The purpose of St. Paul Lutheran Church (LC-MS) is to share with everyone the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our savior, by means of Word and Sacrament, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. - Adopted, January 28, 1990
On Closed Communion
St. Paul Lutheran Church is a member congregation of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and we practice Closed Communion. The practice of Closed Communion is one that is very misunderstood in our modern age, but actually has been the practice of the Church since the days of the Apostles. Closed Communion is not practiced in order to be spiteful – instead, it is a practice born out of a desire to do what is right for one another, no matter the cost or sacrifice – the biblical meaning of the word “love.” While it would be easier for us to simply open the Lord’s Table to everyone, it would not be the right thing. This is our conviction based upon the Word of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
We believe that when we receive the Lord’s Supper, what we are receiving is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in with and under the bread and the wine. When Jesus says “Take and eat, this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:17-29),” we take Him at His word. We believe that the body and blood of Christ, that was given into death on the cross, that was raised from the dead on Easter Sunday, that ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, is bodily present in the Lord’s Supper. What Christ gives to us in his meal is the real deal. Christ also tells us what we receive when he gives to us His body and His blood – the forgiveness of sins.
If I can use an analogy, consider a pharmacy. That pharmacy may have many things that are available for anyone. However, certain medicines are kept under lock and key, because these medicines are the real deal. They are powerful, and are dangerous if misused. Consider what St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:27 and 29 : “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord… For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” When we receive the Lord’s Supper, we receive the real deal, a powerful means of grace that, as Paul writes, can be dangerous if misused. The misuse that Paul corrected the Corinthians about was communing when there were divisions among them (1 Corinthians 11:18). If we did not believe that the Lord’s Supper really is the body and blood of Christ, then we would have no reason for concern over who receives communion. However, because we do take Christ at His word and believe that the Lord’s Supper is the body and blood of Christ, for the sake of loving our neighbor, we must be faithful in our practice of the Lord’s Supper.
Our motivation for our practice is not a desire to be exclusionary, nor an attitude of hatefulness or superiority. Our practice of Closed Communion is motivated by Christian love for our neighbor. We take an unpopular stance for three reasons: first, to ensure that no one eats or drinks judgment upon himself or herself (1 Corinthians 11:29); second, out of a desire to avoid profaning the body and blood of the Lord by coming before him as a collection of individuals who hold divergent beliefs regarding the common Christian faith; rather, we would seek to come before Him as one body unified in belief and practice; and third, in order to recognize the divisions among us, so that God’s Word may prevail over all false teaching.
If you attend worship at St. Paul’s and are not invited to receive the body and blood of Christ, please know that this does not mean we think you are not a Christian. Instead, it is a practice born out our earnest desire to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. We do thank you for respecting our efforts to preserve our unity of faith as we join as one body in common confession to receive the body and blood of Christ.