SHOULD WE TAKE THE LORD’S SUPPER EVERY WEEK?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 2:45pm
QUESTION: Why do so many denominations serve the Lord’s Supper only once a month?
ANSWER: Most Protestant churches do not acknowledge any definitive New Testament teaching on how often to take the Lord’s Supper. Even in the Restoration Movement we recognize that there is no specific command to celebrate the Supper every week; our choice to do so is at best an inference.
That said, I think it is a very GOOD inference, and one that I believe can be defended as the will of God. I.e., to some degree we believe that what is called “apostolic precedent” has the authority of a command. We infer that the practices of the early church, under the leadership of the apostles, had the APPROVAL of the apostles. Certainly the approval of the apostles is a better guide for our church practices today than our own fallible human ideas.
How does this lead to the weekly Lord’s Supper? Acts 20:7a says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them” (ESV). Here, we understand “the first day of the week” to mean “the first day of EVERY week.” We understand “the first day” to mean Sunday. We understand “break bread” to mean the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We understand the phrase “TO break bread” to mean “FOR THE PURPOSE OF breaking bread.” Thus Luke seems to be asserting the fact that the Christians in Troas came together every Sunday for the purpose of taking the Lord’s Supper.
When we apply the principle of apostolic precedent to this text, the fact that the church was meeting on the first day of the week “to break bread” implies that the apostles TAUGHT the early Christians to meet every Sunday to take the Lord’s Supper. That this means the first day of EVERY week is a natural understanding of the phrase, just as the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exod. 20:8), was meant to refer to EVERY Sabbath Day—a point no one denies.
But for the Protestant world in general, the lack of a specific command means that we can use our own judgment as to how often the Supper should be celebrated. Some have decided that once a month is appropriate; others do so once a quarter (every three months). Some have even decided that once a year is sufficient, since the Jews celebrated the Passover Feast only once a year. To me, it is quite clear from both the New Testament and from early Christian writers that the early Christians met every Sunday. Since this is the case, it is simply unbelievable that they would do so without incorporating into their services or meetings the one thing that Jesus himself personally instituted for his disciples.