In this article I intend to demonstrate why I think paedocommunion is unbiblical. By paedocommunion, I mean the practice of giving the elements of the Lord’s Supper to children simply because they are baptized members of the church. I think this practice is wrong for two reasons.
First, it assumes a wrong view of the membership of our children in the covenant. It confuses membership in the covenant with the right and privilege of coming to the Lord’s table. A child of at least one professing parent is a member of the church and by his baptism is inducted into that membership. As such, he is an heir of the covenant promises: I am your God and you are my children, including the promise of remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When I say he is an heir of the promises, I distinguish him from those who are heirs of salvation. Only those born again by the Holy Spirit are heirs of salvation. We do not teach that baptism makes a child an heir of salvation. The child might already be born again, but that is not the reason we baptize him.
As members of the church and heirs of the promises, our children are legally part of the administration of the Covenant of Grace. In order to become communicant members of the covenant community, they must take the step of owning the covenant for themselves by consciously entering into the covenant. God speaks in Psalm 50:5, “Gather My godly ones to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice” (NASB). An older person entering the covenant publicly covenants taking Christ for himself by profession of faith. A baptized infant is brought into the covenant but has not by that act personally entered into covenant. He does that by solemnly vowing that he takes God as his God. He must make covenant with God. The covenant meal is for those who have made covenant with God.
Second, paedocommunion assumes a wrong view of the sacrament, namely that there is blessing in the physical eating and drinking. The sacraments are visible preachings of the Word of God. As such, their benefit is derived in exactly the same way as the benefit of preaching. Being physically present under preaching does not guarantee any blessing. Hearing must be joined with faith (Hebrews 4:2). For one to benefit from the Lord’s Supper, one must understand the meaning and promises (thus the necessity of the Word being preached and promises read). Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. Otherwise, we practice a superstitious observance of the Supper, claiming that there are blessings apart from faith. Such an observance is contrary to Reformed church practice and Scripture.
For these two reasons we ought not to practice paedocommunion. If we are not to practice it, we must not teach it. It ought not to be taught in our denomination’s seminary or in any seminary approved by our denomination. To teach a practice declared by the church to be contrary to Scripture is subversive.
Joey Pipa is president and professor of historical and systematic theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.