Why Weekly Communion?

A few years ago, the church Dr. Tom Browning used to serve as Associate Pastor, lead their congregation to adopt the practice of weekly communion. Following is the text of a brochure that was printed to make the case for weekly communion in a series of concise statements, referring to the relevant Scriptures and historical sources. I find it a very helpful resource, so I wanted to share it with you.

WHY WEEKLY COMMUNION?
While the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not common in Protestant churches, we at Arlington Presbyterian believe it to be the biblical and preferred practice for the following reasons:

THE PRACTICE OF THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH
Although we do not have any clear-cut command, the New Testament evidence does seem to point in the direction of weekly communion, especially if one understands “the breaking of bread” to be a reference to the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-20; cf. 14:26).

EVIDENCE FROM CHURCH HISTORY
There are very clear and early (second century) allusions to the practice in the Didache and Justin Martyr’s The First Apology. While the history of the Church does not have the authority of God’s Word, it at least ought to interest us that the Christian community observed this practice, apparently without much discussion, so shortly after the time of the Apostles.

CONSISTENCY WITH OUR USE OF OTHER ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP
Why should the Lord’s Supper be the only regular element of worship which does not find a place in each Lord’s Day worship service? To be consistent, any argument against weekly communion would be an equally valid argument against weekly hymn-singing, weekly praying, weekly preaching, and so on.

BRINGING US BACK TO BASICS
Regardless of the sermon text or topic, the congregation is always brought back to the fundamentals—the death and resurrection of Christ (Matthew 26:26-28).

APPEAL TO THE WHOLE MAN
Since the Lord’s Supper is the only element of worship that appeals to all five senses, its weekly observance helps to prevent an “intellectualizing” of the worship service. If we do not celebrate the Sacrament frequently, we should not be surprised when our members leave Reformed worship for something more “stimulating.”

OPPORTUNITY FOR COVENANT RENEWAL
The Lord’s Supper is the ideal means of meditating on God’s Word and renewing our faith and repentance so that we may serve the Lord in the upcoming week (Acts 20:7).

PROVIDING ASSURANCE, PERSONALIZING THE GOSPEL
Every week the believer receives tangible and visible assurance that Christ died for him (Matthew 26:28).

IDENTIFICATION WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD
This Sacrament stresses the corporate dimension of the Church, thereby promoting unity and the restoration of broken relationships. Don’t we need this every week (1 Cor. 10:16-17)?

CHURCH DISCIPLINE
One of the stages of discipline in many Reformed churches is suspension from the Lord’s Table. One of the purposes of this is to make the unrepentant sinner aware of his sin that he might be restored. But how effective can this be if the Lord’s Supper is not celebrated frequently? Even once a month would not seem to constitute effective suspension (1 Cor. 5:11-13).

VISIBLE MARK OF A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST
There is always the need to distinguish believer from unbeliever (Eph. 5:6-8). Since one of the purposes of the Sacraments is to make this difference visible, we should produce this visible difference often.

NATURAL PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL TO UNBELIEVERS
By setting forth so plainly the work of Christ on the cross, and especially by fencing the table, any unbelievers present are called to faith and repentance. Weekly communion thus provides a natural and regular opportunity to present the claims of Christ to visitors.

SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT
Since the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, through faith it provides us with what we need to grow in grace. Thus, the frequent partaking of the bread and the wine for our spiritual nourishment is as necessary as the frequent partaking of food for our physical nourishment (1 Cor. 10:16).

CALL TO SELF-EXAMINATION AND REPENTANCE
Such should be our daily practice. Weekly communion reminds us of this and gives us opportunity to actually do so on a regular basis (1 Cor. 11:27-32).

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
One of the problems with an infrequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper is that it tends to produce unrealistically high expectations as to what should “happen.” People expect something magical and exciting to happen at quarterly communion, but are often disappointed; they go away wondering what they missed and why they missed it. By celebrating the Lord’s Supper each week our expectations become realistically high; we look forward to and enjoy it much as we do prayer, preaching, singing, and the other elements of Christian worship.

TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD!

Prepared by the Staff and Session of Arlington Presbyterian Church
1320 West Pioneer Parkway, Arlington, Texas 76103
Phone 817-261-8938; Fax 817-459-1136; Email mailto:info@apcweb.org

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9 responses

  1. great stuff!!
    Our church was doing the Lord’s Supper once a quarter (typical IFB practice which sees the ordinance as an inconvenience)…and now we are doing it once a month…it’s a start!

  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    You are a hero of mine!

  3. You gotta know reading Dr. Browning that the simplicity with which he writes and teaches, polished, plain spoken, comes from some serious “polishing”!

    John, thanks for sharing Dr. Browning with your reading public! What a guy Gage! What a guy Gage, what a guy!!! 🙂

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    If only the rest of us were willing to take the time to make our writing/speaking plain and clear without compromising the truth.

  5. >” they go away wondering what they missed and why they missed it”

    Perhaps God has provided them sufficiant grace to discern between eating a symbol of the Lamb and eating the Lamb. Remember, per Exodus 12, you have to eat the Lamb, all of it.

    If I recall my church history the Lord’s Supper was at every Sunday service until well after the Reformation. I believe that some reformers thought that weekly communion was too “Popish”.

  6. John D. Chitty | Reply

    By your remarks about eating all of the lamb, per Exodus 12, are you referring to the problems attendent with dropping or otherwise “wasting” that which has been transsubstantiated? I’m unclear as to your meaning.

    The only reformers who thought the weekly communion was too “popish,” were Zwingli and his followers. This became the norm in Protestant practice, however, and nowadays, many of the Reformed are advocating a return to the Reformed position of the other two magisterial Reformers, Luther and Calvin.

    As for the pre-Reformation frequency question, Calvin writes in the Institutes that when the fourth Lateran Council in 1215 passed some legislation suggesting that communicants should receive the sacrament at least once a year at Easter, the people became careless the rest of the year, and that in the few centuries leading up to the Reformation, once-annual communion became the norm, and weekly communion became the exception, if it took place at all. (Read more at a previous post of mine . . .

    http://capthk.blogspot.com/2007/06/let-us-break-bread-together.html)

    Here’s a quote from Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (Mathison, 2002 P&R Publishing):

    “The evidence from Scripture and the writings of the early church fathers point to the regular, weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

    Infrequent communion became the normal practice of the Roman Catholic Church later in the middle Ages. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) required that the faithful partake of the sacrament only once a year. In other words, frequent communion was the practice of the early church, and infrequent communion was the later Roman Catholic innovation. It was against this background that such men as John Calvin and Martin Bucer called for a return to the apostolic Christian practice of weekly communion. Calvin devotes several sections of his Institutes to the argument for weekly communion (4.17.44-46). He explains, “The Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually” (4.17.46). (Given for You, page 293).

    I also remember reading that current Roman Catholic weekly communion was a result of the counter-Reformation, pressured to do so by the largely unsuccessful calls of the Lutherans and Calvinists.

  7. […] about us—and not just this church but the connection with other Christians.” Adopting the weekly Eucharist, saying the Nicene Creed every two or three weeks, following the church calendar, Trinity reshaped […]

  8. […] interpersonal part of it. But there has been not one single word about a Reformed concept of the “ordinary means of grace” approach to ministry. They seem to have divorced, or as usual, put on the back burner the importance of the sacraments […]

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