When Did the Early Christians Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
Just when is the Lord’s Supper to be observed? Many modern denominations observe it monthly, quarterly, yearly, and on days other than on Sunday. On what day and how often did the Christians of the first couple of centuries observe the Lord’s Supper? It is clear from their writings that they observe it every Lord’s Day. “But every Lord’s Day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving.” (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, XIV, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, p. 381). Justin Martyr wrote,”And on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities or in the country gather together in one place,…Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgiving, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each” (Justin Martyr, FIRST APOLOGY, LXXII, (114-165 A.D.) Ante-Nicene Father, Vo. 1, p. 186).
Interestingly, most Bible scholars agree that the Lord’s Supper was observed every first day of the week by the early Christians.
Augustus Neander (Lutheran): “As we have already remarked, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was still held to constitute an essential part of divine Worship every Sunday, as appears from Justin Martyr…” (General History of the Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 1, P. 460).
Thomas Scott (Presbyterian): “This ordinance seems to have been administered every Lord’s Day; and probably no professed Christian absented Themselves…” (The Holy Bible with Notes, Observations and References, Vol./ 5, P. 729).
A.C. Hervey (Episcopalian): “This also (Ac. 20:7) is an important example of weekly communion as the practice of the first Christians” (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 18, P. 143).
P. Dodderidge (Congregationalist): “It is well known that the Primitive Christians administered the Eucharist every Lord’s day” (The Family Expositor, Vol. 5, P. 207).
R.A. Torrey (late president of the Moody Bible Institute):”It is true that I personally believe that the Lord’s Supper ought to be partaken of every Lord’s day, and have said so in the church, and presume to have said so in the lecture-room.”
John Calvin, the protestant reformer and founder of the Presbyterian church, “And that custom which enjoins believers to communicate only once a year, is unquestionably an invention of the devil, whoever were the persons by whom it was introduced…I have sufficient reason for complaining that it was the artifice of the devil that introduced this custom, by which, by prescribing one day a year, renders men slothful and careless all the rest of the time.” (Calvin’s Institutes Vol. 2, Chp. 4, sec. 46, pp. 580,581).
Why do these scholars agree with the writings of the early Christians and not with their denominations? Perhaps they knew something that the Apostle Paul knew about the early churches and their observance of the Lord’s Supper. “But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:6,7).
– Daniel R. Vess
Making Friends With God
As noted in the previous paragraph, man’s is opposed to the Truth of God. James begins to explore that source of man’s conflict with God. The cause of mankind’s war with God is the “desires for pleasure that war in your members” (4:1b). As a result man suffers from grave frustration in this conflict.
A. You lust and do not have.
B. You murder and covet and cannot obtain.
C. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
D. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
The term “murder” is not necessarily literal. As John wrote, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15 ).
The solution to answered prayer is 1) not asking according to our own selfish desires; 2) having the confidence that God hears the prayers of those who “ask anything according to His will” (5:14). Again John wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
Those who are at war with God are the flesh (4:1,5); the world (4:4); and the devil (4:6,7).
God’s response to these opponents are they are first guilty of spiritual adultery by being friends with the world (4:4a) and second they have made themselves enemies of God through their love of the world (4:4b). God is a jealous God and cannot tolerate the human heart trying to love Him and the world. God is the proper choice to love because of His grace. Man must turn to him in humble obedience. “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (4:6).
James gives the directives that will bring an end to the war of man with God. 1) submission: 4:7a – Therefore submit to God; 2) resistance: 4:7b – Resist the devil and he will flee from you; 3) fellowship: 4:8a – Draw near to God and He will draw near to you; 4) cleansing, that is, stop doing evil: 4:8b – Cleanse your hands, you sinners; 5) purification, that is, stop thinking evil: 4:8c – and purify your hearts, you double-minded; 6) misery: 4:9a – Lament; 7) mourn: 4:9b – and mourn; 8) weep: 4:9c – and weep! 9) seriousness, that is, stop mocking sin: 4:9da – Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom; and 10) humility: 4:10 – Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Next, James turns his attention to the aspect of the war in relationship to others. Man is not to slander others. According to the 1828 edition of Noah Webster dictionary slander is “a false tale or report maliciously uttered and tending to injure the reputations of another in lessening him in the esteem of his fellow-citizens, by exposing him to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing his means of living.” It is from the Greek katalaleo meaning to talk down. The term devil means “slanderer.” Satan told Eve that God was holding out on man by not letting them eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He slandered God.
James gives us several ways to control slander by first considering what we thing of others: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren” (4:11a); what we think of the law: “He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (4:11b); what we think of God: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (4:12a); and what we think of ourselves: “Who are you to judge another?” (4:12b).
– Daniel R. Vess