The Lord's Supper...
The Scriptural Frequency
of the Observance of the Lord's Supper...
By Patrick Donahue
Email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is this writer's conviction that the New Testament teaches that congregations of Jesus' disciples should eat the Lord's supper together every first day of the week, and not on any day other than the first day of week.
This article is intended to prove this position by the Bible. The reasoning will go as follows:
* The Bible requires that we follow approved New Testament examples.
* Acts 20:7 provides an approved example of disciples eating the Lord's supper on the first day of the week.
* Therefore, we must eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week.
The Bible Teaches/Binds By Example
The following passages teach that we learn by example; that we are supposed to follow approved examples" that we find in the New Testament:
* Philippians 4:9 - Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
* I Corinthians 4:16 - Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
* Philippians 3:17 - Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
* II Thessalonians 3:9 - Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
* I Corinthians 11:1 - Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
* Hebrews 6:12 - That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
* I Thessalonians 1:6 - And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord
...So we see that the Bible actually commands us to follow approved examples.
Acts 20:7 Refers To The Lord's Supper
Acts 20:7 reads, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." Some question the fact that "break bread" in this verse even refers to the Lord's supper. But that same phrase appears in I Corinthians 10:16 ("The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ: The BREAD which we BREAK, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?") and definitely refers to the "communion," which is the Lord's supper. And I Corinthians 11:21-22,34 proves that Acts 20:7 cannot be referring to a common meal when it condemns the congregation coming together to eat a common meal. Therefore Acts 20:7 must be referring to the Lord's supper.
Acts 20:7 Binds It To The First Day Of The Week
Acts 20:7 says that the disciples broke bread (ate the Lord's supper) on the "first day of the week." Since we must follow approved examples, and since Acts 20:7 presents us the approved example of eating the Lord's supper on the first day of the week, we (the congregation) must follow that example and eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week.
Why Is The Example Of Acts 20:7 Important?
For those who justifiably ask how you know that the disciples eating the Lord's supper on the first day of the week is a binding example, and not just an incidental occurrence, please consider the following points that suggest that this example is not just what some individual Christians did
* It was done by a group of Christians.
* It was done by a congregation meeting together (I Cor 11:18,20,33) during a worship service.
* It was accompanied by preaching.
* It was determined before hand by the disciples (the congregation) that they would come together on the first day of the week for the purpose of eating the Lord's Supper. This is WHY they came together!
One additional point along these lines. Carefully read Acts 20:7. Is the phrase "first day of the week" mentioned just in passing, or does the text go out of the way to point out that the disciples broke bread on this day? If you agree that it is the latter, then you agree that the day is not just an incidental.
Before we leave this point, let's remind our brethren that the text says the "first day of the week," not "Sunday." If we lived in a society that has a different calendar than the USA, where their first day of the week did not fall on the USA's Sunday, we should eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week where we live, not necessarily on the day that is simultaneous with the USA's Sunday.
Also notice that the requirement to eat the Lord's supper has nothing to do with Jesus rising on the first day, or that the first gospel sermon was preached on the first day, or that the church started on the first day, or that the Holy Spirit fell on the first day, nor does it have anything to do
with the "Lord's day" referenced in Rev 1:10 (actually the Bible does not reveal when the "Lord's day" is).
EVERY First Day Of The Week
It is only half the issue to show that the Lord's supper must be eaten on the first day of the week, and not another day. To show that Acts 20:7 is teaching that we must eat the Lord's Supper EVERY First Day of the week, compare it with Exodus 20:8 which reads, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." The verse does not say, "remember every sabbath day," it just says, "remember the sabbath day." How did the Israelites know they were supposed to keep every seventh day holy? How do we know that they were supposed to keep every seventh day holy? Because every week has a seventh day in it. Likewise, we know that we must eat the Lord's Supper every first day of the week, because every week has a first day in it. The conclusion would be that the Bible teaches that we must come together to eat the Lord's Supper EVERY first day of the week.
Now let's consider several objections to the position taken in this article.
The Bible Says It Only One Time?
Some might retort that the New Testament only refers to the eating of the
Lord's supper on the first day of the week one time. This is true, but so
what? How many times does God have to say something for it to be true? The
obvious answer is once. How many times did God give the "steps of
discipline" for a personal sin? Only once in Mt 18:15-17. But we all agree
that the procedure must be followed.
In addition, consider the commandment to give as we've been prospered found
in I Corinthians 16:1-2. Though it proves little about the frequency of the
Lord's supper, it does show that another activity of the saints occurred on
the first day of the week.
The Lord's Supper Was Instituted On Thursday Night?
It is true that the Lord's supper was not instituted on the first day of the
week, but the institution of a religious activity is not always the same as
the regular observance of that activity. Consider, for example, the
* Did they strike the blood "on the two side posts and on the upper
door post of the houses" (Exodus 12:7) every year?
* Did God, every year, "smite all the firstborn" of those who did not
do this (Exodus 12:12-13)?
These two events happened in conjunction with the institution of the
passover, but they did not occur as part of the regular observance of the
Some differences exist between the institution of the Lord's Supper and the
regular observance of the Lord's supper. Consider the following list of
In Luke 22:16, Jesus referred to the regular observance of the Lord's supper
Institution of the Lord's Supper
Regular Observance of the Lord's Supper
Old Covenant Still in effect
New Covenant in effect
Eaten in Conjunction with Passover
(That's WHY it was done on Thursday nite)
NOT Eaten in Conjunction with Passover
(Not a requirement of NT Worship)
Jesus was not yet dead
To Remember the Lord's death til He come
Institution NOT in a church assembly
(in fact, church was not yet in existance)
Must be done in church's assembly
I Corinthians 11:18, 20, 33
FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
as the "fulfillment" of the institution of the Lord's supper, not simply a
continuance of the same thing. The institution of the Lord's supper proves
nothing about the regular observance of the Lord's Supper. Acts 20:7 is the
only passage that tells when the regular observance should take place, and
it teaches (by example) that we must do it on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK.
For As Often As Ye Eat This Bread?
Some act like the phrase "For as often as ye eat this bread, ..." in I
Corinthians 11:16 shows that we are free to eat the break (Lord's supper) at
whatever frequency we choose. But this verse does not say "eat this bread
as often as ye want, " it says " for as often as ye eat this bread." Do you
see the difference?
This phrase does not tell how often it is to be done, neither does it imply
that it can be done anytime that you want; it just says that whenever you do
do it, you "do shew the Lord's death till he come." For example:
* When I was growing up, my Dad required us brothers to lift weights
every other day.
* Later, as we got older, he added jogging to the exercise list. He
basically said, "as often as you lift weights, I want you to jog."
* Did he mean that we could do our weight exercises just anytime that
we wanted to? No, it was still understood that we must lift weights every
other day. What he was saying was that we must jog every other day also (on
the same day that we lifted weights).
Likewise, when Paul says "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,
ye do shew the Lord's death till he come," he is not saying that we can just
eat it anytime that we want to. This verse does not tell how often (Acts
20:7 does), it just says that whenever you do do it, you "do shew the Lord's
death till he come."
I may not be able to answer every question about which New Testament examples are binding, but that doesn't mean that I throw away what I do know. Neither does it mean that it is impossible to determine that some examples are binding.
Does the congregation of Christians that you meet with, come together every first day of the week for the purpose of eating the Lord's supper? They ought to. If they don't, get with one who does.
[Editors Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for writing the articles! He may be reached at:PatDonahue@mail.com, 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726.]
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