Report of the Committee on Paedocommunion
The Fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1987) received the Report of the Committee on Paedocommunion (the text of which appears below), which argued both for and against the position in three papers; these are identified as the committee (majority) report, minority report #1, and minority report #2. Although these reports were received, none of the reports was adopted, and the matter was continued to the next assembly. The Fifty-fifth (1988) General Assembly adopted the following recommendations which opposed paedocommunion (these recommendations originated with the Advisory Committee, not with the authors of any of the committee reports):
- That the Assembly advise Kidane-Hiwot and the sessions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that the requirement of the Scriptures and our subordinate standards for meaningful participation in the Lord's Supper is not age, but a faith that confesses, discerns, remembers, and proclaims the body of Christ while partaking.
- That the Assembly encourage the sessions to be more faithful in oversight of the flock of Jesus Christ, particularly the covenant children who are in truth members of the church.
- That the Assembly request the presbyteries to study the implications of the doctrine of the covenant for the observance of the Lord's Supper, public profession of faith, and the assumption of full covenant responsibilities by young members, and to report to the 57th General Assembly with specific proposals, including grounds, if they conclude that changes in the subordinate standards are required.
These recommendations are extracted from the Minutes of the Fifty-fifth General Assembly, pp. 60-62. The Report of the Committee on Paedocommunion to the Fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church follows.
[Note: General Assembly reports (whether from a committee or its minority) are thoughtful treatises but they do not have the force of constitutional documentsthe Westminster Standards or the Book of Church Order. They should not be construed as the official position of the OPC.]
During December 2-4, 1986, the five-member Committee elected by the Fifty-third General Assembly met in Denver, Colorado, at the Park Hill Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The members of this Committee are the Rev. Messrs. Leonard J. Coppes, Peter A. Lillback, Edwin C. Urban, Roger Wagner, and G. I. Williamson. The Committee's discussions were enriched through the presence of the Committee to Study the Issue of Covenant Children Partaking of the Lord's Supper from the Christian Reformed Church on the afternoon of December 2nd. Dr. Lillback was elected as Chairman of the Committee.
It will be remembered that the present Committee is an enlarged Committee. The first was composed of three members elected by the Fifty-second General Assembly. The erection of the original committee came in response to an overture from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic "... to study the issue of paedocommunion and provide voluntary guidelines concerning children being allowed to come to the Lord's Supper." This overture was the climax of a lengthy debate in the Presbytery over the propriety of administering the Lord's Supper to the young children of Kidane-Hiwot Church in Washington, D.C. On December 8, 1984, Presbytery granted permission to Kidane-Hiwot to practice paedocommunion in accordance with certain guidelines drafted by a committee of Presbytery. On April 19-20, 1985, however, Presbytery sustained a complaint that was filed against the Presbytery's decision to permit the administration of the Lord's Supper to the covenant children at Kidane-Hiwot. Consequently, the Fifty-second General Assembly acceded to the Presbytery's overture and gave the initial three member Committee the mandate "to study the issue of paedocommunion in the light of God's Word, our standards, and traditions."
The report of the initial three member Committee was heard by the Fifty-third General Assembly. The report itself contained a majority viewpoint in opposition to paedocommunion and a minority perspective that advocated paedocommunion. The Assembly, however, was not prepared to endorse either viewpoint at that time. Instead, it called for further study by an augmented Committee that was instructed to address five basic topics. The present Committee's work, then, has centered on the five areas specified by the General Assembly. These topics are:
- The exegesis of I Corinthians 11 in its context.
- The significant similarities and differences between baptism and the Lord's Supper.
- The relationship of the Lord's Supper to the Passover (and other O.T. sacrificial meals); the unity and diversity of covenant administration.
- The biblical warrant for a public profession of faith as a requirement for partaking of the Lord's Supper.
- The question of the relevance of age to a credible profession of faith.
In the ensuing deliberations it became readily apparent that these questions would not produce a unanimous consensus. Consequently, the Committee determined to approach these five issues from the perspective of seeking points of agreement to the extent that such was possible. This method was selected in order to discover the common ground shared by the various positions that are advocated in the debate over paedocommunion. From this vantage point it is hoped that a more careful discussion of the points of disagreement will result. Accordingly, the Committee is recommending that it be continued in order that further study may be made. (See recommendations numbers 1 and 5 below.)
The following propositions, then, were agreed upon by the Committee as a whole or to the extent indicated, and thus represent the consensus of the Committee. (Where there is not unanimous sentiment, the fact of an exception being made by a member of the Committee is noted.) The statements are presented in outline fashion and follow the order of the five topics cited above.
I. The Exegesis of I Corinthians 11 in Its Context
A. The participation of infants/children in the Lord's Supper lies outside the specific concern of the apostle in his discussion of the practice of the Corinthians in this letter.
B. The focus of attention was on the misbehavior of at least some of the participants.
C. Paul's discussion in I Cor. 10 and 11 does not directly address every aspect of the Lord's Supper.
D. Paul's purpose is to emphasize the seriousness of the Corinthians' abuses of the Lord's Supper in that the Corinthians bring the chastening of the Lord upon themselves.
E. I Cor. 10:1-5 proves that Paul saw the church at Corinth was having continuity with the wilderness church.
F. Paul's concern was not with the "worthiness" of the persons coming to the table, but with their manner of participation.
G. The purpose of the Lord's chastening is remedial.
H. A proper observance of the Lord's Supper includes a demand for an act of remembering and proclaiming the Lord's death.
I. The focus of Paul's criticism of the Corinthians in chapters 10 and 11 is upon their sin of disunity.
J. The phrase "the body" (v. 29) could be taken to refer to either the sacrament or the church, or both. (one exception)
K. While verses 27-29 deal with a particular situation, we agree that the teaching of the passage contains principles with universal applicability.
L. I Cor. 10:18ff. underscores the principle of the "real presence" of Christ in the Lord's Supper.
M. The "discerning" of I Cor. 11:29 is not the equivalent of doctrinal sophistication in our understanding of the sacrament.
N. While proper "discernment" requires saving faith, saving faith does not itself guarantee proper discernment.
II. The Significant Similarities and Differences Between Baptism and the Lord's Supper
1. The Lord's Supper does not give any benefit which is not already granted beforehand, through faith, in the Word and baptism. (one exception)
2. Both are given to the church out of concern for our weakness (cf. Calvin).
3. Both are signs and seals of the covenant of grace.
4. Both convey God's promises and require our response.
5. Both are never empty or ineffectual, because they always issue in either blessing or curse.
6. Both focus on the believer's union with Jesus Christ the Mediator in the virtue of His death and the power of His resurrection.
7. The efficacy of both is not limited exclusively to the time of their administration.
8. The sacraments of the new covenant are the same as those of the old as to the substance of the spiritual things signified thereby.
