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The Corinthian church had a lot of problems that Paul had to correct. One of their deviations from the truth was the way they were taking the Lord's Supper (or communion). 1 Corinthians 11 tells us they weren't treating it as the holy memorial that it is. In verses 21 and 33 of that chapter, they were rebuked for not waiting for each other or, in other words, for taking it at different times. It seems like a tradition in the church to have communion more than once on the first day of the week. Is this a scriptural practice we have authority for, or is this a problem we should change? I hope my question was clear.
Dear Multiple Problems,
This is an issue that many good brethren wrestle with. Does a congregation have the right to offer the Lord’s Supper twice on Sunday? Is it biblical for a local church to offer communion in the morning and then offer it again at a Sunday evening service? We believe so, but we also believe that there is room for disagreement on this issue, and if a brother or sister doesn’t feel comfortable with a second serving of the communion, they should abstain. We must all seek to serve God with a clear conscience (1 Tim 1:19), and if you can’t do something in faith, you shouldn’t do it (Rom 14:23). Having said that, here are our thoughts on the subject of offering the Lord’s Supper twice on Sunday.
The Bible never tells us the amount of times that a congregation must offer the Lord’s Supper; it only tells us that it must be taken by the saints sometime on Sunday (Acts 20:7). This leaves us a twenty-four hour period in which a christian can gather with the church and fulfill this command. The specific times we choose to meet are an expediency… simply a matter of preference.
1 Cor 11:33 says that a congregation must “wait for one another”. 1 Cor 11:21-22 clarifies that the problem in Corinth was that they were eating the Lord’s Supper as a common meal and not waiting to do it solemnly together. The problem in Corinth was that they were eating communion for the purpose of filling their bellies instead of remembering the Lord’s death (1 Cor 11:34). The goal of waiting for one another was to provide a scheduled time to fulfill this command together. It didn’t mean that every christian needed to be present (otherwise, a congregation couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper unless every member was accounted for), and it didn’t mean that they couldn’t schedule multiple times to wait for one another. It simply meant that they had to treat the Lord’s Supper as a holy and spiritual meal of remembrance. The church is responsible for doing things in a decent and orderly way (1 Cor 14:40). Offering the Lord’s Supper in the morning and evening fulfills that command for order and decency. The congregation is providing specific orderly times for members to fulfill their command to gather with the church and take the Lord’s Supper.
The church is commanded to provide opportunity for christians to take the Lord’s Supper with the church, but the individual is responsible for taking it. If a congregation offers the Lord’s Supper in both the morning and evening, it is doing its job – providing opportunity. It is the same as the command to take up a collection. Most congregations provide opportunity for individuals to give financially at both the morning and evening services – which matches exactly with the command in 1 Cor 16:1-2. No one bats an eye when a congregation offers the collection basket twice. In fact, we would probably be shocked if a congregation refused to take someone’s contribution because they missed morning services. Yet, this is exactly the same as offering the Lord’s Supper twice. It is a matter of expediency. When a congregation offers the collection and the Lord’s Supper at both services, it is simply trying to provide opportunity for all (even those who were unable to attend in the morning) to fulfill God’s commands to give and take the Lord’s Supper on Sunday.
Should we take communion every Sunday? Acts 20:7?
On A Schedule
Dear On A Schedule,
Taking communion is a weekly thing – no more, no less. Christ told us that whenever we take the Lord’s Supper, we should do it in remembrance of Him (Lk 22:19), but He never said how often. It isn’t until the book of Acts that we see how often the church observed the Lord’s Supper. In Acts 20:7, we see that christians ‘broke the bread’ in remembrance of Christ on Sundays. That is when they did it, so that is when we do it. You are very wise to cite this verse in your question because it is the only example we have in the Bible of the timing of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul says that we are to take the Lord’s Supper when the church is gathered together (1 Cor 11:20). Taking the Lord’s Supper is an act of worship done by every congregation of the Lord each Sunday. When we take a look at all the teaching on the Lord’s Supper, we get the truth (Ps 119:160). Christ commands that we do it in remembrance of Him, the church gives us the example of doing it on the first day of the week, and Paul teaches that we should do it when we are assembled as a church.
Based on your response regarding the authority to interpret the scriptures under the heading “Going for Pope”, I was hoping you could clarify a few things. How can two local congregations, relying on Scripture alone for all matters of faith and practice, still be diametrically opposed doctrinally? This is from my father-in-law’s local independent Baptist church under the “what we believe” section of their website:
- The Bible (KJV) to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God (II Peter 1:20,21)(I Peter 1:23-25)
- The Bible is to be the sole source for all matters of faith and practice (II Timothy 3:16)
- There is one true and living God revealed to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three separate personages in one divine being (I John 5:7)
- The only way of salvation is by grace through faith in the atonement and righteousness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8)
- It is the duty of all to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:9)
- Nothing can separate true believers from the love of God and they are kept by His power through faith unto salvation (I John 5:10-13)
- In the pre-millenial return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment but the righteous unto life eternal (I Thessalonians 4:15 18) (Revelations 21:8)
- In the autonomy of the local church, and that it is to be self-supporting, self-governing, not dependent on any ecclesiastical organizations; solely dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:16-19)
- The church is the divine means of spreading the gospel and it is our duty to support missions at home and abroad (Matthew 28:18-20)
The pastor of that congregation has studied the Bible for over forty years and can provide scriptural support for every doctrine that he teaches. They consider themselves a model New Testament church and believe they are lead by the Holy Spirit when interpreting Scripture. They rely on no creeds or traditions and go as far as teaching that any other congregation that doesn’t hold similar beliefs are not truly “saved” christians. In direct opposition to what your local church of Christ congregation teaches, they believe baptism is symbolic only and not necessary for salvation. Once a believer is saved, they are always saved. You must tithe ten percent or be cursed by God. They practice communion once every four months. They use musical instruments in worship service. They believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. They use all the same criteria you mentioned in your previous responses (Bible as the sole rule of faith), and yet, you would disagree with them (using the very same Scriptures)! Can you elaborate on your previous answer given this scenario?
