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Wash before you eat (Should Baptism Precede the Lord's Supper?)




Have you ever wondered why each week we invite baptized believers to the Lord's Supper instead of all believers? This can be a sensitive topic because many people have friends, children, or grandchildren who are not baptized but are eager to take the Supper. It feels like turning them away from the Supper is to turn them away from God's blessing, but it is actually safer, wiser, and better in the long run for them to wait to take the Supper until after they have been baptized. In this post, we are not issuing a command but simply are giving our counsel on three reasons why we encourage unbaptized believers not to take the Lord's Supper.

 

1.Ontological Reason (What Baptism and the Lord's Supper Are) Baptism is an act of obedience (Matthew 28:19) and is the one-time public profession of faith (Acts 2:41). It is an outward symbol of what has happened inwardly at our salvation (Rom 6:1-4). By baptizing someone, we are confirming their faith (Acts 10:44-48) and bringing them into the covenant community of the local church (1 Cor 12:13). Scott often says that baptism is like the wedding ceremony and the Lord's Supper is like the celebration and renewing of vows at an anniversary. The Supper is the habitual meal for the local church to remember and proclaim Christ's death for them (1 Cor 11:17-34). The bread and the cup are not some mystical elements that bless all who take them but are a means of grace for those who have truly been united to Christ by faith. Lastly, the meal is intended to bring unity to the covenant community and renew their commitment to Christ. So, it is confusing and unwise to have someone renew their commitment to Christ and his church when they have not taken the first step of initial commitment in their profession of faith at baptism. It's kind of like celebrating an anniversary before having the wedding ceremony. If someone is confident that they are a believer, then why not pursue baptism? That process of pursuing baptism can help confirm or deny that they truly are saved. So, it would be far safer and wiser to have the church and pastors first confirm their faith through baptism and welcome them into their covenant community, and only then come to take this meal together with their local church.

2. Old Testament Precedent Ex 12:48 says, “Let no uncircumcised person eat of the Passover meal." That's an odd verse to quote in this article but here's why it matters. Colossians 2:11-12 connects the ideas of circumcision in the old covenant and baptism in the new covenant. After all, they are both symbolic physical acts that welcome someone into a covenant community. Also, the first Lord's Supper was at Passover (Mark 14:12-25), and Jesus transformed that old covenant renewal meal into a new covenant renewal meal.

So, circumcision corresponds to baptism, and Passover corresponds to the Lord's Supper. Therefore, if God warned people not to take the Old Covenant renewal meal (Passover) before taking the sign of the entrance into that covenant community (circumcision), why should we do any differently with the corresponding signs of Baptism and the Lord's Supper?

3. Historical Precedent Anytime we see ourselves departing from the universal consensus of Christians throughout church history, it should be a warning sign to us that our biases and cultural context may be blinding us to the truth. So, it is important to note that every major Christian tradition (Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, etc.)* has historically affirmed that believers should wait to take the Supper until they are baptized.

One of our cultural blinders is that we have begun to view the Lord's Supper as an event for the individual, instead of a meal for the local church. Which is why we are quick to skip the step of entering the local church, having others confirm our faith, and publicly professing that faith to them through baptism. This is not a wise or healthy habit for us, and by doing so we are missing both the blessing of baptism and the local church. Let us learn from our brothers and sisters throughout church history by first being baptized and only then coming to the Lord's Supper.

 

We are eager for all in our service to come to the table, but we want them to do it wisely and soberly. So, if you are an unbaptized believer, please come talk to the pastors at LBC. We are eager for you to experience both the blessing of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They both are means of grace as they direct our attention audibly, visually, physically, and spiritually to the gospel of our salvation in Christ.

May the Spirit use them to increase our worship and love for Jesus!


* See Going Public by Bobby Jamieson (pgs. 124-126) and Historical Theology by Gregg Allison (pg 636)

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