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1. Christians are authorized to partake of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). It is to be observed when Christians come together (1 Cor. 11:18,20,33).
2. It is an assumption to say that every member of a congregation must partake at the same time - in the same assembly on the first day of the week.
3. Communion is an individual act in an assembly of Christians. “But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).
A. Guilt for partaking in an unworthy manner is individual - not congregational (1 Cor. 11:27).
B. Examination is individual (v. 28). There is no congregational examination.
C. Judgment is individual (v. 29). Accountability for observing is not congregational. If one partakes unworthily, the whole congregation is not responsible. (If there are three members of a congregation and two of them partake unworthily, it does not condemn the third one if he partakes worthily.)
4. The Bible teaches that some in an assembly may have come together for a different purpose than others.
A. Unbelievers may come into the assembly (1 Cor. 14:23), but they have not assembled to observe the Lord’s supper.
B. This shows that some may come for one purpose and others for a different purpose.
C. Many preachers speak at different congregations on Sunday. If they observe the Lord’s supper at the first place they speak, must they leave the other congregations before those present commune, or must they commune at every assembly because others came together for that purpose?
D. Just as unworthy participation of some in an assembly does not nullify the acceptable worship of an individual, the non-participation of some (whether they have already partaken, or whether they erroneously “feel unworthy to partake,”) has nothing to do with the individual doing what God told him to do in an assembly on the first day of the week.
5. If five families cannot assemble on Sunday morning, because of shift work, or other causes, may they assemble in the evening to observe the Lord’s supper together? Would it be scriptural for them to meet with another congregation that is partaking of the Lord’s supper in the afternoon? Remember that Paul and those with him in Troas were not members of that congregation (Acts 20). If those five families agree to meet in the afternoon to commune with Christ, would it be scriptural for others who have communed earlier to sing, pray and study but not commune? If one person who has communed in an earlier assembly may meet with a group that has come together to observe the Lord’s supper and not commune with them, any number could do the same.
6. Does “wait for one another” (1 Cor. 11:33) mean that all must wait until the last member is present before partaking of the Lord’s supper?
A. If this is the meaning, then we could argue that it is wrong to commune on Sunday morning, if some members cannot arrive until after noon.
B. The word “wait” means “to take or receive from, hence denotes to await, expect...it suggests a reaching out in readiness to receive something” (Vine). “Paul is correcting the party spirit at Corinth, the practice of parties which excluded those not members of it. He is saying, ‘Do not exclude one another, but receive each and all cordially.’ Everyone may have partaken of the supper at the same time, but that is not Paul’s point in this context, and there is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that it is obligatory. Furthermore, everyone partakes of the supper in our services today, that is, everyone who is supposed to partake of it does so at both the morning and evening services” (James Needham, in Palm Springs Bulletin, 7/16/73).
7. Does 1 Cor. 10:16,17 mean that the communion is congregational, therefore that all must partake at the same time?
A. Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:8). He included himself, and the believers in Ephesus and Corinth, (and all other believers doing the same) in the “we bless...we break...we all partake.”
B. The “one bread” refers to one bread in kind (unleavened bread), and the “one body” refers to the universal body, not to the local church. Brethren in Ephesus and Corinth partook of the one bread, which indicated their unity in the one body. It was common to all because they were observing it on the same day (first day of the week) and using the same elements (unleavened bread and fruit of the vine). The cup is not a congregational cup, and the bread is not a congregational loaf. There is one cup and one bread in kind, that is, every Christian partakes of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 10:16.17). Those who argue for one cup (container) are really defending many cups - because they make “the cup” congregational vessels instead of the common fruit of the vine.
8. Some say that there is no example of the second serving, therefore it is not authorized.
A. Nor is there an example of individual communion cups, separate Bible classes nor a second assembly on the Lord’s day. Does this prove that these things are not authorized?
B. The point is not whether they are mentioned in examples, but are they authorized? When a Christian partakes of the fruit of the vine from an individual container, has he done what God authorized? When a Christian assembles on the first day of the week, examines himself and partakes of the Lord’s supper, has he done what God authorized him to do on the first day of the week?
C. Is it not strange that you never hear anything about a “second song service,” or the “second preaching service,” or the “second giving service”? We have no example of these things being done in two assemblies on the Lord’s day, but we have authority to do them. Likewise with providing the Lord’s supper. (The same is true of giving - we provide an opportunity for those who have not given at an earlier service, but not to those who have already given.)
D. The fact is that their mode of transportation (as in this country in years past) probably did not permit two or three assemblies in one day. They probably stayed longer at their one assembly, but it has nothing to do with whether it is scriptural to meet more than once.
9. Some object that Sunday evening communion encourages some to lay out Sunday morning because they know they can come Sunday evening and commune.
A. The same objection could be raised against Sunday night preaching. Some may say they can go fishing Sunday morning and go hear preaching Sunday evening! That person’s problem is not the Sunday evening preaching, or communion, but an unfaithful heart.
B. We make no defense for those who willfully miss Sunday morning because they can worship Sunday evening, nor for those who miss Sunday evening because they worshiped Sunday morning. They both have the same problem!
God authorized Christians to observe the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week in an assembly. There is no proof that every Christian in an assembly must partake at the same time, nor that every member must partake acceptably, for others to commune with Christ. (Communion is with Christ, Mt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 10:16.) If one who has communed in an earlier assembly (such as a preacher who has preached at another congregation) can sit while others do what they came together to do - commune with Christ, any number may do the same thing. The Bible does not teach a “second communing,” but it does teach that a Christian has the right, and the responsibility, to partake of the Lord’s supper in an assembly on the first day of the week. If I were a member of a congregation that would not allow me to do what God authorized me to do on the first day of the week, unless I could be present when most of them partook of it, I would try to find an assembly where I could do what God taught me to do on the first day of the week.
If a person conscientiously feels that he cannot commune on Sunday evening, he should not be pressured to participate in that when he does not believe to be scriptural, but no Christian has the authority to forbid others doing what they believe God authorizes them to do.
Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014 This page last modified July 03, 2014