Dear Needing More,
We will admit that Baptist churches are much more Bible-centered than most of the denominational world, but just because they say that they do exactly what the Bible says doesn’t make it true. Many of the things that your father-in-law’s congregation believes are right, but there are some glaring practices that simply ignore Scripture. Remember, if you avoid or ignore verses, that is just as bad as adding creeds (Rev 22:18-19). We have to take every Bible teaching, no matter how unpopular, and accept it in order to truly call ourselves a “Bible-only” congregation. We don’t disagree with your father-in-law when he uses Scriptures; we would disagree with him when he ignores or avoids Scripture. So let’s take a look at a couple of areas that this Baptist church is ignoring obvious Bible text.
- Baptism is necessary for salvation. This is one of the clearest teachings in the New Testament. Peter literally wrote, “Baptism saves you” in 1 Pet. 3:21. Mark 16:16 teaches that when you believe and are baptized, you are saved. There is not a single example of someone becoming a christian without baptism. If a church is teaching that baptism is only symbolic… it is ignoring the text. In fact, the Baptist church’s manual (which is a lot like a creed) specifically says, “Baptism was the door into the church; now it is different” (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches pg. 22). Feel free to read our article “Baptism” for further Scriptures on this topic.
- The Bible openly teaches that you can lose your salvation. Gal 5:4 says that people can be “severed from Christ” and “fall away from grace”. 1 Tim 4:1 also warns that people will fall away and follow false teachings. Heb 3:12 also mentions falling away because of an unbelieving heart. The clearest verse on this topic is Heb 6:4-6 because it talks about someone who was “enlightened” and had “tasted the heavenly gift” and yet were “crucifying Christ again”. Once again, these are simple verses with clear and direct implications.
- The Lord’s Supper. Your father-in-law’s congregation only takes the Lord’s Supper every four months. Where is the Bible authority and support for that? Where in the Bible does it show christians taking communion every four months? Acts 20:7 mentions christians taking the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Once again, this is a plain teaching with a simple consequence. If we want to be like the first-century christians… we take communion every first day of the week.
This is hardly an exhaustive answer to everything that your father-in-law’s church does, but it should be enough to give you an idea that there are some clear verses that are being avoided by this Baptist congregation. God tells us to test all teaching against the Scripture (1 Jn 4:1). No congregation advertises that they are ignoring parts of the Bible, but many churches do exactly that.
Due to the lengthy nature of these answers and our backlog of questions, if you have further questions on this topic, please include your e-mail address, so we can contact you in a timely manner.
What is the proper way to take the Lord’s Supper if you are taking it by yourself because usually I find that an elder is administering it after the service, and I thought proper verses were to be said while taking it?
Dear Solitary Contemplation,
The Lord’s Supper isn’t intended to be taken alone. Communion is intended to be taken on the first day of the week with the whole church (Acts 20:7). In fact, the Corinthian church was condemned for not taking the Lord’s Supper in an orderly fashion (1 Cor 11:20-22). The solution to the disarray of the Corinthian church was for them to patiently wait for one another before taking the communion and to do it in an orderly fashion as a group (1 Cor 11:33).
There are no specific verses that need to be said before taking the Lord’s Supper, but it is important that we reflect upon Christ’s death and examine ourselves before and while participating (1 Cor 11:26-29).
I have been reading through your archives and saw many people who asked about Christians keeping the Sabbath day. Since Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament when He died on the cross, why do Christians still go to church on Sunday? Many act like it is required, that you MUST go to church, but is that true?
Do I Have To Go?
Dear Do I Have To Go,
Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath day… but the Sabbath isn’t Sunday. The Sabbath was an Old Testament day of worship – it was on Saturday (Ex 16:26). Christians are commanded by God to meet on Sunday. We know this because there are two things that the church has to do every Sunday.
- The church is supposed to gather together and take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 11:18-20).
- The church is supposed to take up a collection every Sunday to further God’s work (1 Cor 16:1-2).
While those two acts are commanded for Sunday and Sunday only, there are plenty of other things the church needs to gather to do. The church needs to be praying together, studying God’s Word together (Acts 2:42), and singing praise to God on a regular basis (Col 3:16). Heb 10:24-25 says that it is a sin for a christian to forsake the assembly. Every christian needs to make it a clear and consistent priority to set Sunday aside to serve and worship God. Sunday worship is a part of a christian’s duty.