9. The grace signified is not conferred by any power in the sacraments themselves.
10. It is the intent of Scripture that both be received by all of the members of the church.
11. Both sacraments enjoin responsibilities on parents (where children are involved) and the church.
12. The New Testament does not expressly forbid the participation of children in either sacrament. (one exception)
13. In both sacraments there is a declaration of faith.
14. Both New Testament sacraments have Old Testament prototypical counterparts.
15. The administration of both is grounded in the command of God.
16. Both are used as reference points in apostolic exhortations to repentance and renewed faithfulness in the life of the church.
1. Baptism is administered only once, the Lord's Supper repeatedly.
2. The activity of the participant is brought to the fore with much more emphasis in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in contrast to the relative passivity of the one baptized. (one exception)
3. Baptism is the prerequisite for participation in the Lord's Supper.
4. Baptism is the sacrament of incorporation; the Lord's Supper the sacrament of nourishment.
5. In baptism water is applied externally; in the Lord's Supper elements are ingested.
III. The Relationship of the Lord's Supper to the Passover (and Other Old Testament Sacrificial Meals); the Unity and Diversity of Covenant Administration
A. The Passover was in some sense transformed into the Lord's Supper.
B. In the words of institution our Lord transformed the words used at the covenant-instituting meal at Sinai (Ex. 24). (one exception)
C. The Passover contains within itself the seeds of the later Levitical sacrifices.
D. As there was a definitive Passover and then a commemorative, so there was a definitive Lord's Supper and then a commemorative; in both cases the latter was the celebration of an accomplished redemption.
E. Admission to both Passover and the Lord's Supper has as a prerequisite the administration of the sacramental rites of initiation.
F. Passover and the Lord's Supper differ as to frequency and the locale of their observance.
G. Both Passover and the Lord's Supper are to be celebrated in the context of an assembly of the whole congregation.
H. The elements used in the Lord's Supper differ from those used in the Passover as ordered in the law of Moses.
I. Children did participate in the first Passover, and were at least permitted to participate in subsequent celebrations of it, while in the New Testament there is no explicit prohibition or command regarding the participation of children in the Lord's Supper. (one exception)
J. The interchangeability of Old Testament and New Testament sacramental terminology demonstrates the fundamental unity of the covenant (and its sacraments). Cf. I Cor. 5:7; 10:2; Col. 2:11
K. Worthy participation in both Passover (and other sacrificial meals) and Lord's Supper involves a real communion with the altar/sacrifice, not merely a memorial. Cf. I Cor. 10:16
L. Passover was a bloody sacrifice; the Lord's Supper is unbloody.
M. There is a greater efficacy in the New Covenant Lord's Supper.
N. The Lord's Supper more clearly reveals Jesus' person as the Savior than did the Old Testament Passover lamb.
0. Because more is given under the New Covenant sacrament of the Lord's Supper, more is required.
P. The New Covenant and its sacraments disclose more clearly the inwardness/spirituality of redemption. Cf. Jer. 31
Q. A greater universalism is evident in the Lord's Supper and its significance than in the Passover.
IV. The Biblical Warrant for a Public Profession of Faith as a Requirement for Partaking of the Lord's Supper
A. There is no explicit command for this in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.
B. Jesus requires that all His people confess Him before men continually in word and deed.
C. The Lord's Supper itself is one way in which confession of Christ is made publicly.
D. The elders of the church have the responsibility as overseers to evaluate the credibility of the ongoing faith and life of the people of God, and that responsibility cannot be reduced to passing judgment on a single act of public profession.
E. In saying there is no explicit command for or clear example of a specific, formal rite of public profession of faith in the New Testament church, we do not say that a verbal declaration of such a kind, in itself, is unscriptural.
F. All things must be done decently and in order. Therefore, the Session has a right/responsibility to assess the qualifications of those to be admitted to the Lord's Supper.
G. There is a God-given responsibility for parental involvement, on a continuing basis, in training their own children for worthy participation in the Lord's Supper.
V. The Question of the Relevance of Age to a Credible Profession of Faith
A. Scripture does not connect regeneration, or its fruits in repentance and faith, to any age limit.
B. Infants and young children may be regenerated, and manifest a regenerate nature, from birth. Cf. Lk. 14:4; Ps. 22:9ff.
C. The faith of little ones is acknowledged and commended by the Lord Jesus (Mt. 18:6), indicating that a childhood profession can be credible. (one exception)
D. As with the unregenerate nature, so also the regenerate nature evidences itself from birth. Cf. Proverbs 20:11
E. There is a gradual process in the unfolding of covenant experience and responsibility, and this does affect the ways in which a person's faith will be articulated and manifested in life. Cf. Lk. 2:52; Dt. 1:39; I Kgs. 3:7-9; Neh. 8:2-4; Isa. 7:15-16; Num. 14:29; Ps. 71:5-9; 78:7
F. The Lord's Supper, being the Word made visible, is particularly suited to conveying gospel understanding to covenant children from earliest youth (cf. Calvin). (one exception)
G. The Word of God is to be taught to our children even from infancy. Cf. II Tim. 3:15
VI. Recommendations of the Committee
1. In light of the fact that a majority of the Committee is inclined, at this point, to favor the admission of (weaned) infants to the Lord's Supper, as well as little children, that:
a. Sessions be requested to study this report, and
b. send the results of their study, and any recommendations, to this Committee,
c. and that the Committee be continued, to report at a later Assembly.
2. That the report be sent to NAPARC with the request for further study and response.
3. That the 1987 General Assembly declare that Larger Catechism Q. 177, while it does prohibit infant communion, should not be construed to prohibit children who can discern the Lord's body from participating in the Lord's Supper.
4. That a delegation of two from the 1987 General Assembly be sent to the Kidane-Hiwot Congregation to inform them concerning the deliberations and actions of the Assembly on this matter.
5. That, in view of the fact that a majority of the Committee favors the admission of weaned covenant children to the Lord's table, the Committee be charged to prepare a careful defense of this position to be submitted to the next General Assembly.
Report of Minority No. 1 of the Committee on Paedocommunion
Why Children Are to Be Excluded from the Lord's Supper
I. The Confessional/Traditional Position Presented
The traditional position is that the design of the Lord's Supper (LS) suits its nature. This means that young children should be barred from the table until they are of such years and ability to examine themselves.
To this end the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), XXXI.7., sets forth the real presence of the Lord in the elements and the necessity of active believing participation by all participants:
Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally and carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.
These same emphases are repeated and expanded in the Larger Catechism (LC) Q. 170-177.
Answer 170 asserts,
... they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal or carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.
The feeding is true and real "while" by faith participants receive and apply Christ and all his benefits to themselves. Where there is no faith, or no active participation, there is no communication, and no application to themselves of Christ and the benefits of the covenant.
Answer 171 defines the preparatory duties of participants including the responsibility to examine themselves:
... of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance, love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.
Answer 174 is,
It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention, they wait upon God in that ordinance; diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions; heedfully discern the Lord's body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all saints.
