Must we partake of the Lord's Supper only on Sunday?
Hi. I really do enjoy your site. I'm not sure if you have heard of Rick Atchley, the preacher at the Richland Hills church of Christ. My father-in-law was listening to some tapes that he put out and in one he explained why at Richland Hills they have started doing some things differently. One of these was having service on Saturday and having the Lord's Supper. The main basis for their reasoning was in Acts 20 when Eutichus falls from a window while listening to Paul preach and dies. Paul goes out and brings him back to life. And it says they then broke bread. But previously in Acts 20 it said Paul spoke and continued his message until midnight. Then Eutichus falls and dies. So Atchley and the Richland Hills church said that by that you don't just have to have the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day because they broke bread early Monday morning. I would appreciate it if you would answer my question or give any input. There are a lot of new things happening in the body everywhere and trying to discern whether they are against the Bible sometimes isn't as clear as Black and White. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions.
The question that you pose has been around for ages and has been discussed on many occasions. In response a previous discussion of the issue is copied from the Christian Courier web site. As stated there it is taken from a commentary on Acts co-authored by Wayne Jackson. A fuller response to Mr. Atchley’s arguments may be found in the April 2007 issue of The Spiritual Sword published by the Getwell church of Christ, 1511 Getwell Road, Memphis, Tennessee 38111. Alan E. Highers is the able editor of this fine publication. A subscription to the four issues per year is only $5.00. Those who are interested in standing firm in the teaching scripture would do well to subscribe.
We are taking the liberty of reproducing a section from our commentary, Acts of the Apostles—From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications, 2000, pp. 262-266), that deals with the context in dispute.
And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered together. And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, borne down with deep sleep; and as Paul discoursed yet longer, being borne down by his sleep he fell down from the third story, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Make ye no ado; for his life is in him. And when he was gone up, and had broken the bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the lad alive, and were not a little comforted.
With the Disciples at Troas—Acts 20:7
Luke commences this section by discussing a church meeting that occurred on “the first day of the week.” The “first day of the week” is our Sunday. In the 2nd century, Justin Martyr wrote: “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly … Jesus Christ on the same day rose from the dead” (Apology, I.67). The rendition “On the Saturday night,” as reflected in The New English Bible, is entirely inappropriate.
Consider the following facts:
Christ was raised from the dead on Sunday (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1).
Early on, the disciples began meeting together on the Lord’s day (Jn. 20:26). Robertson says this passage “seems to mean that from the very start the disciples began to meet on the first (or eighth) day” (339).
The church was established on Sunday (see notes at 2:1).
The congregation in Troas was meeting on Sunday (20:7).
There was a regular contribution into the church treasury “every first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2 – Greek Text).
For the first several centuries of the church’s existence, the written testimony is uniform that Christians met for worship on Sunday. “All Christians were unanimous in setting apart the first day of the week, on which the triumphant Savior arose from the dead, for the solemn celebration of public worship” (Mosheim, I.35). Although Sunday was a workday in the ancient world, the disciples set it apart for worship. It became known as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).
Certain texts, as reflected in the KJV, state that “the disciples came together.” Most others have “we were gathered together.” This is another one of those first-person references that indicates Luke’s presence. The expression “were gathered together” is a passive voice form, signifying to ”bring or call together, gather a number of persons” (cf. Arndt, 790). The suggestion is that this assembly had been convened by an extraneous directive, i.e., by divine authority. Sunday worship is not merely an arbitrary decision of men. The primary design of the meeting was “to break bread”; the expression “to break” is an infinitive of purpose (Arndt, 790). The grammar leads one to this conclusion: if the communion is not to be observed weekly, there is no authority for even assembling on a weekly basis.
There have been two prominent errors with reference to the frequency of the Lord’s supper. First, most Protestants have failed to recognize that the communion ought to be observed every Lord’s day. For example Gordon Fee contends that observing the Lord’s supper is a “primary” New Testament truth, but the frequency of the rite “is based upon tradition and precedent” and “surely is not binding” (Fee/Stuart, 98).
But note this:
It is clear that the church met for worship every Sunday. “On the first day of every week …” (1 Cor. 16:2 – NASB). In this passage, the term kata is rendered as “every.” J.H. Thayer translated the phrase “on the first day of every week” (328). Or, it may be rendered ”each first day” (Balz, 2:253).
The purpose of the meeting was to commune (see above).
It thus is certain that the supper was eaten every Lord’s day.
Second, others have alleged that the Lord’s supper may be celebrated on any day of the week (Reese, 739). There is simply no Bible authority for that notion. Sometimes Acts 2:46 is appealed to for proof of daily communion, but the passage has to do with a common meal (involving “food”), not the Lord’s supper (Barnes, 59). Moreover, as one scholar has noted, “there is no second-century evidence for the celebration of a daily” communion (Ferguson, 96).
Finally, the elements of the communion call to mind the Savior’s body and blood, while the first day of the week points to His resurrection. To separate the Lord’s supper from the Lord’s day disturbs a vital union of components. Incidentally, “bread” is a synecdoche (the part for the whole) which represents the entire communion (cf. Acts 2:42), i.e., both bread and fruit of the vine (Mt. 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 10:16-17). Because he was scheduled to depart the next day, Paul “discoursed” with them, talking right up to midnight. “Discoursed” (“preached” KJV) in the Greek text is dialegomai (the basis of our “dialogue”); it suggests a presentation that was more conversational in character (Vine, 222). The imperfect form stresses that Paul kept on talking at length—till midnight.
On Sunday evening, not Saturday evening; Luke is not using the Jewish reckoning from sunset to sunset but the Roman reckoning from midnight to midnight: although it was apparently after sunset when they met, ‘break of day’ (vs. 11) was “on the morrow” (v. 7) (Bruce, 408).
Lake declares that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the meeting was on Sunday, not Saturday night (255). [After the incident regarding Eutychus] Paul went back upstairs, broke bread and ate, and then talked with the brethren until daylight. Was this “breaking of bread” the Lord’s supper? Though some so claim (McGarvey, II.181), there is no evidence for this view, and much against it.
Only Paul is said to have “broken bread”; others are not mentioned.
The verb “eaten” means to taste. Vine suggests that this word is a “sufficient reason” to conclude that this was an “ordinary meal” (248). Hervey says the term is “never used” of the eating of the Lord’s supper (144).
If this was the communion, then it was observed on Monday (see above), in which case the disciples did not do what they assembled to do.
In some Greek manuscripts there is an article accompanying “bread,” which normally might suggest a specific bread, i.e., that of the communion. However, as Middleton observes, in his famous volume dealing solely with the Greek article, this is not conclusive. He argues that this is “ordinary refreshment,” and not the Lord’s supper (288).
The Nashville gentleman’s position is quite without scriptural substance. It reflects an exceedingly superficial approach to the text, and a skewed logic. In Numbers 15:32-35, there is the instance of a Hebrew man who defied the law of Moses and gathered sticks on the sabbath. As he awaited the disposition of his case, how effective do you suppose his defense would have been had he argued that Israel was a “multicultural” nation, and what constituted the “sabbath” to them did not prevail among others? Therefore, he had labored on the “sabbath” with impunity, and was free from culpability. Need an answer be supplied?
The truth is, there are many misguided souls who are obsessed with “will-worship”—an attitude severely condemned in the New Testament (Col. 2:23). New Testament authority for one’s religious practice is of no concern to such people.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)