Is baptism necessary before taking communion?
Posted on 10 May 2012 04:15 PM
Is baptism required before a person can receive communion?
We doubt many will question you if you indicate you would like to participate in the communion service. However, we would further answer that if one rightly understands the incredible privilege given us in those two institutions of the Lord’s church, it would be revealed as not only proper for baptism to take place before communion, but desirable. We submit the following reasoning to you:
First, as sinners makes their choices to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf by being baptized, “Christ forgives every penitent sinner, and as the forgiven one, at the time of baptism, rises from the watery grave, he is declared a new creature, whose life is hid with Christ in God. Let us ever remember that it is our high privilege to be purged from our old sins.” Our High Calling, 157.
We rise a “new creature,” with our past sins forgiven as we pledged to live a new life with Jesus in our hearts and minds. We have a chance to start over, forsaking the sinful life of our past and living with eternity and the honor of our heavenly Father ever in mind. Why would anyone not want to start over with past sins forgiven?
Secondly, in Acts 2:38, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and after Pentecost, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Why would one not want this incredible opportunity for remission of their sins?
“Baptism is a public act of belief in and acceptance of the Lord’s sacrifice on one’s behalf. The person being baptized is ‘buried’ in the water in ‘the likeness of Christ's death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection,’ and we are to live a new life. Our life is to be bound up with the life of Christ. Henceforth the believer is to bear in mind that he is dedicated to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. He is to make all worldly considerations secondary to this new relation. Publicly he has declared that he will no longer live in pride and self-indulgence. He is no longer to live a careless, indifferent life. He has made a covenant with God. He has died to the world. He is to live to the Lord, to use for Him all his entrusted capabilities, never losing the realization that he bears God's signature, that he is a subject of Christ's kingdom, a partaker of the divine nature. He is to surrender to God all that he is and all that he has, employing all his gifts to His name's glory.” Counsels to the Churches, 295.
Another point is that Jesus is our example, and he underwent baptism at the beginning of His ministry. So we, too, are to not only experience the ritual but rejoice in what it means. “Baptism is the sign given by Jesus of entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He has made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Before man can find a home in the church, before passing the threshold of God's spiritual kingdom, he is to receive the impress of the divine name, ‘The Lord Our Righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:6.” Ibid.
The truth is, if we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are not to come to the Lord’s table with known sins still unconfessed and therefore unforgiven. 1 Corinthians 11:28, 27, 29 tells us this: "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." For "whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
What does “unworthily” mean? The Bible commentary says “without due reverence for the Lord, whose sufferings and sacrifice are being commemorated.” Why would one desire to participate in the Lord’s Supper commemoration of the Lord’s sacrifice while not caring to obey His commandments? Why would one want to join in communion but not baptism, which commemorates his death and resurrection? Why not participate more fully in the Savior’s experience, to draw closer to him through the ordinances He gave us for that purpose?
The commentary also says, “Words, thought, and deeds should be inspected, as well as habits of personal devotion. . . . The Lord’s Supper represents a special occasion for public declaration of new resolves.” We are “unworthy” if we have unconfessed sins condemning us—if we are choosing to retain even one sinful habit or refusing to avoid or regret what the Word of God points out is against His will.
Before Jesus enacted that sacred meal for the first time with His apostles, He personally washed their feet to show them an example of humility and service which they needed to be like. As their hearts were softened and they repented of their earlier selfish attitudes, He said, “Ye are clean, but not all.” Then Jesus could proceed in instituting the Lord’s Supper. All had repented of their sin except Judas, who harbored ill intentions toward his Master. How can we come today to the Lord’s Supper if we have not yet had that “remission of sins” that baptism offers us, and a chance to start over with our sins “washed away”?
Regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection to life, “both of these important events have their memorials. By partaking of the Lord's supper, the broken bread and the fruit of the vine, we show forth the Lord's death until He comes. The scenes of His sufferings and death are thus brought fresh to our minds. The resurrection of Christ is commemorated by our being buried with Him by baptism, and raised out of the watery grave, in likeness of His resurrection, to live in newness of life.” Early Writings, 217.
We hope that you will not limit your spiritual experience to just the Lord’s Supper. A full commitment to the Lord in baptism is our reasonable service to the One who has bought us back from slavery to sin. The new Master we serve is gracious, long-suffering, faithful, just, and