Author: Ron Graham
Some say that the Lord’s Supper can be shared anywhere at anytime, and the assembly for the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week is just a Church of Christ tradition without real support in scripture. Is that true?
Paul says, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes" (1Corinthians 11:26). Some claim that "as often as" means as often as you like, anytime, whenever.
Is Paul saying here that we can share the Lord’s Supper anytime? If I said to you, “As often as you stay at my house you cheer me up”, do I mean that you can stay at my house as often as you like? No, that would be a misunderstanding
Don't misunderstand Paul. He is not saying that you can share the Lord’s Supper anytime on any occasion, whenever you wish, as often as you like.
Paul has already stated what "as often as" refers to. Paul is talking about "when you come together as a church" (1Corinthians 11:18). He does not have in mind “anywhere anytime” but a meeting of Christians, as a church, in order to share in the Lord’s Supper.
Paul next says, "When you meet together it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper" (1Corinthians 11:20). His point is that it should be to eat the Lord’s Supper, but they had perverted the Supper beyond recognition and lost the purpose of their meeting.
We have established that the Lord’s Supper was eaten at meetings of the church called for that purpose. There are no scriptural grounds for the “anywhere anytime” idea.
Paul says, "On the first day of every week, let each one of you put something aside in store, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collections when I come" (1Corinthians 16:2).
Notice, Paul wanted [who?] each member to [what?] contribute to a common fund [why?] to have the entire gift ready and waiting for him to send or take (verses 3-4). Contributions were to be made [when?] on the first day of each week.
We are not told here why "the first day of the week" was designated for the offering. We can confidently infer, however, that something happened on that day which made the day suitable for collecting the offerings together.
You can easily figure out what that something was, if you remember what Paul discussed in the latter half of chapter 11. We were discussing it just a moment ago. The Christians in Corinth would "come together as a church... to eat the Lord’s Supper" (1Corinthians 11:18 ff).
Paul specified the occasion in chapter 11, but did not designate the day. He designates the day here in chapter 16, but does not specify the occasion. However we are able to put two and two together.
It would be the most sensible arrangement for Christians to bring their offerings to their gathering for the Lord’s Supper. That way, when they came together they could put their offerings together just as Paul wanted.
So we have, "On the first day of every week [when you come together as a church to eat the Lord’s Supper] let each one of you put something aside in store, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collections when I come" (1Corinthians 16:2, insert 1Corinthians 11:18,20).
By thus combining the two statements, we have filled two gaps. We now understand what happened on the first day of each week that made it the most suitable day for giving offerings. But we have also discovered when the church met for the Lord’s Supper.
So we also have, "[On the first day of every week] when you come together as a church ...to eat the Lord’s Supper ...as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he come" (1Corinthians 11:18,20,26, inserted 1Corinthians 16:2).
I have not inserted my words or ideas into Paul’s words. Nor have I manipulated Paul’s words in a way that would make Paul say something contrary to his own idea. Paul and the Corinthians knew that the church met on the first day of every week for the Lord’s Supper. We had to discover that fact by comparing and combining scripture with scripture. The passages I have combined are demonstrably relevent to each other and well connected. Therefore I cannot fairly be accused of cutting and pasting the scriptures willy nilly and ignoring context.
The question, “May we eat the Lord’s Supper anywhere any time?” is now answered. If we are to follow the practice of the churches of Christ that Paul instructed with the authority of Jesus Christ, then the answer is no, we may not observe the Supper anytime anywhere.
Let us proclaim the Lord’s death in the Lord’s memorial supper, but observe it scripturally —that is, together with the church, when it assembles for that purpose, on the first day of the week.
I have shown you, by combining two related verses, the proper time and place for the Lord’s Supper. But some will not listen and will make all kinds of objections. The best one of those objections I'll now address.
Someone will ask, “Would you take the Lord’s Supper to someone housebound or in hospital? Of course I would answer yes.
The objector may then ask, “Have you ever eaten the Lord’s Supper when you were travelling and not able to attend a church?” Of course I would answer yes.
The objector will say, “Well those are instances of eating the Lord’s Supper outside of a meeting of a church held for the purpose. You break the rule you claim to follow!
The objector will then present an “if this then that” argument. “If you allow the Lord’s Supper outside of the first day assembly, then how can you object to others sharing the Lord’s Supper anytime anywhere?”. The objector holds that any allowed departure from a rule justifies all departures.
The “departures” we make are not considered ideal, but the best that can be done when the proper order is impossible. The one in hospital or housebound would love to be in church, and the traveller would rather visit a church if possible.
The objector, on the other hand promotes greater departures as being the ideal and desirable thing, not a second best thing.
Let's close this lesson with a repeat of the verses we compared and combined. Let's resolve to obey them always as best we can.
"[On the first day of every week] when you come together as a church ...to eat the Lord’s Supper ...as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he come" (1Corinthians 11:18,20,26, insert 1Corinthians 16:2).