Communion tokens


This is a communion token…

Does anyone have any idea what they were used for?

Communion tokens originated with John Calvin and were used by worshipers in the Reformed faith beginning around 1560 AD beginning in Scotland and spread throughout Europe and eventually made their way to America. The purpose of communion tokens in Church history since the Reformation was to confirm that communicants (that is the participants) at the Lord’s Supper had been recognized by the elders or minister to have made adequate preparation for coming to Christ’s Supper... 

Without a token, a person would not be admitted to the Lord’s Supper. The church elders typically collected the tokens using small wooden trays.

In a day when most of civil society came to church, when church discipline had been previously non-existent before the Reformation and as multitudes of persons participated at the communion service (many of them travelling from great distances to do so), tokens were a very helpful way for elders (who have a main responsibility for guarding the Table from being profaned, to keep track of who had been deemed, in the sight of the Church, to have made an adequate preparation for the Supper (as opposed to not having made any adequate preparation thereto).

These tokens were usually made from lead or tin and were cast in many shapes with various inscriptions on one side. There have been over 5,000 different tokens identified of various shapes and sizes.

The token I have has the inscription “This Do In Remembrance Of Me” - 1 Cor. 11:24 around the outer edges and in the center “Let a man examine himself.” On the backside is the word “Millbeck.” This was usually the name of the church or preacher’s name…

It is helpful for us to understand the intended purpose of the tokens. For those wanting to participate in the Lord’s Supper which was usually only celebrated 2-3 times a year. They (the members) would be examined by an elder or the preacher to determine their spiritual worthiness. If the preacher or elder was satisfied with their examination, they would issue a token to them… On the day of the Lord’s Supper, they would exchange their token for the opportunity to celebrate in the Supper… Those in attendance without a token would not be permitted to participate…

In reality, these tokens had no spiritual significance in the worship service whatsoever, as God had not appointed any of them.  Rather, these tokens retained their natural and secular use to simply distinguish between persons which facilitated the carrying out of Biblical principles by elder oversight... 

It is said that Alexander Campbell, one of the original Restoration reformers on one occasion broke from the Presbyterian faith over this procedure. When it came time to celebrate the communion meal, Campbell held back until he was the last member to go forward and partake… Instead of celebrating the communion he threw his token in the plate and left the meeting and as he departed, he said, “Now I am free.”

What does all of this have to do with our communion celebration this morning? Actually, it has several things to do with it…

For Example:

1) These tokens represented a closed communion. Whereas we celebrate an open communion invitation that doesn’t pick and choose, who can and cannot participate.

2) The participant is not examined by a man, but by himself (1 Cor 11:24 says– Let a man examine himself We are not worthy on our own, it is only through the shed blood of Jesus that we find worthiness and it is determined between the individual and God – not man…

PRAYER: As we prepare to receive the bread and the cup, let us be thankful for the opportunity and the freedom we have in your Son, Christ Jesus to renew our covenant vow with You and that this covenant is with You and not man… AMEN!

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