The original Lord's Supper was observed at night and it wasn't on Sunday

Question:

The original Lord's Supper was observed at nighttime (Mt. 26:31), and that it was not observed on the first day of the week (Sunday), The practice of breaking bread was done on a daily basis from house to house, not on a weekly basis as in the churches of Christ. You find this information in Acts 2:46. And you'll also find that meat was involved, not just bread and wine. Why? Because it wasn't the Lord's Supper. What is your explanation on this matter? I need clarification.

Thank you, brother!


Answer:

A distinction must be made between things that are merely incidentals to an event and those essential to the keeping of a command of God.

  • Incidentals change from event to event. Essentials remain the same every time a command is kept.
  • Incidentals are not necessary to keep a command. Essentials involve the things used to keep a command.
  • When a command has symbolic meaning, an incidental does not contribute to the symbolism, but essentials are a part of the symbolism.

The fact that the Lord established the Lord's Supper at night does not indicate that it was an essential part of keeping the command. None of the Gospel accounts indicate how frequently or how often the Lord's Supper was to be kept. But Paul supplies an additional detail: "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (I Corinthians 11:23-26). This indicates that when Jesus established the practice that he expected it to done differently in regards to time than what he illustrated.

The Lord's supper was something taken as a church. We find this in the negative as Paul scolded the Corinthians for abusing the Lord's Supper: "But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk" (I Corinthians 11:17-21). We are also told that taking it together as a church has symbolism: "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17).

We know the church gathered on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1-2) and in one example, we know that the first day of the week gather was for the purpose of partaking of the Lord's Supper. "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7). Since the time period mentioned was "the first day of the week," we now know that they did this every week. If they had done it once a year, it would have said something like, "On the day of Pentecost, when we were gathered together to break bread." If was daily, it would have said something like, "On the following day, when were were gathered together to break bread."

Nowhere do we find indication that the time of day was critical to the command. Thus, to conclude that the Lord's Supper can only be taken at night is false. Jesus happened to establish the command at night. The church in Troas met and stayed until past midnight in Acts 20:7, but it doesn't mention when on the first day of the week they started their meeting or when they partook of the Lord's Supper on that day.

The phrase "break bread" was a Greek idiom meaning to have a meal. It is by context that we distinguish whether we are discussion an ordinary supper or the Lord's Supper. In Acts 2:42 we read, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Since "breaking of bread" occurs in the middle of other acts of worship as a church, we conclude that this is a reference to the Lord's Supper. In Acts 2:46 we read, "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." The "breaking bread" here refers to common meals because it was done from house to house and not as an assembly of the church.

The English language, like any other language shifts over time. In 1611, when the King James Version was done, "meat" was the term for "food," whether there was animal flesh served or not. In modern translations you will see "meals" or "food" used instead because "meat" now has a narrower meaning in modern English. Making conclusions based solely from a 400 year old translation is a mistake. Besides, as pointed out, the "breaking of bread" in Acts 2:46 refers to common meals anyway.