The Lord's Supper: Frequency or Intensity?

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Reformed Christian

Puritan Board Freshman
Our church has practiced weekly communion for years. I believe we see this as the example of the apostolic church, but not a requirement. However, there are many things we see in the NT by way of example (the love feast, selling possessions and having all things in common, etc.) that are not necessarily "patterns" for us to follow.

In the past I would make the argument that "the nature of the Supper determines its frequency." However that argument was made when I held much stronger to "covenant renewal worship." In that light the "covenant meal" came naturally after we had "renewed our covenant vows" in our "covenant worship." (seeing a pattern here?)

I would be interested in the practice of your churches (and your preferences if they differ). Also, what weight would you give to the idea of "intensity" over "frequency" in regards to the Supper?

BTW, I do not intend by the title to this post to set up a false dichotomy. I certainly understand that it is possible to have both frequency and intensity in the sacrament. However, these are the labels often used by those who do not observe weekly communion. In our ministry we work hard to ensure the Supper isn't simply "tacked on the end." :)
 
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etexas

Puritan Board Doctor
We take Communion at the first Sunday of the month. As a former Anglican, I was used to Weekly, (sometimes more on High Holy Days :)) But I am used to it now. :2cents:
 

Reformed Christian

Puritan Board Freshman
Spiritual Benefits to Weekly Communion

I know for me personally the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper has a tremendous sanctifying influence in my life. I have a dear pastor friend in Tulsa with whom I spent several days a few years ago. All of our discussion for the 3 days was on the Lord's Supper. After I left he approached his other elders and they did an "experiement." The other elders were not convinced that celebrating the Supper weekly was a good idea, so they decided to do it for one month and "see how it goes."

That was over 2 years ago. Today they celebrate the Supper twice a month in the morning service and the other times in the evening service - but do it weekly.

I believe he would testify that it has been a blessing to his people and a tremendous means of grace they had "neglected" for much of their ministry.
 

Reformed Christian

Puritan Board Freshman
Where is the example of weekly communion in the apostolic church?
I believe a case can be made that the NT chuch did celebrate the Supper weekly. For example, allow me to quote a brief portion from Jim Roger's article:

"Paul writes of Christians coming together "in church" as though that were the same thing as Christians coming together to celebrate the Supper. Look carefully at how Paul describes the same event in 1 Corinthians 11:

17: "you come together"
18: "when you come together in church"
33: "when you come together to eat"
20: "when you meet together it is not to eat the Lord's supper."
34: "eat at home, so that you may not come together for judgment."

Each description of the purpose for which the Corinthians "come together" refers to the same object -- the gathering together of the church for worship. So close is the identification between coming together for church and celebrating the Lord's Supper, that Paul calls the coming together for worship the coming together "to eat." And he chastizes the church at Corinth, rebuking them because when they do come together, so corrupt is their practice, that "it is not to eat the Lord's Supper." The implication being, of course, that one of the main points of meeting together is, in fact, to eat the Lord's supper: to say one is to mean the other."

In Acts 20:7 we see that on the "first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread." Some will argue that the verse is speaking of only "that particular day." Seeing they "steadfastly observed" the apostles doctrines, prayer, fellowship and breaking of bread, it seems unlikely that these early Christians would NOT have observed the supper when they "came together" (see above).

Historically the Didache (written between 60-80 AD) indicates the Supper was celebrated weekly saying, "On the Lord's own day gather together and break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure."

These are a few observations we can see at 2:15AM. :)

Thoughts?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thoughts?
Yes. In 1 Cor. 11, the apostle states that they were not coming together to partake of the Lord's supper. Hence however often they did it -- it might have been daily -- their practice gives no indication of frequency of communion. I'm inclined to think that the apostle was describing the agape feast, and his instructions require them to have this at home. In Acts 20:7 there is a clear example of seasonal communion around the time of unleavened bread. It is a one off occasion and the text specifically states that they met for the purpose of breaking bread. Concerning the assumption that the Christians would have observed the Supper when they came together, that is the point to be proved. As baptism was not an essential element, 1 Cor. 1:17, there is no reason to believe that the Lord's supper would have been considered such. As for the Didache, it is not apostolic; but if it were, it still doesn't require weekly communion, but the breaking of bread on a specific day of the week, called the Lord's own day.
 

