CAN I RECEIVE COMMUNION?
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
—1 Corinthians 1:10
Many ask, “Can I commune here?” And the answer is, "It depends." We certainly want you to. But it doesn’t depend on if you want to receive it; it depends on whether you’re ready and well-prepared to receive it. This all comes down to what you confess about God. What do you believe and say about Him, the Word, Salvation, Baptism, the Lord's Supper? Do you believe everything the Bible says? If not, which parts do you believe? Do you know what we believe, teach, and confess about the Bible? If you do, great! We want to hear what you have to say. But we can't assume each other’s confessions and beliefs. Instead, we have to have a conversation, a discussion about God.
We know this answer comes across as strange to many. Some accuse us of being unwelcoming, unloving, or even offensive. And for those who won't listen, we can do nothing. But for those who will listen, for those still reading, we can explain why we do what we do.
The first reason we do this is because the Bible says that people can receive communion to their harm. Yes, Jesus indeed instituted the Lord's Supper for the forgiveness of sins, for our benefit. But the Bible also tells us we can receive it for our judgment. 1 Corinthians 11:27–30 says,
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died."
Since people can receive it to their detriment, we want to give it only to those who can discern what it is.
Many respond saying, “But Paul tells us to examine ourselves." This is true. A Christian examines himself by comparing what he hears in the church to what he believes in his heart. If there’s a difference, then you and the church are not in agreement. Nevertheless, when St. Paul says, “Let a person examine himself,” remember that he’s not speaking to people he just met, strangers, or those visiting his congregation for the first time. He’s speaking to members of his congregation, Christians he already knows.
That leads to the second reason: 1 Corinthians 1:10 says,
"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."
Paul's chief concern is the unity of doctrine. It doesn't harm the church's unity if we disagree on personal preferences (colors, teams, careers, etc.). But disunity of doctrine damages and harms the church. So, we must agree on what the Bible says about God. Do we genuinely believe, teach, and confess the same things? Do we really believe the same things about Baptism, Salvation, Repentance, Prayer, Good Works, Heaven, Hell, and so on? Or do we disagree? If we disagree, we need to find out which one of us is correct. We need to resolve our differences before we commune together. We can't agree to disagree on God's Word. We don't have that option. If we take the Word of God seriously, we should take our confession of faith seriously. Our unity in confession precedes our unity in communion. The Lord's Supper is not only between you and God. If that were the case, you should commune alone at home. But God didn't give the Lord's Supper to individuals; He gave it to the Church. Communion—as the name implies—is between you, God, and everyone else in the Church.
Finally, the third reason is this: 1 Corinthians 4:1 calls the pastor a "steward of the mysteries of God." That means God calls pastors to administer His sacraments according to the Lord’s command and desire alone. Pastors have been educated, examined, called by God through the congregation, and ordained in the Office of the Holy Ministry to carry out this task: To preach the Word of God and rightly administer the Sacraments. Who receives communion is part of the pastor's job.
Some object and say, "Well, the pastor doesn't know my heart or what I believe." And that's exactly right. A pastor can’t look into your heart—This is exactly why he must hear your confession. The pastor's first task is to find out what the Bible says; his second, to find out what you say. If you agree with all of Scripture, then we’re in fellowship and can receive communion together. But since there’s a lot to talk about, conversations like this take time.
We want you to commune with us! We only ask that you be patient and allow us to talk with you before coming forward to receive the Lord's Supper. We pray that you see this is done out of faith in God's Word and love and care for you. We hope that this will drive you to a deeper appreciation for the unity of the Church and the Lord’s Supper.