Let me offer for discussion my take on the matter of a closed communion. Closed communion in the way that I define the term means communion of professed believers who desire to enter into a mutual relationship accountable through a professed faith in Christ expressed through a local church membership. We as Baptists would more than likely not get overly concerned about a fellow Baptist believer visiting our church and participating in the Lord’s Supper, however, if that someone were an Episcopalian we might have a greater degree of concern. Moreover, reverse the roles, if we were visiting a sister church and they had the Lord’s Supper we would more than likely participate, however, I would dare say that if we went to a Roman Catholic wedding we would not partake of the Lord’s Supper. I began to consider the need for a closed communion when I wrote my ThM thesis on Balthasar Humbaier’s view of church discipline. One of the things that Hubmaier argued was that if there is was no church discipline the church was not valid. This doctrine dealt in large part with the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is where the visible church is held into account. That is not to say that there is not recognition of the universal church. The universal church has more to do with a divine perspective. The particular church or visible church is the organization that was formed in the book of Acts. The NT church is visible and accountable initially based on a public profession of faith at baptism and on an ongoing basis through the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, it is not practical to have an open communion if you are truly attempting to enforce church discipline. When it comes to an open communion and church discipline the issues that arise give one pause. The same reasons we ought to practice a closed communion are the same reasons we can give for joining a church. Spiritual Disciplines Within The Church by Donald S. Whitney offers several compelling reasons why we should join a NT church. Some of the more compelling reasons are: The New Testament church practice of keeping a list of widows makes sense in the context of membership We know that churches in the days of the Apostle Paul made and maintained at least one type of list. "No widow may be put on the list of widows," Paul instructs Timothy, "unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband," etc., (1 Timothy 5:9, NIV). As easily as the churches had lists of widows, they could have had lists of members. There would be no difference except for length for a church to keep a widows' list and a membership list. The meaning of the word "join" in Acts. 5:13 makes sense only in the context of membership In Acts 5:13 we read of the reaction of the non-Christians in Jerusalem after a couple within the church, Ananias and Sapphira, had died on the spot when it was revealed that they had lied to the church. It says, "Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." The unbelievers had great respect for the Christians, but after this incident none of them who claimed to be converted but were outward-only believers wanted to join the church. In the Greek language in which Paul wrote this letter, the word he used that's translated here as "join" literally means "to glue or cement together, to unite, to join firmly." It doesn't refer to an informal, merely assumed sort of relationship, but one where you choose to "glue" or "join" yourself firmly to the others. Again, that kind of language only makes sense in the context of membership. That same "glue word" is used in the New Testament to describe being joined together in a sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6:16) and being joined to the Lord in one spirit in salvation (1 Corinthians 6:17). And it's the very same word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 5:11 when he says "not to keep company with" any so-called brother who continues in immorality, but rather to "put away from yourselves the evil person." Clearly this kind of language doesn't refer to a casual, superficial, or informal relationship. So when it says in Acts 5:13 that no insincere believer "dared join them," the "glue word" used there speaks of such a cohesive, bonding relationship that it must be referring to a recognized church membership. The instructions for church discipline make sense only in the context of membership In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gave us instructions on how the church should respond when someone within the church persists in living like an unbeliever. We read of a specific case of this in 1 Corinthians 5 and how the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, instructed the Christians in the church at Corinth to handle it. In verses 11-13 Paul says, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'" There was a sexually immoral man in this church. Was Paul simply telling them not to let this man come to church with them because he was acting like an unbeliever instead of a Christian? No, he couldn't have meant that, for we know from other places in this letter (cf. 14:24-25) that unbelievers were welcome to attend church meetings. Even when they obeyed Paul's instructions to "put away from yourselves the evil person" and considered the man an unbeliever, they would have allowed (even welcomed) him to come and sit under the preaching of God's Word like any other person in town. So in what sense would they have "put away" ("remove"-NASB, "expel"-NIV) this man? The best way of explaining how they would have "put away" this man is to understand that they removed him from the membership of the church and generally stopped associating with him outside the church meetings. Notice that Paul refers to those who are "inside" and to those who are "outside." Outside of what? As we've noted, anyone could attend their meetings. This kind of language can only refer to a definite church membership of converted people. For what authority does a group have to remove someone who is already "outside" and not a member of the group? You can't fire someone who doesn't work for you. You can't vote in your country to remove a government official elected by another country. You can't appeal to a court to discipline someone who isn't within its jurisdiction. In the same way, you can't formally discipline someone who is in an informal relationship with you; you have no authority to do so. These people in Corinth had voluntarily committed themselves to a formal relationship and they knew who were official members of the church and who were "outside." Church discipline must be done by the "church" (Matthew 18:17) and occur "when you are gathered together" (1 Corinthians 5:4). Who is to gather together? How do you know who the "church" is? How do you determine who does and does not have the right to speak and vote on such matters? Does the person subject to discipline have the liberty to bring in his extended family or coworkers who have never been to the church, or even people off the street, and expect them to be given an equal say with those who have been faithful to the church for years? No? Why not? Do you exclude them from involvement because they've never been part of the church? Then what about the person who attended once five years ago? Or those who came at Easter and Christmas last year? Or those who regularly watch the church services on television or listen to them on the radio, and perhaps even send money, but never enter the building? Or those from distant cities who visit several times each year because of family members in the church? Obviously, Biblical church discipline must be limited to a specific group and that must mean the church members. The expressed purpose of the communion I believe is given to the local church and not the universal church. When you take communion with another you are affirming their Christian faith. How then if you take communion with a bunch of say recalcitrant Methodists could you then turn around and go door to witnessing to them. This may sound crazy but think about it. You have a community communion at your church, and the whole community is invited. Then your outreach team goes door to door and comes to man who participated. Let’s say that the man sharing the witness was the deacon who handed out the elements. It seems kind of backwards to give a man, in this case a local Methodist, the Lord’s Supper and later ask him do you know Jesus? Should we assume everyone knows Jesus who participates in the Lord’s Supper? No. But when they are members of your church and their lifestyle does not match up to what they profess to believe there is a process by which we confront the disparity of their professed belief and their apparent lack of fruit as to the authenticity of that belief. Faith without works is dead. Church discipline is the key to a regenerate church and a closed communion is the key to church discipline.