Two words which sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings are referred to as homonyms. An example would be the words “weakly” and “weekly.” They sound alike, but the word “weekly” means “done, happening, appearing, etc., once a week, or every week.” The word “weakly,” on the other hand, means “weak or feeble in constitution; not robust; sickly” (Dictionary.reference.com).
When we speak of “Communion,” the “Lord’s Supper,” or “Breaking of Bread”, we are referring to one and the same thing. Inasmuch as Jesus “gave thanks” (Greek: eucharisteo) when He instituted this feast (Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 11:24) a common term for the Breaking of Bread (historically speaking) was the “Eucharist.”
WHAT IS ‘WEEKLY’ COMMUNION?
There really is no question about it, early (undenominational) Christians observed Communion every week — every Sunday. This is the testimony of both Scripture and history. Biblical scholars from all modern denominations agree that this was the practice of the ancient church. The Bible says they “devoted themselves” to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), which in itself suggests that Communion was observed with some frequency and regularity. In Acts 20:7 we read: “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” The first day of the week (Sunday) was the day Jesus arose from the dead (Mark 16:9). It was the resurrection of Christ that gave identity and uniqueness to the Christian religion. Christians knew then, as they know now, that their Savior is alive. No wonder they met for worship every first day of the week! In the words of Ray Van Neste, associate professor of Biblical Studies and director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University, “Paul, on his way to Jerusalem has stopped at Troas. Here “on the first day of the week” he meets with the local church, and Luke directly states that the purpose of their gathering was “to break bread,” i.e. to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This passage need not mean the Lord’s Supper was the only purpose of their gathering, but it certainly is one prominent purpose and the one emphasized here. These early Christians met weekly to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.”
As a matter of fact, the early church coined two new words: the “Lord’s Supper” (1Corinthians 11:20) and the “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). Neither of these words were in the Old Testament; neither occurred prior to the beginning of Christ’s church. Both came from the same root Greek word because they were connected. The Lord’s Supper was observed on the Lord’s Day, and the Lord’s Day was set aside for the observance of the Lord’s Supper. In the words of Everett Ferguson, Professor of Church History Emeritus at Abilene Christian University, “It is perhaps significant that the adjective “Lord’s” occurs only twice in the New Testament –– in reference to the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20) and to the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10). Both are peculiarly the Lord’s, and both belong together, united to each other by the resurrection. The day, as the day of the resurrection, is the day for taking the supper. The supper, in remembrance of the event of salvation, gives significance to the day.” (The Church of Christ, A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today.) Every week had a Lord’s Day and every week the Christians met for the Lord’s Supper.
Church historians and the so-called “Church Fathers” are unanimous on this point. One such writing (90–150 AD) states: “Come together each Lord’s day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks” (Didache 14:1). Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) wrote: “And on the day called Sunday all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits … Then we all rise together and pray, and … when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought … and there is a distribution to each” (Apology, I, 67:6)
Those who have Communion less often or more often do so without any authority from scripture and without precedent in the history of the early church. Surely it is right for us to follow the example of those disciples who came together on each first day of the week to break bread.
WHAT IS ‘WEAKLY’ COMMUNION?
The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth that they had lost the proper focus of the Lord’s Supper. What Christ had intended to be a reverent remembrance of Him had deteriorated into a common meal. Having lost the purpose of Communion, some were becoming drunk on the wine while others were leaving the service hungry because they expected to get more food than was available. It was a sad situation. So perverted had Communion become that the Apostle wrote: “it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (1 Corinthians 11:20). Whatever the disciples at Corinth were celebrating, they had distorted the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper. What was left was a feeble attempt to worship. Their minds were not where they needed to be, the fellowship had been disrupted, and the celebrating of Christ’s death had been lost. That which was intended to bring men and women to the cross and to unite them as one body would no longer achieve its purpose. It was a poor excuse for what should have been the sacred remembrance of Christ crucified. In short, Communion had become weak and feeble, and “weakly” worship can never produce robust spirituality.
How is it with us? When we take the Lord’s Supper, do we do so with the reverence and focus it deserves? Or, are our minds on worldly things? Are we thinking of the Lord who died for us 2,000 years ago, or are we thinking about what we are going to do as soon as church is over? Are we whispering with the person who sits next to us or are we praying to the Lord above us? Are we texting with our cell phones or examining our personal unworthiness to participate in such a solemn feast? Are we thinking about how the Lord’s Supper unites us with fellow believers around the world or are we wishing for things to end so we can “go our separate ways?” The answer to these questions will determine if our Communion is the real thing or just a weak imitation.
Owen Olbricht, in his book The Lord’s Supper, suggests the following things Christians can do as they eat the bread and drink the cup:
• Remembering Jesus and His death
• Meditating on what Jesus means to us
• Giving thanks to Him and to God for Him
• Honoring Him as the Messiah, the Son of God
• Spiritually sharing His body and blood
• Renewing our resolve to live according to His word
• Fellowshipping with Christians as a unified body
• Proclaiming His life, death and resurrection until He returns
• Declaring an acceptance and recognition of the new covenant
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he assured them there will be consequences for abusing the Lord’s Supper. He said: “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30). Whether he refers to physical sickness and death or spiritual sickness and death, the lesson remains the same: God will not bless those who practice weakly communion.
On the next Lord’s Day (Sunday) let each sincere disciple meet with fellow believers to observe Communion as the biblical pattern encourages us to do. Moreover, may each of us partake of the Lord’s Supper in a “worthy manner” –– reflecting on the death of Jesus for our sins, and praying in our hearts for the Lord to forgive our sins, unite His church and make us spiritually stronger … stronger in this new week than we have been in the past week.