Some Biblical Reasons For More Frequent Communion
There is no Biblical prescription for the frequency of communion. The Apostle Paul only says, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). But while there is no mandate for frequency, we do see an example in the first churches of the believers participating in the Lord’s Supper every week when they gathered. We see this in Acts 20:7 when the Apostle Paul and his companions come to Troas, a coastal city in modern day Turkey. There it says the believers gathered together on the first day of the week, Sunday, “to break bread”. This, we can infer, was their regular worship practice.
The other key example in scripture of weekly communion is in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul is rebuking the church in Corinth for the divisiveness of their weekly worship practices. He says in verse 18, “when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” The context of his rebuke is the weekly worship gathering, that time when they “come together as a church”. And what exactly is happening when they “come together as a church”? In verse 20 he says, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” So Paul’s rebuke is for the way that they are handling the Lord’s Supper during their weekly worship gathering, when they “come together as a church”. And he goes on to admonish them in their practice of giving the wealthy first access to the meal and not leaving any for the poor. He concludes with a command, saying, “when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” From this we can gather that it was the meal, the Lord’s Supper, that was central to their weekly worship. They gathered together every week as the church to share in the Lord’s Supper.
So as far as we can tell, weekly communion was the regular practice of the early church. And this high frequency of communion can be traced back to the very founding of the church on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples. In Acts 2:42, it says the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The “breaking of bread” here is likely a reference to the Lord’s Supper, and it was something done with devotion and great frequency, right at the founding of the church. The account continues in verse 46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The Lord’s Supper, the breaking of bread, was a central and frequent practice of worship that served in the very formation of the church, in their praise of the Lord and their witness to the world.
So while the frequency of communion isn’t prescribed in the Bible, it is described as weekly, and we should take that into account in considering our own practice of the Lord’s Supper.
Some Practical Reasons For More Frequent Communion
But increasing the frequency of our communion has several practical benefits as well. Here are some, but by no means all the benefits of communion in our worship service.
First, it ensures that we bring the cross of Christ to bear on the worship service. Jesus ordained this meal so that his followers would remember him and his sacrifice on the cross. And as a people prone to wander, it is good to be reminded frequently of what he did to save us. This is why Paul says that the Lord’s Supper is a participation in the death of Christ. In the communion meal we put ourselves into the very memory of the crucifixion, reminding ourselves that without it there is no salvation.
Secondly, a benefit that we probably don’t consider, is that communion serves as a tangible display of the gospel that incorporates the whole body. So much of our worship services use only two of our five senses, sight and sound. With the Lord’s Supper there is a tactile element to our worship that involves the other senses of touch, taste, and smell. It is a way to incorporate the whole body into the worship of the Lord and reinforce the message of the gospel to the whole person.
Thirdly, it serves as the best and most natural response to the preached Word. Our worship gatherings are shaped by a gospel progression, a symbolic rehearsal of the good news of Jesus. We begin with the praise of our holy God. Then we confess our unworthiness and sinfulness before him. Then we hear the Word proclaimed, the Word of grace that washes us clean and renews us (Ephesians 5:26). If God’s Word is what washes us clean, then as redeemed people how should we respond? We respond in faith by joining him at his table, by entering into the holy place of communion with the living God. What a great response to the proclamation of the Word of God, the grace given to sinners.
Lastly, it serves as a reminder to us as members of Grace Church that we are united to each other in Christ. It is a meal that symbolizes our unity as a body. If baptism is our initiation as one into the body of many, then communion is our collective pledge of allegiance to Christ where the many become as one. And as one, we are called to love each other in the way that we fellowship with each other in the meal. Paul calls us to discern the body as we come to the table (1 Corinthians 11:29), to account for one another. It is not a meal that we participate in for our own sake, but for the sake of the unity of the whole body. We are one in Christ, belonging to him and to each other, and that’s what the meal represents.
For these reasons and many others, we want to increase the frequency that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. It is our hope that this will serve us in our worship of our Lord and Savior, and help bring greater unity to this local body of believers.
So Father, let our communion with you during this meal be a time of remembrance of your Son and a celebration of the unity we have together with him. For our edification and your glory. Amen.