June 29, 2007

Who Is Admitted to the Lord's Table?

Francis Pieper in his Christian Dogmatics lists these qualifications:

  1. Such as have been baptized;
  2. Such as are able to examine themselves;
  3. Such as believe the Words of Institution;
  4. Such as must not first remove a public offense that has been given.
And then he adds: "Furthermore, since Christians are forbidden to adhere to teachers who deviate from the Apostolic doctrine (Rom. 16:17: 'Avoid 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."

Finally, he notes that when the Pastor distributes the Lord's Supper, he is giving private absolution. How can this happen when the pastor has not met (even briefly before the Divine Service) the communicant that approaches the altar?

Churches that simply leave people to read a vague, jargon-laden bulletin announcement effectively relinquish the need for pastoral oversight, and do a grave injustice to the souls coming under their care. The welcoming attitude is well-intended, but has the same effect as removing prescription medicines from the pharmacy and selling everything over the counter: some people will abuse the medicine and use it to their harm (1 Cor. 11).


L P Cruz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L P Cruz said...

Good point Pastor,

I meant to say...

I got a question, would discussing these conditions prior to distribution do and not just leave it un-mentioned in the bulletin?

How do you do yours?



Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

I'm not sure if you mean discussing them with the entire congregation (in an oral announcement) or discussing them with any visitors directly.

I've done the former when I knew we had many visitors that might not be prepared for our practice - in those cases, I have done it before the service begins. The downside to that is you miss the stragglers. I have seen it done where an announcement is made before the Preface (which begins the Communion liturgy), but that strikes me as a very awkward intrusion into the flow of the Service.

I am inclined to use a shorter announcement (a paragraph in a bulletin is too short to say all that needs to be said) and invite guests to speak to me. When that doesn't happen, I ask pointed questions softly to people unknown to me who approach the altar, such as, "To what church do you belong? (What synod?) Who is your pastor?" And a few times: "Do you believe you are a sinner?" and the following questions from Luther's "Christian Questions with Their Answers."