Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Southern Baptists teach about the Lord's Table

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which 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 He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."

Today's post is about laying out in brief what Southern Baptists teach about the Lord's Supper. To discover the official teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention, one only needs to look at the SBC's webpage and click on the link to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 at

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 article on the Lord's Supper
Of the 18 articles or subjects covered in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (from hereon we willl call it BFM 2000), the issue of the Lord's Supper is covered in a short paragraph near the end of the 7th article. Here is the statement regarding the Lord's Supper:

"The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

When we consider this brief statement, we can break it down into three brief headings that aid in fleshing out the SBC's official position on the Lord's Supper.

1. "The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience...."
In the book "Baptist Faith and Message 2000 - Critical Issues in America's Largest Denomination", edited by Douglas Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell, the following explanation is given:

"(I)f baptism may be compared to a wedding ceremony, the Lord's supper may be compared to an anniversary celebration in which the vows taken at the wedding are renewed. Renewal takes place in the supper on a number of levels. First, the remembrance of our Lord's death should lead to a renewal of our repentance, because we remember that His body was broken to free us from sin. How can we live in sin when His body was broken to liberate us? Second, the supper should be an occasion to renew our faith. In partaking of it, we 'proclaim the Lord's death' (1 Cor 11:26). We remember that death is our only hope, and we renew our commitment to trust in Christ alone. That faith focuses on His death, the body broken and the blood shed, but it also emphasizes His resurrection, victory over death and promised return. As this document puts it, in the Supper we 'anticipate His second coming.' Finally, the Lord's Supper is also an occasion for renewing our commitment to the church. 1 Corinthians 11:18 see the Lord's Supper as a time when the church 'comes together.'"

I really like how the authors track out the idea of the Lord's supper being a repeated act of renewal. Whenever we see the phrase "symbolic act", we must not view the Lord's supper as an empty symbol or church ritual. Far from it. Partaking of the Lord's Supper is how the Lord Jesus Christ through the Person of the indwelling Spirit in each Christian reminds them of who they are and Whose they are. Jesus is especially present in and through His people when they do so, as He promised He would be with His church in passages such as Matthew 28:18-20. The "symbolic" nature of the supper is really a "sign" pointing to an abiding reality, that wherever the church is gathered, Jesus by His Spirit is present in them and through them.  

2. "....whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine..."
It has been always the case in Southern Baptist life that in order for someone to partake of the Lord's supper, they must necessarily: a). Be born again, regenerate, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone; b). The true believer must had been Biblically baptized by immersion, with a prior salvation experience. This strikes at the issue of "who then are members of the church"? As Blount and Wooddell in the book cited above note on page 78: "(I)t is a logical outgrowth of the Baptist view of the church and the Lord's Supper as an ordinance for the church." 

They then offer the following set of logical statements:
1. If the Lord's supper is for the church
2. And the church is composed of properly baptized believers
3. then the Lord's Supper is for properly baptized believers.

The Baptist Faith and Message itself say the following about believer's baptism:  "Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

Does the logic of baptized church members being the those properly admitted to the Lord's table square with scripture? With regards to the ordering of salvation, baptism and church membership in the early church, the evidence is quite clear. In Acts 2:38 the people were told to "believe and repent" of their sins. The baptism that they were told to do in the same passage was something they were to do following their salvation. Acts 2:41a demonstrates this by their response: "So then, those who had received his word were baptized....". So notice the progression: saving faith, believer's baptism. 

Then we discover the next detail in Acts 2:41b "and that day there were added about three thousand souls." The tabulation of an official record was taken with regards to all who got saved and baptized on the day of Pentecost. This is the earliest indication we have of church membership! Whenever you read Acts 2:42, the picture is made complete: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." The phrase "breaking of bread" was a common first century phrase for either eating a meal or celebrating the Lord's supper. At least in Acts 2:42, the meaning is plain: these baptized believers were celebrating the Lord's supper. Paul's ordered mentioning of believer's baptism in 1 Corinthians 1 and the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11 tells us that these two ordinances are given by Christ for each local church, with believers, properly baptized being the proper recipients. 

3. ...."memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."
In this final part of the BFM 2000 statement on the Lord's Supper, we focus upon the meaning of "memoralizing". In the commentary and study guide on the BFM 2000, edited by Charles S. Kelly Jr., Richard Land and R. Albert Mohler Jr., page 98, we read the following explanation:

"The Lord's supper is not merely a memorial to be received by Christians. it is a congregational act in which the covenant community, in obedience to God's command and united in one faith, one Lord and one Baptism (Eph 4:5), obeys Christ by memorializing His sacrifice (see Luke 22:19). The Lord's supper is not simply a reenactment of the Last Supper. It is a postresurrection celebration and commemoration of the completed work of Christ."

In-as-much as the Lord's supper focuses our attention upon the cross and Christ's achievement in His first coming, the meal points us ahead to what Jesus will do in His second coming. The church is after all a people of the two comings. 

Closing thoughts:
The goal today was to layout in brief the SBC's teaching about the Lord's table. We saw from two official SBC publications the meanings about the Lord Supper's symbolism, participants and meaning regarding its memorialism of Christ's first coming and anticipation for His second coming. This author subscribes to the BFM 2000 and commends it to reader who may be interested in discovering what it has to say about the Lord's Supper and other issues. As a reminder, no doctrinal statement is infallible, including the BFM 2000. For this author, the BFM 2000 functions as a commentary that aids in more clearly understanding what the Bible teaches - which alone is the final, inerrant rule of every standard of faith, practice and life.  

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