Monday, November 20, 2017

Church Autonomy, Pastoral Authority, Closed Communion, and the Gospel: The Means Becoming the End

I believe scripture teaches church autonomy, pastoral authority, and closed communion -- all three.  I think I'm strong on all three, because scripture teaches all three.  If you lose the gospel, none of the three matter any more though.

Church autonomy, pastoral authority, and closed communion are about protecting and propagating the truth.  They are a means to an end.  The end isn't church autonomy, pastoral authority, and closed communion.  Those are tools in the toolbox, so to speak.  They are tools by which the truth and a sub category of that, the gospel, can be protected and propagated.  If the truth and the gospel aren't protected and propagated, then those three don't matter any more.  You don't even have a church without the truth and the gospel.

As I say that, my first questions for you aren't, what do you believe about the nature of the church, church autonomy, pastoral authority, and closed communion?  I'm asking you first what you believe about the gospel, because you don't even have a church without the gospel.  I'm saying that I believe some churches are more concerned about their own autonomy and pastors, their authority, then they are the gospel itself.

The three and perhaps a few others -- whether you use the King James and what's the nature of the church -- in practice seem to take preeminence over the gospel among some professing Baptists, including unaffiliated Baptist churches.  I'm asking you to think about it.

I'm glad our church is autonomous.  It is again because the Bible teaches autonomy.  Autonomy allows the Bible as our authority.  We are not subject the compromise and corruption of hierarchical authority.  The certain means of purity God gave to individual churches can have their full effect on the preservation of the truth and the gospel.  God designed for the truth to be kept by a church.  You get it outside of individual church authority and the means are diminished for protecting the truth.

I'm glad for pastoral authority.  The point of pastoral authority isn't to make it easier for a pastor to corrupt the truth and the gospel.  Pastoral authority is not a divine right of kings.  It has a purpose and is effective for that purpose.  The pastor feeds, leads, and protects.  He feeds the gospel and the truth.  He leads in the gospel and the truth.  He protects the sheep from diversion from the truth and corruption of the gospel.  It's not about not being questioned.

I'm glad for closed communion.  If communion was supposed to be close or open, I'd go with that.  If you practice closed, but you allow truth to be perverted and the gospel altered, then you've missed the point of closed.  Closed allows for separation.  Separation is intended for purity.  Purity is purity in the belief and practice of the truth, including the gospel.  If you are not protecting your church from a false gospel, but you do protect your church from close and open communion, then you are missing the point of being closed.

I know people who are close in their communion, whose church is far more pure than those who are closed communion.  I know those with closed communion with false worship.  Communion with God is more important than communion with other church members.  If you are not aligned with God in worship, the qualities of your worship are ungodly, then you've got a bigger problem the wrong practice of communion.  I know those with closed communion, who allow in those who preach another gospel.  They won't allow someone outside of their church to join them in communion, but they have communion with someone who preaches a false gospel.  In as simple terms as possible, that's messed up.

Church autonomy, pastoral authority, and closed communion are the truth.  However, I would rather fellowship with someone who emphasizes the truth, all of it, except for those three, than the one who treats those three like they are more important than the truth and the gospel.

Let me close this with a car metaphor.  Your acceptance of false worship and a false gospel is like having a blown engine.  Your acceptance of close or open communion is like having some dents on the body or fenders, maybe a crack on the windshield.  With the latter, at least you can still drive the car.  The former you can't and you won't.


James Bronsveld said...

I think what you're describing is a different way of ranking doctrines. Issues that are important, but not the most important, end up becoming battlegrounds to the point of where that becomes the distinguishing doctrine of a church, rather than a feature of a more comprehensive body of doctrine. I see this from time to time where the Bible version issue becomes the sole focus of the church to the near-exclusion of much other doctrine. What are your thoughts on the contribution of largely topical preaching to this outcome?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't know. It makes sense that lack of exposition, a major contribution. I would not have suspected that autonomy and closed communion would surpass the gospel in priority. Step off those two -- instant out, very serious. Mess around with or miss the gospel -- give it time, not so big, might not be a problem. Hard to fathom.

Exposition could be the cure, but without it, the bad theology produces it. I think the latter precedes the former in my estimation. I think the Keswick is the main culprit again. Their view of sanctification affects pragmatic methodology and then acceptance of less than biblical salvation. They may preach repentance, but it's still not so serious to bring separation like the autonomy, closed communion, and nature of the church would. The Keswick works a lot towards acceptance of experiences, and these churches are having great experiences, and experience holds a lot of sway.

