For Even From My Youth…
Should Teens and Children Partake of
the Bread and Wine?
by Toli Bohonik
When Jesus walked this earth some 2000 years ago He cared deeply about children. Jesus wanted to be near children. He wanted to hold them in His arms. He desired to bless them. He was their Savior just as much as He was their parents’ Savior.
Jesus wants children to "come to" Him and learn to follow Him. It is a lifelong process. One that Jesus often initiates at a very young age. As children grow older, Jesus will lead them to make an increasingly stronger commitment to follow Him and to serve God the Father.
Notice Jesus’ words in Mark 10:13-16:
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." 16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
King David is a good example. God called David when he was just a child. David then served God his entire life. His life was spent following God and learning the ways of God. As a child, as a teen, as a young man, as an adult, and finally as an old man. David spent his whole life learning about God and serving God. It was a lifelong process!
That process began very early in David’s life. Notice these Psalms:
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. (Pslm 71:16-18).
Isaiah, Samuel, Obadiah, John the Baptist, Timothy and others in the Bible were all clearly taught and trained in the ways of God when they were children—we will study some later in this article. Christ taught some very powerful lessons about receiving little children, being humble like little children, and not offending little children (Matt 18:1-6).
God often calls children at a very young age, just like He called David. One of the most important things that the Father and Jesus do together is to bring young people into the faith. Bringing children into the faith is a vitally important task! The Father gives some an early start towards the Kingdom of God.
Children and the Passover Season
Children are the future of the Church of God. Since children are so important to Jesus and the Father, one has to ask how they should participate during the Passover season. Should young people attend the service? Should they partake of the bread and wine?
In the past, the Churches of God have not allowed unbaptized young children and teens to participate in their Passover service. They recognized only "baptized or unbaptized" people, with no status for those that are seeking to obey God, but too young or still uncertain about baptism. Some congregations allowed older children to participate in foot-washing, but that was not common. Churches taught that unbaptized individuals, including children, are unconverted and should not take the bread and wine. While this concept was not specifically taught, to some degree the taking of these symbols was regarded almost like a "sacrament"—a spiritual benefit to those who were baptized and still in "good standing" with an organized church.
But do the Scriptures teach that baptism is a requirement to attend or take the bread and wine? If you read carefully what God teaches in the Old and New Testament, nowhere do the scriptures say that one must be converted to do these things! Don’t be shocked—we will study the most common scriptures that some have used to "prove" that children should not be welcome.
It is extremely important that young and old alike realize that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all and that they learn to follow Him. One of the most important parts of following Jesus is to take the bread and wine as a symbol of living by him. Please read:
51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" 53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:51-54).
Jesus’ last supper was very important to Him. It was something that He would not do again until He does it in the kingdom. There were no women, no children, no teens. It was just one leader and twelve students—a most somber occasion:
17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:17-20).
Just because children were not present at this service does not mean they should not take the bread and wine. Women were not present here either, but we certainly expect them to take it today. Jesus calls men, women, teens and children, and then bids them to follow Him. We must remember that the Passover service given to Moses was for the whole family, specifically including children (Ex 12:24-27). If we apply these Old Testament customs to today, then young people who want to follow Christ should take the bread and wine, even though they may not baptized.
God Has Work For Children
Jesus calls children to follow Him. Some of these children eventually serve in important functions in the Ekklesia, the church. Others grow up and serve Jesus their entire lives with no public recognition. At times they may be required to do valiant deeds for Christ, deeds that may be unseen and totally unknown to most people. Yet deeds that are vital for their families, their communities, their churches, or even their country!
In the Old Testament there are many examples of children serving the Lord. Samuel is a good example. As a very young child Samuel served the Lord. Samuel grew up to be a great prophet. The Lord personally taught Samuel when he was a small child. As a very young child, Samuel actually "…grew before the LORD":
18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home. 21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD (1Sam 2:18-21).
Another good example of God calling and working with a child is the example of Obadiah. Obadiah did great deeds for the Lord! His early calling prepared him for this unique service.
Obadiah was the governor of Ahab’s house, when Ahab was the King of Israel. At one point, Ahab and Obadiah were searching for Elijah. Ahab wanted to kill Elijah and he had his governor, Obadiah, helping Him find Elijah.
Obadiah had served the Lord from his youth. Here is an example of a wicked king working with a righteous governor to try and kill a prophet. What a dichotomy! What a challenge for Obadiah!
