But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together – it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as an assembly, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
(1 Co. 11: 17 – 22)
Paul chides the Corinthian assembly for making a common meal out of the Lord’s Supper and thereby corrupting it. They seemed to be clueless as to what the Supper actually represented, which is why he covered the fundamentals here. Surely they had heard it before. He tells them twice in the full passage that they had better eat their daily meals at home on the Lord’s Day (and no, he did not mention the day – but we also should be able to identify the fundamentals). That is not why they had come together. They were adding to what they had been taught, were leaving off things; and they were making or following traditions and desires. We sometimes do the same.
The purpose of their (and our) “called out” assembly, specifically the assembly on the first day of every week, is to partake of the Lord’s Supper. That is why the Spirit recorded what is stated in Acts 20 and elsewhere.
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 talk Paul presented was incidental to the assembly. The point is that all Christians should assemble to take the Supper on the Lord’s Day. It is similarly recorded everywhere mentioned. If you are there to do that, other things may capture your attention and be of benefit. What a blessing.
So, what was their purpose in coming together on the first day of the week? Answer: to partake of the Supper. The Corinthians were not doing that however, and Paul stated very clearly what the true purpose of the assembly should be “for to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. There must, indeed, be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore, when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
Well, Richard, are you saying it was not a get together for Bible study, to sing, pray, to take up collections and to hear Paul or someone else? Not at all – but those things were not the purpose of the assembly. The central and overarching purpose was to eat the Lord’s Supper. The apostle did say just exactly that, did he not? And it is commanded specifically for the churches by our Lord for all to observe on the Lord’s Day. The rest of our duties are attendant to that focal event. I will suggest freely and without flinching then that the purpose of the “called out” assembly is to take the Supper.
Israel was called out of the camp by Moses, later by High Priests, Judges, Prophets or Kings. Not a single one of those are now available to set when we come together “out of the camp.” And we do not appeal to the Law of Moses as it has been fulfilled and taken away. Furthermore, nowhere are elders, servants or evangelists granted any authority to call us out in assembly to worship. But Jesus, our High Priest and King, has called us out to do this each week. And the Supper is the one event he personally established for the assembly. Yet he did not say one word about how many times we may gather, offer or take the Supper on a Lord’s Day – he simply said to do it.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Those are the words Paul recorded to the Corinthians. We can meet once or twenty times if we like. But when we meet in this commanded assembly we do so to partake. Reason says if I have partaken on the Lord’s Day I do not need to do so again the same day. So as the scriptures are silent on this, I need not partake at night if we meet then. But that is not true of the soul that was not or could not be present that morning.
Some folks want all Christians to be there on a Sunday morning to receive the supper, and perhaps that is a noble expectation. Some others refuse to take the Supper at night if they had not been able to attend in the morning. And then some refuse to offer it to other Christians at evening assemblies on the Lord’s Day, because they believe it should not be offered, or as not all members are partaking then, it is not fit for others to. This is all terribly inconsistent.
I know of only two sound reasons not to partake of the Supper on the Lord’s Day: if you are not a Christian, or if you partake it without considering its holy purpose, like Paul condemned at Corinth. But, you will not find anything about anyone not taking the Supper at one time over another, or not offering the Supper to those who could not be present at other times of day in the scriptures, either pro or con – not one single word.
The passage concerning the assembly in Troas in Acts 20 clearly indicates the Christians met at evening or at night as do all of the records of the institution of the Supper. But some brethren stand only on the reference mentioned in the last sentence about the institution of the Supper, where Christ told all the apostles to each partake of the emblems. Then only Jesus and the twelve had been present. Some take this as the higher applicable standard – an event coincidentally that also took place in the evening or at night, and was a private meeting. No church, so no “called out” assembly, had yet been established at this point. And dare I submit that we are not the apostles of the Lord and never will be. These points are all (I suggest) worthy of consideration when we should come to any conclusions about the Supper and its service.
Now, nothing at all is specifically said of morning or evening times to the churches by the recorders of the NT. There is no command to meet by any clock or for any amount of time, or any number of times. We have set all of that up on our own. We meet twice or more on Sunday strictly by tradition.
