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How Often Should the Lord’s Supper be Observed? (Episode VII)

Updated on April 10, 2014
Fractio Panis (Latin: Breaking of Bread) is the name given to a fresco in the Greek Chapel (Capella Greca) in the Catacomb of Priscilla, situated on the Via Salaria Nova in Rome.
Fractio Panis (Latin: Breaking of Bread) is the name given to a fresco in the Greek Chapel (Capella Greca) in the Catacomb of Priscilla, situated on the Via Salaria Nova in Rome.

Referenced Texts

Ge 4:15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”Lev 4:6 The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. ... 17 Then the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil. 8:11 He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base, to consecrate them.

Ex 7:25 And seven days passed after the Lord had struck the river.

Lev 26:21 Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins. 28 then I also will walk contrary to you in fury;and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.

Nu 19:20 ‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.

De 28:7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”

De 28:25 “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth. ...”

1 Chronicles 9:32 And some of their brethren of the sons of the Kohathites were in charge of preparing the showbread for every Sabbath; see Lev 24:5-8.

1 Sam 4:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.

Ps 79:12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.

Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—...”

Ac 20:7-11 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.

1 Cor 11:17-18,20 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.

1 Cor 16:2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Mt 6:9-13 Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done ... . 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, ... . 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

Ac 6:3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

Ac 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

Ro 12:6-8 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.Ja 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

1 Cor 11:29-30 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.

1 Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 Jn 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Biblical Frequency of the Eucharist

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7)

It is clear from the accounts in Scripture that the early church observed the Eucharist on the first day of each week (Acts 20:7-11; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 11:17-18, 20).

However, many (perhaps most) have traditions regarding the frequency of the Communion meal which are outside the teachings of scripture. There are at least four clear reasons why the Church should keep the ordinance each Lord’s day. The four foremost reasons for a weekly performance of the Eucharistic are:

Apostolic Example: Simply put, the first day of the week orthodoxy is the example we find in the Word of God (Acts 20:7). In case some read Acts 20:7 and miss the point, permit me to gently comment on the passage: Paul had arrived in Troas on a Monday (the second day of the week) and waited for the Christians to come together on the “first day of the week ... to break bread.” We know this because of vv 6 and 7 which state: “But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, ... .” Paul observes the Eucharist with the saints at Troas on the first day of the week (Sunday), “ready to depart the next day.” Thus, Paul’s stay in Troas covered a seven day period, from Monday to Monday. The statement, here, by Luke (the writer of Acts), “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,” is a strong statement that the ‘purpose’ for the every First Day gathering of the Christians was to “break bread”—observe the Lord’s Supper. Paul and his party arrived the day after the Christians of that place had their meeting, and had to wait six days for their next Eucharistic service. Now, since we know that some, however, would object by saying, “We are not commanded to keep the Eucharist on the Lord’s day, therefore it does not matter when we keep it – weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.” The reply to this objection is, “Does scriptural apostolic example mean nothing?” To our brethren (Pentecostals) we humbly point out that we have no command to speak in tongues—we only have APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE. If we were honest, we must conclude that if the example of Scripture is enough to establish one doctrine of the church (namely, speaking in tongues), then it is enough to confirm another (such as, the weekly observance of the Eucharist).

The Shewbread of the Tabernacle: The Hebrew word translated as “shewbread” is actually two words which translates literally as “the bread of the face,” or “bread of the presence.” (Strong’s #H3899, lehem: bread; #H6440, panim: face, or presence; thus: bread of the face or presence of Yahweh.) When Jesus gave His disciples the bread of the Lord’s Supper, He was recalling the shewbread (bread of the face/presence) as He said “this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). The shewbread (bread of the face) was renewed on the table of shewbread every seven days (1 Chronicles 9:32). The Old and the New Covenants, both, have the “bread of the presence” which is presented to God’s people each seven days.

