Who Should Attend Church?

I recollect a while back I had a discussion vis-à-vis the Lord’s Supper and who should partake of it. The majority in the conversation felt like communion should be open and I felt to the contrary. Now this post is not about the Lord’s Supper but it relates to my reply. My response was essentially that I believe the Lord’s Supper should not be open to all but exclusive—only baptized members of the assembly should observe. Yet there is more to the situation than just having the Lord’s Communion limited to only believers.

My entire contention consisted of not only should the Lord’s Supper be reserved for baptized adult members of the Gemeinde but also the meeting itself. Now as you might have guessed I received considerable pushback for saying that, after all it appears as if “church” has perpetually been open and free to all. Well that’s not case. “Church” or more appropriately the gathering of the ekklesia originally was only comprised of baptized believers and their offspring.

What’s also interesting about this matter is that the proto or radix Anabaptists viewed the situation from a parallel perspective. The Hutterite Peter Riedemann wrote in his Rechenschaft:

God did not wish to have heathens in his worship services, nor did he wish his people to learn the ceremonies of the heathen. In fact, he threatened that if they did that, he would do to them as he had intended to do to the heathen. For the same reason, at the time of the apostles, unbelievers were not permitted to join believers. Paul, too, separates the faithful from the unbelievers. Accordingly, we also wish in this matter and in all things, to be worthy to receive with him the promise of the inheritance. This is possible, insofar as it is in us to follow Christ is our Master. With his help we will keep his command and covenant, not turning aside from it to the right or to the left. May he give us and all others who wholeheartedly want it, his grace to do this, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[1]

Riedemann alludes to many scriptural passages such as Exodus 12:43 and Numbers 33:55-56. Yet his remarks regarding the Apostle and Paul has the most relevance to this discussion. His mentioning of Paul’s separating of “the faithful from the unbelievers” points to 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Contextually Paul was speaking to the ekklesia established in Corinth and likewise Riedemann was speaking in respect to the Anabaptist Gemeinde. Only those baptized adult disciples was participants in the fellowship of Christ that routinely came together for edification and partook of the cup and ate of the loaf. All those that have not entered the ekklesia through repentance and rebirth evidenced by water baptism are outside the kingdom thus making their attendance at meetings unwarranted.

 

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[1] Peter Riedemann, Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith: Translation of the 1565 German Edition of Confession of Our Religion, Teaching, and Faith, by the Brothers Who Are Known as the Hutterites, ed. and trans. John J. Friesen, Classics of the Radical Reformation (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1999), 180.

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2 thoughts on “Who Should Attend Church?

  1. I agree fully that there are times for the church to just meet as the church. The early church required letters of recommendation for believers visiting from other areas. A far cry from where we are at today.

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