Why Do We Partake of the Lord’s Supper Every First Day of the Week?

bible-questionsWhy do we worship and partake of the communion on the first day of the week? Was it commanded that we meet upon the first day of the week or is it an implication? Was it set up because Christ rose upon the first day of the week as per Luke 24:1ff?

Our meeting upon the first day of the week is not by accident nor by arbitrary selection. There are some scriptures which specifically mention the first day of the week and there are other scriptures in which the first day of the week is implied. Let’s look at these scriptures and see what we can gain in understanding from them. First, we find that all four writers of the gospel accord that Jesus was resurrected upon the first day of the week. Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; and John 20:1 all record Jesus as having been resurrected upon the first day of the week. We ask the question, why would the Holy Spirit have included this within their narrative if it were not significant?  Remember, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all written years after the actual events occurred and the writers would have already been participating in first-century worship long before they picked up the inspired pen to jot these things down. So, it is not without reason that they all mention that Jesus was resurrected upon the first day of the week. It would certainly be fitting to meet upon the first day of the week because that was the day in which our Lord was raised.

Second, we find that the preaching of the first gospel sermon and the terms of the entrance into the kingdom of God was upon the first day of the week. In Acts 2, the apostles were all meeting together on the day of Pentecost. The day of Pentecost was fifty days after the Passover Sabbath according to Leviticus 23:15, 16. So fifty days later would be forty-nine days (seven weeks) plus one day. Seven weeks from the Sabbath would be on a Saturday, so the fiftieth day would be on a Sunday or the first day of the week. Acts 2:41, 42 we read the following, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” We have in this verse the very beginning of the observance of the Lord’s supper. I want you also to notice the quality of events that are occurring within this verse. They are all aspects of worship. Here is the first worship assembly and the things that they did in worship to God. They studied, they broke the bread, they gave, and they prayed. So we meet upon the first day of the week to worship because the apostles did this on the first day the message of the kingdom of God was preached, and they also observed the Lord’s supper here as well.

Third, we see need to take a good look at Acts 20:7. We read here, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” In this context, Paul and a band of men are carrying the great collection that they have received from the churches in Macedonia, Greece, and Asia back to the church of Jerusalem to be distributed to the poor among the saints (Romans 15:26). Certain of the company went before Paul to Troas and evidently, they decided that they would meet up at that location. Verse 6 of Acts 20 indicates to us that they left after the days of unleavened bread. Most likely this refers to the days of the Passover indicating that it has been completed. They arrived in Troas in five days yet they stayed for seven days. Let us keep in mind that Paul wanted to get this money back to Jerusalem for the poor and that he would have not wanted to unnecessarily delay his journey. Carrying large sums of money in that day was very dangerous for travelers. This is in part why there were so many accompanying him. They acted as both a surety that Paul was dealing wisely with the funds and also as a bodyguard of sorts to protect him from any thieves or brigands that might waylay them on the road. So I am sure that Paul would have wanted these funds to get into the proper hands as soon as possible. Yet he stays in Troas for seven days. Why would he do this? One can only think that it was so that he could come together with the disciples upon the first day of the week to break bread and that is exactly what is indicated by the text. The Greek text is clearer as to the purpose of the gathering in verse 7. It is for the purpose of breaking bread. That is why they came together. This is a grammatical construction in the Greek known as the infinitive of purpose. Paul’s preaching to them was an incidental event as far as the gathering was concerned. The purpose of the meeting was to break bread. The phrase “to break bread” is a figure of speech known as synecdoche, referring to a part of something when one is really referring to the whole of something. The breaking of the bread was the opening part of the Lord’s supper as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:24. Hence, that action became the symbol for the whole of the Lord’s Supper itself. This is what we find in Acts 20:7. If they knew that Paul needed to be on their way, why did not the brethren have the Lord’s supper some other day that would be more convenient to Paul? In short, because it was not the apostolic custom to meet upon any other day. The keeping of the apostolic traditions was something that Paul wrote concerning numerously indicating that they were authoritative and definitive regarding Christian practice (cf. 1 Cor.11:1; 2 Thess.3:6).

Fourth, we need to look at 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 : “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” Although it is not translated this way, there is a preposition of time used in the phrase “upon the first day of the week” in this passage indicating that the Christians at Corinth meet upon every first day of the week. This is significant because to this point in our study we have seen that the first day of the week should be recognized for the resurrection of Christ. The first day of the week was when the apostles first met and preached the terms of entrance into the kingdom and first worshipped with the first church. The first day of the week was the day for which Paul and his companions and the church at Troas waited so that they could partake of the Lord’s supper. Now we have here the implication that it was not just upon occasional first days of the week, but it was upon every first day of the week. Paul is not giving a new commandment to meet upon the first day of the week to take up the collection here but is presupposing a practice which they are already observing–that they are meeting upon the first day of the week. He is adding additional requirements to that meeting time. When you meet upon every first day of the week as it is your practice to do, go ahead and take up the collection for the saints as well. They were already meeting upon the first day of the week to do something. What were they doing? The rest of the book of 1 Corinthians kind of fills us in. They were worshipping. How were they worshipping? Part of that worship included the observance of the Lord’s supper as Paul had instructed them to do earlier in the book. The implication here is that they were partaking of the Lord’s supper upon every first day of the week.

One final passage noteworthy of our interest in this regard we find in Revelation 1:10 John says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. By the time John wrote the book of Revelation, the apostolic tradition had taken hold and been held fast so that John can refer to a specific day of the week and everyone know exactly what day he is discussing. This day was the Lord’s day–the first day of the week. Wouldn’t this be consistent with what we have learned about this day so far? This was the day that Jesus was resurrected; this was the day that the gospel was first preached; this was the day that the church first worshipped; this was the day on which the Lord’s supper was observed; and this was the day that the Lord’s collection was taken up. Need we any more evidence from the scriptures as to what day the “Lord’s Day” would be? Would it not be the first day of the week? No other day would have been referred to as the Lord’s Day by John.

We may conclude that early Christians worshipped upon the first day of the week. They partook of the Lord’s Supper upon the first day of the week. They gave of their means upon the first day of the week. This day came to be known as the Lord’s day. Why would we want to break with apostolic tradition in this regard? Why would we want to introduce into the church some practices about which we cannot be certain that were observed by the Christians of the first century? If we are going to have what they had, then we need to do what they did. Why should we do anything different than what they did? Herein lies the basic plea for New Testament Christianity–that in imitating the authorized practice of the first-century church as indicated within the New Testament, we can be simply what God wants us to be, the simple church of the New Testament.