The Holiness of the Week: For every time-period known to us there is a natural rhyme and reason, except the seven day period we call the week. By example, notice that the year is regulated by the sun, as is the day, hour, minute and second. Moreover, the month is regulated by the moon. But what regulates the week? There is no reason for the week, except that God chose it as His special time. The week is made up of seven days; seven is God’s special number seen throughout Scripture. The number seven represents completeness or perfection; it is the covenant number throughout scripture. It is a sign of God’s covenant relationship with mankind, and especially to the Church. This is evidenced in the hallowing of the seventh day; in the execution of circumcision, the sign of the covenant, after the seventh day; in the part played by the number in marriage covenants and treaties of peace. It is a number of purification and consecration (see Leviticus 4:6, 17; 8:11, 33; Numbers 19:20). Seven is the number of every grace and benefit bestowed upon Israel; which is thus marked as flowing out of the covenant, and consequence of it. The priests compassed Jericho seven days, and on the seventh— seven times, that all Israel may know that the city was given into their hands by their covenant God; and that its conquest was a direct and immediate result of their covenant relationship to Him. Naaman is to dip in Jordan seven times, that he may acknowledge the God of Israel as the author of his cure. It is the number of reward to those who are faithful in the covenant (see Deuteronomy 28:7; 1 Samuel 2:5); of punishment to those who are froward in the covenant (see Leviticus 26:21,24,28; Deuteronomy 28:25), or to those who injure the people of it (see Genesis 4:15,24; Exodus 7:25; Psalms 79:12). All these things are ordered by the number seven, or else seven multiplied by seven, and thus made it more intense still. Thus, it is with the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, of Tabernacles, the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee. It is also observed that God employs the number seven in His dealings with nations who are outside the covenant, showing that He is working for Israel’s sake with respect to His covenant. It is the number of years of plenty and famine, in sign that these are for Israel’s sake rather than for Egypt’s. Seven times over Nebuchadnezzar that he may learn that the God of his Jewish captives is King over all the earth. The number seven is just as prominent in the New Testament: showing the covenant of Calvary to be the Abrahamic covenant realized; showing the cross of Christ to be the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy given in Jeremiah 31:31.

Furthermore, there are seven petitions in the Our Father (Matthew 6:9-13); seven sayings of Christ from the cross; seven deacons (Acts 6:3); seven graces (Romans 12:6-8); seven characteristics of wisdom (James 3:17); and seven days from one observance of the Lord’s Supper to the next (Acts 20:7).

The Believers’ Need. Another case for the first day of the week fidelity to the Lord’s Supper is that, Christians constantly require the fellowship of the body and blood of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, we see how the Eucharist can minister healing, if in its observance the body of the Lord Jesus is discerned. There is a relationship between healing and the bread because of the relationship between the bread and the flesh of Christ. It was his flesh that received the stripes by which we are healed. Therefore, when we partake of the bread we fellowship with his stripes! (A note to our pastors: when we withhold the Eucharist from God’s people we force them to abstain from the most scriptural healing service of the New Testament church.) We also have a constant need to fellowship with the blood of Christ because of our aptness to fail God (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). First Corinthians 10:16 declares, “the cup which we bless, is it not the communion (fellowship) of the blood of Christ?”

Own this book by Bishop Jerry Hayes. See the link to order at the end of this article.
Own this book by Bishop Jerry Hayes. See the link to order at the end of this article.

Seven Benefits of the Blood of Christ:

In many churches today the blood of Christ is rarely mentioned. The Bible talks a lot about the blood of our Savior. Consider some of the benefits we receive as a result of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

  1. The Blood of Christ Procures Redemption ~ “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
  2. The Blood of Christ Secures Justification ~ “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:6-9).
  3. The Blood of Christ Ensures Cleansing ~ “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:7-10).
  4. The Blood of Christ Makes Peace ~ “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Colossians 1:19-21).
  5. The Blood of Christ Effects Sanctification ~ “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).
  6. The Blood of Christ Gives Nearness ~ “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).
  7. The Blood of Christ Brings Victory ~ “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10-11a). (Summary) The Blood of Christ Offers Forgiveness ~ “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b).

Referenced Text

1 Cor 11:17-18 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

1 Cor 11:30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

As Often As You Eat This Bread...

In the face of the above evidence for a weekly fidelity to the Lord’s Supper, some poor souls will misinterpret and misapply Paul's words from 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” They will say, “The bible does not enjoin any particular time when the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. Paul says, ‘...as often as you... .’ Poor souls. Do they not understand that Paul was addressing the church in Corinth, which had an established observance of the Communion meal? Namely, each time they congregated (which was weekly—on the Lord’s Day) (1 Corinthians 11:17-18). Therefore, when the Apostle said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup...” he was referencing their established practice of a weekly observance.

How can we relegate the one sacrament which, as the Bible plainly states, brings us back into fellowship with the cleansing blood of Christ, to a place of irregularity on our spiritual agenda? Some may oppose the weekly observance in fear that the communion will become commonplace. Would such a one use the same argument for Bible reading, church attendance, prayers, or witnessing? If not, why not? It would be less than honest for one to apply the “commonplace” argument to the Lord’s Supper if that one would not apply it to Bible reading, church attendance, prayers, or witnessing. The truth is:

WHEN WE ABSTAIN FROM THE LORD’S TABLE, THE ONLY THINGS THAT BECOME COMMON PLACE AMONG THE SAINTS ARE SICKNESS AND SIN (1 Corinthians 11:30).