Reformed Christian

Puritan Board Freshman
Thoughts?
Yes. In 1 Cor. 11, the apostle states that they were not coming together to partake of the Lord's supper. Hence however often they did it -- it might have been daily -- their practice gives no indication of frequency of communion. I'm inclined to think that the apostle was describing the agape feast, and his instructions require them to have this at home. In Acts 20:7 there is a clear example of seasonal communion around the time of unleavened bread. It is a one off occasion and the text specifically states that they met for the purpose of breaking bread. Concerning the assumption that the Christians would have observed the Supper when they came together, that is the point to be proved. As baptism was not an essential element, 1 Cor. 1:17, there is no reason to believe that the Lord's supper would have been considered such. As for the Didache, it is not apostolic; but if it were, it still doesn't require weekly communion, but the breaking of bread on a specific day of the week, called the Lord's own day.
The apostle was describing the agape feast that was celebrated along with the Supper - and which was the point of controversy because they came without regard to their brethren - in drunkenness, etc. And in so doing were profaning the Supper which was celebrated when they met together as "the church." Paul's instruction was to "eat at home" - to forsake the agape feast if it caused such problems - that they might rightly observe the supper.

Certainly "the church" could well have met more than weekly - and no doubt did as believers met in homes. But that Acts 20 is a "clear example of a seasonal communion" is a stretch - to say the least. It was "after" the days of Unleavened Bread. They traveled for 5 days. They stayed for 7 days. And at some point in those 7 days the Lord's Day rolled around - and on that day it says they "broke bread."

I believe we see in the use of this language in Acts a "transition" where a common phrase for a meal begins to take on a more "spiritual significance." So that whether the "breaking of bread" included the agape feast along with the Supper or speaks directly of the Lord's Supper, I personally see more than a "fellowship meal" that has nothing to do with the Supper.

As for the Didache - what can I say. It does not "require" but does demonstrate what the church did. And to say that "the Lord's own day" is anything other than the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, is almost ridiculous to me. It would be difficult to even engage that kind of sophistry.

As an aside, another interesting point, when thinking of Paul's instruction in 1 Cor. 11, is the fact that he "delivered to them what he received from the Lord," and not what he heard second-hand from the other apostles. It was the Lord Jesus himself who taught Paul about the "last supper" - apparently recounting to him the very words of institution and the circumstances surrounding the meal that Paul in turn relates to the Corinthians. Although not directly related to the issue of "frequency" - it is interesting that the Lord Jesus thought it significant enough that he related the events and very words of institution for Paul - even though they would have been readily learned from the other apostles.
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
I think that all we can say is that the Lord's Supper should be a regular observance, Whether once weekly, monthly, or even yearly, that is still a regular, scheduled thing that we all know about, prepare ourselves for and look forward to. It should be taken seriously.

My church did have it once a month, this tradition dating from the founder who was ordained in the church of scotland. For practical reasons we went to twice a month, once morning, once evening. We found that it was all-too easy for church members to miss out for two or three months in a row if sickness/holidays/work duties combined in unhappy providence!

And missing for three months means you get the boot from membership too!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The apostle was describing the agape feast that was celebrated along with the Supper - and which was the point of controversy because they came without regard to their brethren - in drunkenness, etc. And in so doing were profaning the Supper which was celebrated when they met together as "the church." Paul's instruction was to "eat at home" - to forsake the agape feast if it caused such problems - that they might rightly observe the supper.
He says specifically that they were not meeting together for the Lord's supper, tells them explicitly to have their meals at home, and deliberately leaves frequency vague by his statement that "as oft" as it is celebrated the Lord's death is shown forth. Clearly there is no evidence here for weekly communion, and one must be already disposed towards it in order to read it into the text.

Certainly "the church" could well have met more than weekly - and no doubt did as believers met in homes. But that Acts 20 is a "clear example of a seasonal communion" is a stretch - to say the least. It was "after" the days of Unleavened Bread. They traveled for 5 days. They stayed for 7 days. And at some point in those 7 days the Lord's Day rolled around - and on that day it says they "broke bread."
It does not say, On that day they broke bread, but that they met together on that day to break bread. The specific purpose of this Lord's day was to celebrate the Lord's supper. So instead of a service with the supper tacked on to the end, participation in the supper was the focus of the day -- such as is done in a traditional seasonal communion. Again, one must have a precommitment to weekly communion in order to read it into the text.

As for the Didache - what can I say. It does not "require" but does demonstrate what the church did. And to say that "the Lord's own day" is anything other than the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, is almost ridiculous to me. It would be difficult to even engage that kind of sophistry.
No one is disputing that the Lord's day is the reference; the point, however, is, that breaking of bread was prescribed to be done on this day and there is no reference to frequency. So as with the biblical passages, one must already have a precommitment to weekly communion in order to find support for it in this non-apostolic passage.

