The Bible commands that Christians should take communion but what about children? Should children be allowed to take communion if they profess faith in Christ? What if they are not yet saved?
The Command of Communion
The Bible is clear about believers partaking in communion or the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. Some churches have communion weekly, some take it monthly while others do it every 3 to 4 months. Regardless of how often a church takes communion, the fact is that members are commanded to take it on a regular basis. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:23b-26 that Jesus “on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ”In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
We should note that Paul wrote that Jesus did not say if you do this but “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is done to remember how His body was broken for our sakes and that His blood was shed for our forgiveness and we are to take the Lord’s Supper and when we do, or “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup”, we are actually proclaiming “the Lord’s death until he comes” again. This is not a negotiable doctrine for the church to either choose to do it or decide not to do it; it’s commanded, at least for adults. But what about children? Should they take communion, and if so, is it only for those children of saved parents? Is it only for children who have professed faith in Christ or is it for any child old enough to understand what they are doing, saved or not?
Related Reading: Bible Verses About Communion: Scriptures on the Lord’s Supper
Children and Communion
Almost every church consists of at least some members who were saved at a very young age and some denominations allowed these members when they were young children to take communion. Other denominations say that it’s only for adults, but what if a child understands what sin is, sees their need for the Savior, repents of their sins, and then puts their trusts in Christ, should they not also be able to take communion or the Lord’s Supper? Is communion intended only for believing adult members of the Body of Christ but not children who are believers?
When Paul gave instructions to the Corinthian church, he didn’t single out that communion was only for adults so it would seem logical that we cannot exclude children who have come to saving faith in Christ. However, Paul gives a warning and perhaps a clue as to who should take communion. Is that person, whether an adult or child, mature enough to be able to discern exactly what the Lord’s Supper means? Paul wrote that for all of those who take communion, they should be able to examine themselves because anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body can eat and drink judgment on themself (1 Cor 11:28-29). Is the child knowledgeable enough to be able to examine themselves? That is a critical issue because if they take communion “without discerning the body [they can bring] judgment on” themselves. Is the child who takes communion able to understand this? Do they know what it means to examine themselves or to be able to discern the body? For that matter, can the adult members to the same thing?
Ultimately, by asking the young child questions, one may see if they understand what communion is all about. The parents and the pastor can ask the child who has professed faith in Christ if they know exactly what it means to examine themselves. Is the child also able to discern just what the bread and wine (or grape juice for children and many adults) means and why they are taking it? Do they know what these represent? Can they comprehend what the symbolism is? Can they understand the depth of the meaning of the broken bread and drink symbolizes the broken body of Jesus and the blood spilled on their behalf? Are they somber in recognizing this? Also, if a person has not professed faith in Christ after repentance, then most churches will not allow them to take the Lord’s Supper. Communion is only for members of the Body of Christ, the church. By excluding non-members, whether an adult or child, they are following biblical instructions and guidelines for who can and who cannot take the Lord’s Supper and it’s actually in their best interests and for their own good (1 Cor 11:28-30).
The instructions that Paul gave for communion or the Lord’s Supper were given to the church and the church consists of members who have repented, seen the sinfulness of their sins, seen their need for a Savior, asked for God’s forgiveness, and then trusted in Christ. If the child or adult has not yet done this, then they are not able to discern what they actually eat or drink and they cannot possibly examine themselves in the light of what God has done for them through Jesus Christ. If they cannot do this, then they cannot or at least should not take communion, otherwise they run the danger of taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthily manner (1 Cor 11:28-29). Paul reveals that for those who took communion in an unworthy manner or for some who might take it unworthily today, premature death could be the result (1 Cor 11:30). It was for some of those in the church at Corinth. That’s a risk you should not be willing to take, so if you have not yet repented and trusted in Christ, then I strongly urge you to not partake in the Lord’s Supper. My suggestion is that today you repent of your sins and trust your eternal future in Christ Jesus alone, while it is still called “today” (2 Cor 6:2).
Another reading: Should Christians Fear God? A Bible Study
Resources: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide