The Lord’s supper was instituted by Jesus Christ on the night of his betrayal and was designed to bring to our remembrance his beloved sacrifice for sin. Knowing that he would soon depart this world, Jesus commanded his disciples to take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to remind them of his death on the cross, the shedding of his blood for the remission of sins. The Scriptures read,
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. For I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:26-29).
When men partake of the Lord’s supper, they partake of a memorial feast (1 Cor. 11:24 – “This do in remembrance of me”), a communion with Christ and other disciples (1 Cor. 10:16,17). This solemn act of worship was instituted by the Lord as a part of the public worship of the church.
There are a number of divinely revealed memorials in the Bible, some of which ceased with the inauguration of the New Testament. The feast of Passover reminded the Israelites of the tenth plague in Egypt which destroyed the firstborn of every house which did not have the blood of a lamb sprinkled on its doorpost and lintels (Ex. 12). The sabbath reminded men of God’s rest after creation (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:11). The rainbow reminds us that God will never again destroy the earth with water (Gen. 9:8-15). The Lord’s supper reminds us an event more important than creation, the flood or the tenth plague in Egypt. It reminds us of the shedding of Jesus’ blood for the sins of the world.
How often is the Lord’s supper to be observed? The practice of observing the Lord’s supper varies from church to church. Catholics celebrate mass every day; most Protestant denominations celebrate the Lord’s Supper less frequently, some observing it once a month, others once every six months, and others once a year. The prevailing attitude toward the frequency of observing the Lord’s supper is this: how often one observes it is inconsequential. If that is the case, one might observe the Lord’s supper only once in his life and be done with it forever. If that is not true, then the Bible must reveal a pattern for the frequency of observing the Lord’s supper and that pattern is binding on men of every age.
Jesus commanded men to observe the Lord’s supper saying, “This do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). If he did not reveal to us how to observe the Lord’s supper, his instructions for obeying the command “this do” are inadequate and incomplete.
The Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper
The New Testament evidence is clear that the early church assembled on the first day of every week for a period of congregational worship. The congregational assembly for worship is discussed in 1 Corinthians 12-14, with explicit instructions for that worship to be conducted decently and in order (14:40). That period of worship was conducted upon the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The church in Troas met upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). This day of worship for the church became known as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Saints were exhorted not to forsake this day of assembly (Heb. 10:25).
These are the only verses we can find which tell us to observe the first day of week as a day of worship. Yet, the very passages which are used to prove that the early church assembled on the first day of every week show that one of the main purposes the church had in assembling was to observe the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7 f; 1 Cor. 11:20). If the prime object of the Lord’s day meeting was to celebrate the Lord’s supper, then all of the evidence we have of the custom of meeting every Lord’s day is equally conclusive in reference to the weekly observance of the Lord’s supper.
Conclusion: How can I walk by faith in observing the Lord’s supper? The only way in which anyone can do by faith that which is taught in the Bible is to obey a precept, follow an approved apostolic example, or act in accordance with a necessary inference. If nothing more had been said than “this do in remembrance of me,” then congregations would have been at liberty to select their own time for observing the supper; but since we have an example of the practice of the early church, with apostolic approval, we know that we can do by faith that which they did (Acts 2:42). It is equally certain that no one can celebrate the feast by faith on any other day than the first day of the week or any other frequency than weekly.