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.