I was recently reading your post about the Lord's Supper being taken on a Sunday night.
I have recently joined a congregation where they serve on Sunday nights to just a few people. I do not partake because I believe the Christians assembled did not meet for the purpose of eating the Lord's supper (we may be there to sing, worship, etc, but I do not think we have "come together to eat" (I Corinthians 11:33).
Now to my question: How do you rectify that I am attending a congregation where they teach and practice something I believe to be wrong? I noticed at the end of the article on the La Vista web site you said you can have differing views on this subject, yet still worship in harmony together. How do you justify that from Scripture? Please be in depth on your response if you do reply, and provide me sufficient biblical reasoning.
I ask this question because there are a few who question my being there when I have a scriptural concern with the practice. If some of your members see the action as wrong (aka sinful) and thus will not partake, then the members who do partake are then in sin are they not (at least in the eyes of those not partaking)? If this is the case, then how can people who see their brethren in sin say nothing and let them continue in that practice? Do you see my problem here? How are you justifying this logically?
I have tried to reason with myself by bringing to attention passages in Revelation where it talks about the different churches who had issues they also struggled with, and the idea that no local body of Christians can really be truly perfect (as they are made up of imperfect beings), but that is certainly what we strive for. This still leaves me wanting more of an explanation. I honestly struggled with this idea when I moved here because none of the churches here practice this appropriately (in my view anyway). I don't know what your views on the supper being served to just a few are, but I would appreciate addressing the unity issue first and leaving that as a side discussion for another time if you'd like to dig into that.
Whether my answer satisfies you or not, I will not be able to predict and it cannot be my goal. "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
The question you must always ask is if you can worship at a congregation in the way that you find God asking of you without doing things that are against the teachings in the Scriptures. In the case of serving the Lord's Supper I know of several stances:
- Some avoid the issue because they only meet once on Sunday. A few congregations do so purposely for the purpose of avoiding dividing over the issue.
- Some offer it because they see it as important for all Christians to partake and if there is an opportunity, even though it isn't at the regular time, then they believe it should be done.
- Some offer it, but it is served in another room to just those who missed the regular time.
- Some offer it and everyone partakes because they see it as important that the Lord's Supper be done together as a congregation.
- Some don't offer it at all because they can't find authorization for multiple servings.
What needs to be acknowledged that each is holding sincere beliefs for which they find scriptural justification. These aren't false doctrines gained by twisting the Scriptures, these are varying conclusions on a subject made difficult because of what little we know. Over the years, I've stopped participating in the second serving because I can't justify it and I don't want to add to God's word. However, I understand the reasoning brethren have done to reach their conclusions. While I disagree with the conclusion, I don't see any maliciousness behind their reasoning.
Such variations are bound to come because Christians grow in maturity. What a person understands changes as he becomes more familiar with God's word.
With the second serving of the Lord's supper, the core of the issue is how to handle a situation that is not discussed by God. The variations come because of which issue each group sees as more important. For such cases, Romans 14 is used. "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him" (Romans 14:1-3). Here you have two groups who believe that the other group is wrong, yet God says that ought to receive such people and not for the purpose of arguing.
How did this come about? It was because of idolatry. Most of the meat available in the markets originated in idol temples. Sacrifices were made to the idols and the leftovers were sold in the market. To the Christian who placed heavy emphasis on staying away from idolatry it was better to forego all meats than possibly support idolatry. To other Christians idols were nothing and meat was nothing more than meat, regardless of its origins. Now they wouldn't enter a place of idolatry to worship, but when they were at the market, they would simply not consider the source of the meat. The first group would be horrified by the actions of the second. The second group would see the first as being over cautious. Yet notice what God said to both groups: The second must not despise the first, and the first must not condemn the second. That is really hard for many people. We get into the habit of thinking that if I hold a belief then only that exact belief can be right.
Can these two differing groups worship and work together? Absolutely! The meat eaters are simply careful not to force their view on the non-meat eaters. They can't invite a vegetarian over for a ham dinner. Nor can the vegetarian say the meat eaters are sinners because they are eating meat. It doesn't mean the issue can't be discussed, but both sides must show respect for the other's beliefs. We have to remember that sin is defined by God, not us. If there is an issue that God left open, then we must respect what God did.
Here in La Vista we have two groups in regards to the serving of the Lord's Supper a second time. Those who conclude that there is no justification for it, acknowledge that the other group believes they would be sinning if they did not partake on the first day of the week, yet couldn't make the regular time. The participators in the second serving acknowledge that the other group believes they would be sinning by partaking of the Lord's Supper a second time or serving it a second time. So both groups respect the other's sincerely held beliefs. The Lord's Supper is offered if any present wish to partake in the evening. Only those who agree with the practice serve the table. We still hold it in the worship assembly because both sides agree that it is important that it is done as a congregation. I don't know what we will do if we ended up with someone wanting to partake and we had no one to serve. Fortunately that issue has never came up in all the years that we have been doing it this way.
The point is that those who do not partake in a second serving have done nothing to violate their conscience by being present. Those who do partake have done nothing to violate their conscience.