Responding to unbelievers and taking communion

My words will be in regular text formating while the words from the article will be in blockquote and intalicized.

Dear J. R.,

Thank you for your letter and insightful questions. I will attempt to answer your first question in this weeks ATP, and the other two over the next week (or two).

The first question from the link is:

Pastor Sofia,
I have been attending GCCC for 8 months now. I have a few questions that I would like you to clarify for me.

1) I have noticed that before communion is distributed, it is not stipulated that this is to be done in remembrance of Jesus by the believers, the saved, the born again. Do you believe that communion is for the born again believers only? I believe that Scripture is clear on this matter and that communion is exclusively for those who know Jesus as their personal Savior. [Mr R gives some three Scripture passages supporting his view.]

The Pastor continues.

Let me first say that I approach Communion seeking to intercourse The Lord’s Table with what the Holy Spirit desires to say for that particular service, or if you please congregation. Therefore, I do not approach Communion the same way every time we sit at Table. I do however, seek to admonish those with outstanding offenses not to take Communion if they have not Biblically sought for resolution, lest they partake and bring judgment on themselves. (1 Cor 11: 18, 27-34)

When they came together as a church (1 Cor. 11:18) does not speak to non-professing or unbelieving people who just happen to be in the congregation. Those who practice closed communion would most likely say this verse speaks to only official church members when “church” is referenced. Yet, even those who practice open communion would only allow for believers to partake of communion. Which brings us to 1 Cor. 27-34 in that an unbeliever is unfit to partake in any way in a worthy manner as he is spiritually dead. More particularly v. 32 “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world” speaks specifically to believers since believers aren’t condemned with the world.

I also seek to make clear that when we partake of the bread and wine we are doing so in remembrance; there is nothing magically in the elements  they do not transubstantiate. The magic, if you please, is what Christ did on the Cross two-thousand years ago. When we receive the bread and wine we are remembering his subsitutionary death in payment for our sins. The word is propitiation Christ taking our place, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves remove our sins in the eyes or the Father and give us a reconciliatory position as sons and daughters. Now that is Awesome! And that is what Holy Communion is to remember.

First, no one claimed “magic” in the elements nor transubstantiation. Even from what seems to be Pastor Sofia’s position that Christ died for all unequivocally (universal atonement) the unbeliever in this case cannot do anything in “remembrance” as he is still spiritually discerned. There is no faith to speak for the unbeliever for Christ dying in the unbelievers place.

As to whether a person must be born-again to receive Communion, here I part company with many. I am not saying those who believe one must be born again to receive Communion are wrong, they may be right. However, I do not see it that way for the following reasons:

Interesting way to put as one who parts “company with many” on this issue while still saying that they aren’t “wrong.” Just seems to me that if you take a contrary position to someone that you are, in fact, saying that the one who holds the opposite position is wrong. I hold contrary theological positions to some of my friends and I think they are wrong. I could be wrong and they could be right, but I don’t think so and we discuss it along these grounds.

1) None of the Disciples were born-again when they partook of the Last Supper. The Holy Spirit had not yet been given. (John 14:17)

Non-sequitor. They were believers in the New Covenant. Not to mention the questioner above uses “believers, the saved, the born again” interchangeably. I can also bring up that Paul had not yet given instruction on receiving the Lord’s Supper and that today we cannot use the excuse that the Holy Spirit had not yet be given. Not to mention 1 Cor. 10 tells us that our forefathers v3 “and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Paul also tells us in v. 21 “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

2) Jesus not only served the Eleven, He also served Judas. (Matthew 26:23 and 27)

First, some debate as to whether or not Judas actually ate and drank. This is a more difficult section to deal with, although, we have Paul’s instruction as noted above. We know from Scripture that Judas fulfilled a prophecy and may also be thought of as being in the Covenant. Not to mention Satan had not yet entered Judas until after Judas dipped the bread. Since the Holy Spirit has come one is either indwelt by Him (believer) or not (unbeliever). We cannot simply say that Judas partook of communion since we have the whole counsel of Scripture to look to.

3) The whole picture of the Last Supper (Holy Communion) is that the Son of Man was soon to die for sinners. This is what the Cross is all about; that is its message – Christ died for sinners! (1 Tim 1:15; 1 Pet 3:8) That is what we acknowledge when we sit at table with the Lord.

The Son of Man has died to save sinners, to save those who are believing so there is no reason the unbelieving to partake of communion for they have nothing to acknowledge. Not sure how 1 Peter 3:8 fits here as it says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” Even if we use this verse out of its context and say this is how we should act towards everyone then I ask how is one doing this when one let’s an unbeliever drink and eat judgment upon himself?

