Young Children at the Table? (Letham)

Systematic Theology Here’s a good short summary of why confessionally Reformed churches have historically not allowed young children to participate in the Lord’s Supper:

Recently, a growing number have advocated paedocommunion – giving communion to infants and very young children who have not made a public profession of faith.  Two factors have encouraged this.  One is a new interest in Eastern Orthodoxy, for the East has always practiced paedocommunion.  A second factor flows from covenant theology.  Some argue that since the whole family participated in the Passover and does so in baptism, why should the Supper be different?

However, paedocommunion fits best with positions other than those of the Reformed confessions.  The first fit is with transubstantiation.  If the bread becomes the body of Christ, it follows that whoever eats the bread receives Christ’s body.  Therefore, to deny the bread to infants is to deny them grace.  The other fit is memorialism.  If the Supper is simply a figurative remembrance and not a means of grace, and so not a means of judgment to the unbelieving (1 Cor. 11:27-32), it hardly matters who receives it, since no adverse consequences are likely.

In contrast, the Reformed stress that the Lord’s Supper requires faith, repentance, and self-examination [WLC 177].  If the means of grace can become a means of judgment, discipline, and even of damnation, it is essential that participants be qualified as penitent sinners.  So two qualifications are required for receiving the Supper.  First is baptism, the sacrament of initiation.  Second is profession of faith, for this is essential to feed on Christ, the Bread of Life.  Because the Eucharist is a sacrament of the church, not a matter of private or individual choice, this faith must be tested by the officers of the church to detect, as far as possible, its credibility.

Robert Letham, Systematic Theology, p. 765.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015