As an aside, another interesting point, when thinking of Paul's instruction in 1 Cor. 11, is the fact that he "delivered to them what he received from the Lord," and not what he heard second-hand from the other apostles. It was the Lord Jesus himself who taught Paul about the "last supper" - apparently recounting to him the very words of institution and the circumstances surrounding the meal that Paul in turn relates to the Corinthians. Although not directly related to the issue of "frequency" - it is interesting that the Lord Jesus thought it significant enough that he related the events and very words of institution for Paul - even though they would have been readily learned from the other apostles.
It is correct that the apostle delivered what he received from the Lord, and it is significant that he lays down no instructions with respect to how often the Lord's supper is to be observed; thus making it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ, in ordaining the perpetual observance of the Supper in remembrance of Him, does not require that it be done weekly, contrary to the claims of those who advocate for weekly observance.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
I think that all we can say is that the Lord's Supper should be a regular observance, Whether once weekly, monthly, or even yearly, that is still a regular, scheduled thing that we all know about, prepare ourselves for and look forward to. It should be taken seriously.
Would once a decade be OK?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
It is correct that the apostle delivered what he received from the Lord, and it is significant that he lays down no instructions with respect to how often the Lord's supper is to be observed; thus making it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ, in ordaining the perpetual observance of the Supper in remembrance of Him, does not require that it be done weekly, contrary to the claims of those who advocate for weekly observance.
I concur. There is no requirement for weekly, just as there is no requirement for monthly, quarterly or annually. Churches of like faith will disagree on frequency but they should never disagree on intensity.

By the way, we observe the Lord's Supper weekly.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Our church has practiced weekly communion for years. I believe we see this as the example of the apostolic church, but not a requirement. However, there are many things we see in the NT by way of example (the love feast, selling possessions and having all things in common, etc.) that are not necessarily "patterns" for us to follow.

In the past I would make the argument that "the nature of the Supper determines its frequency." However that argument was made when I held much stronger to "covenant renewal worship." In that light the "covenant meal" came naturally after we had "renewed our covenant vows" in our "covenant worship." (seeing a pattern here?)

I would be interested in the practice of your churches (and your preferences if they differ). Also, what weight would you give to the idea of "intensity" over "frequency" in regards to the Supper?

BTW, I do not intend by the title to this post to set up a false dichotomy. I certainly understand that it is possible to have both frequency and intensity in the sacrament. However, these are the labels often used by those who do not observe weekly communion. In our ministry we work hard to ensure the Supper isn't simply "tacked on the end." :)
Can you define "intensity" from a biblical and/or confessional perspective?
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
John Know and John Calvin say that held to it "quarterly" (4 tmes a year).

And No, I don't speak to the dead!
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
John Know and John Calvin say that held to it "quarterly" (4 tmes a year).

And No, I don't speak to the dead!
Calvin actually favored weekly communion, but was forced by the City of Geneva to observe it less often.

See the following:

Reformed Worship | The Lord's Supper: How Often?

The Lord's Supper: How Often

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship - Lord's Supper Practice in the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition

Shibboleth: On the frequency of Communion
(this one cites Calvin's Institutes in support of the "at least once a week" practice of communion)
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
From article, The Lord's Supper: How Often?

Calvin could scarcely conceal his disappointment, but he nevertheless foresaw a time when matters might be put right. Towards the end of his life he wrote:

I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.
[Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum, XXXVIII, i, p. 213].

I would like to know from where of Calvin works is the above reference taken?

John Knox after spending time with John Calvin returned to Scotland and held to quarterly communion.

Does John Calvin, in his sermons on the book of Acts, mention anything about weekly communion?
 

Sonoftheday

Puritan Board Sophomore
My church partakes quarterly, and always during the evening Lord's Day service. I wish we did it weekly, or at least monthly because of the sanctifying effect it has on my own life, however I am in agreement with those here that state that the frequency is not commanded in scripture only that it should be a regular observance.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
From article, The Lord's Supper: How Often?

Calvin could scarcely conceal his disappointment, but he nevertheless foresaw a time when matters might be put right. Towards the end of his life he wrote:

I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.
[Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum, XXXVIII, i, p. 213].

I would like to know from where of Calvin works is the above reference taken?

John Knox after spending time with John Calvin returned to Scotland and held to quarterly communion.