Answer 175 is,
The duty of Christians after they have received the Lord's Supper is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success: if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapse, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance; but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time; but if they see that they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterward with more care and diligence.
The answers just cited imply that young children are to be barred from the Lord's Supper because they cannot fulfill the requirements described. This is stated clearly in Answer 177:
The sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord's Supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.
We note the following concerning this answer: first, the proper participants in the LS are contrasted to infants; second, the self-examination as defined in the previous answers bars young children from the table and admits only the mature. Therefore, the traditional practice has been to admit children no earlier than the early teens.
II. The Confessional/Traditional Position Scripturally Presented
1. The main thesis of the committee's position is not established by Scripture. The New Testament (NT) does not equate the Passover and the LS, nor does it teach the Passover as determinative for the LS. The committee's position argues that the terms of admission to the Passover decide the question of who should be admitted to the LS: since children were admitted to the Passover, they should be admitted to the LS.
To state it clearly, the argument of the committee is:
- Major premise: the LS fulfills the entire Old Testament (OT) sacrificial system
- Minor premise: the Passover contains, in germ, the entire OT sacrificial system
- Conclusion: the LS is the NT equivalent of the Passover. Therefore, since the nature of the LS and the Passover is the same, so is their designthey both admit the same candidates.
The argument of this minority is:
- Major premise: the LS fulfills the entire OT sacrificial system
- Minor premise: every OT feast and sacrifice contains, in germ, the entire OT sacrificial system
- Conclusion: the LS is the NT equivalent of the entire OT system
Therefore, since the nature of the Passover and LS are different, so are their designsthey do not admit the same candidates.
The error in the paedocommunion argument lies in the equivocation in the second proposition, viz., the Passover contains, in germ, all the OT sacrificial/Levitical system. To this minority, this proposition should be understood as true only in the following senses: first, the Passover contains all the OT sacrificial system in the same sense the ocean is contained in a cup of ocean water; note carefully, that the part does not equal the whole. One is in error if they conclude they have the entire ocean in the cup in germ. Or, second, consider the analogy of the relationship of a hand and heart to the bodyone can cut off the hand and not kill the body; one cannot remove the heart without destroying the body. The heart of the OT system is the Great Atonement, not the Passover (Heb. 8-10). One can remove the Passover from the OT system without destroying the Great Atonement, but the LS is the NT Great Atonement. Thus, in discussing the relationship of Christ's sacrifice to the OT system as a whole the writer of Hebrews focuses on the Great Atonement rather than on the Passover (Heb. 8-10).
This analysis is supported by the Scripture:
a. The NT depicts the LS in terms of all the OT feasts:
(1) The theology of the Passover must be adjoined to the theology of the Sinai meal to constitute a full covenantal initiating rite. The Passover omitted some important things each of which expresses significant theological truths: viz., sprinkling blood on the altar and on the people, eating by representative heads, and conscious submission to the stipulations of the covenant. These omitted elements (truths) are reflected in (1) the covenant initiating rite on Sinai (Exod. 24:1), (2) the Great Atonement rite, and (3) the actions and words with which Jesus initiated the new covenant meal, the LS. Jesus quotes the words of Exod. 24 spoken at the initiating meal and not the words of Exod. 12 which were spoken during the Passover meal (cf. Heb. 9:19-22).
(2) Jn. 1:29 "Behold, the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world."
(a) The Greek word for lamb (amnos) is not the word for the sacrificial lamb (probotos). It is the word used in the LXX of Isa. 53:7.
(b) The Greek word for "takes away" (airo) means to bear so as to destroy and not bear to another place (phero). The Passover lamb bore no sin because no hands were laid on it in the ritualit is a fellowship offering and not a sin/guilt offering; however, the lamb of Isa. 53:8ff. did bear sin. This also associates the lamb of John 1:29 with the goat of the Great Atonement upon whose head the sins were laid and whose blood was offered in the Holy of Holies (cf. Heb. 9:7-12, 23-25, 10:19-22).
(c) This lamb bore the sin of "the world" while the Passover lamb was uniquely associated with OT Israel. In Isa. 53:11 the lamb bore the sin of "the many." This is an important emphasis in contrast to the Passover rite (cf. Heb. 9:28). Also, in Isa. 40-66, Isaiah teaches that the salvation God will bring is universal not national in its application, and Isa. 52:15 prophesies that he shall sprinkle the Gentiles (this verse is in the "Servant of the Lord" song containing Isa. 53).
(d) The Isaianic lamb is a guilt offering, Isa. 53:10. The lamb is explicitly called a guilt offeringIsaiah used the Hebrew word for "guilt offering," or "'asham."
(3) I Cor. 10:1-4: the LS is associated with the wilderness eating and drinking.
(4) I Cor. 10:16ff.: the LS is associated with all the OT meals. Paul argues that those who ate the OT sacrificial meals "shared" in the altar. What good (with regard to eternal life) was sharing in the altar, if those sacrifices are dissociated from Christ? They were only redemptively efficacious in their relationship to the perfect and culminating offering, Christ (cf. Heb. 9:11-12, 23).
(5) Heb. 8-10: the sacrifice of Christ (celebrated in the LS) is equated with the Great Atonement. The new covenant is new, but new in the sense of fulfillment (Greek kainosnew as to quality, 8:8, 13; 9:15) not new in the (possible) sense of replacement (Greek neosof recent origin, 12:24), cf. Rom. 4-5, 7-9, Gal. 3, Heb. 4. It is the same covenant whose OT type and promise finds expression and completion in Christ.
b. No one OT meal embraces all that it means to eat/commune with God. Hence no one meal is determinative for admission to LS.
c. The NT uses the Great Atonement as the epitome of the nature of LS (Heb. 8-10).
(1) All of the OT meals (except the wilderness meals) related to Great Atonement because they all involved sacrifices on the altar.
(2) All the OT meals depict some aspect of the Great Atonement. Each meal is part of the whole sacrificial system and the whole system finds its climax in the Great Atonement.
(3) No one meal fully depicts the Great Atonement. There was no meal eaten as part of the rites commanded to be observed on the Day of Atonement.
(4) The LS does fully depict the Great Atonement (Heb. 8-10).
(5) The LS is distinct in nature insofar as it alone fully depicts the Great Atonement.
(6) Conclusion: since what the LS depicts and seals (its nature) is distinct from all OT meals, how it is to be observed and who it is to admit (its design) is distinct from all the OT meals.
d. The Passover does not fully depict the Great Atonement.
(1) There is but one OT Passover not twothe permanent Passover is to be explained in terms of the initial Passover.
(a) it was a permanent Passover during which Jesus initiated the LS. Notably, he also employed significant and distinct elements of the Jewish (traditional) Passover when initiating the LS (viz., reclining at the table, probably dressing in festive garments, and drinking wine).
