How often should the Lord’s Church on earth celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? The mere fact that this question is raised suggests that there is no direct statement in Scripture. Indeed, the closest thing to a direct statement as to frequency is given at the institution of the Lord’s Supper as found in 1 Corinthians 11:26. “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
But how often is too often? How often is not often enough? What is the proper balance? Some churches opt for a weekly Communion. Citing New Testament passages regarding “the breaking of bread” such as Acts 2:42 and 20:7 et al, it is alleged that the established Communion frequency is weekly. However, we are not convinced that these verses teach weekly Communion.
For example, we read in Acts 20:7a: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” To be sure, the disciples held Communion, i.e., ‘broke bread’ on that particular Sunday. However, to suggest that this sets the precedent for weekly Communion is to suggest too much.
You may ask what is wrong with partaking of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday? But you might as well ask what is wrong with celebrating it every day, or two or three times a day.
The compilers of the Westminster Confession of Faith in The Directory For The Publick Worship Of God, as help, offer only these words:
“The communion, or supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated; but how often, may be considered and determined by the ministers, and other church-governors [alias the Elders] of each congregation, as they shall find most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge. And, when it shall be administered, we judge it convenient to be done after the morning sermon.”
We believe that Quarterly or Seasonal Communion is the most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people in most city and rural Charges, and that Quarterly or Seasonal Communion has a strong Biblical basis.
The following is a brief overview of our reasoning:
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only Sacraments found in New Testament. These are signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace instituted by God in Christ. They replace the two Old Testament Ordinances of Circumcision and Passover respectively.
Baptism, like its predecessor Circumcision is a “one off” ordinance. Circumcision can occur only once. Likewise Baptism is administered once only per recipient.
However, Passover and the other Old Testament Feasts were celebrated often, i.e. annually. Likewise, their New Testament replacement is to be celebrated frequently. We believe the traditional Presbyterian practice of four times yearly (quarterly) is often enough, as this coincides with the Seasonal Feasts established by God in the Old Testament.
There were three major pilgrimage-feasts coinciding with the first, second, and third quarters of the year commanded by God in Scripture. At the time of Moses the Lord said to His people: “Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year… The Feast of Unleavened Bread… The Feast of Harvest… The Feast of Ingathering” Exodus 23:14-16.
Another feast was added, viz., the Feast of Dedication. This Feast, like the three major ones also drew large crowds to Jerusalem. Thus it completed the annual cycle by placing a feast in the fourth quarter. Its title and season are mentioned in John 10:22, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.”
Hence, the three major feasts plus the great Feast of Dedication were as follows:
Spring = Unleavened Bread/Passover (Matt. 26:17-20).
Summer = Harvest/Pentecost (Acts 2:1).
Autumn = Ingathering/Tabernacles (John 7:2).
Winter = Dedication/Lights (John 10:22).
We believe that all Old Testament Feasts are now fulfilled in Christ and are now incorporated in, and replaced by, the Lord’s Supper. As the Old Testament Feasts were Gospel representations of Christ and His work of redemption, so is the Lord’s Supper.
Moreover, the Lord’s Supper is also representative of Christ’s Gospel blessings as promised to Abraham and repeated throughout the Old Testament. Peter, in Acts 3:19, refers to these blessings as “times [i.e. ‘seasons’ ASV] of refreshing”. These “seasons of refreshing” began at Pentecost and will continue throughout the Gospel Age “till He comes.”
With this in mind, it is interesting to note what is written even in the very first chapter of the Bible: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years…’” Genesis 1:14.
The Hebrew word here for ‘seasons’ is moo’a:dym. Not only has this word to do with climate, but it also includes the idea of festive gatherings, or seasonal celebration. Therefore, the precedent for quarterly or seasonal Communion has been established from the very beginning.
Since there is no explicit instruction given in the New Testament regarding the exact frequency of administration of the Lord’s Supper, we, by the process of “good and necessary consequence” (compare Westminster Confession of Faith I:6), deduce that the Scriptures teach quarterly or seasonal Communion. (Cf. too Genesis 1:14; 4:3f; 8:20-22.)