Common Loaf Baptists


Over the past two years I have come to love and respect David Rogers. David is a missionary in Spain where he has served for over 15 years. David and I agree substantially on a variety of issues with baptism being one of the more significant. David wrote and article today that can be found in its original form here. I have reproduced it, however, below and I highly encourage you to read it. It is most enlightening.

Please understand that what I am writing here is just an illustration to prove a point. I am emphatically NOT suggesting the founding of a new “Common Loaf Denomination.” I have already written about this on a previous post. At that time, I was using essentially the same illustration to make a slightly different, though related, point, on the difference between planting “baptistic” and “Baptist” churches. Here, I am pulling out the same illustration again, because I believe it forcefully and poignantly drives home a point I have been trying to make on the last couple of posts in my on-going dialogue with Malcolm Yarnell on the Great Commission. I am not writing this as a separate letter in that series, but rather as a sort of detached addendum to the actual letters.

The illustration is the following:

Many Baptists in the past, as well as some in the present, have made such a major issue of the timing and mode of water baptism that it has led them to effectively separate, both in church fellowship, as well as in partnership in obedience to the Great Commission, with other authentic born-again disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me make perfectly clear that my own views regarding the timing and mode of baptism are totally “baptistic,” and in line with the Baptist Faith & Message.

As “baptistic” Christians, we believe in baptism by immersion, as I understand it, on the basis of three primary reasons:

  • Linguistically, the greek term baptizein, translated “to baptize” in the majority of our translations of the Bible in English, means literally “to immerse.”
  • Symbolically, we believe, on the basis of Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12, that baptism is a physical and visual representation of our identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.
  • Historically, in the examples we read in the New Testament (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:36-38), baptism seems to have been administered by immersion.

In addition to believing in believers baptism by immersion, I also happen to believe in celebrating the Lord’s Supper with a “common loaf” of bread. The reasons for my belief in “common loaf” communion are essentially the same as my reasons for believing in baptism by immersion:

  • Linguistically, the term “breaking bread,” generally accepted as referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, directly implies the use of a “common loaf.”
  • Symbolically, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 10.16-17, the use of a “common loaf” represents physically and visually an important spiritual truth: the essential unity of the Body of Christ (“For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread”).
  • Historically, in the examples we read in the New Testament (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19, 24:30, 35; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 27:35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24), it is apparent that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated with a “common loaf.”

*I will leave aside, at this time, the evidence that the Lord’s Supper was also apparently celebrated with a “common cup”, as part of a complete meal, with unleavened bread, and with fermented wine.

Much has been made of the point that those who practice baptism by any mode other than by immersion are effectively disobeying the command of Jesus regarding baptism. By the same token, however, I cannot avoid the conclusion that those who celebrate the Lord’s Supper with individual wafers, or crackers, or pieces of bread, are not truly being obedient to the command of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me.” Yet, for some reason, as Baptists, we are much more tolerant with those who celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a defective manner than we are with those who are sincerely mistaken in their practice of baptism.

What is the solution to this dilemma? Should those of us who are convinced of the biblical truth concerning “common loaf” celebration of the Lord’s Supper separate from those who still insist on celebrating the Lord’s Supper with individual wafers or their equivalent? Should we form our own denomination that ensures that the missionaries we send out will only teach the churches they plant to practice “common loaf” communion? Or, should we take it to the extreme of refusing to even cooperate on the mission field with those in other groups who are mistaken in their interpretation of this “clear biblical truth”?

I hope, by now, the absurdity of what I am suggesting is obvious. Even though I am totally convinced of the accuracy of my biblical interpretation regarding “common loaf communion,” it would be “nit-picking” for me to separate with other authentic disciples of the Lord Jesus, who are sincerely doing their best to submit to his commands in their own life, over something as secondary as this. Much more important than our differences on this point is our essential unity as joint members of the Body of Christ, who have been given a joint task to fulfill, and should work hand in hand, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to obey together the commands of Christ, to the degree each one of us is able to understand them.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

21 thoughts on “Common Loaf Baptists

  1. Micah,

    Thanks for sharing this post by David. I have always found him to be a consummate Christian gentleman in his writings, extremely patient with those who differ with him and with his arguments impeccably supported by the Scriptures rather than just an appeal to Baptist tradition.

