ at the Lord’s Table, as long as they keep rejecting Christ and His Word, especially when, at the Altar during Communion, they reject Christ coming “in the flesh.” St. John says rejecting Christ & His Word like this is dangerous:

6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.
This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning,
you should walk in. 7 For
many deceivers have gone out into the world
who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.

This is a deceiver and an antichrist. ...
10
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine,
do not receive him into your house nor greet him
; … .
[2 John 6-7,10]

Many Christians have been deceived by false teachers, who say Christ does not come in His Flesh. [The Greek verb is present tense, which means Christ keeps coming in His flesh even now!] Out of love for other believers, we must warn them against such false teachings, and not reinforce those false beliefs. We cannot lightly brush aside doctrinal differences which reject even one passage of God’s Word. False doctrine kills souls, producing deviant images of God. For the truth of God’s Word to be kept safe among us; for the truth of His Promises in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Forgiveness of Sins to be given to us; and for the truth of what God says about proper morality; we must refuse to commune with those who deny the full truth of Christ and His Word, or Christ’s Word may be snatched away from us, as we read in the Parable of the Sower. We must preserve God’s Word in sincerity and truth, especially at His Altar, where Christ comes in His very Flesh and Blood. To reject God’s Word at the Altar on earth, places us in danger of being rejected at God’s Altar in Heaven, where “the souls of just men made perfect” commune, proclaiming the truth of His Word.

 

Q.     But, isn’t it impossible for anybody to know all God’s truth? Truth is relative, isn’t it? Isn’t it arrogant for any pastor or church to claim to teach all God’s truth? How is it possible for real, 100% truth to be preached by sinners in a sinful world?

A.     Not only is it possible to teach the full truth of the Scripture, our Lord Jesus Christ says it is absolutely essential that we worship God in full truth:

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:23-24]

        Christ promises the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth

 “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

[John 8:31b-32]

“… when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you
into all truth ...”
[John 16:13a]

Christ promises He and His Spirit will lead you into all truth. He says all believers must worship Him and His Father in all truth. God’s Word is Truth. When Christians reject some part of God’s Word, they are not worshipping the Lord in full truth. Through faith and baptism they are forgiven their unintentional errors, but we must not condone or promote false worship at His altar. Separation at the Lord’s Supper is one important way that we gently & lovingly warn and admonish fellow Christians to reconsider what false teachings they’ve been taught in other denominations. The Holy Spirit commands you to warn another Christian when he or she begins to believe or teach false things about God’s Word:

… if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual,
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness
; … .
(Gal. 6:1; Matt. 18:15-17 says to treat impenitent Christians as pagans)

So, in love, you must warn believers who are being deceived about God’s Word.

 

Q.     Are you sure doctrine is that important? When the Church needs unity so much today, should we really let differences over proper teaching cause separations?

A.     The Holy Spirit, the Author of Truth, requires such division regarding doctrine:

17mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  
18
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly;
and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
[Romans 16:17-18]

        Those who teach, believe, and support false doctrine are the ones causing these divisions!! The Apostolic Practice of Closed Communion marks false teachers so you will be able to avoid them. “Divisions and offenses” contrary to Apostolic Doctrine can destroy your faith in Christ, snatching the Word from your heart. You must avoid all such who “by good works and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” by false doctrine. True love warns friends, relatives, & other believers of the dangers of false doctrine. These outward, temporary divisions during the Lord’s Supper are in harmony with God’s Word, as the Holy Spirit says: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” [1 Corinthians 11:19] Such factions are necessary, so Christians realize that some teachers are approved, and others are rejected.

 

Q.     Aren’t a few doctrinal differences OK?
Do we really have to agree on everything Christ taught?

A.     Christ does not permit us to add anything to or remove anything from His Word:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven:
but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great
in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:19]

 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
[Matthew 28:19-20]

       The Greek word translated here as “observe” is terein, which means “to guard, keep within your grasp.” The word for “commanded” is eneteilamen, “to instruct, teach.” Christ is with us, even at His Altar, when we conserve and keep “all things” which He has taught us. We’re not free to pick-and-choose the parts of God’s Word we like, and then ignore the parts we don’t like! Pure Biblical teaching must determine who communes at the altar, or else people can reject God’s Word whenever they want, just to make other people happy. That is surely not pleasing to God!

 

Q.     Isn’t every Christian free to decide what is true and false in the Bible?

A.     No!! The Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:20-21, rejects private interpretations of the Scriptures:

no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:
but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

If individual Christians can believe whatever they want, and then use those personal opinions to decide who will commune, a deadly situation arises, against which the Holy Spirit warns a Pastor, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, saying:

… exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Many people believe truth is impossible to find, and that doctrine is a matter of opinion. Christ and the Holy Spirit reject these false ideas. Every Christian must seek the full truth of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit does not allow us to “agree to disagree.” Disagreeing on God’s Word is to bear false witness to our neighbor, and against God Himself. Since we’re made holy by God’s truth, only by His truth are we kept safe from everlasting damnation, as Christ prays:

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
 And for their sakes
I sanctify myself,
that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
” [John 17:17-19]

We must stand before God’s Altar in sincerity and truth. We can not permit any false doctrine, especially at the Altar during Communion, for then we would question the truth of the Sacrament, whether our Baptisms were valid, etc. If we commune people who hold different doctrines about Baptism, Christ’s Body & Blood in the Sacrament, homosexuality, abortion, etc., then we give public approval of all false teachings. If we would approve of every opinion about God’s Word, we would then proclaim truth to be relative, and make people wonder if there is any truth at all, since every teaching about God would be acceptable at Christ’s altar.

