Communion tokens

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Croghanite, May 3, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. william.m.

    william.m. Puritan Board Freshman

    From "Scotch Communion Services"by Rev William Milroy.(1881)
    "After the benediction (after saturday morning service)the members of the Session are requested by the pastor to come forward in front of the pulpit, the Session is formally constituted by prayer, and "tokens" of admission to the Lord's table are distributed to intending Communicants.The use of tokens dates back to the first Reformation, and serves quietly to secure the exclusion of the unworthy....."
    It is still the normal practice in the Free Church (continuing )The Free Church, and the Free Presbyterian Church , and probably in some ,at least of the Church of Scotland
  2. HanleyBri

    HanleyBri Puritan Board Freshman

    the use of communion tokens

    The first suggestion for tokens used in fencing the table came from John Calvin and Peter Viret to the Council of Geneva on the 30th January 1560. The first use of tokens in Scotland was in St. Andrews on the 2nd May 1588. The use of tokens has a reformed history within the Presbyterian church.

    Scottish and early America Presbyterian also practiced the use of communion tokens to facilitate the fencing of the Lord's table. The elders would hand out the tokens at a prior service to those deemed adequately preparted. Upon coming to the Lord's Table the tokens were collected before sitting at the table.

    The use of tokens, from "The Code: The Book of Government
    and Order of the RPC of Ireland";

    9.10. The Lord's Supper shall be observed at least twice a
    year. The Session in each congregation shall determine how
    often the ordinance shall be observed and shall administer it
    in a constituted capacity.

    9.11. Public intimation of the date for observance of the
    Lord's Supper shall be made in advance. Preparation
    services shall be held at convenient times.
    Intending communicants shall be furnished with tokens.
    Session, acting on its previous judgment of the fitness of
    each applicant, shall distribute the tokens [emphasis mine],
    and many grant permission to visiting believers whose
    profession and practice are known to them, to partake of the
    Lord's Supper.

    9.12. On the day on which the ordinance is to be observed,
    after an appropriate sermon:-

    (1) the Session shall be called forward;
    (2) the minister shall read the scriptural authority for
    observance of the sacrament, e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:23-28;
    (3) the minister shall "Fence the Table" from an
    appropriate portion of Scripture, and read the Terms of
    Membership; solemn words of warning shall be spoken to
    intending communicants urging them to careful self-
    examination and deep searching of heard lest they should ear
    and drink unworthily and so sin against "the body and blood
    of the Lord"; words of loving invitation and encouragement
    shall be given to those who are conscious of their sinfulness,
    are truly repentant, place their trust on the atonement and
    intercession of Jesus Christ, love Him as their Saviour, desire
    to commemorate His death and pledge themselves anew to
    His service;
    (4) when the communicants have taken their places at
    the Table and the tokens have been collected [ emphasis
    mine], the minister shall take the bread and give thanks after
    the example of Jesus Christ, and shall proceed to break the
    bread and distribute the bread and wine as symbols of the
    body and blood of Jesus Christ;
    (5) a suitable address should be given to the
    communicants while seated at the Table.

    9.13. A Service of Thanksgiving should be held at a
    convenient time following the observance of the Lord's
    Supper, during which the minister may review the services
    connected with the observance of the ordinance and deliver
    such concluding appeals and exhortations as may appear

    9.14. In special circumstances, the Session may administer
    the Lord's Supper in the home but there shall be public
    intimation beforehand, and the administration shall be
    preceded by the preaching of the Word.

    -----An American Presbyterian Paper Token------
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  3. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Was that an intentional or unintentional pun? :lol:
  4. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I thank you for more info. It may seem weird, but I enjoy looking at old Church articles. Are you a collector or did a family member hand this collection down to you?
  5. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I am a collector. I did not inherit them. I am a German American. We Germans did not go in for communion tokens much. I have a couple of hundred. I always have some for sale if somone needs one for Sabbath School instruction or some other purpose.
  6. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    I own several Scottish communion tokens. They are still used by the Glasgow congregation of which my wife was a member when she lived in Scotland.

