by: Mark Upton
One of the great privileges of being a Christian parent is being in a position to see the beginning of your child’s personal relationship with Christ. Like any relationship this one will often go through fits and starts, but not long after your child begins to become spiritually aware of Christ’s real presence in the world they will start asking about the possibility of taking communion. This article is an attempt to help you understand when and how your child should be admitted to the Lord’s table.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 the Apostle Paul writes, 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Here we learn that the Lord’s Supper is a non-verbal proclamation of the Gospel, and just as the Holy Spirit uses the mouth of the preacher and the ears of the hearer to communicate the truths of the Gospel to the souls of those who listen by faith, so also the He uses the actions of the communion event to communicate the truths of the Gospel to the souls of those who eat and drink by faith. Consequently, partaking communion increases our faith by allowing us to experience the Spirit of God in a tactile way just as preaching increases our faith by allowing us to hear from God audibly.
But this passage also contains a warning:
1 Corinthians 11:27-32
27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
Unlike preaching, where God proclaims the Gospel verbally to anyone who will listen, the non-verbal proclamation of an individual’s union with Christ through participation in communion is restricted to repentant believers. Those who participate in communion hypocritically without a personal relationship with Jesus actually eat and drink judgment on themselves in a manner that can have even physical consequences. The reason God does this is because he loves us and wants us to have a real relationship with him. Often our religious performance inhibits such a relationship. After all it was the Pharisees and teachers of the law who crucified Christ with the help of the Romans and not just people who knew they didn’t know God.
Do not enter lightly
So participation in the Lord’s supper is not to be entered into lightly or unadvisedly, but soberly, deliberately, and in humble dependence upon God. We do that, explains Paul, by examining ourselves or testing our faith. 1 Timothy 3 makes is clear that the elders of the church are the people who God has set apart for the expressed purpose of assisting us in experiencing a real union with Jesus. So if you believe that your child has begun to enjoy a real relationship with
Jesus the first step to take before allowing him or her to participate in the Lord’s Supper is to initiate a meeting with the elders so that we can help your child examine their faith in order to know that it is real.
So what does this mean?
Practically this means that if you believe your child is ready to publicly profess their faith and participate in communion you must first have your child apply for membership in the church so that they can be interviewed about their faith by an elder. At that interview your child will be asked to explain their understanding of their sin, how Jesus life, death, and resurrection deals with their sin, what their relationship with Jesus looks like in real life, and whether or not they are ready to support His work at Hope and submit to his leaders at Hope going forward? If they are able to affirm your child’s faith in this conversation, then your child will be invited to profess their faith publicly at the next new member joining and become a communing member of Christ’s church at Hope.
But, you may be wondering, what should I do if I’ve already been allowing my child to take communion at Hope prior to examining themselves with the elders? You should model repentance for them by explaining to your child that you’ve realized that in your desire for them to be united to Christ you put the cart before the horse and that God’s word actually requires more of you both than you realized up to this point. Then you can schedule and elder interview to help your child grow into all that God has for them in His church by examining their faith in community with Hope.
If you have any questions about this article, please send an email to Mark Upton.