 

Q.     Where does Christ say to stay away from the altar
when there are differences with a ‘brother’?

A.     In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ says,

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest
that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar,
 and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother,
and then come and offer thy gift.
[Matthew 5:23-24]

        The most ancient Church followed the Apostles, who applied this passage to the Lord’s Supper, as do we. We wish to remain in fellowship with them because they dine at Christ’s Table in Heaven. So we also teach that you cannot approach the altar with your ‘brother’ in Christ when any differences, any sins, including the sin of false teaching, stands between you and him.

 

Q.     Isn’t this “Closed Communion” doctrine just a Church teaching?

A.     It certainly is a doctrine of the most ancient Church of the Holy Apostles of Christ. To remain in fellowship with the Apostles and all the believers who now live in glory at Christ’s Altar, we keep this practice, which they have passed along to us. The Apostles practiced “Closed Communion,” and so the Church practices it, because it is God’s Will, as Scripture testifies. When you commune at the altar, you must be in fellowship with the Apostles and the Church who now lives in Heaven, for we commune with all the believers in Heaven at the Table:

“… the marriage feast of the Lamb is come,
and his wife hath made herself ready. …
Blessed are they which are called
           unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. …  
These are the true sayings of God!”

[Revelation 19:7,9, sung by the saints & angels in glory.]

 

But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn,
which are written in heaven
, and to God the Judge of all,
and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant,
and to the blood of sprinkling,

that speaketh better things than that of Abel. [Hebrews 12:22-24]

Every time you come to the Lord’s Supper, you join the saints in Heaven at the Wedding Feast of Christ, the Lamb of God. Those saints in heaven remain in communion with the Church on earth through the Lord’s Supper. You remain in fellowship with them, and partake of Christ’s life with them, at the Lord’s Supper. Any congregation which does not practice Closed Communion, breaks fellowship with the Apostles & saints in Heaven, because that congregation proclaims a different Gospel! (see Galatians 1-2) The Apostles always practiced Closed Communion, for only this practice conforms to Christ’s Word and Christ’s Will for the Lord’s Supper. The early church was of one heart and mind with the Apostles (Acts 2:42, 46), and so also practiced Closed Communion. Those who reject this Apostolic practice and teaching therefore also reject fellowship with the Apostles, and also reject fellowship with the saints who now dwell in heavenly splendor at Christ’s Table.

 

Q.    What possible harm is there for Christians who disagree on doctrine to commune together? Would God actually punish believers on earth for false, unworthy communing?

A.     God tells us He will punish all who take His Name in Vain. This includes believing and teaching false doctrine. False doctrine attaches God’s Name to lies and errors.
The Holy Spirit says through St. Paul, that God punishes believers on earth for unworthy communing
:

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.
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.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep*.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord,
that we should not be condemned with the world.
[1 Cor. 11:27-32; *here, “sleep” = “are asleep in death”]

        True, sincere love for our fellow believers demands that we try to prevent them from having God’s anger burn against them. As shown above, there is no way to keep God’s Name Holy among us by letting false teachings be tolerated at the Altar of Christ during His Holy Supper. All those who hold to doctrinal errors, even though they have been tricked by false teachers into believing false teachings, still fall under God’s anger when they commune unworthily. If you truly love your neighbor as yourself, you will spare him or her from this danger by asking them to wait to commune until they believe & proclaim the Apostolic profession of faith in truth and sincerity. You as an individual, and we as the church together, must examine one another to be sure we worthily receive Christ’s Body & Blood in the Holy Supper. Communion is not simply your private moment to receive God’s mercy. It’s not just between “me & Jesus.” Communion is a public, communal act of the Church where we join together in the same proclamation of Christ that the Apostles & Saints in Heaven proclaim.

True, sincere love for God & our fellow man requires us to keep the Feast of Christ in truth & sincerity. At times, this means we don’t commune with fellow believers. We must love the LORD our God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind, so His love teaches us how to love one another. Love for God’s Word & Truth demands we cherish all that He says in the Bible, and conduct our lives in that Truth every day, especially at His Supper, so we receive His gifts: forgiveness & eternal life!

May Christ bless you as often as you eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, so you will join all believers who have lived, are living now, and are yet to come, at His Table in Heaven above, which comes to us on earth beneath to refresh us and keep us safe to life eternal!

Pastor Jeffrey Gross,

Week of Reminiscere, A.D. 2006

       
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         
 

Top of Page

The Christian Faith

Bethlehem's Home Page

Directions

Contact us

Church Calendar