Implications of Public Confession (1) The Interdependence of Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper



In the past few years, a couple of people approached the editor of the Beacon Lights with the idea of reprinting Abraham Kuyper’s book The Implications of Public Confession. The staff quickly agreed to reprint the book and search was made to determine what copyrights still existed on the book. Through the help of a few friends, it was determined that the copyrights on the book had expired, which meant that the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies was free to reprint the book. As far as can be determined, the sixth edition in 1934 was the last printing of the book. The Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies is therefore happy to provide this excellent work for reading and study by our churches and by our young people.

The main reason for reprinting this excellent work is to provide our young people who will make or who have made public confession of faith with reading and study material on the implications of making public confession in our churches. By reading and studying this book, our young people will be made more aware of the responsibilities that become theirs upon confession of their faith. By the encouraging words of Abraham Kuyper, those who make confession of faith will appreciate even more the Reformed faith to which they have confessed agreement.

As Abraham Kuyper says, “Now she [your church] is willing to admit you to the holy supper, to let you take your place at the Lord’s table with the other members, provided that you are willing to confess that their confessions is yours.” Also, “Bring that confession to the congregation of believers, and begin to fight one identical warfare with them. They too have nothing of which to boast in themselves…God is all the praise and honor.”



David Harbach







“Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.”

Ezekiel 16:6


Baptism is not complete without its complement, the holy supper. When an infant is born into the world, the nurse who is in attendance washes it, because it is born unclean. It needs bathing, but that is not all it needs. It also needs food. Hence, it is most likely that the same maid who washed it will also bear the infant to its mother’s breast. And an atmosphere of peace and contentment pervades the nursery room only after the child is feeding at its mother’s bosom. In fact, we would not hesitate to censure the attitude of a nurse who supposed she had absolved herself of responsibility by bathing the child, and cared not at all whether or not it was given an opportunity to be nursed. Such conduct on her part, we feel, would be sufficient reason to dismiss her.

This figure illustrates the significant relationship that obtains between the sacrament of baptism and that of the holy supper. We may not suppose that baptism alone is sufficient; we may not desire the sacrament of purification and neglect that of nourishment. To desire baptism and to ignore the holy supper is to rob each of its significance.

It becomes us to remember that we were once like the child the Holy Spirit depicts to us in Ezekiel 16, the child of whom we read in verses 4–6: “As for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.”

This passage tells us that we were conceived in sin and born in iniquity, that because we were born of unclean parents, we also were unclean. It tells us that before our baptism we need spiritual cleansing within, that we needed to be purged by the blood of Christ. Baptism was the external symbol of that purification of the soul by the holy Lamb of God. It is what the holy apostle confirmed by the words: “Once ye were unclean, but now ye are sanctified, now ye are justified, now ye are washed.”

Our church also confesses that such is the significance of baptism. In article 35 of the Belgic Confession we read: “Now those who are regenerated have in them a twofold life: the one corporal and temporal, which they have from the first birth and is common to all men; the other spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth…and this life is not common, but is peculiar to God’s elect.” Article 34 states: “Therefore he has commanded all those who are his to be baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, thereby signifying to us that as water washeth away the filth of the body when poured upon it…so doth the blood of Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost, internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath unto children of God.”

But baptism is not a be-all and end-all. It is true that a newly-born babe must first of all be bathed. But it must also be given food. So too the sacrament of purification needs the sacrament of nourishment as its fulfillment. Note that the Confession continues in article 35 as follows: “We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy supper to nourish and support those whom he hath already regenerated, and incorporated into his family, which is his church.” Further in article 35: “God hath given us, for the support of the bodily and earthly life, earthly and common bread, which is subservient thereto…But for the support of the spiritual and heavenly life which believers have, he hath sent a living bread, which descended from heaven, namely, Jesus Christ, who nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers when they eat him.”