    I am often bothered by the failure to fence the Lord’s table in American Presbyterian congregations. In a smaller congregation, the elders should know all the members personally and make an effort to speak with visitors. We do at SRPC. However, the pastor and elders have an obligation to guard the table, for the protection of both illicit communicants and the congregation.
  7. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I agree, fencing the table is something which should be done. How it is done is not the issue. In the early eastern liturgies there would be a portion of the service which included the reading of scripture and the singing of psalms, then before the recitation of the creed, the sub deacon would cry out, "the doors, the doors." At that time all the catechumans and those under suspension would leave. It was only then that the communion liturgy would begin
  8. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Sounds like for them 1 Cor. 11:28 wasn't enough.
  9. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    My wife shared with me what it was like at the service the night before communion in her Glasgow Free Church Continuing congregation. At some point, those who were to receive their communion tokens were asked to remain while the others left. She spoke of the pain of seeing those leave who were not to be included in the next day’s communion. But, then she realized this was nothing compared to the separation to occur at the great white throne judgment.

    -----Added 5/5/2009 at 12:42:23 EST-----

    1 Cor. 11:29-30-

    For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.​

    -is sufficient reason to go beyond self examination. Elders are given authority to bind and loose.
  10. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I'm sure glad I don't need a lead token to get into heaven.

    -----Added 5/5/2009 at 12:46:49 EST-----

    Elders are given authority (where?) to bind and loose (what?).
  11. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    John Wesley issued communion certificates to those examined before communion time. This was not merely a Presbyterian practice.

    Communion tokens were indicative of the seriousness with which Presbyterians took the authority of the church, the integrity of the communion table, and the role the church played in God’s plan of salvation. It is too bad our age typically operates with an inadequate and unbiblical ecclesiology.

    The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. [WCF XXV:2]​
  12. Quickened

    Quickened Puritan Board Senior

    I wanted to quote this post because i am not seeing this practice in scripture either.

    If Elders would be given this authority why wouldnt it be directly shown in this passage or perhaps in the pastoral epistles?

    Isnt this going above and beyond scripture?

    I looked to my reformation study bible because i dont currently have any commentaries on this book and it stated the following...

    That makes some sense to me although I would like to know more about what the church in Corinth was doing specifically (perhaps not possible) but either way I see no biblical reason for something of this nature. It seems to go beyond a person examining himself. If that were the case why didnt Paul just say for the person to be "Examined by" and then someone else?

    Perhaps someone could shed some light!
  13. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    If we are considering extra-biblical comments on this matter, we might consider this comment from Calvin, Institutes 4.1.15:

  14. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Respectfully, the above quote, wrested from its context, is a complete misrepresentation (albeit unintentionally) of Calvin and the Reformed tradition. The quote you have provided has to do with individual church members being assured that the efficacy of the supper for them is not harmed by the participation of the profane, and as a warning that it is not up to individuals to determine with whom they will partake of this supper: this would lead to disorder. Note, however, that he immediate says (in your quote):
    It is a complete misunderstanding if this is taken to mean that Calvin thought the only fencing was a verbal warning for all to examine themselves. Note what Calvin says a few chapters later (4.12.5):

    Elders examining and exercising discipline with regard to the supper is wholly another matter than individuals "fencing the table" themselves.

    I don't see why everyone is so up in arms against the tokens; it is not as though they taught dogmatically that the warrant for tokens per se was found in scripture, but rather simply that tokens were a simple, easy, pragmatic means of exercising discipline with regards to the supper.

    -----Added 5/5/2009 at 12:43:22 EST-----

    Also, the introduction to the very section (4.1.15) which you quoted:

  15. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    I suppose I'd answer you by saying, ideally yes. Do I think that is practical, no. I'm not really saying or maintaining anything. I only expressed appreciation for the idea behind the tokens. I have often wondered to what extent the shepherd is responsible to ensure the worthy participation in the supper. If I build a fence around my pool, I'm protecting the public. But there's a significant difference between a 3' fence and an 8' fence. I am on record as saying that I don't think the tokens would work in this country today. But I DO appreciate the pastoral concern behind them.
  16. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Point 1. If I thought this quote settled the matter I would have said so. Rather, I was inserting a quote which said that any communicant need not worry about being affected by a communicant who climbed over the fence. That's the point Calvin is making, and that is the only point I was making. The reason I make this point is there was a comment earlier that the elders have to protect the congregation from illicit communicants.

    Point 2. I never said it was. Why is that people are so quick to read so much into someone's comment? Again, it is addressing those who might be fearful that someone is at the table who shouldn't be there and that fact might be hurtful to the one who is there correctly.

