Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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On the Supervision of the Lord's Table: Close Communion


A letter from John Calvin on the elders’ supervision of the Lord’s table:

"Dearest brothers, since this letter largely relates to individual churches in your midst, we have decided that the most convenient thing to do is to give you our letter to share. We are doing this not so much to avoid labour as to avoid expending so many words uselessly in individual letters, and especially to convince you that we are not saying one thing in one letter and something else in another. We want our consensus to be made known to all equally.

We hear that certain people are displeased when they are questioned about their faith in order that, if they are found to be poorly instructed in the faith, they may be denied admittance to the Lord’s Supper until they have made better progress. To those who are displeased by this strictness of yours, we say that they should not indulge their wickedness or seek indulgence in a matter that concerns their destruction. The apostle’s opinion ought to be well known among Christians, that anyone who eats the Lord’s bread unworthily is considered sacrilegious [1 Cor. 11:27]. For a person to use the bread worthily requires that he should examine himself; the apostle teaches quite clearly that those who are incapable of examining themselves should not approach that table.

Anyone, therefore, who approaches the Lord’s Supper heedlessly, without being instructed beforehand in the faith, arouses God’s anger. Those who are forbidden to approach it for this reason have nothing to complain of, since their salvation is being protected. If everyone were wise, everyone could be his own judge; but because many pay too little attention to themselves, it is expedient that the church have a definite procedure so that it never fails to prevent the sacraments from being profaned.

For everyone to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, without distinction or selection, is a sign of contempt that the Lord cannot endure. The Lord himself distributed the supper to his disciples only. Therefore anyone not instructed in the doctrine of the gospel ought not to approach what the Lord has instituted. No one should be distressed when his Christianity is examined even down to the finest point when he is to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper. It should be established as part of the total state and system of discipline that ought to flourish in the church that those who are judged unworthy should not be admitted.

We know this seems novel to those who do not maintain a distinction between the yoke of our Lord Jesus Christ and the tyranny of the papacy, but it is your responsibility to search out the Lord’s will and submit yourselves to it, rather than to relax the reins on your desires. Even the example of infidels may inspire us with shame. Granted that they did not show that reverence in their superstitions which we ought to show in the sacraments; they nevertheless acknowledged that those judged to be defiled by some crime should be kept away from their superstitious rites.

When the Lord’s Supper is forbidden to someone, he should not think that he is excluded for all time, or that he has been thrown into a desperate situation. The purpose is for him to humble himself, and for others to learn through him. All this is set forth in the Word of God, and we ask of you through the Lord that you not be ashamed to subject yourselves in a matter that you know to be good and holy."

Augustus Hopkins Strong:  "Open communion logically leads to open church membership, and a church membership open to all, without reference to the qualifications required in Scripture, or without examination on the part of the church as to the existence of these qualifications in those who unite with it, is virtually an identification of the church with the world, and, without protest from Scripturally constituted bodies, would finally result in its actual extinction."