Reformed Theology

A Baptist Perspective on Reformed Theology, Part 2

From Faith Pulpit. Read Part 1.

II. The origin and nature of the church evaluated from Ephesians 2:11-15

Reformed theology sees all the elect from Adam onward as part of the universal church.

The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. (LBCF, XXVI:1)

Israel in the Old Testament is called “the Jewish church” (LBCF, XXI:1).

Many Baptists do not see either the universal Body of Christ or the local church in the Old Testament. Here is one reason why:

In Ephesians 2:11-15 Paul states:

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A Baptist Perspective on Reformed Theology, Part 1

From Faith Pulpit, Spring 2019. Used with permission.

The term Reformed theology means different things to different people. For some, this term simply refers to the “doctrines of grace” which are also known as the five points of Calvinism. The five points of Calvinism are:

  • Total depravity: Sin has affected all areas of our personality so that no one seeks after God.
  • Unconditional election: God’s choice of some to be saved was not based on foreseen merit or faith.
  • Limited atonement: God’s purpose in sending His Son was to actually save and preserve the elect.
  • Irresistible grace: Sooner or later, all who have been chosen will come to faith in Christ.
  • Perseverance of the saints: Those who are truly elect and thus saved will persevere.

For others, in addition to Calvinism, Reformed theology includes Covenant theology. This view is taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith, adopted in AD 1646, which was produced by and authoritative for Presbyterians.

Certain Calvinistic Baptists in London wanted the dominant Presbyterians to know they were not a sect, but rather very similar to them, so they produced a modified Baptist edition of the Westminster Confession, known as the Second London Confession of Faith (LBCF) which was adopted in AD 1689. Here is a website that compares these two Confessions, noting differences and similarities:

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The Reformed Tradition and the Problem of Infant Communion, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The Problem of Theological Consistency

With this background,13 focus on Reformed churches’ practice on the prohibition of infant communion takes center stage. The problem is really one of ecclesiology. Reformed churches desire an inclusive ecclesiology for the practice of infant baptism but practice an exclusive one for their refusal to permit infant communion. John Calvin was adamant in this regard: “Do we wish anything plainer than the apostle’s teaching when he exhorts each man to prove and search himself, then to eat of this bread and drink of this cup [1 Cor. 11:28]? A self-examination ought, therefore, to come first, and it is vain to expect this of infants.”14 After quoting 1 Corinthians 11:29,15 Calvin continues: “If only those who know how to distinguish rightly the holiness of Christ’s body are able to participate worthily, why should we offer poison instead of life-giving food to our tender children?”16

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The Reformed Tradition and the Problem of Infant Communion, Part 1

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2018. Used with permission.


The title of this article may seem like I am suggesting that churches who hold to Reformed1 theology should not be practicing infant communion. The fact is, they do not. One might wonder, “Does any denomination allow infants to partake of the Lord’s Supper?” The answer is yes. In Eastern Orthodox churches and a few other denominations, it is not only allowed, but it is a standard practice. Why do these churches accept this practice, and why is it a problem for churches who adhere to Reformed theology?

Churches who practice infant communion do so in large part because they recognize a tension. They consider that practicing infant baptism on church members’ children, but not granting those children all the rights of full church membership, is inconsistent. To churches who practice infant communion, membership includes partaking of the Lord’s Supper. You can search for pictures on the internet showing Orthodox priests spooning a mixture of bread and wine into the mouths of babies and toddlers.

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