Is Communion for Children? What does the Bible Say?

Question from a Site Viewer
Is communion for children?  Should children take the body and blood of Christ without having been previously baptized? My wife is Latino from South America and has strong sentiments about our son participating in the holy supper. Is there any Bible doctrine that would support this view? Thank you and may God bless your ministry!

Tim’s Answer
You ask a very good question. Many parents wonder if they should be giving communion to their children.

The most basic instruction on the Lord’s Supper comes from I Corinthians 11:23-34. Verses 27-30 give a stern warning about not taking the body or blood of the Lord unworthily. What does this mean? Many have taken this far out of its context, I believe. The passage is about the need for unity in the church. See verse 18-21. It is not the Lord’s Supper if it is not unifying. Paul does not change the context in verses 23-26. We know this because in verses 33-34 he completes his thoughts that he began in verses 18-21. In fact, unity seems to be the focus of the next chapter as well. Thus, it is hard to argue that Paul’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper is not focused on the unity of the church. Paul defines what constitutes an unworthy participation in the service. It is the failure to “discern the Lord’s body.” verse 29. When we do not keep the body in view in our partaking, we forget the purpose for the death of Christ (to bring peace to those who were far off and those who were near – Eph. 2:14-18). We often focus on all sorts of other peripheral matters in our examining of ourselves, but the context of Paul’s teaching is the very thing on Jesus’ heart in his great prayer of John 17 –the unity of the church. The communion service demonstrates powerfully that we are His body, partaking of His flesh and of His blood, and we all do it equally. None of us are more a part of the body than others. As someone has said, the ground is level at the cross. The question we must ask ourselves before communion is where are we with respect to His body. If we think of ourselves better than others, or if we have something against others in the body, we should not participate until we correct our thinking and resolve our conflicts with others. We all come by grace to His table and none of us come because we are worthy apart from Him. But in Him, there is forgiveness and mercy and we partake based on this gift to all of us.

Given this context, I am not as bothered as some with children taking communion. I note that the Lord’s Supper arises out of the Passover meal. Children have long partaken of the Passover meal. In fact, in the institution of the Passover celebration, God required all of the congregation to keep it (Ex. 12:47) and, at least with the accompanying feast of unleavened bread, God instructed Israel to use it as an opportunity to teach the children about the Passover. (Ex. 13:8). To this day, children remain an important part of the Passover service in the Jewish faith. I think the Lord’s Supper, like the Passover, can be a great teaching opportunity for our children. When they join in the service, they join in the wonder of the bread and the cup. This can be a very meaningful time for them as well as an opportunity for them to connect with the body.

As for whether children must be baptized before they partake, I do not think such is supported from Scripture. I note that the disciples were not baptized in the name of the Lord when they first partook. While they may have been baptized by John the Baptist, we know that this is not the Lord’s baptism as seen in Acts 19:3-5. (In this passage, we had some persons who had been baptized with John’s baptism whom Paul rebaptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) We have no record of anyone being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus before Acts 2. Yet, the disciples participated in the first communion service. In fact, surprising to some, Judas Iscariot also participated. See Luke 22:14-23. It was after the Lord’s Supper that Jesus said that the hand of His betrayer was with Him on the table. Jesus did not seem to have a problem with this. Jesus could have easily waited until after Judas left (see John 13:21-30) to institute the Lord’s Supper. He did not.

I believe that the Lord’s Supper is for all those who by faith have turned to Jesus for their salvation and life. I think it is the privilege of all believers to participate and remember His death until He comes again. Baptism is a separate ordinance. Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is dependent on a trust relationship with the Jesus of the Bible. But neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper are dependent upon each other. I do not believe the Scripture supports a need to wait to be baptized before partaking of communion. I know that this is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and several other higher churches. I do not fault those churches for their views. Nor do I think those views will ultimately be critical in heaven. However, I do not think that such views are the best interpretation of the passage. I think Jesus invites all to partake at His table.

My final thought on this subject, however, is not to allow this issue to create the very disunity that violates the Lord’s Supper. You and your wife should prayerfully seek unity on this issue. God has given you to each other for this purpose, to assist one another in your lives, including your spiritual lives. I would never insist on letting children participate in communion against a parent’s conscience. I also would not hinder the little children to come to the Lord’s Supper if their parents do not object.

On a personal note, I know that this can be an issue. It was an issue in my church. I talked to the church about the issue and explained what I see in Scripture. Some objected strongly to allowing children to participate in communion. Because of their strong feelings, we invited only older children to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Such was a compromise on my part in an effort to preserve unity. My personal belief is that anyone who confesses faith in Jesus should be free to participate in this unifying celebration. I believe this is the best understanding of the passages and of God’s heart.

May the Lord Jesus guide you in your decision on this issue.

tim

2 thoughts on “Is Communion for Children? What does the Bible Say?

  1. Eldora Agnew-Yeager

    My Pastor believes that children (toddlers) 2-5 should not take communion, especially if they have not been baptized. I have taught my grandchildren as much as that age can consume I think. They can tell you briefly about the meaning of communion. I am a Sunday School teacher and think it is important for them to be brought up in the way . As for me, I think it’s okay for them but I wanted to know if there is a scripture that says (no) absolutely not. I could not any for this directly.

    Reply
  2. Tim

    There is no scripture that directly addresses communion and children. The position your pastor takes has wide support within the wider church body. Most liturgical churches will not allow children to take communion until they have completed catechism classes. Many churches that do not follow the liturgical traditions still hold to the view that children should not have communion before baptism. Others will state that children should not have communion before salvation. While each of these positions hold certain logical appeal, ultimately there is no Biblical mandate one way or the other. Jesus served communion to Judas Iscariot. In my view, given the close linkage of communion with the passover celebration, I think that Jesus would welcome little children to join in the celebration. The only express command against partaking of communion comes to those who are not holding to the unity of the body, which is how I interpret 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. The unworthiness in the context both before and after this statement is focused on the lack of unity among the Corinthians. I find this particularly compelling given what communion is (the church partaking of Jesus’ body) and the great desire of Christ that we be one (John 17). Nevertheless, I also am very mindful of the Biblical injunction to be subject to those who are over us in the Lord (Hebrews 13:17). Accordingly, if your pastor does not feel comfortable with your grandchildren taking communion, then for the sake of obedience to Christ and peace in the church I would encourage you to follow your pastor’s lead in this matter. And trust your grandchildren to the care of God, praying that He will raise them up to be lovers of God.

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