Referenced Texts

Foot washing, also called washing of feet, a religious rite practiced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week (preceding Easter) and by members of some other Christian churches in their worship services. The early Christian church introduced the custom to imitate the humility and selfless love of Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:1–15), the night before his Crucifixion. The practice was originally an act of hospitality in Palestinian homes performed for guests (who wore sandals and walked on dusty roads) by a servant or the wife of the host. Paul refers to the custom in 1 Timothy 5:10, and Augustine mentions it in one of his letters about AD 400. The Maundy Thursday ceremony, observed in Rome by the pope and locally in parish churches, first appeared in the Spanish liturgy of the 7th century.

Jn 13:3-17 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In the days of Christ and the apostles few roads were paved, and most all people wore sandals or no shoes at all. Consequently, everyone’s feet became dusty and dirty from traveling even the shortest of distances. At the door of each home was a wash pan for the express purpose of washing the feet upon entering the house. This was a lowly task, and was normally performed by the servants of the household. Jesus is telling His disciples that they are to wash one another’s feet in such circumstances, and not leave it to others. Foot washing, then, was an act of Christian charity that was performed in the private homes. In at least one place Jesus rebuked a host for not providing water for the washing of His feet (Lk 7:44). In this place Jesus associated the cleaning of His feet with the kiss of greeting.

The Inconvenience of Foot-washing

Before we leave the thought of regularity for the Sacrament, the role of the foot-washing service should be addressed. To some this may sound strange; and one may wonder what foot-washing is, and why it is mentioned in connection with the Lord’s Supper.

To answer the two questions just asked, we may start with defining what foot-washing is; after which we will examine its connection with the Sacrament. Foot-washing is a traditional Christian service where the saints wash one another’s feet, to emulate Christ washing the feet of the apostles (John 13:3-17). It is true that the Lord instructed the disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (vv14-15). It is an in-house debate, however, as to whether or not the Lord intended the foot-washing to be performed in the believers’ corporate worship services, or in their private homes—as was the custom of the day.

(We might make this observation concerning the difference between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John: All the Synoptics record the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Fourth Gospel does not. Instead of the Lord’s Supper, and in the place where it would have been listed, John records the foot-washing narrative. The Apostle’s intentions for doing this deserve further investigation; but, here is not the place or the time.)

To address the question as to why we are reviewing foot-washing in a chapter on the biblical time for observing the Lord’s Supper, I will mention the following:

Because Jesus washed the disciples’ feet on the same night He instituted the Communion meal, many associate the two as one sacrament. Therefore, these well-meaning Christians do not feel it appropriate to observe one without the other. This has done violence to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in that it is not feasible to have a congregation wide foot-washing service in each Lord’s Day celebration of the Lord’s Supper. In that this is true, those who combine the two observations are forced by practicability to an infrequent observance of the Eucharist. This infrequent observance, aside from being unbiblical, robs the Church of the graces provided by the flesh and blood of Christ, present in the eucharistic elements.

Without debating the issue of ceremonial versus private foot-washing, we need to point out that foot-washing and the Lord’s Supper are two separate things. One, the Lord’s Supper, is a sacrament (a Christian ritual that produces a grace from God); the other (foot-washing) is an act of Christian charity. The Bible gives no indication, whatsoever, that the two are separate parts of the same ordinance. Therefore, one does not necessitate the other.


Apostolically Speaking

☩ Jerry Hayes

The One Book You Should Be Reading

The Lord's Supper: An Apostolic Bishop Cuts Through Reform Theology and Lays Bare Biblical Teaching Concerning the Lord's Supper (First Corinthians Eleven)
The Lord's Supper: An Apostolic Bishop Cuts Through Reform Theology and Lays Bare Biblical Teaching Concerning the Lord's Supper (First Corinthians Eleven)

In "The Lord's Supper" Bishop Hayes presents a comprehensive study of the holy Sacrament. Both the Catholic and Reformed positions are examined and biblical solutions are given for the problems that exist in the mentioned theologies. The book answers important questions, like: "What is the Lord's supper?" Who may partake of the Lord's supper?" "Is the body and blood of Christ really present in the elements or do the elements actually change into the body and blood of Christ?" "How often should the Lord's Supper be observed?" These are but a few of the questions addressed in the book. Having shopped in several Bible bookstores and discovering how little is written on the subject it is safe to predict that this work will be in great demand and a standard volume in the libraries of those who love the Sacrament.

 

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    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
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      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Christians constantly require the fellowship of the body and blood of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, we see how the Eucharist can minister healing, if in its observance the body of the Lord Jesus is discerned.