  2. Is really the common loaf the same thing as when to do Baptism? It seems the timing of baptism (although I think this issue is over stressed) is a bigger deal than whether one uses a common loaf or not. And that makes all the difference.

    Let me make an example to prove my point. What would we all say about a Baptism that was not in the name of the Father, ?Son, and Spirit? Well I hope we would all say that it is not a baptism. So clearly that is one thing that is important enough to break fellowship over and to not commune with them.

    So there are some items in baptism that are important enough to state that unless you have these points then it is not a baptism. so the question becomes is the timing of the baptism one of those? I would think baptists would have to say yes since baptists have had a high view of believers only baptism.

    Without making my post much more longer than it is my main point is that baptism has some fundamental characteristics that cannot be left out or the event (called baptism) is not really a baptism at all. If this is true and baptists have a high view of credo-baptism then I think the only choice is clear if a baptism does not have one of those characteristics. However the question then becomes is the timing of baptism one of those characteristics and again I see Baptists historically (for the most part, not Bunyan) saying yes and thus padeo baptism cannot be true baptism in anyway.

  3. Blackhaw,
    It seems to me that the issue that David was dealing with in relation to baptism was that of mode. He spent a great deal of time talking from the scriptures about why we sees the mode as important he then went on to compare this to the common bread and common cup. I did not see anywhere that he even suggested pedeo baptism a legitamate. I would say the issue of pedeo baptism is simply away of getting others stired up. The real question is where do we break fellowship over these issues and are we willing to sacrife missional outreach over every item of dissagreance? Some seem to say yes. I worry about this. The next obvious question is who gets to make these determinations?

    Richard Williamson

  4. Richard,

    The article said:

    Many Baptists in the past, as well as some in the present, have made such a major issue of the timing and mode of water baptism that it has led them to effectively separate, both in church fellowship, as well as in partnership in obedience to the Great Commission, with other authentic born-again disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    So the article is about both mode and timing.

    But my point is just to demonstrate that no one suggests that all differences in timing or mode should us not fellowship with another. But some differences do. So I would suggest that whether one uses a common loaf or not is not so important as whether one i baptized as an infant or as a believer. And that the latter of these two is important enough for Baptists )at least historically) to not fellowship or commune with those that do not.

    It is like the issue with how similiar is baptism to circumcism. I cannot see anyone seeing that there are no similarties or that they are not connected in anyway. But I think all also believe that there are differences in the two especially in how we administer each. So the real question in that debate is what are the differences/ similarities exactly and what does that mean for baptism?

    So to pick back up on what the article said. My point of contention with it is that it is not so easy to just say that no one believes that if one does not do baptism EXACTLY like another that they do. BUT there are some differences that do make it so that one will not fellowship with some one else.

    “The real question is where do we break fellowship over these issues and are we willing to sacrife missional outreach over every item of dissagreance?”

    I would say this is an important question. However a more important question is

    Are we willing to sacrfice Baptism for missional outreach? or maybe better phrased as: Are we willing to sacrifice key points of doctrine for evangelism and missonal outreach?

  5. Brother Micah,

    I believe Brother David leaves a gap in his logic large enough to drive a Mac truck through. :>)

    Seriously, I do see this logic flawed when we move from common loaf to common baptism. Common Baptism is by immersion not in the same water. I do not know where common loaf comes from. If we believed in transubstantiation then I could understand the argument for one loaf. However, we believe the ordinance of the Lord’s Table is in symbolic form. Thus using wafers or various loaves is not problem.

    Also, if you observe the cultural setting in which the Lord’s Table was implemented I believe you would find that one loaf was all they needed. When you have a church the size of the one you have just moved to, or larger, then one loaf will not accommodate the number of people.

