In light of Sam Storms’ contribution to the great baptism debate yesterday, Wayne Grudem has sent me an e-mail which includes an extract from his Systematic Theology which, unlike his perspective on baptism and church membership, has not changed recently.
The rest of this article was written by Wayne Grudem and is published with permission:
Just for the record, I am already in print agreeing with what Sam Storms says on this question. (And, I would add, in the case of convinced paedobaptists, I would argue, as does my friend Sam Storms, that they should surely be allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper for their entire lives as non-members of the church, but as genuine believers and members of the universal body of Christ. I think the negative symbolism of not allowing these believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper is surely something that Jesus did not intend in instituting this ordinance.) Here is the section from my Systematic Theology (it is on pp. 996-997 in both the old and new (2007) printings). My own view is expressed in paragraph 3:D. Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper?
Despite differences over some aspects of the Lord’s Supper, most Protestants would agree, first, that only those who believe in Christ should participate in it, because it is a sign of being a Christian and continuing in the Christian life. Paul warns that those who eat and drink unworthily face serious consequences: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
Second, many Protestants would argue from the meaning of baptism and the meaning of the Lord’s Supper that, ordinarily, only those who have been baptized should participate in the Lord’s Supper. This is because baptism is so clearly a symbol of beginning the Christian life, while the Lord’s Supper is clearly a symbol of continuing the Christian life. Therefore if someone is taking the Lord’s Supper and thereby giving public proclamation that he or she is continuing in the Christian life, then that person should be asked, “Wouldn’t it be good to be baptized now and thereby give a symbol that you are beginning the Christian life?”
But others, including the present author, would object to such a restriction as follows: a different problem arises if someone who is a genuine believer, but not yet baptized, is not allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper when Christians get together. In that case the person’s non-participation symbolizes that he or she is not a member of the body of Christ which is coming together to observe the Lord’s Supper in a unified fellowship. (See 1 Corinthians 10:17: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”) Therefore churches may think it best to allow non-baptized believers to participate in the Lord’s Supper, but to urge them to be baptized as quickly as possible. For if they are willing to participate in one outward symbol of being a Christian, there seems no reason why they should not be willing to participate in the other, a symbol which appropriately comes first.
Of course, the problems that arise in both situations (when unbaptized believers take Communion and when they do not) can all be avoided if new Christians are regularly baptized shortly after coming to faith. And, whichever position a church takes on the question of whether unbaptized believers should take Communion, in the teaching ministry of the church, it would seem wise to teach that the ideal situation is for new believers first to be baptized and then to partake of the Lord’s Supper.