What is the status of baptized children when it comes to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?
Are they to be treated the same as unbelievers and kept from the table until they can profess certain things about Christ or about the bread and the wine? Do they exist in something of a third category, somewhere between believer and unbeliever? Or do they belong at the Lord’s table by right of their baptism? If covenant children belong to Christ, is there any good reason to functionally excommunicate them?
This book explores the arguments for introducing baptized covenant children to the Lord’s Table early.
Contributing authors include: Douglas Wilson, Robert Rayburn, Jeffrey Meyers, Tim Gallant, James Jordan, Ray Sut ton, Rich Lusk, Peter Leithart, and Blake Purcell.
Click here to read a sample!
A few years ago, when one of my grandsons first came to the table (he was one year old), he was beside himself. His parents had taught him a basic catechism with signs because he could not really talk. He answered the question “Are you baptised?” by patting his own head. I was administering the Supper, and he was sitting in the front row with his parents and grandmother. When he got his bread, he held it up to show me.
Now all this could be dismissed simply as a grand kid doing a cute thing, not really understanding it. But he also turned and patted his mother’s head and his grandmother’s head. We are all baptised. He was discerning the body.
To the extent he understood the Supper, he was discerning the body. To the extent that he did not understand the Supper (as the rest of us do not either), he was learning, just as we are. We speak English to our children before they know English, and it is not a fruitless waste of time. That is how they become native speakers. In the same way, we are “speaking grace” to our children by including them in the Supper. And what impact does it have to speak grace to children so early? We do it so they might become native speakers of that same grace.
Another time a granddaughter (around two) saw the elders approaching and cried out, “Bread guys! Bread guys!” Now what would it be like to grow up in this kind of exuberance? What would it be like to never have to unlearn the long hard lessons of exclusion from the koinōnia for a time? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were true? God invites the psalmist,
“Open your mouth, and I will fill it.”
May this one day be the prayer of all God’s children. May all our little ones be given the privilege of looking forward in gladness and simplicity to the bread guys.
In my ongoing efforts to get all the truths I can about communion into my stubborn head, I was hoping you could please reconcile 2 things I’ve found on your site. In the article above, the author talks about children who can’t speak but have some reaction to the communion ceremony. The author suggests, as do you elsewhere on your site, that children ought to be included if they’ve been baptised into the covenant family (Reformed view). However, in your post, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 “Am I Welcome at the Lords Table?”, you say, “there is judgement in this cup if you drink it without recognising your unity and communion with God and one another”, and, “if, having been baptised into the body you desire to proclaim his death and resurrection as the source of your ongoing salvation, then yes, eat, drink and be filled.” Therefore, if a child can’t even say these things, let alone comprehend them, then how do we reconcile that they should be allowed to partake?
David Trounce says
In 1 Cor, Paul is making his remarks to adults (the drunkenness alone indicates this). When I say, “There is judgement in this cup if you drink it without recognising your unity and communion with God and one another”, and, “if, having been baptised into the body you desire to proclaim his death and resurrection as the source of your ongoing salvation, then yes, eat, drink and be filled.”, I am also talking to adults.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that the conditions for exclusion are different from the conditions of inclusion. Inclusion depends on visible entry (baptism, child of believer). But exclusion requires persistent unrepentant sin or unbelief.
The bible positively invites children to come to Christ for blessing. No where are we told to exclude anyone from the table except for ongoing and persistent bad manners.
Yes, there are Covenant curses as well as blessings at this table. The curses belong to those in persistent sin. They are based on rebellion, not on intellectual assent. And there are blessings here also, for all those who belong to the Covenant. When I ask my 5 year old daughter, “Would you like to eat with us”, and she says yes. She is saying yes to all that the eating implies – including the table manners.
Now, do i keep her away from breakfast until she understands what food is and how it works? Until she can articulate its meaning? if I did that she would not live long.
The Lord’s table is not only a place of Family Fellowship with Christ on Sunday, it is also a training ground for godly living throughout life.