Question: When and how often should Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper? Why do some churches do this weekly, others quarterly, others annually, etc. Does the Bible shed any light on this?
Answer: This is a subject about which we frequently receive questions. That is probably because man has so corrupted the simple Bible pattern that many people are in a state of total confusion. They think the Bible either contradicts itself or fails to address the issue, hence they do whatever they please. But a closer examination reveals that there is indeed a clear answer from God.
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he gave very specific directions as to its observance. The occasion was the Passover meal Jesus ate with his apostles the night he was betrayed, recorded in three of the four Gospel accounts, (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-15; Lk. 22:14-23). As background, the Mosaical requirements for the Passover meal would have included unleavened bread and grape juice (“fruit of the vine”). These should be read together to understand the full context. The elements of the Supper are specified, as are the order and procedure for observing it. Additional helpful details are recorded by Paul in 1 Cor. 11: 23-29. There it is said, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death til he come,” (1 Cor. 11:26). This suggests that there was a regularity, a frequency to their eating the Lord’s supper. It was not done “now and then” or only on special occasions. The same is seen in the practice of the early church: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers,” (Acts 2:42). The members of the early church “continued stedfastly,” or regularly and faithfully, in the practice of partaking of the Lord’s supper. They recognized this as an important part of their recurring worship.
As to when and how often, notice the practice of the early church at Troas: “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight,” (Acts 20:7). This verse shows that it was the practice of the early church to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week—Sunday, the same day the church was established and assembled for the first time, (see Acts 2:1ff). Further, when the inspired apostle Paul was present with those brethren at Troas, he sanctioned and participated in their practice, lending to it the stamp of divine approval. Since Paul was an inspired apostle of Christ (1 Cor. 9:1), by participating in the observance of the Lord’s Supper on the “first day of the week,” we can rest assured that such was acceptable to God.
We see such practice throughout Paul’s missionary journeys to churches in various locations, where he often tarried “for seven days” so that he would have opportunity to assemble with the brethren and observe the Supper, as he had done at Troas, (cf. Acts 21:4; 28:14). These approved examples stand as authoritative guidance for those interested in following God’s will today.
We also reach the same conclusion by noticing the practice of the early church at Jerusalem, which continued stedfastly in “the breaking of bread,” an obvious reference to their assembling for the Lord’s Supper, (Acts 2:42). When the churches were later given instructions regarding the contribution, they were told to do so “on the first day of the week,” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Such a command makes sense because they were assembling on that day for the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the commands to “lay by in store” as well as eat the Lord’s Supper were both observed in such assemblies.
All of these considerations consistently show that it was the approved practice of the early church to partake of the Lord’s supper each and every Sunday. Such constitutes scriptural authority for us to do likewise. On the contrary, there is no passage which authorizes the partaking of the Supper on any other day, or less frequently than each and every week.
The Lord’s Supper is an extremely important and solemn privilege of every Christian. It deals with the most significant event in human history, namely the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It should never be taken lightly, or in an unscriptural manner. We should be certain to take it seriously, observe it reverently and respectfully, and strictly in the manner authorized by God.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.