By Timothy Sparks
1. The Lord’s Supper is a joint participation among disciples and between disciples and Jesus (Mt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:27-33).
Some contend that we can eat the Lord’s Supper on Thursday since Jesus and the apostles ate the Lord’s Supper on a Thursday night. However, the Lord’s Supper is observed to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Jesus was alive when he gave the apostles the example. They could only participate in proclaiming Jesus’ death after he died. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper was not observed on a Thursday night (or more accurately Wednesday night based on Mt. 12:40). The first proclamation of Jesus’ death with the observance of the Lord’s Supper was the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 42). The day of Pentecost was on the first day of the week (see 13 Reasons Why Pentecost in Acts 2:1 Fell on the First Day of the Week).
2. Jesus mentioned “the day that” he would drink the fruit of the vine again in his Father’s kingdom (Mt. 26:29).
Every instance of this phrase in the Greek New Testament refers to a twenty-four hour period: Mt. 13:1; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; 14:25; Lk. 10:12; 21:34; Jn. 1:39; 19:31; 20:19; Acts 2:41; 2 Thess. 1:10.
3. The joint participation is seen in the Father’s kingdom.
“They were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
“The teaching of the apostles” is joined to “the fellowship, the breaking of the bread” and “the prayers.” The breaking of the bread (the Lord’s Supper) in this context is “the fellowship” (based on NA28) or may be viewed as part of “the fellowship” (based on RP Majority Text 2005).
4. “The day that” Jesus mentioned is specifically identified as “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7), based on the disciples’ and Paul’s example.
Paul and his traveling companions “stayed seven days” in Troas (Acts 20:6) until “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Their specific purpose for “having been assembled” was “to break bread” (Acts 20:7). The infinitive κλάσαι (“to break,” indicating purpose) is used only here in the NT. There is significant meaning for a first day assembly (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
Behm affirms, “within the context of the Pauline mission, the breaking of bread, which is on the Lord’s Day in Ac. 20:7, is a cultic meal, elsewhere described by Paul (1 C. 11:20) as κυριακὸν δεῖπνον (cf. Ac. 20:7: συνηγμένων ἡμῶν κλάσαι ἄρτον with 1 C. 11:33: συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν = v. 20: συνερχομένων ὑμῶν … κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν).”1 Simply stated, Behm is showing the link between Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:20 and 1 Cor. 11:33. These verses all have the concept of coming together to eat the Lord’s Supper.
5. Christians are commanded to participate in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
“As often as” indicates regular frequency; as regularly as there is a first day of the week. “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” indicates that participation in the Lord’s Supper is to continue until Jesus comes.
Therefore Christians know (by command) to partake of the Lord’s Supper and know (by example) when to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Some people question whether they ate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. The issue is raised whether they were on Jewish time or Roman time. However, we know it was the first day of the week from the text. Are we in any way to suppose they did not actually accomplish what they had assembled to do within the specified time frame of the first day of the week? No. The day is stated, giving us the example to follow. So wherever we live and whatever the first day of the week is called and whatever the time frame of the first day of the week, it is still the first day of the week. The text is clear: “On the first day of the week, our having been assembled to break bread.” We are to understand they came together and accomplished this purpose on the first day of the week. No other day of the week is mentioned for the assembling together for such a purpose.
Reflecting on the study of the Lord’s Supper above and situations that may occur, I ask myself the following questions (and encourage you to do the same).
If I want to be a follower of Christ and follow the approved example of the first century Christians:
1. Why would I violate the NT example of the assembly’s collective participation by eating the Lord’s Supper by myself? [In the past I served individual shut-ins the Lord’s Supper and ate the Lord’s Supper by myself on a Sunday evening. Now I only eat the Lord’s Supper with the collective assembly.]
2. Why would I want to alter the order of partaking the bread first and then the cup?
3. Why would I be for changing the observance of the Lord’s Supper to any day other than the first day of the week?
4. Why would I encourage the assembly to eat the Lord’s Supper either less often or more frequently than every first day of the week?
5. Why would I want to violate Jesus’ example of a prayer of thanksgiving before partaking the bread and another prayer of thanksgiving before the fruit of the vine by changing it to just one prayer for both?
6. Why would I address the prayers of thanksgiving to Jesus when the only evidence from Scripture is that Jesus addressed prayer to the Father?
7. What would motivate me to change anything about the Lord’s Supper that I can clearly see in Scripture?
1Johannes Behm, “κλάω,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965), 730.