    I just believe this argument is more of a straw man, then a logical assessment of Baptism by immersion.

    Blessings
    Tim

  6. Blackhaw and Tim-

    Thanks for the thoughts. I think it would be appropriate at this point to say that while I agree substantially with David on many points, I would probably be a bit more conservative than he in this area. I do think that mode and timing are important in reference to baptism, but I also think we may be making them more important than necessary. Guys we (as in the American evangelical culture) literally are spending a ridiculous amount of time debating the mode of baptism while our neighbors are going to die and spend a ridiculous amount of time separated from God. While I may disagree as to the mode used by others I also rejoice that they have people to baptize. My point in highlighting the article is simply to challenge us as to whether or not our priorities are straight. Yes, doctrine and theology are important but is it more important to be isolationists on every point of doctrinal difference or is it more important to unite for the purpose of evangelizing the world?

  7. Micah,

    I guess it comes down to how important certain points about Baptism are to the faith. For I think we both agree that one has to share the faith or evangelization means nothing.

    So how important is believers only baptism by immersion? Personally I do not think immersion is that important. Sure it is the best way but I would not break fellowship with one because they were not immersed. The Didache says immersion in running water is the best but it makes allowances for those who do not have the access to running water. Also I do not see it as so important to the Biblical text. Of course it helps with the symbolism but it does not seem like whether one does or does not immerse is the make it or break it point for baptism.

    Infant baptism is another story. I think the reason why there is such a debate is that it could be a make it or break it point for baptism. Baptists argue that baptism is for believer’s only. An unbeliever whether he be a pagan or a child who cannot yet believe (or state his belief) should not be baptised. Baptism is for those who have been saved and are now proclaiming their faith in Christ to the church and the world. Infants cannot do this.

    There are no examples in the Biblical text in which it explicitly states that an infant is baptized. There are household baptisms but many argue that the text says that all that were baptized had faith. But also many would argue that one should not go on the assumption that infants were baptized but instead base baptism on what hte Bible explicitly states.

    I could go on about how Baptists have argued against padeobaptism but I will not. What is important is that historically Baptists have held to a very high view of believers baptism and reject infant baptism. There have been some baptists like Bunyan who do not reject infant baptism so forcefully but the majority of Baptists have rejected it very strongly. Baptists historically would state that those baptised as infants were never baptized at all.

    So I guess it comes down to how important baptism is. Is it important enough not to fellowship with another if they have never been baptized? How far should baptists work with a church that Baptists feel does not practice baptism?

    Now individuals and churches can go against Baptist Tradition and Baptists can even change how they feel about Baptism. But it must be acknowledge that they would be going against what baptists have historically stood for if they accept padeobaptism as a baptism. And they would ave to adjust their theology to either a very low view of believer’s only baptism where baptism is not very important or adopt padeobaptism in their theology. I do not see another way.

  8. Blackhaw,

    First off, I just want to make sure I am understanding you correctly. Are you saying that any baptism where the baptizer does not pronounce the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is not an authentic baptism? I always have understood the phrase “in the name of” to mean “with the authority of”, not as some sort of prescribed formula.

    As far as timing and mode of baptism are concerned, I would be inclined to agree that a “baptism” that is not after a true conversion, or that is not by immersion, is not an authentic baptism. If you have understood me to say anything else, I think you have misunderstood what I am saying.

    My point is not to de-emphasize the importance of baptism, or even to over-emphasize the importance of details of the Lord’s Supper, but rather to give the due emphasis the Bible gives to our essential unity as Christ’s Body. As I understand it, that is a key doctrine of Scripture that has systematically been “swept under the carpet”, so to say, by many, many people, in the interest of propping up denominational systems.

  9. Blackhaw,

    I just noticed you posted your last comment as I was typing mine. I would add one more point. If I ever have to choose between my understanding of what Scripture teaches and my understanding of “Baptist tradition”, I will go with my understanding of Scripture every time. Ironically, if I didn’t do so, I feel I would actually be betraying the most important principle of “Baptist tradition”: the supreme authority of Holy Scripture.

