The Westminster Confession & Covenant Communion

On January 11th, I preached the second sermon in my series “Worship: Its Power & Purpose.”  That sermon, entitled, “The Tentacles of Wrong Worship” (part one, anyway) addressed issues related to worship practices in the modern Evangelical church and how they affect the children of believers.

The main thrust of the sermon’s argument was biblical, yet several references to the Westminster Confession of Faith (our primary confession) were made. As a result, I thought it could be helpful to provide specific citation to those sections of the WCF directly involved or referred to in the sermon.

You may download the MP3 version of the sermon on our “Sermons & Media” page. I hope you find these citations helpful particularly if you decide to listen to or “re-listen” to the sermon. All emphases are mine and are done so to aid in following the argument.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV (Of the Church), sections 2-3:  “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation…Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.”

Chapter XXVII (Of the Sacraments), sections 1&4: “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word…There are only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.”

Chapter XXVIII (Of Baptism), section 6: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.”

Chapter XXIX (Of the Lord’s Supper), sections 3, 4: “The Lord Jesus has, in this ordinance, appointed His ministers to declare His word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation…Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other alone; as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.”

The argument is not that complex. The visible Church contains all believers and their children. To that visible Church God has given, among other things, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. One of the purposes of these sacraments is “to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world.”

Do our covenant children belong to the Church? Yes – and so they do not belong to the world. It is, therefore, contrary to the nature of the sacrament to deny the cup to our baptized children.

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2 thoughts on “The Westminster Confession & Covenant Communion

  1. Among the Reformed who object to paedocommunion, the objection isn’t to the belief that the children of believers are truly members of the visible church (credobaptists would obviously object at that point), but rather regarding the commandment that a communer examine his heart before receiving (I Corinthians 11:28). The one answer I’ve heard to that objection is that the commandment implies “examination to the extent to which that person is capable.” I am ambivalent as to the sufficiency of that answer. What say YOU?

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for your comment. It is true that others in the Reformed world don’t object to the idea of children being members of the covenant; my point was that the practice of barring them from the Lord’s Table is inconsistent with that belief.

    As for 1st Corinthians 11:28, the context makes clear that Paul was warning them to examine their relationship to the rest of the body (i.e., don’t allow inappropriate division – vv. 17-22). That being the case, I would argue that those who prevent baptized little ones from partaking of the Table are the ones who are guilty of “not discerning the Lord’s body” (v. 28) because they are denying part of His body from partaking.

    Hope this helps!
    Brian

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