LORD'S SUPPER OR LOST SUPPER?

 

THE SECOND-CENTURY CHURCH

 

            Around 90 AD, an unknown Christian in Syria wrote in his Didache 14:1:        "Having earlier confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure, come together EACH Lord's day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks."

 

            And in Didache 9; 10; 14 he wrote this:  "Concerning the [Lord's Supper], give thanks in this way:  First concerning the cup, 'We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your Servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant.  To you be the glory forever.

 

            "Concerning the broken bread, 'We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your Servant.  To you be the glory forever.  As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one loaf, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.  Because the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.'

 

            "No one is to eat or drink of your [Lord's Supper] except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord….Having earlier confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure, come together EACH Lord's day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks.  No one who has a quarrel with his fellow is to meet with you until they are reconciled, in order that your sacrifice may not be defiled.  For this is what was spoken by the Lord."

 

            Ignatius, a friend of the Apostle John, said in his Magnesians 9:  "If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord's day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny)...."

 

Justin Martyr wrote this around 100 AD in his Apology I,65:  "After we thus wash him who has been persuaded and agreed entirely with our teachings....we pray that we who have learned the truth may be counted worthy and may be found good citizens through our works and keepers of his commandments so that we may receive the eternal salvation. 

 

            "When we cease from our prayers, we salute one another with a kiss.  Next there is brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of water mixed with wine.  Taking these he sends up praise and glory to the Father of all through the name of his Son and of the Holy Spirit and makes thanksgiving at length for the gifts we were counted worthy to receive from him. 

 

            "When he completes the prayers and thanksgiving, all the people present sing out their assent by saying 'Amen'....When the president has given thanks and all the people have made their acclamation, those called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water for which thanksgiving has been given, and they carry some away to those who are absent."

 

GREAT THEOLOGIANS

 

About 1536 - JOHN CALVIN - REFORMED CHURCHES - "And truly this custom, which enjoins communicating once a year, is a most evident contrivance of the Devil, by whose instrumentality soever it may have been determined....Every week, at least, the table of the Lord should have been spread for christian assemblies, and the promises declared by which in partaking of it we might be spiritually fed" (Institutions, Book 4, chap. 17, sect. 46; and Book. 6, chap. 18, sect. 56)

 

About 1775 - JOHN WESLEY - METHODIST - "If we are not obliged to communicate constantly, by what argument can it be proved that we are obliged to communicate frequently?  Yeah, more than once a year?  Or once in seven years?  Or once before we die?" (106th Sermon, Vol. III, on Luke 22:19, "The Duty of Constant Communion").

 

About 1800 - JOHN MASON - PRESBYTERIAN - "It is evidence [Acts 20:7] not only that christians assembled on the Lord's day for public worship, but that they did not part without commemorating his death....sacramental communion was a principal, if not the principal object of their meeting" (Letters on Frequent Communion, Edinburgh Edition of 1799, pg. 34-42)

 

THE BIBLE

 

            There is only one directive in the New Testament telling us when and how often to keep the Lord's Supper.  But it only takes once for God to say something for it to be true.  It is found in Acts 20:7.  It mentions two firsts, two priorities.  The first first is the day of meeting.  The second first is the primary reason for meeting. 

 

            "On the FIRST day of the week we came together TO break bread." (NIV)  The original Greek reads, "En de ta mia-ton sabbaton, sunag-menon hamon klasai arton...."

 

            Let's take a brief look at a few of those Greek words, for they uncover a marvelous new world.

 

            "Ta" is a little word but with great meaning.  It is another word for "ho."  These interchangeable words are used in connection with the official affairs of state, such as THE constitution, THE governor, THE budget deficit.  In the Judeo-Christian state of affairs it is used regarding THE ten commandments, THE Savior of the world, THE sabbath.  In Acts 20:7 it refers to THE first day of the week as the official day of Christians.  Other places in the Bible Sunday is called THE Lord's Day (see Revelation 1:10).

 

            "Mia" is the feminine form of neutral "heis" and is translated one.  "Heis" is 283 times in the New Testament as one.  "Mia" is translated as first.  Even more dynamic is to discover that it refers to EACH and EVERY one WITHOUT EXCEPTION, as in Acts 2:6 where every man heard the apostles speak in their own language.

 

            Does this mean we get to keep Easter every Sunday?  You bet it does!  With all the agony propelling into ecstacy!  All the impossible zooming into reality!  All the hopelessness exploding into victory!  Nothing can stop us now!  We will declare it and declare it and declare it!  Not one Sunday in the year, not one Sunday in the quarter, not one Sunday in the month, but every Sunday of every week!