    Point 3. In subsequent chapters, Calvin does talk about keeping people from the table, but I didn't see anywhere where he said that was a function of the elders. I think the exclusion/inclusion issue is a function of the pastor and not the elders. This brings me back to the question, "what biblical authority do elders have in performing this function?" When the statement is made, "Elders are given authority to bind and loose." The question must be asked, who gives them that authority, and what is the limits to what they can bind and loose? I think the scriptural evidence points more towards the office of pastor as having this authority, than it does to the office of elder. If one says, "this authority can be delegated" then I would ask based on what, and how much of the pastor's responsibility can be delegated, and by whom?

    Point 4. To me it repesents that the one extending the elements of communion to the communicant probably doesn't know the person receiving, if he did, there would be no need of a token. The token repesents to me the fact that there is a third party between the pastor and the recipient who is actually making decisions which should be reserved to the office of the pastor.
  17. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Apologies: from your posts #15, 18, 24 and 38, I thought it clear you were advocating that the only fencing belonged to the verbal warning and subsequent self-examination; it was only natural to read your Calvin quote in this context.
  18. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    No apologies necessary. I was unclear about what I was arguing against. Hopefully I did in the last posting. I do not see inclusion/exclusion as scriptural power given to the office of elder, rather it is held in the office of the pastor.
  19. jambo

    jambo Puritan Board Senior

    I actually thought communion tokens was standard practce among presbyterians throughout the world. The tokens are just little cards with your name on it. You do not need to bring you token to communion as visitors and non-members can partake. However after communion the tokens gathered in and so the session know who attended communion and who didn't. Is it not in the rules that you must attend communion once a year?

    In terms of tokens being used in fencing the table it really depends upon the strictness of the session. A lot of congregations are quite lax and anyone can take it whilst other congregations, particularly the Free Presbyterian or Reformed Presbyterian goups.
  20. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    Homeland security could help us with this.:gpl:
  21. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    I understood you the way Paul initially did as well, for whatever that's worth.
    The subsequent question goes to quite a different debate. Your division between the pastor and the elders . . . on what do you base it? Probably not the right forum for this, but I'm curious.
  22. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    When I said pastor I meant the teaching elder. And when I said elders I meant the ruling elders. My understanding is that teaching elder has authority and responsibilities which are exclusively reserved to him in the church (e.g. the sacraments).
  23. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    Gotcha. Thanks.
  24. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Clark, one further explanation of what I'm thinking. Just a quick glance at the OPC BCO I see words used for pastors which are not used for ruling elders ("feed and tend the flock", "to administer the sacraments", "to shepherd the flock"). It seems to me that such a serious matter as to refuse the elements of communion to one coming to receive from the Lord's table is a pastoral matter and should fall under the purview of the pastor.
  25. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, I see your point. I hadn't thought of that before.
  26. william.m.

    william.m. Puritan Board Freshman

    Once in the Isle of Lewis on a communion Sabbath a man was seen on his knees searching in the grass outside the church.On being asked , "did you lose your token"?The reply came ,"No, but I lost the bit of lead that they gave me".
  27. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    Both Ruling and Teaching Elders exercise their office in the ministry of discipline, formal and informal. They admonish, rebuke, suspend, excommunicate and depose. This is a corporate power of jurisdiction, exercised in church courts, most often the session. The reason Elders serve communion is to demonstrate their oversight over the Lord’s Table.

    Jesus speaks of such corporate authority in Matthew 18:18. In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders to “take heed” of the flock “over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers” (bishops). Then, 1 Cor. 5:5 tells the church to deliver an unrepentant known sinner to “Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirt may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” What does excommunication mean if not to be excluded from the table by authority of the elders acting as a court of the church, and the subsequent enforcement of their censure.

    Certainly, verbal admonition regarding self examination should be part of the typical communion service. This warns individuals about secret sins of which they have not repented. Elder oversight of communion is to prohibit those outwardly unqualified from receiving. These prohibitions would include:

    1) Those not having received the Triune baptism in water.
    2) Those never making a credible and biblical profession of saving faith in Christ.
    3) Those not accountable to the authority of a biblical church (making obvious exceptions for the spiritual refugees we find today who find themselves between churches).
    4) Those living in blatant and unrepentant sin.

    In a small congregation, where elders know the members individually and interview visitors at communion services, communion tokens are not necessary. In larger congregations or larger communion gatherings (as one historically had in Scottish communion seasons), tokens were useful. These were a circumstance of worship, not a new element. I could see such as potentially useful today to communicate that the table and communion is not a private and individual matter, but a divine ordinance given to the church for the perfecting of the saints and done under the authority of elders. For that reason, I oppose having non-elders serve communion, though there is no absolute theological prohibition against such.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page