The Lord's Supper
Biblical Teachings on The Lord's Supper
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord

<<==The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

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Chapter 8

or CLOSED COMMUNION -1 Corinthians 11:18

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"I hear there be divisions among you . . . therefore . . . ye cannot eat the Lord's Supper." (I Corinthians 11:17-20.)

We are living in an age that is characterized by a neglect of the local church. The Lord's Supper should be observed when God's people "come together in the church." A proper observance of the Lord's Supper emphasizes the importance of the local church.

Baptists have always been the recipients of much abuse and unjust criticism because of their position concerning the Lord's Supper. Their position concerning the Lord's Supper needs to be stated again and again.

Baptists believe--that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer; in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the authority of the local church, to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem our faith in the crucified, buried and risen Saviour, with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life: that it is pre-requisite to the privilege of a church relation and to the Lord's Supper, in which the members of the church, by the sacred use of bread and wine are to commemorate the dying love of Christ, preceded always by a solemn self-examination.


God placed the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper in the church, and the church alone has the authority to administer these ordinances.

In Matthew 16:18 we have the record of Christ establishing the first model church.

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."


In Matthew 18:15-17 the power of judgment and discipline are placed in the local church.

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

"But if he will not hear, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

"And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."

In Matthew 26:26-28 the authority to observe the Lord's Supper was placed in the church.

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it.

"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

In Matthew 28:19, 20 we have the Great Commission given to the church.

"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 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

The church and the church alone has the authority to go forth "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Also the authority to teach them to observe the Lord's Supper is in the church.

Christ Himself located the Lord's Supper in the church.

The practice in the New Testament was to observe the Lord's Supper in the church. In I Corinthians 11:17-34 we have Paul's discourse on the disorders at the Lord's Table in the church at Corinth. The whole discourse reveals that the Corinthians were observing the meal in the church. Read it and notice the language.

". . . that ye come together not for the better but for the worse." (Vs. 17.)

To observe the Lord's Supper they came together as an assembly---the church.

". . . when ye come together in the church." (Vs. 18.)

An honest inquirer cannot mistake language such as this.

". . . when ye come together in one place." (Vs. 20.)

The established practice and accepted doctrine in these New Testament churches was that of observing the Lord's Supper in the church.

Paul states in verse 23 that the ordinances had been delivered unto the churches.

"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you . . ."

In I Corinthians 1:2 we find that Paul had addressed himself unto "The church of God which is at Corinth" and unto this local church he had delivered the ordinances.

". . . when ye come together to eat." (Vs. 33.)

The proper place to eat the Lord's Supper was when they came together as a church.


In this entire passage the church, as a church, was censured for a wrong observance of the meal. Surely if the church was admonished, as a church, for the wrong observance of the Lord's Supper the responsibility for a right observance rested with the church.

In this passage also, the church, as a church, received praise for faithfully keeping the ordinances.


The responsibility for a proper observance of the Lord's Supper rested with the church. The Lord has placed certain restrictions and qualifications upon participants of the Lord's Supper. He has placed the responsibility of carrying these restrictions and requiring these qualifications upon the individual church.


God teaches in His Word that baptism is a pre~requisite to partaking of the Lord's Supper. All denominations teach that baptism must precede communion. It is an accepted truth for many reasons.

First, baptism was instituted and practiced before the Lord's Supper. John the Baptist never observed the Lord's Supper. Jesus was baptized before He instituted the Lord's Supper.

Second, baptism was given first in the commission to the church in Matthew 28:20. The order here is (a) make disciples, (b) baptize them (c) teach them to observe the Lord's Supper.

Third, the apostles practiced this order. On the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2:41-42, we find this order of events.

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers."

Notice the order:
(a) received His Word
(b) were baptized
(c) breaking of bread.

Fourth, the apostles so instructed the churches. The people Paul was writing to in I Corinthians 11 were those spoken of in Acts 18:1-11, ". . . and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized."

Fifth, the scriptures make baptism the initiatory ordinance. It is the emblem of the beginning of spiritual life. Communion is the emblem of the nutrition of that life.


It must be agreed then that baptism is a pre-requisite to the Lord's Supper. True Baptists will require scriptural baptism for all participants of the Lord's Supper. Baptism, to be scriptural, must meet the following requirements.

1. There must be a proper candidate. Only born again believers can be candidates for baptism.

2. There must be a proper mode. The only baptism in the Bible is by immersion.

3. There must be a proper administrator. As the responsibility for a proper observance of the ordinances was placed in the New Testament church, that church, and that church alone, has the authority to baptize.

This is the Baptist position concerning baptism. This scriptural baptism must precede the Lord's Supper. All who have not been scripturally baptized are restricted from participation. This is God's restriction and the responsibility for carrying it out rests with the local church.

The scriptural observance of the Lord's Supper is inseparably connected with efficient church discipline. There is none who would deny that the authority to judge and administer discipline was placed in the local church. Every organization which proposes to work smoothly, and yet efficiently, must have certain rules and regulations to be followed; certain laws for the individual members to obey. God has set these rules, regulations and standards in the church and given unto the church the authority to enforce them. That churches have a right to exercise a watchful supervision over their members, to reprove them when erring, and withdraw fellowship from them when incorrigible, is a necessity arising from the very constitution of their organization. This right was recognized by Christ and Ms apostles and was exercised by the first churches.

"And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." (Matthew 18:17.)

Christ established the model church in the 16th chapter of Matthew and in this church was placed the authority to exercise discipline. It is needless to emphasize that this could only have been a local church. How foolish it is to think of a universal, invisible church exercising discipline.

We find this discipline carried out in all the New Testament churches.

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (II Thess. 3:6.)

"A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject." (Titus 3:10.)

"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." (I Peter 4:17.)

"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

"Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such an one no not to eat.

"For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?

"But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (I Corinthians 5:9-13.)


God set the standards for membership in the local church and gave unto the church the command to maintain these standards. Those who refuse to abide by these standards were to be subject to discipline. Note these phrases from scriptures given above.

". . . withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly."

". . . an heretick after the first and second admonition reject."

". . . not to company with fornicators."

". . . judge them that are within."

. . . put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Can anything be more clear than this?

Church members who would not live according to God's standard were to be excluded from the membership of the church. Those who walked disorderly, hereticks, fornicators, covetous, idolaters, drunkards, extortioners, etc., were to be excluded. The identity and privileges of church membership were to be withdrawn! This would include the Lord's Supper. The scripture describes these from whom the church was to withdraw and then states, "WITH SUCH AN ONE, NO NOT TO EAT." This is God's Word! To invite those to the table that God does not invite is to break the command of God! Has any church the right to tempt a man "To eat and drink damnation to himself"? I Corinthians 11:29.

I Corinthians 5:12 plainly states that the church is to "judge them that are within." A church that refuses this responsibility rejects God's way.

Each individual local church is responsible for the discipline of its own members. One church doer, not discipline the members of another church. Each church is independent. The members of one church do not have a voice and vote in another church. Likewise, each church is only responsible for serving the meal to its own members over whom it has the authority of discipline.

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