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water) (1Kngs 18:3-4).
God called and worked with Obadiah at a very young age. As a youth, Obadiah learned to fear God, to obey God, and to serve God. When he was grown, the Lord used Obadiah to save many lives. This pattern is repeated time and time again in the scriptures. God calls young people. He then teaches them. They serve Him their entire lives. And God has them do mighty deeds.
7 Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, "Is that you, my lord Elijah?" 8 And he answered him, "It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’" 9 So he said, "How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. 11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, "Elijah is here"’! 12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water?" (1Kngs 18:7-13.)
We have already mentioned the example of David. David was called by God when he was just a boy. The deeds of the young David are legendary. He served God as a young shepherd in the fields of Judah. He killed a lion and bear and knew it was God who delivered him. Later he fought and killed the giant Goliath. Notice his Psalm:
3 Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. 4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. 5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth. 6 By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You (Pslm 71:3-6).
Ezekiel was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. He too served the Lord from His youth. Ezekiel’s deeds are public and well known. But you must ask, could Ezekiel have been such a great prophet if God had not called him at a very young age?
So I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth" (Eze 14:4).
Notice the distinct pattern. The Lord called these young children. He worked with them, He taught them, He loved them, and they served Him throughout their entire lives. Some served in obvious ways and others served in not so obvious ways, but from childhood all of them willingly served God in a wicked world.
New Testament Examples
In the New Testament there is also a record of individuals who served the Lord from early childhood. We read about the rich "young man" in all three synoptic gospels. Notice Mark 10:14-21. This section of scripture begins with Jesus saying, "Suffer the little children to come unto me". Jesus first tells us that He wants children to come to Him!
But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:14-16).
In this context of Jesus caring for children, Mark goes on to write about a rich young man who had obeyed God "from my youth".
This young man ran up to Jesus! He kneeled before Him! This man had kept God’s commandments "from my youth".
Jesus loved him!
Yet Jesus knew the rich young man had a character flaw. The young man loved his wealth, and he was not willing to give it up. Jesus corrected him.
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" 18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 "You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’" 20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me" (Mark 10:17-21).
Paul is another New Testament example. Paul served God "from my youth". When Paul was grown, the Lord chose to make him an apostle. But it is important to realize that God worked with Paul when Paul was but a child.
My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee (Acts 26:4-5).
Today God continues to work in the same way. He may call very young children. He convicts them of His reality, of His goodness, and of His sovereignty. These children serve God with a pure heart and they have truly received "… the kingdom of God as a little child". When they grow up they generally continue to obey God and to serve God.
The Old Testament Passover
Let’s look at the example of the Old Testament Passover. Anciently, all of those who lived under the Old Covenant ate the Passover. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, the young, and the old all ate the Passover together.
The one requirement was circumcision. (Females were required to have a circumcised father or husband.) The stranger, the foreigner, and the hired servant were not allowed to eat the Passover. Those who did not know or care about the God of Israel were not to take it.
Yet the stranger who wanted to serve God, and who was circumcised, was allowed to take the Passover. It was an individual matter even then. The stranger whose heart was turned toward God could take the Passover.
43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. 44 But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. 45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it....48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Ex 12:43-45, 48-49).
New Testament Parallel
Under the New Covenant, circumcision is of the heart (Rom 2:29). If someone’s heart is turned to God and they want to follow Jesus as He leads them to the Father, then they need to take in His flesh and blood—to partake of the bread and wine.
Since circumcision included children under the old covenant, it must also include it in the new. That would include those who are young, unbaptized, and unconverted. If they want to follow Jesus, they should participate.
A number of observations can be made from the last supper with Jesus and his disciples recorded in Luke 22:14-32. (See verses 17-20 quoted on page 13).
1) Notice that there were only thirteen men present. There were no women, no teens and no children. But the instructions that they had in Exodus indicated that women and children participated fully in their Passover service. Furthermore, if Jewish history is accurate, boys of 13 and older could participate in services, actually reading the scripture. Just because there were no women, teens or children present does not mean they had no part in what Jesus was doing.
2) Notice what else happened during this service:
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves" (Luke 22:24-26).
Why strife among Christians? These twelve men were Christians—they were "followers of Christ"—but they were not converted, see Luke 22:32! The Spirit of God was with the apostles but it was not in them. They behaved accordingly.
