When Is The Church To Partake Of The Lord's Supper?
Jesus told the apostles to make disciples and to teach them to observe all that He commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). The disciples observed the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week and only on that day. This is the day the Lord arose from the dead (Mark 16:9); the day that the church began, on Pentecost (Acts 2), which always fell on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:15-16); the day that the church met to take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7) and to give into the treasury of the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10).
The Lord’s Supper is first referred to as “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). This phrase may refer to a common meal (Luke 24:30, 35; Acts 27:35-36) but is also used of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:20-34). One must look at the context. In Acts 2:42, it should be understood as the Lord’s Supper as it is in the context of teaching, fellowship and prayer. But in Acts 2:46, there is a clear distinction made between what they did in the temple when they met together for worship and what they did in their homes. In their homes they were not taking the Lord’s Supper but “they ate their food” (i.e. a common meal). Acts 2:46 does not teach that they were eating the Lord’s Supper in their homes every day.
In Acts 20:7 we learn when the disciples partook of the Lord’s Supper: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” The context is worship, not a common meal. Paul had waited an entire week in Troas for this opportunity (v. 6). He did not take the Lord’s Supper on Monday morning as some suggest from verse 11, but simply ate breakfast before leaving. Here is an example that does not just show when some disciples partook of the Lord’s Supper but illustrates a required assembly (Hebrews 10:24-25) on a required day (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) for a required purpose (1 Corinthians 11:20) and is therefore binding upon all disciples of Christ.
History confirms that the early church took the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. The Didache (c. A.D. 120) declares that “every Lord’s Day” the Christians gather themselves together and “break bread”. The Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 120) states that “we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead”. Justin Martyr (A.D. 140) wrote that “on the day called Sunday… all gather together” for worship, including partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
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