Cled E. Wallace
The Lord’s Supper is a striking example of “the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ” (2 Cor. 11: 3). It fits admirably into the simplicity of the whole New Testament order of things. The humblest disciple, even though he be illiterate, can refresh himself in its simple power. Its richest meaning is easily accessible to him. A group of lovers of the Lord gather quietly and reverently about the table of the Lord. On the table are the things, and only those, which the Lord directed should be there. “This is my body which is given for you.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” There is the giving of thanks, the eating of bread, the drinking of the fruit of the vine; there is the self-examination of the participants, and the proper discernment self-examination the part of all of the body and blood of the Lord, and hearts are animated anew with the hope of his return “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believe in that day” (2 Thess. 1: 10). This simplicity should be guarded by the use of “sound words.” Such terms as sacrement and eucharist have no place here. And the beauty of the simplicity of the Lord’s Supper has been marred by speculations which are both foolish and unreasonable. Imagine some wiseacre arising at the table, puffed up with dignity, and pompously giving expressions to such words as these: “The validity of the service does not lie in the quality of its eternal signs or sacramental representation, but in its essential properties and substantial realities.” The bread which Jesus took was literal bread, and so was the fruit of the vine. It was literal through the process of both eating and drinking. A mystic interpretation which would change bread and wine into literal flesh and blood was never in the mind of the Lord or his apostles, and is an outrage to all reason. The well known rules that govern the use of figurative language were employed by Jesus and the New Testament writers. There is a very simple way in which the bread can be the body of the Lord, and the fruit of the vine his blood, without being literally so. When Jesus called Herod “that fox,” nobody imagined that Jesus thought Herod was a four-legged animal who prowled around in the night in search of chicken roosts. When Jesus claimed to be the bread and water of life, his figurative language is clear. Spiritual communion with the body and blood of the Lord is made easy through the literal eating of bread and the literal drinking of wine, according to the simple instruction of the New Testament. The simplest observation of the gospel seem to challenge a certain type of mind to foolish and hurtful speculations which mystify and confuse. Allow the Lord’s Supper to retain the simple power and beauty of its original observance. The Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s day, when properly observed, go a long way in holding the church to the faith of the gospel. Corruption of these is bound to corrupt the church.
Concerning the Time of its Observance
The Jewish Passover was impressive and definitely commemorative. The details of its observance were divinely specified. Through, all the generations of Jewish history it harked back to that fateful night in Egypt when the death angel passed through the land to slay the first-born of man and beast, but exempted every house where the blood was on the door. It was an annual observance, because divine specification made it so. The very day of the month and the part of that day were matters of legislation. That day did not always come on the same day of the week, but that made no difference in an annual observance like the Passover. The day of the month was the thing. To make the Lord’s Supper an annual Easter affair as a sort of continuation of the Passover is to miss, at least in part, the significance of both. The Lord’s table is set on resurrection day. That day is the Lord’s day. It is the first day of the week. When the first day of any week arrives, to the devout disciple that is resurrection day. For the Passover, God specified the day of the month; for the Lord’s Supper, he specified the day of the week. When the day of the month, which came once each year, arrived, devout Jews observed the Passover. When the day of the week, which comes once each week, arrives, devout Christians observe the Lord’s Supper.
“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” (Acts 20:7). These Troas disciples did not assemble to hear Paul preach. Incidentally, Paul did preach, but they would have met on that day “to break” had Paul not been there. It does not bear any marks of a called or special meeting to hear Paul preach. Paul tarried in Troas seven days so as to be present at this regular meeting of the disciples to break bread. If nothing more was involved in the meeting than hearing Paul preach, it might have been called and held any time during those seven days of waiting. If Paul was present for their regular assembly to break bread, he had to wait for the first day of the week. The natural conclusion to be drawn, without a notion of some sort to defend, is that the first day of the week was the regular meeting day of the Troas disciples. And it was so with other churches. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that no collection be made when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). The scholarly MacKnight says that the original expression should be fairly translated, “upon the first day of each week.” Religious people generally meet for some purpose on the first day of the week. Why? In the New Testament disciples met for the express purpose of partaking of the Lord’s Supper. No reason at all exists for observing the institution on one Lord’s day which does not exist on every other Lord’s day. It is a peculiar interpretation that makes “often” mean about once a year. Besides, if there is nothing definite in the New Testament as to the time of observance of the Supper, then we are without rule or guidance. Each man may do that which is right in his own eyes. There would be no regularity in the practice of independent congregations, and within the congregation, individuals might conclude that once in a lifetime is sufficient. Confusion, therefore, would likely result in keeping an ordinance which is vital to the spiritual life and growth of the Lord’s people. It simply does not fit the character of a memorial ordinance to be this indefinite as to the time of its observance. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is” (Heb. 10: 25). Let that assembly be on the first day of the week, the Lord’s day; and let us be sure that when we assemble, it is “possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.” (1 Cor. 11: 17-20). Each week had its Sabbath for the Jew, and each week has its Lord’s day for the Christian. No Lord’s day should pass without the Lord’s Supper.