First Communion: Discerning the Body of Christ

The Biblical Case Against Communing Infants/Children

One of the most common explanations I hear why children should not partake of communion is because they are unable to “discern the body of Christ.” This phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.  Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.  For all who eat and rink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.

This seems to be the scriptural foundation on which not communing children until a certain “age of reason” when they are able to discern for themselves what they are doing. The appropriate age varies depending on the pastor and congregation and when they might deem that to be.

I think that this is a concern for some pastors and parents because they don’t want their children to, “eat and drink judgment on themselves.”  The logic then goes that they need some instruction on the real presence of Christ in communion so that they know what they are doing.  Todd W, Nichol in his essay Infant Communion in Light of the Lutheran Confessions writes, “Because Christ is really present in his Supper, worshipers always meet him there, either for judgment or blessing.”  He later writes, “It has only rarely been asked; ‘Can we expose [children] to the possibility not only of blessings so great, but judgment so severe?'”

Because of the traditional interpretation and the battles of real presence during the Reformation, it is understandable why this tradition continues.

For those of you who might hold to this view, do I have it right? Is there anything you would like to add in defense of this argument?  I’d be interested in your reasoning.

Next:  Other ways of reading this passage of scripture.

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2 Comments

Filed under Ministry Reflections

2 responses to “First Communion: Discerning the Body of Christ

  1. We all eat and drink in an unworthy manner because we all sin & fall short of the glory of God.. We don’t do the work in communion. God does. Even as a seminary-educated 20-something, there are times when I am still unable to discern the body of Christ. I can never get my head around the “you can’t participate until you understand” method of discipleship. It just seems so un-Christ-like.

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