  10. Tim,

    You say: “I do not know where common loaf comes from.”

    If I am understanding you correctly, I think you need to open your Bible, look up 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and study and meditate awhile on what it plainly says.

    You also say: “we believe the ordinance of the Lord’s Table is in symbolic form.” Yes, of course, the Lord’s Supper is symbolic. But, are you meaning to infer that the water of baptism is not also symbolic? What is the difference? Are you inferring that baptism saves you?

    Regarding church size, and the common loaf, I have actually heard it argued, as a defense for the house church movement, that whenever a church becomes to large to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with a common loaf, then it has become too large. In the New Testament, it says they broke bread “from house to house.”

    Now, am I saying, therefore, that I am ready to break fellowship with anyone who does not use a common loaf? NO!!!

    Am I arguing against firm convictions on baptism by immersion? Just as emphatically, NO!!!

    What I am talking about is: On the basis of what doctrines do we break fellowship? I will do my best to persuade my paedo-baptistic brethren of the fallacy of their position, and I have done so on various occasions. But, I will not, if I understand their heart to be right in this matter, refuse to “break bread” with them, or break fellowship in the proclamation of the gospel with them over this issue.

  11. Micah,

    Now, if anyone wants to know where David Rogers stands theologically, they know… a bit to the left of Micah Fries :^)

    Seriously, I am more concerned about being faithful and consistent in my obedience to what I understand the Word of God to teach than I am about labels.

    And, also seriously, thanks for your gracious support on this issue.

  12. David,

    My point about bringing up the Trinity was just that if a church did not believe in the Trinity and neither did the participant then dunking someone under water is not Baptism. I did not mean to say that one had to use that exact phrase. Although I would be really suspicious if they did not. But my point was that one has to be baptised into a faith in a faith of Trinitarian God.

    I wrote a really long post but it was just too long and rambling.

    I basically have two points.

    1. How do you know one is a Christian when that person is not baptised? Isn’t baptism the action or ordinance in which one announces they are unified with Christ and his church? So how can one get that wrong and we still know that the person is a Christian.

    1a. If you do not want to go that far then what is wrong with just stating that one will not fellowship with that person as far as being in a local church body? For instance I believe Eastern Orthodox are Christian. But I do not think Baptists should begin a church with them. What is wrong with that kind of understanding given that we think they have never been baptised and part of the meaning of Baptism is being unified with the Church and not just God alone?

    2. Also I understand that Baptists believe in private interpretation but not in all things. I know we both believe that one is not a Baptist or even a Christian unless they confess in beliefs such as the Trinity or the incarantion. (there might be special cases here but in general no.) But also I see Baptists historically saying that believing in a high view of believers only baptism is also a part of being a Baptist. So a Baptist has to go along with the Baptist tradition when it comes to believers baptism just like they have to go along with general orthodoxy to be a Christian. Sure you can reject either but then you step outside of that group. If you reject the Trinity you are not a Christian. If you reject believers baptism then you are not a baptist. Okay. Since this is the case then it just makes sense that a Baptist cannot fellowship with a infant baptizer by starting a church together. You can go against the traditional understanding of Baptists but then again are you a Baptist then. That is not meant in anyway to be a put down because I think you are very thoughtful. I just do not know if you can claim to be a Baptist and then reject what it means to be a Baptist.

    BH-CARL

    BH- CARL

  13. “I will do my best to persuade my paedo-baptistic brethren of the fallacy of their position, and I have done so on various occasions. But, I will not, if I understand their heart to be right in this matter, refuse to “break bread” with them, or break fellowship in the proclamation of the gospel with them over this issue.”

    I know this was not to me but i think it is important. I personally am not saying that you cannot fellowship with them as Christians although I think one has some hurdles to overcome if one believes in Baptist doctrine but I will not go into that more.