Does John Calvin, in his sermons on the book of Acts, mention anything about weekly communion?

"All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a week"

-Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.43

Copied from Shibboleth: On the frequency of Communion
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.
[Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum, XXXVIII, i, p. 213].


"All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a week"

-Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.43

I do not see an equation from the quote of Calvin Institutes and from Bretschneisder reference supposedly of Calvin, therefore I do think this is a legitimate connection to the reference given by Bretschneider of Calvin!
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
We celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly. I think an agape meal (pot luck) followed by the Lord's Supper *is* the thrust of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. What they're doing - or failing to do - so distorts and corrupts the nature of the sacrament that the apostle can say that what they're doing is not the Lord's Supper (otherwise, why would the apostle even bring it up?), but a judgment and condemnation.

Actually, I've heard it argued with some credibility that verse 26 may well lend itself more to a daily observance (if that were practical). In other words,, how often are we to proclaim the Lord's death? If we could somehow "come together" daily what are we to do ... NOT proclaim His death?

In the end though, whether a congregation chooses to observe it daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly is of secondary importance. Paul's emphasis is on the *why* we do it.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.
[Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum, XXXVIII, i, p. 213].


"All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a week"

-Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.43

I do not see an equation from the quote of Calvin Institutes and from Bretschneisder reference supposedly of Calvin, therefore I do think this is a legitimate connection to the reference given by Bretschneider of Calvin!
Ah! "The above reference." That I don't know. Sorry, misread your post the first time.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Our church has practiced weekly communion for years. I believe we see this as the example of the apostolic church, but not a requirement. However, there are many things we see in the NT by way of example (the love feast, selling possessions and having all things in common, etc.) that are not necessarily "patterns" for us to follow.

In the past I would make the argument that "the nature of the Supper determines its frequency." However that argument was made when I held much stronger to "covenant renewal worship." In that light the "covenant meal" came naturally after we had "renewed our covenant vows" in our "covenant worship." (seeing a pattern here?)

I would be interested in the practice of your churches (and your preferences if they differ). Also, what weight would you give to the idea of "intensity" over "frequency" in regards to the Supper?

BTW, I do not intend by the title to this post to set up a false dichotomy. I certainly understand that it is possible to have both frequency and intensity in the sacrament. However, these are the labels often used by those who do not observe weekly communion. In our ministry we work hard to ensure the Supper isn't simply "tacked on the end." :)
Can you define "intensity" from a biblical and/or confessional perspective?
:ditto:
 

Reformed Christian

Puritan Board Freshman
He says specifically that they were not meeting together for the Lord's supper, tells them explicitly to have their meals at home, and deliberately leaves frequency vague by his statement that "as oft" as it is celebrated the Lord's death is shown forth. Clearly there is no evidence here for weekly communion, and one must be already disposed towards it in order to read it into the text.
Actually, I believe as Gordon Fee has rightly pointed out, "Thus, even though it is intended to be the Lord's Supper that they are eating 'in assembly,' their carrying over to this meal the distinctions that divided them sociologically also meant that it turned out to be 'not the Lord's Supper you eat.'"

It does not say, On that day they broke bread, but that they met together on that day to break bread. The specific purpose of this Lord's day was to celebrate the Lord's supper. So instead of a service with the supper tacked on to the end, participation in the supper was the focus of the day -- such as is done in a traditional seasonal communion. Again, one must have a precommitment to weekly communion in order to read it into the text.
Again, I simply believe that to be a designation for the Lord's Day worship - in celebrating this covenant meal together. But I find it interesting that in one breath you say it was not the Lord's Supper and in another say it was "uniquely" for the Supper. I will, however, give you the benefit of the doubt and say you are simply arguing your point from both sides. :)

It is correct that the apostle delivered what he received from the Lord, and it is significant that he lays down no instructions with respect to how often the Lord's supper is to be observed; thus making it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ, in ordaining the perpetual observance of the Supper in remembrance of Him, does not require that it be done weekly, contrary to the claims of those who advocate for weekly observance.
And again as I began this discussion, though I DO believe the Lord's Supper was celebrated weekly. What I see in scripture indicates to me that the Supper was celebrated weekly (or more often in some cases if you see some particulars in 1 Cor. that way). And I also believe we have testimony from history that the early church celebrated the Supper weekly.

None of this mandates that any church has to celebrate the Supper weekly. It is not a requirement for the church. There is no command to do so. I'm thankful to the Lord that we do. It is a tremendous means of grace to our salvation.

For those who took the time to reply to the question - thank you!
 
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