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Article 0137 - How Often Should We Observe...

How Often Should The Lord's Supper Be Observed?

Jon Gary Williams

The answer to this question must come, of course, from the New Testament. It can be pointed out, however, that apart from the scriptures there is ample evidence of the church of the first century partaking of the Lord's supper on the first day of each week. Writings of the early church fathers testify to this fact. Partaking of the Lord's supper other than on Sunday was unknown for hundreds of years after the establishment of the church.

From the standpoint of Biblical texts we discover the following:

It is understood that there was a regular assembling of congregations in the first century church. The Hebrew writer admonishes, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together..." (Heb. 10:25). This passage does not read "assembly," but rather "assembling." This participle shows this assembling to be an ongoing practice. The church met regularly and this was universally observed. Note that this letter was written from another location, and the Hebrew writer spoke of "ourselves" (at that other location) being also involved in this assembling. Yet, this passage does not indicate the specific day. For this we must look elsewhere.

On what day was this regular assembly? I Corinthians 16:2 tells us the day on which the brethren at Corinth came assembled together. "Upon the first day of the week..." (The original of this verse reads "every [kata] first day..." and is so translated in other versions.) Note also that Paul's admonition to the Corinthian church was applicable to other congregations, "the churches of Galatia..." (v. 1).

What took place in this regular first day of the week assembly? While addressing the Lord's supper, the apostle Paul used the phrase "come together" a total of five times (v. 17, 18, 20, 33, 34). It is clear that they were to "come together" in that regular assembly on the first day of the week for the express purpose of remembering the death of Jesus.

The example of Acts 20:7 confirms the first day of the week assembling. "And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread..." (Note: This was not an ordinary meal, as some suppose, but rather the Lord's supper. An ordinary meal was eaten later, before Paul departed from them, Acts 20:11.)

So we have the combined texts of Hebrews 10:25 and I Corinthians 11:2, which are supported by the example of Acts 20:7.

On his third missionary journey the apostle Paul, though anxious to reach Jerusalem (Acts 18:21; 20:16), waited an entire week at Troas (Acts 20:6) so that he could assemble with the brethren to partake of the Lord's supper. After worshiping with them he hurriedly went on his way.

Remember that the first day of the week began late on the evening on the Jewish Sabbath. In other words, they assembled and observed the communion on what would be to us Saturday evening, at which time Paul preached until midnight. Also, on yet another occasion we find Paul delaying in the city of Tyre for a seven-day period (Acts 21:4), no doubt for the same reason.

In seeking New Testament precedent, we find that there is no scriptural authority for anything other than communion on each first day of the week.