(b) the permanent Passover was explained in terms of the initial Passover (Exod. 12:26-27).
(c) the initial/permanent Passover did not fully act out the Great Atonement (as seen above, significant elements/truths are absent).
(2) The Passover is but one part of the Levitical system.
(3) In both its initial and permanent forms it contained, or sacramentally depicted, all the Great Atonement in germ, or implicitly (as did every other OT sacramental meal), but did not contain all the Great Atonement explicitly (as the LS does).
(4) The LS does contain all the Great Atonementindeed, it supersedes the Great Atonement. The regular and occasional sacrifices of the OT system were focused on the Great Atonement (Heb. 9:6-7) which did not fully disclose admission to the presence of God (9:8-9). Christ, however, fulfilled that entire system, doing what it could not do, obtaining eternal redemption, cleansing the conscience of his people, granting them the eternal promise given to Abraham and others, and admitting his people to God's presencefull redemption (Heb. 9:11-25; 10:19-22).
e. In the LS the participant eats all of the OT meals and more.
Proposition #1: those who ate of the altar in the OT communed with Christ (I Cor. 10:17)
Proposition #2: those who ate of the altar did not share in the fullness of Christ in every particular meal. Each meal signified and sealed a different aspect of redemptive reality just as each sacrifice signified and sealed a different aspect of redemption.
Proposition #3: the several sacrifices could not make perfect, but Christ did (Heb. 10:1).
Conclusion: in the LS participants share in the totality of, or perfection in, Christ (I Cor. 10:16-17) while eating any particular meal in the OT, or eating all those meals, did not signify and seal the perfection in Christ.
2. LS requires personal examination, I Cor. 11:26-30:
a. To discern, or judge, the Lord's body (29) means to discern, or judge, the Lord himself. This is suggested by the fact that Paul specifically quotes the instituting words in verse 24 which explicitly identifies the bread with Christ's body. It rends the context apart to understand "body" in verse 29 as something different than the same word in verses 23, 24, 27. Verse 27 is especially clear since it uses the full phrase "body and blood of the Lord." To partake unworthily is to be guilty of the body of the Lord. In verse 29 (to partake unworthily) is to eat and drink judgment to himself. In verse 27 one bears the guilt of the body of the Lord (cf. the similar phrase in the OT, Num. 18:1ff.); in verse 29 one drinks judgment to himself (compare the similar, parallel OT situation in Num. 17:12ff.) Finally, within verse 29 "body" must refer to the Lord's body and not the church because one does not eat the church as the first half of the verse statesone eats the body of the Lord; although the word "body" does not occur in 29a the idea cannot be escaped. What occurs in 29a cannot reasonably be denied in 29b. Therefore, in 29b "body" must be the Lord's body and not the church. It is a clear reference to eating the elements in the LS and the emphasis is on personal activity and not communal activity (as the paedocommunion position so often argues).
In this passage Paul describes the LS with several elements not found in the Passover:
- it should be "eaten and drunk" worthily
- every participant who partakes unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Christ
- every participant should examine himself
- every participant proclaims the Lord's death
Consequently, the Passover is not the background of the LS, but a different OT background is seen:
(1) Everyone who eats and drinks the LS unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Christ. The Greek of verse 27 is all in singulars, and the verbs are presents, so that it says: "Whoever would eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall (while he is eating and drinking and in the act of eating and drinking) be guilty..." The word guilty is a legal term and places legal responsibility upon the participant. The construction does not allow the understanding that this applies only to some participants. As Calvin said, it is obvious that it applies to everyone who (or whoever) participates.
Furthermore, although in the Passover rite there was an implied command for participants to examine themselves we should note several important things. First, there is no explicit command that those who eat the Passover meal examine themselves. Second, the only explicit OT command to examine oneself as a part of the OT sacrificial system is that everyone who approaches the presence of God examine himself (Lev. 21:1 - 22:16). This command involves their keeping the Levitical laws (which point to a higher sanctification). Third, approaching the presence of God was sanctioned by sickness and death (Num. 17:12-18:7; Exod. 19:21-23; 20:19).
What Paul applies to the LS in I Cor. 11 has no parallel in the Passover meal. Therefore, it is exegetically incorrect to interpret I Cor. 11 in terms of an implied guilt and warning attached to the Passover meal and not to apply to the LS the stated guilt and warning attached to approaching the presence of Godthe altar.
Finally, the OT warning and sanction applies to every one allowed to approach the presence of God and does not apply only to those who were old enough to heed it just as all who approached the presence of God were to be in a state of Levitical purity or bear the guilt of the altar (Num. 16-18).
(2) The word "unworthily" (27) is a requirement of sanctification because of the OT parallel set forth in point 2.a. "Worthily" here must be taken as a requirement of sanctification. Hence, in the third question for confession of faith, candidates pledge to do what this word requires.
(3) The sanction of sickness and death (29-30) is a danger for all who participate. In order to avoid the sanction, one has to be in a state of self-conscious sanctification. This same requirement with the same context appears in the OT where it does not apply to eating the Passover meal (see point 2.a.).
(4) To "proclaim" or "declare" the Lord's death (26) is a personal and not simply a communal declarationcf. Jn. 6:35 where coming to Christ and believing in him is equal to eating and drinking Christ. Both coming and believing are personal, self-conscious acts. Therefore, both eating and drinking must be personal, self-conscious acts. In the eating and drinking one declares that the sacrifice of Christ is efficacious and appropriated by the eater/drinker. It is a self-conscious declaring or confession of faith.
c. The elements found in the LS and not found in the Passover are found in other OT rites. Against those rites the command to "examine" requires mature sanctification from every participant.
The OT antecedents to all of this are those meals which were eaten in the immediate presence of God: the instituting meal (Exod. 24) and the guilt offering (Lev. 5). The sin and guilt offerings were the only "atoning" offerings; only the guilt offering involved eating a meal; that meal was to be eaten (Lev. 7:6) in God's presence in a holy placetherefore participating in the meal was sanctioned by sickness and death (cf. Num. 16-18). The instituting meal (Exod. 24) was observed but once, the guilt offering repeatedly. The guilt offering constituted a declaration that the sacrifice was accepted by God. His priestly representatives fellowshiped with him in his presence in a holy place (the sanctuary). As God's representatives, they accepted the sacrifice and the restitution for the sin committed. Notably, Christ is often alluded to as the guilt offering (Isa. 53:10; John 1:29; etc.).
3. The LS requires a self-conscious act of remembering, I Cor. 11:24.
The word rendered "remembrance" is, in the Greek, a word denoting a self-conscious act of remembering. Although the LS is a memorial and (if that was all it was) might be viewed as a communal memorial act, Jesus called it a remembering or a personal self-conscious action. The Greek word in I Cor. 11 ends in -sisan ending representing an action (remembering). The Greek ending -ma represents the results of an action (remembrance). The significance of this word ending in -sis appears in Heb. 10:3 where the writer terms the Great Atonement a remembering. It was done yearly. It did not recall what had been done by Christ, but what was to be doneit was a remembering, a yearly acting out what was to be done. That the LS is to be a personal remembering arises from Jesus' command to each participant to "take, eat" and "all of you, drink of it."