 

            Are we sure of this?  Let's look at some more Greek words.  "Ton" means a certain day, a particular day, not just any day.  It never appears alone.  In Acts 20:7, it appears as "mia ton." 

 

            When "ton" is combined with "pro" to create the word "pro ton", it gives the significance of copying another first, an original first, a prototype.  "Mia ton" and "pro ton" have basically the same meanings.  Therefore, Sundays are set aside to recreate the prototype of the meaningful thing that happened on the first Sunday of significance to the Christian.

 

            So, what happened of significance to Christians on Sunday?  That question is an understatement.  What DIDN'T happen? is more like it.

 

            On Sunday, Jesus, after being dead three days, came back to life (Mark 16:9, etc.)!  On Sunday he kept the Lord's Supper with two of his disciples (Luke 24:28)!  On Sunday he appeared to his loyal apostles (Luke 24:33; and another Sunday in John 20:26-29)!  On Sunday he gave power to his Apostles to carry on his work after he leaves (John 20:21-23)!  And on Sunday, The church of Christ was born (Acts 1:20, 21)! 

 

            What more do we want to make Sunday a special day? Oh, God created all days equally. But Sunday be-came special because of what Jesus did that day and remains special to Christians everywhere throughout ages.

 

            Well, you may have spotted the word "Sabbaton" in that sentence, and being the intelligent person you are, quickly figured out it refers to the Sabbath day.  Shouldn't, therefore, the Lord's Supper be kept on Saturday?  Since the previous words in Acts 20:7 already referred to the first day, this word is used as a contrast to the Sabbath, and to help people understand when the first day was.  In other words the first day after the Sabbath was to be remembered.  This is clear in Matthew 28:1 which refers to late on the Sabbath before dawn being just before the first day of the week.  Early Christians sometimes called Sunday the "eighth" day of the week.  Since the word Sabbath is plural, it refers to every first day after every Sabbath. 

 

            Some may be thinking that this just means the early Christians met on every Sunday to have a meal.  After all, verse 11 says they ate a meal.  Is it talking about two different things?    

 

            From "Sunag" refers to a religious congregation or assembly and we get the word synagogue from it.  "Menon" refers to people who are present together as a group.  They met together for religious purposes, specifically to "break bread" of the Lord's Supper.  Later, after midnight, they broke bread for a different purpose.  This time they "ate" a meal, a term also used in Acts 10:10 where they were very hungry.

 

            Are there other references to having the Lord's Supper daily?  No, those daily experiences were meals.  Acts 2:46 says the Christians in Jerusalem daily broke bread together, EATING their MEAT with gladness.  The word translated eat here comes from the Greek word, "metalam" from whence we get our word metabolism.

 

            Okay, you may be thinking, it looks like the Christians broke bread as part of the Lord's Supper at the beginning of their meeting, then Paul preached to midnight, then after midnight they ate a meal.  But don't you think this was a practice for just the early church?  After all, many of them had seen Jesus for themselves.  Meeting every Sunday for the Lord's Supper would mean more to them.  Let's look at the last of that sentence.

 

            Harmon is extremely important.  Basically, it means to perpetually espouse or adopt in harmony with something.  It is NEVER TEMPORARY.  Vine's EXPOSITORY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS says harmon refers to something that is PERPETUAL and on going, such as each and every such day perpetually.

So, what part is perpetual?  The day appointed to keep the Lord's Supper is perpetual.  Does it say year?  No, it says day.  Does it say any day of any week of the year?  No, it says the first day of every week in the year.  And not just in the first century, but in the 21st century also.

 

            Think about the Old Testament Mosaic command, "Remember THE Sabbath Day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).  Did they keep the Sabbath day once a year?  No, they kept it every week.  Did they keep any day of the week?  No, they kept the seventh day.  THE Sabbath day meant EVERY Sabbath Day.  No Jew ever said, "Well, it doesn't specify, so we'll keep the Sabbath once a month, or quarterly or yearly."  So, why would a Christian keep THE first day of the week for breaking bread monthly, quarterly, or yearly?

 

            So, what are the two firsts in this Acts 20:7 scripture?  We are to meet on every first day of every week in the year.  AND, the primary purpose we are to meet that makes the first day unique is that we are to keep the Lord's Supper.

 

            Every other day of the week we find Christians singing, praying, reading scriptures, and preaching.  But they never kept the Lord's Supper just any time they wanted.  They were to meet on the FIRST day of the week TO (FOR THE PRIMARY PURPOSE) break bread.