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The Lord's Supper - Essential Or Expedience? (Part 1)

By bro Alvin Lin


The Lord’s Supper is something that we do every Sunday “in remembrance” of our Lord and to “proclaim the Lord’s death” [NKJV] (1Co 11:24-26). However, this act of worship is one that many have misconceptions about or are uncertain of, even in the Lord’s church. For example, some have the notion that the Lord’s Supper is the most important (and sacred) part of worship, and so if they or their loved ones miss the worship assembly, what matters most is to have the Lord’s Supper brought to them. But the Bible teaches that we are to “come together” to partake the Lord’s Supper (Act 20:7 c.f. 1Co 11:17,18,20,33), and there is no mention whatsoever of the Lord’s Supper being more important than the other acts of worship. Rather, true worship requires us to do it “in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:24), so all 5 acts of worship must be done in congregational worship on the Lord’s Day (Mat 26:29; Act 20:7; 1Co 14:15; 1Co 16:2; Heb 2:12). Besides this, there are also other interesting questions that have popped up during my study with prospects, particularly in relation to the principle of approved examples, so I would like to address some of these questions in this article.

 

Partaking of the Lord’s Supper – essential or expedience?

A question that some may have with regards to the Lord’s Supper is whether it is a matter of command or custom, like that of hand washing (Mar 7:3) and wearing of head coverings (1Co 11:16). That the partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a matter of command can be seen in how it is to be partaken “in my Father's kingdom” (Mat 26:29), that is, in the Lord’s church, “till he comes” (1Co 11:26), a reference to the Second Coming of Christ. So, we can see that the partaking of the Lord’s Supper transcends time and culture and is to be observed perpetually by all churches. In fact, we see the early Christians “continued steadfastly” in the breaking of bread (Act 2:42).


Frequency of the Lord’s Supper – essential or expedience?

Most denominations accept that the Lord’s Supper is a matter of command, but they differ on the frequency of the partaking of it. Some denominations partake it quarterly, others monthly, and even those that partake of it weekly may see it as an expedience, rather than a necessity. A common argument that is made is that the Bible does not state explicitly that the Lord’s Supper is to be taken weekly. However, we can know the frequency of the partaking of the Lord’s Supper through approved examples and necessary inference. Notice that the disciples “came together to break bread” on the “first day of the week” (Act 20:7). How regularly did they do it? Well, the logical answer would have to be whenever it was the first day of the week! If they were partaking of it yearly or quarterly, the month and the week would have to be specified. If they were partaking of it monthly, the week would have to be specified. But if they were partaking of it weekly, there is no need to specify anything, since they would know to assemble whenever the first day of the week comes around. When God gave the Sabbath to the Jews, He commanded them to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exo 20:8). Did the Jews question if the Sabbath was to be observed quarterly or monthly or weekly? To ask is to answer, for in the absence of further directives, they knew they were to stop working whenever it was the Sabbath! Interestingly, giving is also done “upon the first day of the week” (1Co 16:2 c.f. Act 20:7), yet the same denominations who insist that the Lord’s Supper does not have to be partaken weekly would insist that the giving must be done weekly.

 

The partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week is of great significance because it was the day that our Lord resurrected from the dead (Mar 16:9), and when the disciples began to be “assembled” (Joh 20:19,26). It was also the day that our Lord established His church (Act 2:1 c.f. Lev 23:15-16). Hence, it is called the “Lord’s Day”, a day belonging to the Lord that Christians habitually assembled to worship (Act 20:7). Its importance is even more obvious when we consider how Paul stayed at Troas for 7 days to worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper with the Christians there (Act 20:6-7), even though he was rushing to be at Jerusalem by Pentecost (Act 20:16).


In spite of the plethora of overwhelming evidence showing that the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken on the first day of the week, some have tried to justify partaking the Lord’s Supper on other days by citing examples where Christians were “breaking bread” daily (Act 2:46), and that Paul had “broken bread” after midnight of the Lord’s Day (Act 20:11 c.f. Act 20:7). The simple answer to this is that the cited instances refer to a fellowship meal instead of the Lord’s Supper. In the former case, “breaking bread” is in conjunction with eating their “meat” [trophē: food, nourishment], referring to a common meal. Consider further that partaking the Lord’s Supper requires Christians to “come together” (1Co 11:33), not going “house to house” (Act 2:46 c.f. 1Co 11:22). In the latter case, “broken bread” is in conjunction with “eaten” [geuomai: to take food, eat, to take nourishment, eat] and “talked” [homileō: to converse with, talk about: with one], referring to having a conversation over a meal. Consider also that only Paul was said to have “broken bread” (Act 20:11), which would contravene his instructions to “tarry one for another” if it refers to the partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:33).

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