4. The LS requires personal appropriation:
a. Jn. 6
(1) 49-51; 53-56: these verses teach that consuming the body and blood of Jesus brings eternal life. Do they speak of regeneration or sanctification or both? First, consider regeneration: clearly, consuming Christ's body and blood are equated to believing in him or the first effect of regeneration. A child can believe. Yet, this minimal expression of faith is not the fullness of what Christ teaches when he equates consuming his body and blood with continual feeding on his word (verse 63). Therefore, these verses also speak of sanctification.
(2) 63: "it is the Spirit who gives life" (regeneration and sanctification), "the flesh profits nothing" (merely eating the manna in the wilderness, or even the LS, does not give life), "the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (sanctification: spiritual life comes from spiritually consuming Christ's words). The "words" are, first, the words spoken by Christ, and second, the words written in Scripture (Heb. 1:1-2, I Tim. 3:16-17).
(3) 35; 58: appropriation involves an active self-conscious faith. "... he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (35). Both "he who comes" and "he who believes" are present participles and speak of a constant process rather than a one-time act. Thus, the coming and believing are not seen as a one-time act (regeneration and the initial acts flowing from it) but as constant life-long processes (sanctification).
"... he who eats this bread shall live forever" (58): the word "eat" (Greek "trogo" connotes "to gnaw, to chew") stresses a slow process. It is also used in verses 54-56 to describe what believers should do with reference to eating Christ's flesh. In verse 58, this Greek word describes what believers are to do while another Greek word (esthio) describes what the fathers did. Furthermore, our verb (trogo) appears in these verses only as present participle, further emphasizing continual action. Finally, and significantly, in verse 58 Jesus speaks only of "chewing" on "this bread" (himself). So, the important thing here is not the distinction between the "bread" and the "wine," but feeding constantly on Christ as presented in the word (the means of sanctification, cf. 63).
b. Matt. 26:28
(1) It is clear that the "elements" are the body and blood of Christ.
(2) This does not teach that there is an essential change in the nature of the elementsthis would present a linguistic and logical impossibility. Christ who sits before them could not also have been before them in the elements. Christ's body and blood sitting before them had not yet been sacrificed; the elements, if changed, were his body and blood being offered for themthe elements must be consumed as that which had been offered, were they to be efficacious. Jesus teaches this act is done in remembering what has been, not as that which is in the process of being done (Luke 22:19). Finally, it is hardly conceivable that Jesus is proposing some kind of cannibalism.
(3) These instituting words do teach the real presence of Christ in the elements so that the one who does eat takes to himself Christ, not simply the bread and wineone cannot entirely separate Christ's body and blood from the elements. Indeed, Christ's words of institution so strongly identify them that, were it not for considerations such as those just mentioned under point (2) above, the identity would be undeniable.
(4) Jesus commands participants to appropriate the elements (i.e., what they represent): "take, eat" and "all of you, drink of it." Every participant is commanded to appropriate Christ to himself. Where there is no self-appropriation, there is no participation as Christ commanded it. Christ's command stipulating how one must participate in the LS proves one cannot be passive in the Lord's Supperin contrast to baptism where one can be passive.
5. The LS requires personal understanding or discernment:
a. discernment (examination), I Cor. 11:28 (see, 2.b).
b. consuming the word spoken/writtenJn. 6:63 (see, 4.a.(2)). One cannot feed on the words (teachings) of Jesus without understanding and discerning (applying) what they mean.
6. Children did not fully participate in the OT sacramental eating; they did not fully commune:
a. Children did not fully consume any mealthe rabbis forbid children to drink the wine.
b. Children did not personally participate in making the sacrifice including purchasing the sacrifice, approaching the altar (coming into God's presence), and laying hands on the beast (personally confessing that this sacrifice was his sacrifice).
c. The LS is eating/communing with Christ, coming into God's presence, and personally confessing that this sacrifice is one's own sacrificeit is approaching the altar and laying hands on the sacrifice.
d. If all the meals are to be conceived as but parts of a whole communing with God, and not each meal considered in itself (and they are), then children did not fully eat/commune with Christ in the OT. There were certain aspects of "communing" which barred children. Hence, in the OT the position of children vis-a-vis "communing" is not simple.
e. Although children communed in the OT they did not fully commune as the LS always involves.
f. In the case of each particular meal, the nature of the communion (what was signified and sealed) determined if children were admitted (the design). The nature of the LS requires that which a child must, but cannot, provide: personal appropriation of Christ, personal examination (active sanctification), and personal understanding of the word of God.
7. That which is required by the LS rests upon every participant in the LS. Furthermore, in order that things might be done decently and in order, that the body and blood of Christ is not profaned or desecrated, every participant must be tested by the elders of the church prior to being allowed to take the LS (to whom were given the keys of the kingdom).
a. In the OT, God holds Israel responsible for violations of his law in allowing the unworthy to approach his altar, Ezek. 44:4-9.
b. In Ezek. 44:4-9 God says that the new covenant Israel is responsible to discipline those who approach him.
c. In the Judaism of Jesus' day, Ezek. 44 was manifested in what has come to be known as "bar mitzvah." God submitted Jesus to this institution before he was allowed to approach God's presence (the altar).
d. Under the new covenant, the church is responsible to discipline the table, to not allow the unworthy to approach the altar, I Cor. 5:11-13, Matt. 18:17.
e. The church cannot read one's heart; all we can "read" is one's profession.
f. Therefore, before one approaches the table (the Lord's presence) the church must examine his profession.
8. What is a profession of faith?
a. It is governed by the exercise of the keys of the kingdom.
(1) The keys were given to the church governors (elders) and not to parents (Matt. 16:19; 18:15-20).
(2) The exercise of the keys is abdicated when someone other than the governors/elders bars, in church discipline, a person from the LS.
(3) The exercise of the keys is abdicated when someone other than the governors/elders admits a person to the LS:
(a) Church governors/elders must give account for the souls for church members, Heb. 13:17.
(b) To allow a child to approach the table is to allow him to come under the sanction of sickness and death. God holds the church responsible for disciplining the table (Ezek. 44:4-9).
(c) This requires an active examination of church members.
(d) This responsibility is especially pressing when the members are introduced/admitted/exposed by the exercise of the keys to the sanctions on the LS.
b. The governors/elders are responsible in teaching to make certain the truths of the Gospel are known by church members and adherents, Acts 20:28-31.
c. The governors/elders are responsible in examination to make certain the truths of the Gospel are comprehended and practiced by church members.
(1) This is seen in admitting adults to church membership.
