The Ward - Brooks Debate
Brooks' First Affirmative
"The Scriptures teach that the Lord's Supper may be observed by some members of a local church in one assembly and others in a later assembly (or assemblies) of that same congregation on the same first day of the week.."
Brooks' First Affirmative
Dear Mark and the Religious Debates Community:
It is now my privilege to offer my position concerning the following proposition:
The scriptures authorize the taking of the Lord's Supper in more than one service on the First Day of the week.
Definitions of terms:
Scriptures: The 66 books of the Protestant Canon.
Authorize: Allow or Require an act.
Lord's Supper: Eating unleavened bread and drinking wine/grape juice in honor of the Lord's Death
More than one service: At least twice in one Sunday.
The Night It Was Instituted
Our investigation of communion begins with the night of the Passover (example Matthew 26:26 29). The Lord's Supper was instituted during the disciples' participation in this annual Jewish Feast. This Feast began the night the Jews left Egypt for Canaan (Exodus 12: 1 29), and its observation was thereafter commanded by God in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 23). It was an annual reminder of how God delivered the first-born children of the Israelites from the Angel of the Lord as He swept through Egypt, killing their children. The blood of lambs was used as a covering, to protect the Jewish children from God's wrath (Exodus 12:13). Each disciple had been participating in this feast since birth, and they knew historically the reasons for the feast they were eating. It was in this context that Jesus offered the elements, which were already a part of the feast.
To describe this feast and the cultural context in detail would take several pages of explanation. By themselves, the facts in the New Testament explain NOTHING about the cultural context. And we should expect that. The New Testament is written in the context of the already established and practiced Jewish faith. Jesus instituted communion in the process of observing a Jewish feast, and the disciples (and Jewish readers of that day) would have understood the cultural context in which Jesus started the communion.
The weakness of the modern church is that we, as a whole, do not understand these issues from a Jewish perspective, nor do we interpret the scriptures in light of the cultural context in which they are presented. We isolate the New Testament from its Jewish roots, thus the meaning and intention of much of the text is lost to us. We can get it, but we choose to throw out the Old Testament, thus biting the hand that feeds us.
Anyway, the disciples knew the Passover well. Jesus instituted the communion in taking the Passover, and therefore the meaning of communion is tied into the feast. Here is a short explanation.
The Jewish people knew that blood was required to forgive sin (Hebrews 9:22). They also knew that blood was a form of protection (the Passover lamb's blood protected Jewish children). When Jesus told them "this is my body" and "this is my blood", they understood that he was claiming the purpose of the Passover lamb to be the same as His own purpose: to die to cover sin with His blood.
The Purpose of Communion
Matthew 26:26 29 records Jesus offering the elements to the disciples, giving thanks for them, and declaring them to be His body. Mark 14: 22 25 also describes this event. Here Jesus claims that the juice represents the New Covenant in His blood. Luke 22: 14 20 adds the fact that His body is also given, that the juice represents His blood.
These three passages outline the reason we take communion. Our Lord Himself stated that we would eat the unleavened bread and drink the juice to acknowledge His death until He comes for us. It is a memorial of the historical event that set us free from sin and death. It recognizes that His body was given in death in our place, and that His blood was spilled to atone for our sins. This is WHY we take communion. Honoring the sacrifice of God's Son is the PURPOSE. The frequency MUST be understood in light of this FACT.
Why are all these things important?
Jesus is declaring that He is the fulfillment of the Passover. It was a reminder of God's protection and covering during slaughter of the Egyptian children by God's death angel. In taking established elements, Jesus used the symbolic feast the Jews already knew to implement a reminder of His own sacrifice. Therefore, Jesus took what the Jews had and made a new reminder out of it. He declares His body and His blood to be given for sinners, to be the foundation of the New Covenant, and to provide forgiveness for sins. Jesus makes Himself the center of the celebration and memorial.
Why the church takes it today?
We take it because Jesus said it was to honor His sacrifice (Luke 22:19). We take it to recognize His suffering on the cross for our sins.
What did Jesus say about Frequency the night He started the observance?
Jesus said nothing about frequency. The easiest deduction is that it should be annual. The feast of the Jews was annual, and logically the communion would follow the frequency of Passover. The fact that Christians do not observe Passover is irrelevant. The communion would follow the lead of the feast that started it. However, Jesus didn't say when to take it, so we must assume it doesn't matter unless we have instructions elsewhere.
What did Paul say about Frequency?
Paul said only one thing about frequency. He quoted the events of the Passover night and stated, "whenever you drink it", implying frequency makes no difference. If frequency had been important, in such an explicit context, he would have said specifically "take it once a Sunday, every week" like a prescription. He didn't do that. Obviously, frequency was not an issue with Paul. And we have already seen it was irrelevant to Jesus.
There are in Acts two indicators: meeting on Sunday, and meeting daily. Both suggest that frequency makes no difference. There is no consistency in when it was taken. Also, it would be legalism to suggest that God EXPECTS a specific frequency. That would deny the purpose and render the observation a complete waste of time.
We should also ask about the value of frequency. Does it matter, under new covenant teaching, how often we do it? To answer this, we begin with the purpose. Communion is taken to recognize Jesus' sacrifice. The bread and juice are taken to recognize that He is mediator of the new covenant and provides forgiveness of sins. Therefore, how often should it be taken?
The early church had no set time. There are examples of when they did it, but no indication of ANY KIND that not doing so would be considered disobedience. The only thing in scripture regarding judgment for communion was taking in an unworthy manner. The qualification for an unworthy manner was failing to discern the body and blood of Jesus. In other words, the ONLY THING MENTIONED in scripture that would be judged regarding communion was violating its PURPOSE. NO OTHER ISSUE receives a warning, judgment, criticism, or rebuke.
Some regard the 1 Cor 11 rebuke as a statement that affects communion itself, but the error in that reasoning is that the rebuke regards CHANGING communion into something different. When it is made into a different event, then it is judged. Not judged for taking communion wrong, but for getting drunk. The drunkenness is condemned. That's all.
So, concerning the proposition, we have seen that the scriptures allow (authorize) Christians to take communion whenever we choose to take it, as long as our purpose in taking the elements is to recognize the body and blood of Jesus.
Can we take it more than once on Sunday?
Again, scripture is silent on frequency, so the obvious answer is this question: Why take it more than once? There would be no purpose. If we have two meetings, and people are present at one meeting and not the other, serving a second time would be non-issue (meaning it would not be a problem to serve those who had missed it), but the purpose of communion must be examined to answer this one. Do those who attend one service and not the other have the right to recognize their Lord's death in the congregation? Of course they do. It is absurd to suggest that God would judge us because someone wanted to honor His Son's death.
And that is what this debate is really about. It is not about AUTHORIZED METHODS. It is about a legalistic game with God's judgment on those who want to recognize what Jesus suffered for them. If Mark and others believe they would be condemned for honoring the sacrifice of Christ more than once on Sunday, that is their business. As for me and my house, I honor the Lord whenever I choose, and always with my fellow church members.
I await Mark's rebuttal with great interest.
[-end of first affirmative by Brooks]
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