Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 10 Page 3 October 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Taking The Lord’s Supper
On Sunday Night

By Allen Webster

Most, if not all, congregations give those who are “providentially hindered” on Sunday mornings an opportunity to partake of the communion and give of their means at the evening service.  “Providentially hindered” refers to:
  • Those who were unable to attend the morning service because of sickness (but felt better by Sunday night)

  • Those who had to work (but got off)

  • Those who needed to sit with someone who was sick (but were relieved by someone)

  • Those who had “ought” against brethren, “left the gift at the altar” and went to correct it (Matthew 5:24) [and did]
The practice has an Old Testament precedent.  Eating the Lord’s Supper is the New Testament equivalent of eating the Passover in the Old Testament.  Israel was commanded to eat the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, but God made arrangements for them to “make it up” on the fourteenth day of the second month under certain circumstances.  He commanded, “If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the Lord.  The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs . . .” (Numbers 9:10-11).  So under these special circumstances, God still wanted them to eat the Passover.  This is parallel to being unable to be at the morning service and then partaking of it on Sunday night (since the communion is a weekly occurrence rather than an annual feast).

This practice places the proper emphasis on the importance of taking the communion.  In many modern churches the Lord’s Supper has not been emphasized as it was in the days of the apostles.  Some groups only take it once or twice a year.  In a recent conversation, one man explained that he had been a member of a large Protestant group in a mid-size town for three years and had never been in a communion service!  In the New Testament, the apostles gathered on the Lord’s Day to partake (Acts 20:7), implying that it was an every Sunday occurrence.  [For instance, Albert Barnes, considered by many to be the preeminent Protestant commentator, wrote:  “It is probable that the apostles and early Christians celebrated the Lord’s supper on every Lord’s day” (Barnes Notes, Vol. 10, Acts, Baker Book House, 1884, p. 288).  Adam Clarke, equally well-known, writes, “. . . intimating, by this, that they were accustomed to receive the holy sacrament on each Lord’s day” (Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 5, Abingdon Press, p. 851). Neither of these men, by the way, were members of the churches of Christ.]  Paul even postponed his journey so he could be in Troas on Sunday for communion (Acts 20:6).

Since it is the memorial of the suffering and death of our Lord, why would anyone not want to remember it?  It is our lifeline back to the cross (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) and without partaking of it we become “weak and sickly” (11:30).  A few years ago the world watched as three gray whales, ice-bound off Point Barrow, Alaska, floated battered and bloody, gasping for breath at a hole in the ice.  Their only hope was to somehow be transported five miles past the ice pack to open sea.  Rescuers began cutting a string of breathing holes about twenty yards apart in six-inch thick ice.  For eight days they coaxed the whales from one hole to the next, mile after mile.  Along the way, one of the trio vanished and was presumed dead.  But finally, with the help of Russian icebreakers, the whales Putu and Siku swam to freedom [Adapted from Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Larson).]  In a way, the Lord’s Supper is a string of breathing holes the Lord provides his people.  Battered in a world frozen over with greed, selfishness and hatred, we rise for air each Sunday.  Not only does the communion provide us with strength, it is a living billboard announcing to unbelievers his death (1 Corinthians 11:26).  Offering the Lord’s Supper on Sunday night keeps Christians from missing such an important event.

The practice can be abused by negligence on Sunday mornings.  If we deliberately forsake the assembly and miss communion on Sunday mornings and then think we can just “catch it” on Sunday nights, we abuse this privilege.  In the passage referenced above, God went on to discuss someone who willfully skipped the Passover.  “But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the Passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the Lord in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin” (Numbers 9:13).  One who could have taken it but did not, sinned, and was to have fellowship withdrawn from him (“cut off from among his people”).  This is parallel to someone who wants to watch a sporting event or visit with guests who are spending the weekend at his home or any other circumstance where one could have been in the service but chose not to be.

Also, if one is traveling on vacation or business, he should not skip the morning service and just say, “I’ll be back in time tonight to take the Supper.”  Under the Old Law (in the above verses), it did make provisions for a “journey” but this was because the Passover feast took place in only one city – Jerusalem.  If you kept the Law, you had to eat it in “the place God appointed.”  Today, God’s church is not limited to one geographic location.  It meets in communities across the world on each Lord’s Day.  If we plan ahead [There are books (e.g., Where The Saints Meet) that list all the congregations in the world with address, times of services and phone numbers.], we can meet with the saints even when we are out-of-town.  It is wrong to drive by congregations, forsake the morning worship, and then get back in town and take the Lord’s Supper on Sunday night.

God is strict about forsaking his worship:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:25-26).
In Old Testament times, one man was caught picking up sticks on Saturday – a violation of the command to, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).  They were not sure what to do with him.  After all, he had only violated one command one time.  He probably even pled, “I promise I’ll never do it again.”  But when they asked God what to do, he commanded them to stone him to death, which they did (Numbers 15:32-36).  God doesn’t want us to go into the stoning business, but he will judge each according to his deeds on the last day (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15).

We should make sure we partake of the communion each Sunday that it is physically and spiritually possible.  If we have willfully forsaken the assembly, then we should repent of it, confess it publicly (James 5:16) and resolve to do better in the future.

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