(2) This is seen in admitting children to full communion in the LS.
d. Children may fully commune with God in salvation and sanctification before being admitted to the LS. Indeed, this is the requirement for participation. It is the duty of church governors to admit them to this sign and seal.
e. This is parallel to the matter of baptism. Before baptism, infants are members of the church. Yet they are not to be admitted to communicant membership lightly. It is the duty of the governors to instruct parents in their duties under the covenant and to assure themselves that those duties are understood and practiced. Therefore, it is right and proper to ask them pertinent questions publicly on the occasion of the baptism.
9. The barring of infants from the LS rests on the same basis as their admission to baptism.
a. Both rest on the NT teaching sometimes called "federal headship."
The principle of federal or covenantal headship is taught throughout the NT with respect to Adam's relationship to mankind, Christ's relationship to the elect (Rom. 5:12), the parent's relationship to children (Col. 2:11, 12; I Cor. 7:14), the elder's relationship to the church (I Tim. 3:5, Heb. 13:17, Rev. 4:10), and the apostles' relationship to the church (Matt. 26:26-30, Eph. 2:20, Rev. 4:10).
b. This parallels the OT practice and theology.
In the OT federal headship admitted children to circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14) and barred them from the altar because federal headship meant that the active faith requisite for circumcision (Rom. 4:11) was satisfied in the child's spiritual representation by his parent. When did that representation cease? When the child was no longer a child. This change of state took place when the child passed from childhood into adulthood. When an adult he was no longer under a representative headhe was a representative head (at least potentially) and could defend himself in the courts, for examplethis is evidenced in Exod. 22:22ff. where the law enjoins Israel to protect the rights of orphans. Widows and orphans are to be protected because they have no one to protect them. This implies they cannot come before the courts on their own behalf. When does an orphan cease to be an orphanwhen can he defend himself? This was when he passed from childhood to adulthood, i.e., when he became his own representative/covenantal head. This was marked by physical maturityi.e., when he became a man, or when he passed through puberty. Since the courts of Israel were really the court of God (Exod. 22:22ff.God, the judge, pledges to be the lawyer/defender of those who have no defender), and since these courts were but an extension of the Holy of Holies, there is a parallel between approaching the legal/civil court and approaching the religious court.
Just as federal headship admits children to circumcision in the OT, it admits them to baptism in the NT. Similarly, federal/covenantal headship bars children from approaching God in the OT, so it bars minor children from approaching God (taking the LS) in the NT.
10. The Bible teaches that a mature discernment is required to approach God in the LS.
a. The OT requires a mature discernment to approach God in the church sacraments.
(1) Only ordained Levites could approach the altarthey were responsible to bear the guilt of the sanctuary and of the priesthood, Num. 17-18, Lev. 21-22.
(2) Only male federal heads could approach the altar, or the presence of Godthe priests were the substitutes for Israel in serving before God and making the sacrifices and only adult males could do this, Num. 16-18.
(3) Federal headship was distinguished by the ability to have children.
(4) Federal headship marked the passage from childhood into adulthood.
(a) The one recognized as an adult was expected to assume adult responsibilities: marriage, making vows, approaching the altar, voting in the assembly, defending himself in the courts (Exod. 22:22ff.). In most of these matters there is no specific text of Scripture, but the general equity of Scripture teaches that adult responsibilities and adult privileges require that only an adult perform and enjoy them.
(b) The one recognized as an adult did assume adult covenantal responsibility in approaching the presence of God (he came under the sanction of death, Num. 16-18:7, I Sam. 16:5).
(5) In Ezek. 44:8, 9 the rituals of the temple are projected into the Messianic age. They will find their fulfillment in what is to happen in that age of fulfillment (see above).
b. The NT requires a mature discernment to approach God in the sacraments of the church.
(1) The example of Jesus leads to this conclusion, Luke 2:41-52.
(a) Rabbinic sources teach that this was the age (officially 13, but possibly 11 or 12) of passing from childhood to adulthood by means of examination and formal introduction into the court of the Israel (now known as "bar mitzvah").
(b) Jesus was subjected to this institution by God. This is implied by the rabbinic source just mentioned. Furthermore, what the Talmud says about Jewish practice best fits the assumption that this was Jesus' "bar mitzvah": (1) he was twelve; (2) on their way home his parents had traveled with relatives and missed himmost people went home on the third day of the feast and the women and children traveled in a group ahead of the men; thus, each parent would think Jesus was with the other parent (with Joseph because he had just changed status; with Mary because it would have been natural for him to be with his young friends); when they stopped for the night they found Jesus was absent; (3) he was found sitting in the court talking to the rabbisthey only talked with "commoners" in the court of Israel on the third and following days of the feast; (4) Jesus' reply to Mary's rebuke set forth his new status; yet he returned home with his parentshow was this being about his father's business? Answer: now he was a man before God, but did not yet enter his messianic ministry (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, vol. I, pp. 235-236).
(c) It was the will of God that all males approach the altar worthily.
(d) Jesus approached the altar as soon as was willed by God.
(e) Since Jesus was subjected to this institution by God the Father, this is the correct interpretation of God's will. If in the OT God commanded all males appear before him as soon as they were physically able to do so (Deut. 16:16) and Jesus did not do this, then Jesus did not keep the law perfectly.
(2) The OT ritual of sacrifices and approaching the altar are explicitly applied to the sacrifice of Jesus, Heb. 8-10.
(3) All the OT rituals (including the meals) are taught to be but one ritual finding its culmination in the Great Atonement, Heb. 8-10.
(4) All the OT rituals are related directly to coming before the presence of God in the Great Atonement.
(5) The LS commemorates and ritualistically acts out coming into presence of God.
(6) Only Jesus, our high priest, enters the Holy of Holies in heaven.
(7) In Jesus we approach the presence of God.
(8) There is not a higher standard of sanctification in the OT (ritualistic requirements for approaching the presence of God) than in the NT (requirements for approaching in the LS). Or, discernment does not have a different essence in the two testaments. In the NT, discernment should involve no less than OT discernment did. In the OT, discernment involved the ability to make and carry out mature decisionsincluding mature decisions and actions in the area of sanctification. In the OT, adult privilege (coming into the presence of God in the sacraments of the church) requires adult responsibility (keeping the laws of sanctification). So, in the NT coming into the presence of God in the church ritual, the LS, requires adult responsibility. Or, adult responsibility (coming under the sanction of death and sickness) is entailed in adult privilege and requires adult preparation.
(9) Therefore, since children (those below puberty) were not introduced into the age of discretion/adulthood in the OT, neither should they be introduced into the age of discretion/adulthood in the NT.
(10) Therefore, children are and should remain "children" at least until they reach puberty.
(11) Federal headship admits children to baptism just as it admitted children to circumcision. Federal headship barred children from adult privileges in the OT and it bars them from adult privileges in the NT. Participation in the LS is an adult privilege.
