Who can serve communion?

In the last four years our elders have had discussions about who can serve the ordinances, such as communion and baptism? Is it only pastors? Only elders? Only deacons? Only members? Can a woman serve? Can a person with un-reconciled sin serve? Can a non-Christian serve?

This has been a conversation of late because we are planning to do communion a little differently this coming Sunday (see the end of this post).  For now, let us look at each of the questions above and run them through the filter of Scripture.

We use Scripture as our filter because God is the ultimate authority and because God is the author of Scripture; therefore, Scripture is the authoritative Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Scripture trumps Traditions of men.  In the Christian Church one of the biggest mistakes Christian leadership has made over the last 2,000 years is to say that the Traditions of the Church have equal authority with the Scriptures.  And so what can sometimes occur is people make up a rule about how to do church and then that rule becomes a tradition and people do it because it is what they have always ever done.  For example, some would say only a Pastor, elder, or deacon can serve communion or baptize people.

But is this true?

Let us run this through the filter of Scripture: do the Scriptures say only Pastors, elders, or deacons can administer the ordinances? I can’t find a Scripture that says only these officers are allowed to baptize and serve communion.

What about members of a church, can they serve communion? Again, I don’t see anything in Scripture that says a member is prohibited from serving communion.  When we read Acts 2:42 or 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, these Scriptures describe what is happening during church gatherings, but they do not tell us who is breaking the bread and serving the wine.  We assume the leaders are doing this, or at minimum that the people serving are doing so in conjunction with the leadership’s approval.  But in these two verses it does not say only Pastors, elders, or deacons can serve.

About Baptism, same as communion, in Scripture there are not explicit instructions about which Christians are or are not allowed to baptize new believers.

What about women baptizing? What about a woman serving communion? To this I ask, where in Scripture does it say a woman can not?

What about a Christian with un-reconciled sin? When it comes to communion the very purpose of communion is to get Christians to come together, confess their sin, be in right relationship with one another, and look to the cross of Christ.  In 1 Cor. 11:17-34 there are instructions about un-confessed sin and communion.  So before a Christian serves another Christian communion, each Christian needs to deal with their own sin issues through confession and then communion can be served.  Jesus takes this one step further when He instructs people to leave the alter, be reconciled, then come and worship (Matthew 5:23-26).  Jesus is not talking about communion in Matthew 5, but I think we can extract a principle from this passage that jives with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11.

What about non-Christians serving people? Well, why would a non-Christian partake in an ordinance they don’t believe in? Besides, 1 Cor. 11:27-32 applies in this situation in that when a person takes of communion in an unworthy manner, he or she eats and drinks judgment unto himself (herself).

So based on Scripture, what we know for sure is that Christians in good standing within a church community can serve communion or baptize.  We assume these Christians should be working with the leadership to make sure they are not doing anything counter to the leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  And we assume the leadership is overseeing what is happening to make sure those serving understand the purpose of communion and baptism theologically.

The plan for Grace Church this Sunday is for one of our Home Communities to serve communion.  This breaks with our tradition of Pastors, elders, and men only serving.  But Scripturally our elders do not see that there is anything wrong with Christian lay-people in good standing (both men and women) serving communion.


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Time to Overturn Tables

Some years ago I was asked the question: “If rebellion is an unbiblical idea, then were the Reformers wrong for protesting against the Catholic Church? Were the signers of the constitution wrong for revolting against the English?”

We read in Matthew 5 that Christians are to love their enemies and turn the other cheek.  We read in Mark 12 that we are to render onto Caesar what is Caesars in the form of Taxes.  Paul takes this a step further in Romans 13 by instructing Christians to submit to governing authorities as God’s tool to keep the peace among the people.  We read in 1 Timothy 2 that we are to pray for Kings that they might live quiet and peaceful lives.  We read more of the same in 1 Peter 2 with an emphasis on our good behavior and honor of all being the way to win the hearts of those we come in contact with.

So what gives when we come to a passage about Jesus overturning tables in the Temple of Jerusalem in Matthew 21?

If we are to be Christ-followers, does this mean we should revolt and overturn tables when we disagree with authority?

Friends in Christ, rebellion is not the way of the Lord.  So what was Jesus doing in the Temple? He had just entered Jerusalem for His Triumphal Entry to bring peace.  The symbolism of riding on a donkey suggests He is the prophesied Messiah spoken of in Zachariah 9:9.  But when He comes to Jerusalem He finds the Temple, the place and symbol of the religion of Israel, being misused by those who would make money off unsuspecting worshippers.  Now, the Temple was supposed to be a place of sacrifice and so therefore the people needed to buy animals, salt, oil, and such for sacrifice at a fair market value according to the Mishnah in Seqalim 1:3 and 2:4 and that these must be purchased with a Hebrew Shekel according to the Law in Exodus 30:11-14.  But the money changers set up shop in the wrong location and were extracting a surcharge from the money exchange to make a profit off of people who simply came to worship.  And so Jesus announced, “This is a house of prayer but you have made this a den of robbers.”  And He made a whip and overturned the tables and drove the people out and started teaching in the Temple courts, restoring the Temple to its intended purpose.

When asked about this by the Scribes and Pharisees who wanted to find charges against Him to put Jesus to death, the Jewish leadership asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus’ response in the four gospels (when you piece them together) is to hint at His divinity.  In other words, Jesus came to bring a spiritual revival to Jerusalem: (1) the Temple was being misused; (2) the Jewish leadership not only allowed this but was getting rich off of it; and so (3) God’s Son came with God’s authority to cleanse the Temple and restore it to His intended purposes.

So would I have had the authority to cleanse the Temple?

No, because I am not the Messiah.  I am not the Author of truth.  I am not the Author of morality.  I am not the Author of the religion of Israel.  And so therefore I am not the Judge who can cleanse the Temple.  But Jesus claimed to be the Author of Truth, the Author of morality, and the Author of the Faith of Abraham.  Therefore Jesus had Authority to cleanse the Temple.

This was a unique event and there is no other event like it in history.  Jesus is a unique person and there is no other person with the Authority He carried.

Jesus literally cleansed the Temple and now He spiritually cleanses the hearts of the people of God, which is the new Temple.

Notice that when the Temple guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant and Jesus’ response was to tell Peter to put away His sword (John 18:10-11).  And then Jesus willingly was taken away, beaten, tortured, condemned, and crucified – but this brought a spiritual victory.  Peter learned his lesson and taught Christians to walk in Jesus’ footsteps in these same manner of suffering when trials come (1 Peter 2:21-25).  This is the way of the cross, the way of Jesus, and what has cause Christianity to become one of the most powerful world religions affecting 1/5 of the world’s population.

May mercy and revival of the heart be what compels you in situations of testimony for Jesus.  And then let Jesus bring about the revolution in hearts as spiritual awakening begins.  This is how tables of the heart will truly be overturned.  But this needs to be done by Jesus and not by us.