Child Participation in Communion Service
An elder wrote to ask whether it is proper to permit the unbaptized children of our church members to participate in the communion service, the ordinance of the humility and the service of the Lord's table.
It has not been our practice to invite unbaptized children of our church members to participate in the communion service, either in the foot washing or in the partaking of the bread and wine.
Inquiry of several ministerial brethren reveals that they all hold that participation in this special service should not begin for our children until they are baptized and thus become members of the church. One of the purposes of the communion service is to make evident the fellowship of the family of believers. Now, while it is true, in a sense, that young, unbaptized children may believe, the full meaning of belief calls for baptism and entry into the church.
See Mark 16:16.
Unless we hold that there is a great and real significance to church membership, we undermine the whole idea of the need of joining the church. If unbaptized children may partake of Communion, we are preparing the way for them to continue to participate on through the years even though they are never baptized and so never join the church. Thus we destroy some of the prime symbolic value of the Communion and make it a common thing in which any may join without an open avowal of Christ and a dedication of life to Him.
Dealing with erring members
A brother from Brazil writes to protest what be believes is a "too conciliatory" way in which the church presented in general, and the Elder's Digest in particular, dealt with erring church members.
I would yield to no man in my belief that straight doctrine should be preached and that sin should be purged from our ranks. What some fervent souls forget is that there is a right way and a wrong way of preaching the truth and crusading against sin. The way that results routinely in driving out the sinner as well as the sin, is most certainly the wrong way. Our business is to seek and to save sinners, by leading them to Him who can cleanse them from sin.
While the day of mercy lingers, our God is pictured in the role of a compassionate father and not a cold calculating judge. As His representatives we should follow His example. A compassionate father never boasts that he is planning to disinherit even the most wayward son, and certainly he will never let him go until he has exhausted all the love and solicitude he is able to bring to bear upon him. All of us need more of the compassion of Heaven in dealing with the wayward. We should remember that it is not severity but mercy that breaks the stony heart: "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). It is our business to reconcile men to God and to one another. And a spirit of love and conciliation provides the setting for reconciliation.
I would not challenge the vigorous maxim: "Hew to the line and let the chips fall where they may." But I would differ with a certain type of ardent person as to where to draw the line in some instances.
When Christ rebuked Simon's self-righteousness He modified this maxim, or rather, adapted it to the circumstances. "Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee," spoke our Lord to this Pharisee. Then followed, not a shower of chips, falling where they might, but a quietly presented parable, with its moral and application.
It is true that at times Christ did denounce unsparingly the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, but those instances were few, and furthermore the hypocrisy was most aggravated and insufferable. It would be a caricature of Christ's method of spiritual labor to point to those few instances as exhibits of His usual way of dealing with sinners.
Even so in the church of God today. There are doubtless instances when vigorous, open denunciation of certain sins and sinners may be called for. But in most instances a wholly different method is required if we are to follow in the steps of our Lord, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. The psalmist comforts us with these words concerning our heavenly Father: "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). We shall have success in laboring for the erring only as we likewise remember the frailties of the children of men and display vast compassion toward them.
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