Therefore, if a man testifies to this through Communion, saved or unsaved, is he then bringing judgment on himself? The reality is, he/she may have absolutely no knowledge of what it means to be born again (just as the men in Ephesus who believed but had not yet received the Spirit, hence they were not born-again, Acts 18). God certainly brought no judgment upon them; in fact, He rewarded their faith by giving them the Holy Spirit.

I’ve addressed the believing/born-again distinction above. I am not sure exactly what the Pastor is speaking of concerning Acts 18. If one has no knowledge of what it means to be born-again then warning them about taking communion may even be an opportunity to explain the Gospel to them. As far as knowledge goes Romans 1 tells us v.18-19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” This does not make the unbeliever any innocent to any degree, but quite the contrary.

Those who Paul scolds and issues a stern warning to are those who are born-again and are tearing apart the body of Christ by their fractions, their bickering. I do not believe God forbids the non-born again person from receiving Communion. I believe He forbids the person, saved or unsaved who refuses to settle offences. Why? Because the Cross is all about settling offenses — first with God and secondly with our fellow man.

I will again quote 1 Cor. v.21 “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” We cannot have it both ways. Let me show that from the Pastor’s own words he should not let unbelievers take communion. He says, “I believe He forbids the person, saved or unsaved who refuses to settle offences” and “Because the Cross is all about settling offenses — first with God and secondly with our fellow man.” If we use the Pastor’s own premise that the offenses settled are “first” with God then an unbeliever should not partake of communion since he is under God’s condemnation and has not settled any offenses with God.

Now, if a person has light on what it means to be born-again and refuses to accept the Gospel, then that person does have an unsettled offense — with God. Therefore he/she could very well bring judgment upon him/herself.

Okay, then why as a minister of the Gospel would you not warn those who have, in your view, unsettled offenses with God? I wonder if the Pastor believes that all unbelievers whether they have the “light on what it means to be born-again” or not have unsettled offenses with God?

However, God doesn’t see as we see, He sees the heart. So, we’ll allow judgment to remain His jurisdiction, let us keep looking to the Cross.

God sees the heart and we have responsibilities. If we applied this same thought to church discipline or any command of how Christians ought conduct themselves we’d be in a bigger mess than we already are. And for us to keep looking to the cross I say Amen!

In Christ,

PS: 1689 London Baptist Confession, Chapter 30 THE LORD’S SUPPER

30.1 The supper of our Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night he was betrayed,1 to be observed in his churches2 until the end of the world3 as a perpetual remembrance [of him] and to show forth the sacrifice of himself in his death.4 It was also instituted to confirm the faith of believers in all the benefits in Christ’s death,5 for their spiritual nourishment and growth in him,6 for their further engagement in and commitment to all the duties they owe him,7 and to be a bond and pledge of their fellowship with him and with one another.8

(1) 1Co 11:23; Mat 26:20-26; Mar 14:17-22; Luk 22:19-23
(2) Act 2:41-42; 20:7;1Co 11:17-22,33-34
(3) Mar 14:24-25; Luk 22:17-22; 1Co 11:24-26
(4) 1Co 11:24-26; Mat 26:27-28; Luk 22:19-20
(5) Rom 4:11
(6) Joh 6:29,35,47-58
(7) 1Co 11:25
(8) 1Co 10:16-17

Con’t here.

Let's connect!

tagged as , in apologetics,Christianity,Church Issues,theology

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary Magdaline January 5, 2005 at 11:39 am

I don’t think it could be any clearer that this guy believes it is OK for nonbelievers to take communion.–>

2 Ferndok September 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

It’s so sad to see this author spending his time arguing with God’s anointed and appointed Minister of the Gospel. The author should be spending his time witnessing to save the lost, rather than trying to argue a mute issue with his superior. So sad. His entire foundation is wrong, and a cracked foundation is bound for a collapse. There is no evidence that Dr. J. Bruce Sofia is anything but God’s chosen Spiritual Authority to hundreds of thousands of people. The author is challenging a man of God, rather than following the “call” to every believer – to follow Jesus and fish for men. Let us hope that one day as he matures in the Lord, his eyes will be opened and his pride set aside. For now, all we can do is pray for Mark, which I’ll encourage anyone who has read this insubordination to do.

3 James March 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I agree with ferndock, this kind of nit picking does no good. not to mention I wonder if he did what Mat 18 says and went in person to this pastor before lambasting him in fornt of everyone…. what a shame. By the way, if an unbeliever partakes what is the worst that can happen… presumably they are already damned…

4 November 18, 2015 at 2:58 am

<> ??? What is this?
If he or she has never heard about Jesus, does he still can go to heaven? cos he or she has no idea about Jesus’ salvation, so God will not bring judgment upon them?


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