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Close, closed, close[d] Communion: Three words, one meaning

Comments (2)
  1. Rev. Toby Byrd says:

    Brother Matthew, you wrote, “May Christians who belong to another denomination (which may even publicly reject these very cardinal truths about the Sacrament), but who recognize their need for forgiveness, believe that Christ died for their sins and believe His words “Take, eat, this is my body” receive the Sacrament at our altars to their benefit? Yes.” Then you write, “Second, there is more behind the practice. The New Testament rejects participation in false teaching over and over again. It also demands unity of believers in the truth and separation from false teaching and erring fellowships. This is hard for us. We are American individualists. No church or pastor is going to tell me what’s what in my personal relationship with Jesus! ” I would agree with the “yes” of the first paragraph provided your understanding is the same as Francis Pieper, who using 1 Cor. 5:11; Rom. 16:17 as his proof text wrote, “Furthermore, since Christians are forbidden to adhere to teachers who deviate from the Apostolic doctrine (Rom. 16:17: “Avoid them”; R.V.: “turn away from them”), it is self-evident that members of heterodox churches must have severed their connection with the heterodox body and have declared their acceptance of the true doctrine before they may commune with the congregation. Fellowship in the Lord’s Supper certainly is fellowship in faith or church fellowship (Fritz: “Abendmahlsgemeinschaft ist Glaubensgemeinschaft,” altar fellowship is confessional fellowship, Pastoral Theology, p. 154; [Walther, Pastorale, p. 145]). Therefore, I don’t think your “yes” is to be understood as an unqualified “yes” but one tempered on the words of Pieper and on our doctrine of Altar and Pulpit Fellowship. Too many, however, use the term “close” to reject this understanding of Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics and our understanding of Altar and Pulpit Fellowship, and thereby “open” their communion rails to all and everyone. I have personally witnessed the schism caused by those who desired to “commune their parents” who were not members of the LCMS and who would not give up their membership in the heterodox church in which they were members, nor reject that churches doctrine of which they were a part. But the LCMS converted children were none- the-less insistent that they be communed. I am of the firm opinion that communing one outside of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is to be “rare.” A true “pastoral act of love in an extraordinary case.”

    Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 385.

  2. Al List says:

    This is great stuff! It should be read by all Christians. I am going to ask my Pastor(s) to review and discuss this at our next Bible Study. (asap) If only all LCMS members understood LSMS Biblical doctrine. Thanks to you Rev Dr Harrison for the wonderful explanation.

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