Communion the unbaptized

Without spending too much of your time with background, anyone have any resources, quotes, etc. on the right order of the sacraments and denying communion to those who profess Christ but remain unbaptized?

I realize this is somewhat scandalous. Our church is filled with godly folks but we’ve lacked much thoughtfulness and faithfulness in our practice for decades. Our church is an independent, baptistic church holding losely to reformed doctrine but lacking teaching and faithful practice regarding the sacraments. Some years ago we began to address our failures. We’ve prioritized those practices that are most important and been working our way patiently reforming our practice. For instace, when I first came to the church there was no fencing of the table whatsoever. We’re righting the ship by God’s grace but moving patiently so as to not create unnecessary conflict and division. God has been kind.

Our elders have begun to discuss the issue of some of our beloved folks taking communion while remaining unbaptized, particularly some of the children of our members. We do fence the table by denying it to children too young to either confess faith or examine themselves, we warn unbelievers and those who confess Christ but remain in sin against Scripture and conscience are not to partake, and we discipline the unrepentant in private by sometimes denying them the Lord’s table (we have one such case currently).

But, we’ve been unfaithful in fencing the table for those who are not yet baptized. We’ve a long-standing thoughtless practice of communing children, and some adults, who haven’t been baptized. Any help you could provide in explanations of why this should be so, quotes, resources, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


Whenever I talk to people about it, I keep it quite simple, saying that baptism is our entry into Christ’s family, and that this meal is limited to His family. I also point out that baptism is basic obedience for a Christian, so anybody who is taking the Lord’s supper and is examining themselves should immediately come to the conclusion that they must obey and get baptized.

I know this isn’t quite what you’re looking for, but it has been remarkable how consistently this has made sense to people.


When I was attending a small dispensationalist Baptist church, our men’s group was going through Henry Thiessen’s Lectures in Systematic Theology. His was very much a “Biblicist” approach, and so his chapter on the sacraments argued for communing the unbaptized because the scriptures do not explicitly forbid it. (Which, it now occurs to me, is an odd reversal of the Baptist “Biblicist” mindset when it comes to withholding baptism from small children.) Thiessen’s brief dismissal of the proper and historical order of the sacraments impressed upon me that many, especially in evangelical Baptist churches, will not be convinced of the impropriety of communing the unbaptized until they understand the nature of baptism as an ingrafting into the New Covenant and into the Church, and the Supper as the sign and seal of that Covenant, open only to those within that Church. This, in turn, requires a Reformed hermeneutic (i.e., a willingness to employ good and necessary consequence) and a sort of synoptic understanding of the nature of sacraments and their role within the Old and New Covenants, going well beyond “baptism is a public confession of our faith” and “the Supper is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.” With such an understanding, the impropriety of communing the unbaptized falls into place. Without it, many could reason, “One who confesses Jesus Christ is already in the New Covenant in every sense of the term; there is nothing to bar him from the Table.”

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My background is Baptistic; I don’t think I have ever been in a situation where admission to the Lord’s Table has been made dependent on one’s baptism, and that also includes in the two Anglican churches I have been part of. So, tying the two together in the form you note, is noteworthy.

Particular (ie Reformed) Baptist churches in the UK have long held this the connection between baptism/church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper (with greater and lesser levels of charity towards those with different views!). I’ll send some references your way early next week.

Here’s a starter though… Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands: Recovering Sacrament in the Baptist Tradition (if the paedobaptists will permit me the indulgence of posting links to errant doctrine and practice!)

Moved somewhere else.

Thanks Joseph. This is what we’ve begun to do with folks at our church. We’re taking this approach with a few mentions in sermons, prior to communion and in personal conversation. It does make sense. Thanks.

That’s a helpful handle. Thanks.

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Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten that was a chapter in the book. I’ve got the book. Appreciate it

Thanks for the resource. I believe this is an important issue and would like to be helpful in leading folks to consider it.

Yesterday we both received some new members by transfer as well as by profession of faith, baptizing the latter.

Our baptism liturgy includes the text below. Note in particular the parts I’ve put in bold (other than the section headings). The relationship between baptism and the Lord’s supper starts out fairly implicit with talk of the covenant, but then is stated quite simply after the baptism itself.

The Meaning and Nature of the Sacrament

The minister shall then summarize before the congregation the teaching of the Word of God and the Confession and Catechisms of this church as to the meaning and nature of the sacrament of baptism. He may use these or like words:

The Lord Jesus Christ instituted baptism as a covenant sign and seal for His church. He uses it not only for the solemn admission of the person who is baptized into the visible church, but also to depict and to confirm His ingrafting of that person into Himself and His including that person in the covenant of grace.

