COMMUNION EVERY SUNDAY?
by Wayne S. Walker
Several years ago I received a letter from as lady who had visited the services of the church where I was then preaching one Sunday morning. Although she had many kind remarks, she also expressed some criticism.
“I disagree with your church’s policy of giving communion every Sunday, and on the basis of one of the points you made during your sermon, that we are to avoid vain repetition. I previously attended a church that sang ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ as the processional EVERY Sunday, and as meaningful as that song is, I cringe whenever I hear it, to this day. There was also the practice of repeating the Lord’s Prayer each week, and it soon began to be quite meaningless to me. I wonder if the sacrament of the Lord’s supper might not be viewed in the same light. It might be interesting to ask the opinion of the individual congregation members. The weekly repetition, and especially without the warning of the consequences of taking the sacrament unworthily, would soon make the practice less meaningful to me personally, and of course, if we partake unworthily, while we have something against another, we are warned of damnation, correct?”
In my response to her, I first pointed out that our aim in the church of Christ is, in everything we believe, teach, and practice, to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Therefore, whenever a question is asked, we are most cheerfully ready “give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us] with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). It does not bother nor embarrass us for folks to criticize us. Indeed, we invite any disagreement so that we can sit down together in a spirit of love, open the Bible, and see what God has said about that particular matter.
With regard to the question about our having the communion every Sunday, this is not just a matter of our “church’s policy” but of Scriptural authority and our conviction. Our reason for this is found in Acts 20:7. We are told that the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread, a term which is used in the New Testament to refer to the communion or Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 10:16). I might also point out that nowhere does the Bible call it a sacrament—it is simply identified as a memorial—“in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Since every week has a first day, we necessarily infer that whenever the first day of the week came around, disciples came together to break bread.
Let me illustrate. Under the Old Covenant, God told the Hebrew people to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Since every week had a Sabbath day, they were obligated to keep it every week. Not all repetition is the same as “vain repetition.” Some repetition is good. God obviously had a very important reason for commanding the Israelites to engage in the repetition of remembering the Sabbath day each week. The fact that it was a weekly observance did not necessarily make it less meaningful to them, just as our weekly observance of the Lord’s supper does not necessarily make it less meaningful to us.
We do not believe that we partake of the communion unworthily just because we do it every week. The meaningfulness of the observance is really in the mind of the partaker anyway, not simply in how often it is done. It would seem to me that taking it just four times a year could be equally meaningless to a person as well if his attitude were not right. And we do remind ourselves from time to time about the dangers of partaking unworthily.
Here is another illustration. I eat breakfast every morning. The fact that I do it so often does not make it less meaningful than if I did it less often. In fact, I need that breakfast every morning. The fact that God indicates that He wants His people to break bread on the first day of every week is evidence that there is something about this weekly observance that we need. We believe that when we do what God says in the way that He says to do it, it will not be meaningless. We simply try to obey His word and attach whatever meaning that He has placed upon what He has told us to do. In addition to this, Bible scholars and religious historians unanimously agree that the practice of the early church was to have the communion every Sunday.
The suggestion that it might be interesting to ask the individual members’ opinions on this matter is, in itself, interesting. The Lord’s church is not a democracy. We do not base our practices on the opinions of the members because the church is founded on the word of God, not the doctrines and traditions of men (Matthew 15:9). At the same time, I can assure you that our members are convicted that Christians should eat the Lord’s supper on the first day of every week. We don’t necessarily sing the same song or repeat a particular Scripture such as “the Lord’s Prayer” each week because God has not told us to do such. But He has said that the observance of the memorial feast is to be part of our worship every Sunday.
Our only desire is to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent; to call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways. We are striving for non-denominational New Testament Christianity. We welcome all who are like-minded to join with us. Those who have questions should feel free to ask them. We would be more than happy to make whatever arrangements are convenient to discuss them. We are interested in nothing but the truth, for “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Unfortunately, I never saw or heard from the lady again.
(—taken and slightly revised from Torch; Oct., 1984; Vol. XIX, No. 10; pp. 19-21)