    What I am saying is that there is a different level of fellowship in which beleivers commune as a local church body. That I think is where a Baptist cannot fellowship with an infant baptizer. How can a Baptist since they have never went through the ordinance in which they declare their fellowship in that way?

  14. Blackhaw-
    While I wish I had time to respond to all your thoughts, I did want to respond to one in particular.

    Isn’t it true that obedience and spiritual fruit are signs of our faith rather than simply looking for “right” baptism? Now I know that baptism would have to be included in obedience, but that is one (albeit a very large one) example of our obedience. Matthew 7:15-23 and 1 John 2:3-11 seem to state that things like obedience, fruit, love for the brothers, walking in the light, etc. are signs of our faith.

    It’s not that I want to diminish, at all, the priority of baptism, but I do want to recognize that it is certainly not the most accurate sign of authentic faith. In fact, in my opinion, it is way down the list of signs of genuine faith.

    Personally I would prefer someone who’s baptism seems a bit inaccurate to most of us, but who is living in faithfulness (i.e. a Presbyterian) than most of the members of our SBC churches wha are baptized “correctly” yet are carnal in their lives. Though they made a profession of faith, and were baptized “rightly” isn’t it fair to say from a biblical perspective, that their baptism is not an accurate sign of genuine faith, in their case?

  15. Blackhaw,

    1. Your point about a faith in a Trintitarian God is well taken. I don’t think I have any discrepancy with you on this. Thank you for clearing up what you meant.

    2. “How do you know one is a Christian when that person is not baptised¨”

    Although Micah has already done a pretty good job with this, I will throw in my 2 cents worth as well.

    How do we know anyone is a Christian? How do I know you are a Christian? How do you know I am a Christian? For me, if anyone confesses Jesus openly as Lord, and professes a faith that doesn’t contradict the essence of the gospel, I accept them as a brother/sister in Christ, until I see evidence in their life they are not being above-board about their confession and profession, i.e. blatant unrepentant sin. Some are calling failure to be baptized biblically as “unrepentant sin.” On the case of those who understand the Bible to teach believers baptism by immersion, and then refuse to submit, I would be in agreement. But, in the case of those who, in sincere submission to the authority of Jesus through his written Word, understand something a bit different, I may think they are mistaken. But I would not be so quick to accuse them of “unrepentant sin.”

    3. Where does the Bible teach that “the meaning of baptism is being unified with the church”? Are you referring here to a “local church” or to the Body of Christ at large?

    I am aware that 1 Cor. 12:13 says “we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” But, as I read it, this verse supports my point of view more than it does yours. The baptism referred to there is Spirit baptism, not water baptism. And we are ALL part of the same Body, not just those who have been correctly baptized in water.

    4. If people want to say the view I am advocating is not really “Baptist”, I am not really all that concerned about that. I go along with Spurgeon when he said:

    “for I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last for ever. I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone.”

    http://loveeachstone.blogspot.com/2006/05/historical-documents-baptist_04.html

    If we, as Baptists today, are more interested in defending “Baptist tradition” than we are what the Bible says, I have no interest in calling myself a Baptist.

    However, just for the record, I believe my beliefs are in the mainstream of what Baptists around the world believe on these issues, as well as in line with what many Baptists down through history, including Spurgeon, believed.

  16. David and Micah,

    Sorry I got very busy and have not replied to you over these isues. I will if you want me to but it seems this blog has moved on. I am sure you can understand we all get very busyat times. I have deep respect for both of you and hope you always search for truth and the Truth.

    BH- CARL

  17. Blackhaw,

    Never fear taking care of other responsibilities to the detriment of your online conversations. These dialogues are nice, but I understand where they stand in the great pecking order of priorities.

    We’ll discuss more at a later time!

    Blessings
    Micah
    Psalm 67

  18. LOL.

    This “one cup/one loaf” vs “chip and sip” is a huge controversy among the Church of Christ folks, with the “one cup” people refusing to fellowship the “little cups” folks and vice versa.

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