Late in 2008, theologian J. I. Packer sat down with a few CTI editors to talk theology. Here's what Dr. Packer had to say when the conversation ranged to Communion.
Do you believe that access to the Lord's Table should be restricted, and if so, how does the church do that in a way that's inoffensive?
Yes, I believe access should be restricted at two points. First, the folk who come to share the Lord's Supper with the congregation should be people who have shown that they can discern the Lord's body. In other words, they understand what the Communion service is all about: Christ crucified for us.
The second point of restriction is when individuals in the congregation are known to be living in sin. If the attempt has been made to wean them away from sin according to the rules of Matthew 18, and it's failed, then the text says, "Let him be to you as a heathen and a publican," a tax collector, someone beyond the pale. The pastor, with the backing of those who were trying to wean the person away, should say, "Don't come to the Lord's Table. If you come, the bread and wine will not be served to you. I shall see to that."
Churches that don't have a stated pastor - old-fashioned brethren assemblies and gatherings of that kind - must make their own rules as to how that warning gets communicated. If it's a church where the elements are passed down the rows, the elders must be alerted to the fact that this chap is sitting in church, brazen, expecting to receive the Lord's Supper. It's their business to escort him out.
Now, there's got to be agreement amongst the congregational leaders as to what constitutes a serious offense. You wouldn't exert this kind of discipline for people who, shall I say, play Bingo when the congregation can't regard ...