The Lord uses baptism to portray to us that we and our children are conceived and born in sin and need to be cleansed.

He uses it to witness and seal to us the remission of sins and the bestowal of all the gifts of salvation through union with Christ. Baptism with water signifies and seals cleansing from sin by the blood and the Spirit of Christ, together with our death unto sin and our resurrection unto newness of life by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ. Because these gifts of salvation are the gracious provision of the triune God, who is pleased to claim us as His very own, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In our baptism, the Lord puts His name on us, claims us as His own, and summons us to assume the obligations of the covenant. He calls us to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, to renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh, and to walk humbly with our God in devotion to His commandments.

Thereupon the minister shall pray for the presence and blessing of the triune God, that the grace signified and sealed by baptism may be abundantly realized.

The Baptism

Then, calling the person by name, he shall baptize him with water, without any other ceremony, saying:

——, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Welcome and Charge

It is then fitting that the minister address the baptized person in the following or like words:

Beloved, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I welcome you to all the privileges of full communion with God’s people, and in particular to participation in the sacrament of the Holy Supper.

I charge you to continue steadfastly in the confession that you have made, humbly relying upon the grace of God in the diligent use of the means of grace—especially the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.

Rest assured that if you confess Christ before men, He will confess you before His Father who is in heaven.

May the God of all grace, who called you unto His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, and strengthen you. To Him be the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


Bannerman on the sacraments is fantastic (‘The Church of Christ’ is excellent through and through). Seem to remember someone else round here recommending Bannerman. But he’s excellent…and I say that as a credobaptist.

Barcellos, ‘The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace’,’ is very helpful in getting a Reformed and Baptistic understanding of the theology of the Supper. Haykin’s work is more historical and Barcellos’ is more theological.

Anything historically Reformed will be excellent. Might just need minor tweaks depending on your theology of who should be baptised.

I need to get ‘Church Reformed.’ ‘Elders Reformed’ was really helpful.

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But apart from the theology…but as far as putting the theology into practice, I’d recommend patience. Go slowly. Don’t push too quickly before the theological foundation is there. Obedience is important, but so is bringing the sheep along with you. Especially since the practice of the church has already been established in one direction, I would think it’s worth being very deliberate and appropriately slow in making changes, even biblical changes.

Think @tbbayly’s stories of his teaching on biblical elders gives something of a paradigm.

Yes, good advice. That’s the tack we’re attempting to take. Patient with a heaping helping of teaching and explanation and gentleness. May God help us.

I’ve got both Bannerman and Barcellos. I haven’t read all of Bannerman but did read through the chapters on the sacraments. It was excellent but nothing specific to this question. Same for Barcellos. Thanks, though, for the recommendations and reminder of these resources.

Yes, by all means, get “Church Reformed.” I read it while deer hunting last season and was really helpful. I had forgotten the section within concerning this issue. It’s on my list to re-read in the near future.

Sorry the other two were duds. I forgot how short Bannerman is on the Lord’s Supper.

The third chapter of the Haykin book is a historical analysis of controversies among reformed Baptists over who can take the supper. It’s descriptive rather than prescriptive, but there’s still some helpful stuff in there.

Time in the woods with good theology…can’t think of a better use of time. Sounds amazing.


On a related note. How long do we need to take between when someone makes a profession of faith and when someone is baptised?

I came to faith as a nine-year-old in a baptistic tradition, and largely at my father’s behest (he was a pastor) I was baptised a few months later. But, I’ve always wondered if we (in the baptistic traditions but perhaps elsewhere) are in too much of a rush to do this; and should hold off until the paint has clearly had time to dry. Certainly, when one of my friends, with some Christian background, was baptised as a young adult, it did have more meaning. Another friend, again from a Baptist background said that in their setting, it became an “adolescent rite of passage”. Which I don’t think it’s meant to be. Thoughts?

Good question. Here’s how the Evangel Presbytery “Directory for the Worship of God” answers that question, “Concerning credo-baptism, baptism is to be administered as soon as practicable after public profession of faith in Christ.”

I don’t think we should be too fine a limit on this by setting an arbitrary time after which someone may be beyond the bounds or in sin. Like all things in loving the sheep, being with them, listening to them and to their motives, and working with them to see if they are truly in the faith is more of an art than a science.

There may some good reasons to delay beyond what would normally be, and there would be some unacceptable reasons.

My experience is the opposite of yours. I’ve been in “baptistic churches” but that aren’t part of a baptist tradition. The chuches have been independent, E-Free sorts. These churches haven’t struggled with baptizing with too much haste and lack of shepherding, but with neglecting the sacrament of baptism as if it were a forgotten relative who is remembered fondly every so often.