The twelve apostles were not baptized in the name of Jesus, nor had they received the Holy spirit when they were taught to take the bread and wine as a symbol of His body and blood! So conversion is not required. You do not have to be perfect nor do you have to be converted to take these symbols.
3) Jesus taught them that they must be servants. This is an attitude and approach that Jesus wants all of us to have whether we are converted or unconverted. Jesus said this to twelve unconverted men. At this late point in His ministry, the apostles still did not understand some of the most basic elements of Christianity. They were unconverted, they were imperfect, yet Christ gave them these symbols of bread and wine because He knew that they still needed Him in the way that they could understand at that time!
But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves (Luke 22:26-27).
4) Fourthly, notice that an unconverted person can accomplish a great deal! These men continued with Jesus’ throughout His temptations! Of course He helped them. He was with them daily. Yet even though they were not converted and the Holy Spirit was not dwelling inside of them, they still accomplished some things, and Jesus commends them for that!
But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials (Luke 22:28).
5) The apostles were promised a reward prior to their conversion.
And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:29-30).
6) Peter was promised help from Jesus prior to being converted. Jesus helps those who are unconverted as well as those who are converted.
And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32).
Conversion is not necessary to be at a service, wash feet, or take the bread and wine—nor is perfect behavior necessary.
What Is Necessary?
If baptism and conversion are not necessary to take the bread and wine, then what is necessary? Fortunately we have a precise explanation from the Apostle Paul on this matter.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1Cor 11:23-32).
The scripture here is very clear. Anyone who wants to partake of this bread and wine that is symbolic of Christ’s body and blood must do so in a worthy manner, and must examine themselves. The word "man" here is obviously a general term, otherwise women could not participate.
Some parent might think that they would not dare let their teen or child partake of the bread and wine, because if they were not in the right attitude, they could get sick or die from it. A parent should prevent a child from taking the bread and wine if he or she has only a frivolous interest or simply wants a snack. A parent should discuss the service with children long before it begins. But for children who are interested in living by the word of God, they need to realize that there are decisions they can make about their relationship with God that really do matter. Their parents’ relationship with God will not save them—they need a relationship of their own. Children can examine themselves in their imperfect understanding, just like adults can in their imperfect understanding. Taking the bread and the wine is a positive, public act of saying "I want Jesus"—it is much more than "going to a church that believes in Jesus".
Under no circumstances should any young person (or old person) be pressured into partaking bread and wine. This defeats Paul’s instruction for self examination. If a parent tells a child, "why don’t you participate this year, all of the Smith children do", that parent is instructing the child to do it for social reasons rather than self examination and wanting to take in Jesus.
There is no reason to fear taking the bread and wine. Jesus is kind and merciful, and He knows exactly how much self-examination we are capable of.
The Bread and WIne, First Step in the Plan of Conversion
Whether you understand "the same night He was betrayed" (verse 23, above) to be the Passover or a separate service before the Passover, it is the first event of the sequence of God’s Holy Days (Ex 12:2). Leaven (sin) is put out and unleavened bread is taken in for a week. Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, comes later. It happens best in that order. The apostles took the bread and wine with Christ before they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
When a young person takes part in these services with their parents, this helps deepen the resolve to obey God. It is one of a series of steps that will hopefully lead to the commitment of their entire life to God at baptism. Children need tangible steps along the way.
The common church of God practice of giving children almost nothing to do in Sabbath services, and completely excluding them from the bread and wine symbolically tells them that they are not important to God. That is not true. Many Sabbatarians can quote Acts 2:38, but do you know verse 39?
...Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children... (Acts 2:38-39).
Wanting to Follow Jesus
Young people should be encouraged to follow Jesus Christ. If they desire to take part in the bread and wine service, they should be encouraged to examine themselves, and allowed to take it. That is the pattern in the scriptures. They must do it in a worthy manner—desiring to obey God and wanting to follow Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many young people have no desire to follow Jesus Christ. Too many of our youth are swayed by society to follow this present evil world. Satan is clever. There probably will not be a stampede of young people to take the bread and wine this Passover season. But there will be a large number of our youth who will desire to follow Jesus Christ and who will want to live good lives.
Let children and teens come to Christ. Let children and teens take the bread and wine. Let them serve the Lord from their youth so that Jesus can use them later in His service! &