To Whom Does the Lord Jesus Give His Supper?

In considering and discussing the practice of Closed Communion, it is not uncommon for people to ask, “Where in the Bible does it say that you have to be a member of a certain denomination or church body in order to receive the Lord’s Supper?” And of course, the Bible doesn’t say any such thing. But the question is missing the point of Closed Communion in several respects. We do not say or suggest that members of other denominations or church bodies should not receive the Lord’s Supper, but that they should do so within their own church fellowship (communion). To administer and receive the Holy Communion is at the heart and center of what it means to be a fellowship of the Church. Whereas a common catechesis and confession of the Word and faith of Christ Jesus is the prerequisite and foundation for such fellowship, a common participation in the Holy Communion of His Body and Blood actually is our church fellowship (1 Cor. 10:17).

But to the question at hand, it is not so much a matter of who should not receive the Sacrament, but rather of those who should. And here we have the guidance and example of our Lord Jesus Christ already in His institution of His Holy Supper. Whereas He preaches and teaches publicly to the crowds – and He feeds those crowds with bread and fish on occasion (in a manner that is also a kind of catechesis in anticipation of His Supper) – when it comes to the Sacrament itself, He gives His Body and His Blood, not to the crowds outside, but to His disciples on the inside (St. Matthew 26:26-27). We know that “disciples” are those who are baptized in His Name and catechized in all that He has commanded (St. Matthew 28:19-20). More generally speaking, a “disciple” is a student, a listener and learner, who follows a rabbi or teacher in a way of life. And, again, it is not to the crowds but to His disciples that Jesus gives His Body and Blood.

The Sacrament of the Altar is administered along with the preaching and catechesis of the Word of Christ Jesus. It is a package deal, not an isolated meal. The Lord’s Supper is not drive-through “fast food,” but a sit-down family Meal at the heart of the Home. And it is given to those who are being catechized in all that Jesus has commanded – by those who are catechizing them. As Jesus gave His Holy Supper to His own disciples, so do pastors give His Holy Supper to those who are under their own pastoral care (or the pastoral care of brother pastors within the same fellowship). That care encompasses everything that pastors do in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the benefit and well-being of His people: preaching, teaching, visiting, absolving, and so forth. The administration of the Holy Communion is itself an exercise of pastoral care within a context of ongoing pastoral care. And our church fellowship is really a fellowship of such pastoral care.