Holy Communion and Baptism

In home meetings, Communion takes place as part of a meal (1 Corinthians 11), to include bread and wine or grape juice. The gospels speak of the “fruit of the vine” at the Last Supper, and 2000 years ago the boundary between fermented and unfermented juice was less clear, so whether the grape juice is alcoholic wine or not is unimportant. It should be red, signifying Christ’s blood. The bread is obviously shared at the start of the meal, and Paul says that the wine is drunk in memory of Christ at the end.

Those who take Communion irreverently may suffer dire consequences (1 Corinthians 11:29-30); Communion is supernatural. Christians have divided over where the supernatural is involved in Holy Communion, but it is a core part of Christian life.

It is up to individual groups how often they eat together, but sharing a table is an excellent way to bring people closer. The host should not have to bear the cost of every meal, and food and drink should be shared equally. Any shared meal that is for Christian purposes should include Communion (1 Corinthians 11:25). This will normally be led by the host or by the group’s Elder, but there need be no liturgy – which generally came from institutional churches that everybody was expected to attend. Such liturgy veers between treating the congregation as sinners in their very identity, although that applies to unbelievers (some undoubtedly were) who should not be receiving Communion, and treating them as believers, who should not be called sinners because they are made holy (even though they still commit sins).

Persons who hear the gospel and express the wish to be baptised, after they have been told that they must be sorry for their sins and had the symbolism of baptism explained to them, should be promptly baptised. (The symbolism is: going under – death and burial of the old self; being under – washing clean of sin; coming up – new birth, new start.) There is little delay in the New Testament, and judging repentance is slow and difficult if you did not know the person beforehand. Make clear that they should take the initiative and ask to be baptised, as in Acts 8, so that it is a free decision; this explains why in Acts 22:16 the Greek middle voice is used (not the active or passive voice) – “Get yourself baptised”. Verify that they understand they are making a personal commitment to the living Christ, and that this is a bigger decision than getting married. A domestic bath is suitable for baptism; wear clothing that remains modest wet or dry. To avoid division over the formulae for baptism given in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38, baptise “in the name of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Children are made holy by a believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14) until, obviously, they are no longer children.

Do not worry that you cannot get married through a church of this type. Your Christian friends can accompany you to a ceremony that is recognised by the authorities (who have the right to know who is married), and God hears all vows, just as he hears all prayers.

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