Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Question: Is it correct for an institution or organization aside from the local church to offer and/or celebrate the Lord's table?


1. Local Church: An organized body of believers gathering for the purpose of edification of the saved, and the evangelization of the lost.

The term organized would refer to the fact that they have a pastor and/or elders and deacons functioning for the leadership of the body of believers.

2. Ordinance: Theissen, "We may define an ordinance as an outward rite appointed by Christ to be administered in the Church as a visible sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith."

Bancroft in ELEMENTAL THEOLOGY p 310 mentions, "The word ordinance comes from two Latin words which in their final meaning signify 'that which is ordered or commanded.'" (Taken from the book, ELEMENTAL THEOLOGY by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.)

Ryrie in A SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE p 149 mentions, "an outward rite prescribed by Christ to be performed by His church."


1. The Church is the church and organizations or institutions are not the church.

The Church has a specific organization, purpose and function.

Any organization that is not a church will have a different organization, purpose and function.

Example: A Bible Institute declares it's purpose to be, "_______________ is a highly specialized institution raised up by the Lord for intensive and comprehensive training in God's Word. It exists to prepare men and women to serve the Lord as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, youth leaders and Christian education workers."

The only organizations that function with a leadership of pastor and/or elders, and deacons are churches. No other organization or institution that this author knows of has this type of organization nor terminology.

2. No organization other than a church claims to be a church.

3. Most doctrinal statements, if they mention the ordinances list them as "ordinances of the Local Church."

The above Bible Institute's doctrinal statement mentions,

"5. We believe that there are two ordinances given to the local church:

a. "Water baptism...."

b. "The Lord's Supper, which is to be observed only by believers as a memorial to the death and coming again of our Lord Jesus."

Note should be taken of the phrase, "given to the local church"

This, in essence, would indicate that no other organization or institution has the right to practice the ordinances.

4. Since para-church organizations are a relatively new movement there are no Scriptural references which may be quoted to support their use of the Lord's table. By the same token the church fathers and their writings would not have reference to our question.

5. The text usually presented to show the institution of the ordinance is usually one of the Gospel accounts of the Lord celebrating the passover. He used the elements that were present on the dinner table. He mentioned that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until He came in His Father's Kingdom. (Matt.) Luke in 22:19 records, "This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me." Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20.

6. I Cor. 11 is the other text which relates to the question at hand. Verse 2 mentions, "...keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." Paul himself had given them the information they needed for the observance. Items to observe from this text. a. It is an ordinance. (v 2) b. It is for the church. Paul is speaking to the church in Corinth and he also mentions the "church of God" in verse 22. I Cor. 10:16ff shows that the church at Corinth had been taught of the Lord's table prior to this letter.

7. Matthew records in 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." There is no mention of the church in this text. Indeed the church did not exist. The context of this verse is prayer. There cannot easily be an organized local church with three members.

8. The early church might be suggested as an example of the Lord's table.

Acts 2 is where most place the beginning of the Church. It might be of interest to note that the apostles did not observe the Lord's table prior to Pentecost. The day of Pentecost was 50 days after the passover (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia p 2318) and Acts 1:3 mentions that the Lord assended about 40 days after the passover. This would indicate several days (8 to 10) between the ascension and the day of Pentecost - surely enough time to have the Lord's table if they thought it important. (Indeed one must wonder if they were waiting for the Lord's quick return to have it with Him.)

Indeed it is difficult to show from the Scriptures that the apostles participated in the Lord's table after the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:42 mentions for the first time the "breaking of bread" which most hold as being the Lord's table. Verse 46 states, "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart." Might one suggest that these phrases may well indicate sharing of meals and not the Lord's table. The next text relating to food is in chapter six where they were eating as a group. Again there is nothing specific about the Lord's table.

One further text uses the term "breaking bread" but again the way it is stated to read into it more than eating is just that reading into it. "When he, therefore, was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed." Acts 20:11

One is left to wonder if the early church indeed did practice the Lord's table prior to the teaching of Paul. It could easily be suggested that the Revelation to Paul from the Lord may have been the first and official institution of the Lord's table.

c. Christ revealed this information to Paul personally. It is not meant to be a quote from the Gospels, but it is meant to be the exact information that the Lord gave to him.


1. The Lord has so designated the Church as His body and His organization to work in and through. It is this writer's opinion that one must assume heavily to even suggest that there is any other organization that is qualified to initiate or perform either of the ordinances, be it Baptism or the Lord's Table.

2. Is it wrong then, for other organizations to perform these functions? Let this be answered by another question. By what authority might they presume to function? There is no authority given in Scripture to any group other than the Local Church.

3. In specific relation to Colleges, Seminaries and Bible Institutes one must take into consideration several items:

a. Do the schools feel that they are an extension of the Local Church. Most schools make no such claim nor do they seek to become an extension of the church. b. Does any Local Church have any control over the schools? The answer to this is no unless they are denominational schools. c. Is there any organizational or intended connection between schools and local churches other than by speaking, attendance, or membership of individuals from the school? Again the answer is no. d. At most, the schools could possibly be classified as an arm of the Local Church, however this is not indicated by most schools. This is not to say that they are the local church nor is it to say that they have any authority as does the local church.

They have authority only over their own people and students. That authority that does exist comes from their own organization and the individuals submission to it, not from Scripture? The school has no authority in the area of church discipline nor ordinances.

4. Many conservative pastors and teachers feel that the Lord's table may be held anyplace and under most circumstances IF the service is under the authority of the Local Church.

Bancroft in his ELEMENTAL THEOLOGY p 312 mentions, "There are a number of questions which may be asked in relation to the two ordinances, such as these: What is the proper method of observing baptism and the Lord's supper? Who is qualified to administer them? Who are fit subjects or recipients of them? And to whom does the responsibility for their proper observance or administration belong? Suffice it for us to say in general that these are church ordinances and are therefore not to be administered or observed in promiscuous assemblies, or by individuals, but by the church in the regular local assembly, and according to the pattern furnished by the Lord Jesus Christ." He follows this statement with his doctrinal summation on ordinances. "The church is the custodian of the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, and is responsible for their administration." (Taken from the book, ELEMENTAL THEOLOGY by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.)