We should note that Paul and his companions waited in Troas for the next regular assembly of the Christians there (also Acts 20). In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days. Clearly, they must have been on the boat or too far away to get to an assembly at the known time. That means they landed in Troas past the assembly time, and it was not possible to make the meeting (or could it have been meetings?) on the Lord’s Day. What they may have done, if anything (and the scriptures are silent about this too) would have constituted private worship on their part. And while that would be worthwhile time spent, it would not have constituted a “called out” assembly, apparently not even with an apostle present. There is no mention of the “church of the boat” wagon, roadside or camp. There is no indication made of taking the elements for the supper with them on the boat, finding them aboard, or stopping on the way to observe it; and that certainly would have been impractical or unlikely. Finally, we have no authority for taking the Supper out of the assembly to saints, apostles, shipmates, to the convalescing or shut-ins, even though that last dates to the early days of the church. The scriptures only tell us they waited until the known assembly day to meet with the Christians in Troas and to partake of the Supper. No details beyond that are offered. Christians are to partake of the Supper on the Lord’s Day at a regular assembly. How simple is that?
As Paul and his companions waited for the assembly in Troas – we should wait for the assembly on the Lord’s Day, and we will at all times be on safe ground. Perhaps it is a single service on the Lord’s Day that I can actually make that I should be sure to attend, as we all ought to serve God and not mankind and someone else’s ideas of service.
The end point of this is that there is simply no evidence that assemblies came together on the Lord’s Day more than once, or on any other day in assembly to worship. Or, for that matter, that they met routinely on other days for other reasons. Christians sometimes did that but not necessarily all Christians at all times. There is no precept, example, or any point of inference we can find in the Scriptures.
The called out assembly is the one that matters to Christ – He and his apostles flatly said so. What matters is that we meet to commemorate the Lord’s death exactly as He commanded us. From the eleventh chapter to its end, Paul writes in his first letter to Corinth of little else than the called out assembly and what it constitutes, and what it should (and should not) be about and contain. There is nothing hidden or complex in any of this.
The purpose of coming together on the Lord’s Day is to take the Supper. If you do not do that the first day of every week where you attend, you need to get to the right place. Your soul depends on it. It is the recognition of the Atonement for our sins – noting that we have Jesus, our Passover lamb. That we have been redeemed – bought back from certain death. It is recognition of the propitiation made through the blood of Christ.
Without our noting these things, Paul said, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have died. If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.”
I call it the anti-memorial. It is pure. At the same time it is also completely antithetical to anything found in the Old Law; and remarkable for its plainness and simplicity. A sacrifice is represented, but without an actual body of any kind or a priest being present and any altar. The offering was made once long ago by the risen Son of God, and not repeatedly by burnt offerings of the bodies of animals. Blood is signified without using the real thing.
It is short, sweet, and right to the point: two blessings and two elements. With the Lord’s prayers over the elements it could have only lasted a few minutes at best. Its constitution took all of seventeen sentences to explain as opposed to pages to explain the Passover and the Atonement process and the sacrifices in the Books of Moses. “Wayfaring men cannot err within.” God made it simple, we make it complex.
And suddenly (not really, as shamefully, assemblies in various places have actually split over this very question during the last several decades) many seem to believe we ought not to offer the Supper to Christians whose conditions, work, calendar, misfortune, or dare I say, even sheer laziness did not lead them to attend a morning service. And this is true even though it is the people (and not God) who decided that we should meet twice on the Lord’s Day in the first place.
If that is true (and I suggest that it certainly is) then why would we assemble but once on the first day, if this is our belief? God judges us when we do wrong, not when we get it right. What men may decide to do is not important. But, do we now sit in judgment of others, whose thoughts we can neither see nor discern? And on what authority, and by whose authority do we practice such things? We set it all up and then we use it to knock each other over. My, aren’t we so very godly and smart.
We ought not to hold others to standards and traditions we have set up ourselves. We should not hold anyone to anything, no matter how reasonable it may at first seem, when we cannot find any authority for it in the scriptures. We will be judged with exactly the same measuring stick that we use to measure others. It is fine by me if you refuse yourself to take the Supper on whatever condition you might choose. I won’t have to explain that – but you will. I have enough of a problem recognizing that Satan is always right at my heels. And sometimes not taking the Supper is a good choice; and I have followed that course – and that is strictly my business before God and Christ. But I say to you who refuse to take the Supper or to serve (or to wait) on your brethren with the Supper, whether morning, noon or night…
Dear friends, what does the statement “Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” mean in this context? And I know that none who read this would ever be foolish or hardhearted enough to dare and split an assembly of the body of Christ over such things by forcing it to go one way or the other. Others have not been so chaste.
You are invited to reply. Please “bring” the Scriptures with you when you do. The quote below should be understood “corporately” not individually. Paul speaks of individuals in a similar context elsewhere in his letters.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy; and you are that temple.
(1 Corinthians 3: 17, 18)