(12) The positions of both the committee and other minority divide the LS and adult privilege such as voting in the churchthis has no scriptural warrant. Adult privilege in entering the court of Israel included all the privileges of adult membership in the OT church (e.g., voting in the congregationthis was what was involved in Christ's introduction into the temple). So, in the NT, adult privilege in taking the LS should entail voting rights.
III. Comments on the Committee Statements
I. J and Mnon-concurrence
II. A. 8., 12non-concurrence
III. entire sectionnon-concurrence
Fnon-concurrence (as it stands in its context)
- That the General Assembly reaffirm its commitment to the secondary standards as expressive of the teaching of Scripture.
- That this minority report be sent to NAPARC for their information.
- That the 1987 General Assembly declare that the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 177 does prohibit infant and child communion.
Leonard J. Coppes
Report of Minority No. 2 of the Committee on Paedocommunion
The following report is in essence an addendum to the Committee's report. The rationale for presenting a minority report is that the Committee determined to send to all of the churches packets of material presenting the arguments that defend the practice of paedocommunion. The undersigned thought it wise, therefore, to provide the Assembly and the churches with at least some of the arguments that defend the present practice of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, namely, the communion of professing believers. The intent of the minority report's author is not to resist the Committee's desire to develop a full length defense of paedocommunion. Rather, his desire is to keep the information provided to the churches relative to paedocommunion more balanced so that the input from the churches requested by the Committee will reflect a consideration of both the pros and cons of paedocommunion. In conformity with the Committee's report, the arguments will be presented in outline form.
I. The History of Paedocommunion
A. The Ancient Church
1. The history of the ancient church does not support the claim of the apostolic origin of paedocommunion.
2. Tertullian, the only church father to speak against the practice of infant baptism, did not even mention infant communion.
3. The earliest evidence for paedocommunion appears with Cyprian who advocated infant communion on the grounds of an ex opere operato interpretation of John 6:53.
4. Developing from this interpretation, the North African church began the practice of reserving the "host" to eat at home as part of the family's daily worship. In accordance with this, the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer was interpreted as eating the reserved host of the Lord's Supper at one's own home.
5. The Eastern Church learned the practice of paedocommunion from the North African Church. The Eastern Church had permitted the practice of the postponement of baptism until the time of death as in the case of Constantine. Consequently, the practice of communing was in such instances also not practiced until the point of death.
6. Alleged documents including references to paedocommunion from the early years of the ancient Eastern Church are now known to be pseudoepigraphal and of much later composition.
B. The Medieval Church
1. Evidence indicates that shortly following the time of Augustine, the practice of paedocommunion became the established practice of the Eastern and Western Churches. This seems to have gone hand in hand with the acceptance of the ex opere operato view of the sacraments.
2. Growing out of the belief in the necessity of the Lord's Supper for the salvation of infants based upon Cyprian's interpretation of John 6:53, the practice of intinction developed. This was necessitated by the fact that infants were unable to chew and swallow the consecrated bread. By dipping it in the wine, the bread was softened and thereby made swallowable for an infant. This is the first instance, then, of communion in one kind, i.e., the bread without the cup.
3. With the onset of the concept of transubstantiation, beginning around the ninth century, however, the practice of paedocommunion became increasingly unacceptable to the Western Church. The risk of defiling the Lord's literal flesh and blood by an infant caused a rethinking of Cyprian's and Augustine's claim that the eating of the flesh and blood of Christ in the sacrament was necessary for an infant's salvation. Parallel with this, the practice of giving infants unconsecrated bread and wine emerged. This practice as well as paedocommunion itself was finally rejected by the Western Church with the official adoption of the doctrine of transubstantiation.
4. The Eastern Church, however, did not discontinue the practice, and has continued paedocommunion until the present. It is not to be thought, however, that there has been a uniform agreement in the Eastern Church as to when the child born in a Christian home is to partake of his first communion. The ages vary from earliest infancy to nine years of age, as in the case of the Muscovite Church. The age has been determined by different Eastern Churches depending on when their theologians believe a child begins to sin.
C. The Reformation Churches
1. The Hussites as forerunners of the Reformation advocated paedocommunion. This appeal to the medieval practice of paedocommunion buttressed their request for communion in both kinds. Since even the infants had at one time been included in the cupat least by way of intinctionit was reasonable to expect the laity with the priesthood to enjoy the Supper in both kinds.
2. But the lead of the Hussites was not followed by the Reformers. The practice of paedocommunion was explicitly rejected not just by Rome at the Council of Trent, but also by Zwingli, Calvin, and the Lutherans.
3. Calvin knew of the ancient practice advanced by Cyprian and Augustine but rejected it as an ancient error. He did this on the grounds of the nature of the Supper as a conscious communion of faith with the risen Christ beyond the ability of an infant, and because of the warning of judgment attached to the partaking of the Supper by one who does not discern the Lord's body.
4. The argument for paedocommunion drawn from the alleged inconsistency between infant baptism and professing believers' communion seems to have been first raised by the Anabaptists against Zwingli, and Servetus against Calvin with the purpose of overthrowing infant baptism.
5. Although polemicists for paedocommunion such as James Jordan affirm that "several reformers" advocated paedocommunion, the great Reformed systematician Nernharius De Moor, writing in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, said he knew of only one exception to the Reformed unanimity in opposition to paedocommunion. This was the contemporary of Calvin, Wolfgang Musculus. Musculus clearly distanced himself from the interpretation of Cyprian and Augustine for the necessity of infant communion. He appears to be the first to defend paedocommunion on explicitly covenantal grounds.
D. The Post-Reformation Churches
1. All of the great Reformed systematicians rejected paedocommunion.
2. English-speaking theologians such as William Ames, George Gillespie, and Jonathan Edwards rejected paedocommunion.
3. The Westminster Larger Catechism question #177 clearly prohibited paedocommunion.
4. A few lone voices spoke in favor of paedocommunion, such as Jeremy Taylor.
E. The Modern Churches
1. The great Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck wrote against paedocommunion. John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church rejected paedocommunion.
2. Under the lead of the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches, paedocommunion has been popularized and has been begun by some of the member churches of that body.
3. The GKN, a member of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, now permits paedocommunion.
4. Several of the theologians of the theonomic movement advocate paedocommunion along with several theologians of conservative Presbyterian and Reformed Churches such as the PCA, OPC, CRC, and RCUS. The development of this support for paedocommunion has come, in part, due to the influence of baptistic polemicists such as Paul K. Jewett.
II. Theological and Biblical Arguments Against Paedocommunion
A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, While Alike in Portraying the Blessings of Salvation in Christ, Are Not Identical
1. Baptism is external in application and given to one who is passive in reception, while the Lord's Supper is internal in application and is given to one who takes, eats, remembers, proclaims, gives thanks.
