We celebrate the Lord’s Supper at every Sunday service and at some special midweek services (Maundy Thursday) as well.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul argues we become participants of the altar at which we fellowship. We usually do not have to concern ourselves with those participating with demons, which Paul specifically cites, but we do have the question of differing confessions. The altar where you regularly commune defines your public confession of faith. While receiving the body and blood of Christ is a personal matter, it is never private. The very act, as Paul says, is a public confession of faith and joins you to those you are communing with. To insist that it is private denies the very notion of “communion.” So, to commune at an altar which does not share your public confession of faith does not build up but serves to cause confusion and create division.
As Paul continues into chapter 11, he speaks of this division among the Corinthians and declares that because of their division they are not receiving the Lord’s Supper to their benefit. They are instead treating the Lord’s Supper as a meal to fill the belly only. So, Paul rebukes them and says he delivered to them what he himself received from the Lord: that Christ gives His own body and blood in this meal for the forgiveness of sins. Whoever then eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner is guilty concerning His body and blood. Therefore we do not treat the Lord’s Supper lightly, but with holy reverence and discernment. The Lord Himself is at working in the meal both forgiveness and judgement. If we say, then, that the confession of faith at any given altar does not matter we are denying the very essence of the meal, just as the church at Corinth was doing.
Paul then instructs us to examine ourselves before we eat and drink to determine if it is beneficial for us to receive the Lord’s Supper at this altar. The first criteria is to consider that altar’s confession of faith. Does it agree with your own public confession? If so, then you may move on to the second criteria. If not, then it is not appropriate for you to commune at this altar. The second criteria is to examine your own heart. Do you know that you are a sinner in need of God’s grace? If so then it is appropriate to commune at this altar.
For this reason, we make us of the practice of close(d) communion. A pastor cannot look into your heart (the second criteria of being worthy) and can only look at your public confession (the first criteria of being worthy). To ask a pastor to commune you who does not share in your confession of faith is to ask a pastor to sin against the Lord’s body and blood himself by using his own hands, which are called to administer the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins, to instead misuse the Sacrament and bring condemnation and judgement down upon the both of you, for the pastor is head accountable to God for how he acts within the ministry given to him. While there may be exceptions made out of pastoral care to our practice of closed communion, it is reserved for extraordinary and emergency circumstances. Therefore, we ask that you speak with our pastor before communing at our altar, and if you do not share in our confession of faith (LCMS or partner church body) please respect our doctrine and our practices and refrain from approaching the altar. Instead, we ask you to join with us in our prayer for the day when the Lord returns and all divisions will cease.
You can read more about our doctrine and practice of communion here.