That is my take.

Daniel said...

"...whether you use the King James and what's the nature of the church -- in practice seem to take preeminence over the gospel among some professing Baptists, including unaffiliated Baptist churches. I'm asking you to think about it."

I heard you make a similar comment somewhere else recently. This needs to be said and brought out by more people. Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

BTW: I'd love to see you start doing a video podcast!

Beowulf said...

I would like to see more written on the subject of closed communion. Personally speaking, when Paul said "let a man examine himself and so let him eat &c" he seems (in my opinion) to say that open communion is the right way. All I see in Scripture indicates that the Lord's Supper is to be open, but i would like to see more information about your views. I can give anecdotal evidence of people who were moved to salvation because of being at an open communion service, and being the only people who could not partake. I know personally others who practice closed and worship the wrong god (examples include the Jehovah's Witness cult). I hold to complete autonomy, so however it is observed in other churches is no concern to me, but it looked almost as though you make it your concern how others do it. Personally, if you truly believe in autonomy, you would partake when visiting churches that practice open because you would recognize their right to it, or that the Holy Spirit must guide into all truth, and He might not have dealt with someone else about this.

I see nothing in the Bible that says people in my church are accountable if an outsider who is backslidden or a papist, &c should partake when not supposed to by not walking with God or otherwise worshipping a false god. To me the only separation that takes place in a closed communion is that of Isaiah 65:2-5. Would you mind writing more about this as I want to learn as much as I can about this matter.

Daniel said...

Mr. Beowulf

If you follow the link to this website: and thumb down to the section where it says, "The Lord's Supper", you will find 8 good articles on the subject of Closed Communion.

I pray that you will find these articles a blessing and that you will search the Scriptures to see if these things be so!

I am sure that Bro. Brandenburg has written more on this issue, just use the search function at the top of this page.


Beowulf said...

Personally speaking, as long as someone comes to their beliefs by faith and their study of Scripture (as I have done for almost twenty-five years now) about how their church conducts their affairs, I have no problem with others doing it closed -- in my study I have always found it to be closed only to unbelievers, which is the position my church takes, and I became fully persuaded in my mind about it by faith. It is only when someone does something not by faith that I have an issue, and that only because it is written, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." I am basically a Libertarian when it comes to how others conduct their affairs, so long as they come to their beliefs based on how they see it in Scripture. While I hold to open communion by conviction, I hold also that it does not make me a better Christian than someone who by conviction holds to closed. I am quite busy with my job being what it is, but as I have time I will look over these articles, but I hope you might research open communion articles as well. What it boils down to is (to my point of view) closed communion practitioners indicate one cannot be in communion with Christ unless he is part of that particular church, which is why all cults practice it. Let not your good be evil-spoken of.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'll tell the story of my closed communion position sometime, because every church where I had been a member was close, not closed, until I came to the position by conviction. I have friends who practice close, and it isn't a separating issue for our church, but I believe someone should practice closed. There can only be one right position.

Tyler Robbins said...

Here's a hand-grenade to ignite this discussion; I'm not opposed to open communion, where the only requirement is salvation. I "officially" hold to close communion, but I can see the merits of the open position. With that, I'll provide no details, no justification, and I'll retire! Must go back to work.

Beowulf said...

I don't know if you have ever read anything of the life of a Baptist minister named Isaac Backus, but in my personal library I have a biography of him which tells how he came to practice immersion (he had been a Congregationalist an was sprinkled). He was turned away from immersion for a long time because many Baptists were contentious about it. So long as someone is not contentious about communion, I am willing to fellowship with them, bit if they try at all to tell me that my church has to practice it their way, I consider that to be a form of popery as well as legalism. Communion is something that I strongly believe falls into Romans 15: let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. In the classic NT chapter on communion (1 Cor 11) Paul says nothing about visitors partaking, so the Holy Spirit does not forbid closed, but He does not require it either. In Exodus 12 which is the classic chapter of the OT on Passover (from which communion is taken) all it says about visitors is in verse 48 where they must be circumcised (make their profession of faith) and then they would be as though born in the land -- in NT terms, they would be as though they are members.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'll write on closed communion sometime in the future, but I don't think I should write my post in the comment section. You can argue with it then. I don't like hearing something to the effect of, "I would have believed, but I didn't because you were contentious." What if someone else's opinion was that Isaac Backus was rebellious? You don't want to argue from silence, so something not being in the chapter is not how you want to take your positions. God didn't tell Cain he couldn't offer fruits and vegetables.