Baptism therefore is merely a preliminary sacrament. It represents only the opening of the door by which we pass to the holy supper and to the mystical communion with our Lord. This truth subtracts nothing from the importance and the indispensability of baptism. Whoever is not baptized is an outsider. By desiring to be baptized he asks for admittance; by means of the sacrament of baptism he knocks at the door. By it he enters, that is, he becomes segregated from those who stand without, in order to enjoy the fellowship of those who are within. And that fellowship and communion becomes complete when, together with the assembled guests, he partakes of the holy supper.

But he who has been baptized, who has knocked at and been admitted to the banquet hall, who thereupon restrains himself from sitting at the table with the others, resembles a stranger who upon his own instigation is invited to enjoy association with a festive company, and who forthwith insults his host by standing, distant and aloof, at the door. The intruder who without an invitation and without appropriate dress forces his way into the company must be thrown out. He is an intruder. But the baptized person is not that. By desiring baptism he appropriately asks for admittance. By his baptism the door is opened, his formal clothes are extended to him, and by it he is invited to share the activities as an approved guest. Naturally he severely injures social propriety if he remains distant and aloof after these favors have been bestowed upon him. His conduct differs from that of the intruder, but it is not less culpable. Even so, it is a terrible sin to ignore the holy supper after one has been baptized.

He who undertakes to wade through the holy streams of baptism may have no other purpose in mind in doing so than to enjoy a festive fellowship with the Lord of the house upon the other shore. He knows that that Lord awaits his guests.

He who is born merely of water and of spirit is given but a distant glimpse of the kingdom. He may never be satisfied with that, but must be up and away, nor rest until he is seated at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Any Jew who becomes converted to his Messiah immediately appreciates the fact that an intimate relationship exists between these two sacraments. Observe him, if you will. He is converted Jew. The Jews’ baptism was neglected when they were children. Now that they have repented and turned to God at a mature age, they choose to postpone the time of their baptism to a moment that will make it convenient for them to partake of the holy supper immediately afterwards.

The same custom prevailed in the earliest Christian churches. Those who were converted from Judaism and paganism were baptized one day, and were present at the holy supper the next. At that time no one ever thought of baptism apart from the holy supper. By asking for baptism these Christians simply were asking, “Permit me to partake of the holy supper.”

We do not cross the Red Sea in order to fix camp permanently upon the farther shore; we must be on our way through the wilderness; our destination is the holy land. Having crossed the Jordan, we do not stop at its banks, but press on to Jerusalem. We may not be content with having forded the waters of baptism, but we must pursue our way until we see extended to us the rare wines that are pressed from the grapes of Eshcol.

It is the custom of infant baptism that has tended to fix lines of demarcation between these two sacraments. But such lines of distinction are inappropriate there. Naturally an infant is not qualified to partake of the Lord’s supper. A child is morally too irresponsible to appropriate the blessings of his baptism to himself by a public confession. It is because of the circumstance that the perfectly appropriate and necessary custom of infant baptism is a sacrament independent from that of the holy supper.

An infant is impressionable and is therefore fit to receive baptism. But it is not yet qualified to receive the sacrament of nourishment. We must remember that the sacrament of the holy supper requires that only he may partake of it who has made his confession and his deeds a matter of personally appreciated responsibility. Hence it is inevitable that some years must elapse between these two sacraments in the life of every individual—as many years as are required to make his confession and his approach to the Lord’s table a morally responsible action. The intervening time may not be longer than that, and it may not be shorter. The number of years required for each individual to be qualified for his personal confession was determined by God at the time of that person’s creation. The intervening years therefore represent a fixed interim. Those who abide by it walk in the ways of God, and those who do not, depart from them. Those who curtail or add to that interim are guilty of sin.

The number of those intervening years is not the same for all. Some are qualified for the public confession at sixteen, others are twenty-three years of age, but all reach a morally responsible age sometime during this interval of seven years. Hence, it is the duty of each to respect these boundaries.

Irrespective, however, of whether the holy supper be divided from baptism by sixteen years or by twenty-three, the close relationship between the two remains the same. Throughout those years baptism sounds the plea: Seek the Lord’s holy supper.