2. Baptism is not developed in the context of judgments for misuse, while the Lord's Supper is.
3. Baptism is a sign of union (Rom. 6) while the Supper is a sign of communion (I Cor. 10-11). Paedocommunionists must defend the contention that the communion spoken of by the Apostle is not conscious communion and that union and communion are inseparable. I John 1:3-7 indicates that koinonia is centered in the preaching of Christ and in personal obedience to Christ's commands.
4. These facts suggest that baptism is initiative and hence given once, while the Supper is regulative and is received frequently.
5. The Lord in the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19-20, explicitly gives baptism an initiatory character as the sign of one who has become a disciple and will now learn to observe all that Christ taught, including the Lord's Supper. Hence it is not to beg the question when one affirms the initiatory character of baptism. Thus inclusion in the initiatory sign does not automatically grant admission to the regulative sign of the Supper.
B. The Non-Communion of Non-Professing Children Does Not Constitute Excommunication
1. Not all paedocommunionists advocate this. Some merely argue for the permissibility of paedocommunion. Others, however, insist upon its necessity for biblical obedience.
2. The non-communing of non-professing children is not an excommunication because it is not an expression of discipline against sin, but a patient awaiting of the child's maturation in faith and obedience to Christ. As the CRC report on paedocommunion puts it, when a child is baptized, a place is set for him at the Lord's table, awaiting the time when he is able to take his place.
C. The Passover and Lord's Supper Parallel
1. It is true that Jesus established his Supper at the occasion of the Passover. Hence, there is an inseparable connection between the two. But this connection is not a connection of absolute identification. Contrary to the Passover of the OT, Jesus did not eat this meal with his physical family, but with his spiritual family. The meal added wine which was not part of the initial Passover. The meal was during the Passover as well as after the Passover. Hence, it cannot simply be identified with the Passover.
2. Jesus appealed to other Old Testament feasts besides the Passover in his inauguration of the Supper, such as in the words of institution, "this is the new covenant in my blood," which harks back to the covenant made with Israel in Exodus 24 in which only the elders partook of the covenantal meal. Hence, in the same Supper one could argue for the inclusion of children on the basis of the Passover, or their exclusion on the basis of Jesus' reference of his Supper to Exodus 24.
3. Moreover, the inclusion of weaned children in the Passover is not explicitly stated in Exodus 12. Their inclusion was granted by rabbinical authority, but such cannot be equated with the authority of Scripture. Consequently, many interpreters agree with Calvin in saying that the time of inclusion in the meal was meant to be taken from the children's question at the Passover meal, "Why do we do these things?"
D. The Continuity and Discontinuity of the Covenant
1. While it is possible that it can be properly inferred from the OT Scriptures that weaned children were granted the privilege of eating the Passover meal, this, in itself, does not constitute proof that weaned children are privileged in eating the meal of the New Covenant.
2. It is clear from Jer. 31 that the New Covenant has a far more inward and spiritual character than that of the Old. While the covenant is clearly the same in substance, it is not the same in administration. The covenant is different in administration in that it is far broader. There is no longer any male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29). Hence, the Gentiles and the women are included in baptism. But while the covenant is broader in admission, it is more stringent in appropriation. Hence, there is a greater judgment for covenant-breaking (Heb. 10:26-31), a greater glory in covenantal experience (II Cor. 3:7-18), and a more spiritual and directly personal experience of God (Heb. 8:1-13, John 14:21-23; 15:15). Such changes in covenant administration are fully understandable in light of the incarnation of the Messiah. These factors readily explain the necessity of faith for participation in the Lord's Supper.
3. It is argued that I Cor. 10:1ff. shows that Christ was eaten and drunk by the Old Testament fathers and their families, so why should now the covenantal children be excluded? The answer to this is found in a careful comparison of Jesus' teaching upon the manna in John 6 and Paul's discussion of it in I Cor. 10. Paul elevates the experience, while Christ diminishes it. Why so? This is because Paul's point is to establish that the Corinthians were liable for judgment just as the Israelites were when there is spiritual rebellion. Both groups had a true fellowship in Christ. So if the first could be judged, so could the second. Jesus' purpose is to show that the bare external eating of manna did not, however, produce life. The fathers ate and died. Jesus' food of his body will give life. This life is for his elect and called people who eat with faith in his Word produced by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:37, 44, 63-65). Now it is nearly impossible to evade the sacramental implications of John 6. Should this be granted, it is clear from Jesus' exposition of the fathers' eating that those who eat the new manna are to be believers, even though many in the wilderness congregation ate as unbelievers.
E. I Corinthians 11 and Its Implications for Paedocommunion
1. The argument of paedocommunionists concerning I Cor. 11 is that it does not have any reference to children. But the passage is addressed to the whole church. How can children be excluded?
2. Further, the passage addresses "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup." Certainly, if paedocommunion is correct, these children who eat must be considered as among those who "eat the bread."
3. But it is argued that they eat, but they do not eat unworthily since they are unable to discern the Lord's body. Hence, they are not liable for this judgment. But did not the children of the Old Covenant perish with their parents' sins as mentioned in I Cor. 10:1ff.? (Cf. Num. 16:23-35) Does not the Lord teach that ignorance is culpable and is no excuse for not doing his will? (Luke 12:48). If children were liable for judgment in the Old Covenant, and the New has even more severe judgments for the violation of the covenant, it must not be lightly assumed that our children are not able to be recipients of God's judgment.
4. It is objected that "discerning his body" has reference to the church and hence has to do with the sin of schism, which is a sin that a child cannot commit. But it must be noted, that the "body" of the church is inseparable from the "body of Christ," as seen in I Cor. 12. Hence, discerning the body so that one does not become schismatic, first entails having a faith in Christ so that one can discern the body of his Savior. Hence, this objection has no force, since faith in Christ the Head of his body the church is still the point.
5. One can readily understand then why Calvin spoke of giving "poison" to our undiscerning children when we bring them to the Lord's table, in light of God's warnings for partaking without discerning.
6. Finally, there are scriptural examples of the requirement of maturity for participation in covenant privileges such as marriage, ordination, and service in the tabernacle.
7. In light of God's warnings, the covenant's high demands, the necessity of saving faith for a participation in the real presence of Christ, and the administration of the keys of the kingdom by the elders (Matt. 18:18), it is in keeping with the good order and decency of Christ's church (I Cor. 14:40) that the elders keep watch over the participants at the Lord's table (Heb. 13:17). Moreover, since Jesus insists upon the public profession of his name before men and the bearing of his cross (Matt. 10:32, 33; Mark 8:34-38), it is entirely appropriate that the Session of Christ's church expect that the children of the church profess the name of Christ before coming to his table.
It is hoped that this minority report will provide at least some further measure of information for informed discussion by the Sessions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The undersigned agrees with the spirit of the recommendations of the Committee, and hence offers no recommendations of his own.
Dr. Peter A. Lillback
(The committee and minority reports reproduced above are extracted from the Minutes of the Fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church , pp. 229–251.)