On the first Sunday of January we announced that it is our intention to begin celebrating the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis (in contrast to our previous pattern of monthly observance). Over the next few weeks, we will provide a few short explanations as to why we have begun this practice.
That said, it is important to first state that we acknowledge that Scripture neither forbids nor commands the local church to observe the Supper with a particular frequency. Although the Bible is not silent on the issue (as we will see this week), it does not set out an explicit mandate regarding frequency. Therefore, it is up to the leaders and congregations to decide what is wise and helpful to that particular fellowship.
So, what are some of the convictions that led us to begin this new weekly rhythm?
First, and most importantly, we believe there is strong evidence of a pattern for weekly observance in the New Testament.
- Consider Acts 20:7. In this passage Luke recounts the following, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them…” It is clear from this passage that when the church gathered “on the first day of the week” (i.e. Sunday) a central component to their gathering was “to break bread.” Although not explicit, this phrase “break bread” almost always points to the observance of the Lord’s Supper – clearly, from this passage, communion was a central element in the church’s weekly gathering.
- Consider 1 Corinthians 11 as a whole. This chapter contains the largest discussion of the practice of the Lord’s Supper in the early church. Although many important issues are raised here, the fact remains that the abuse of the Lord’s Supper was a significant problem in Corinthian fellowship. It would seem odd for a fellowship practicing the Lord’s Supper monthly, quarterly, yearly to have such a significant problem that it precipitated the apostles extensive address. Although this certainly is not conclusive on its own; it is a helpful aspect to acknowledge.
- Consider 1 Corinthians 11:20. In this verse Paul rebukes the church’s self-seeking abuse by saying, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat…” Although not explicit, in this passage, it was clearly the pattern of the early church to “come together” on the first day of the week. Hence, it is likely that the Corinthian church gathered weekly and observed the Supper when they did.
- A final verse to consider is 1 Corinthians 11:25. In this verse Paul instructs the church about the proper practice and theology of observance by stating, “As often as you drink…” Although many cite this as support that the frequency is unimportant, the context actually suggests that the church celebrated the Supper frequently. In his commentary on this verse, Gordon Fee notes, “This addition in particular implies a frequently repeated action, suggesting that from the beginning the Last Supper was for Christians not an annual Christian Passover, but a regularly repeated meal in ‘honor of the Lord,’ hence the Lord’s Supper.”
Although these passages are not indisputably explicit, they do provide a sense of the regularity and centrality of the Lord’s Supper within the early church gatherings. In future weeks we will outline other theological and practical motivations for our new practice.
Our hope and prayer is that week-by-week our hearts will be re-calibrated by the centrality of Christ’s person and work. Prepare your hearts, even now, to receive the Lord’s Supper this weekend.