DEAR BROTHER FAULL:
A mutual acquaintance of ours told me that you do not believe that weekly communion is necessary. Your comments please.
I find it humorous that our mutual acquaintance would tell you that in light of the sermon I preached at The Northmen which hundreds have heard me preach.
In it, I defend weekly communion. I also have written on the subject. The last article I wrote about it is quite lengthy. I refute, “ANY TIME COMMUNION” and argue passionately that the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper is the Biblically necessary way to observe the Lord’s Supper. The tapes and articles are available from Summit Theological Seminary.
But necessary to what? Salvation? Following the pattern of the New Testament? The forgiveness of weekly sins?
The discussion to which you refer with our mutual acquaintance involved a discussion of the heresy of those who say that if you willfully miss the Lord’s table on Sunday and die on Monday, you are lost. I deny that kind of thinking. I believe that is an abuse of grace.
The letter to the Hebrews was written to the Jews who were returning to the Law. They were beginning to drift back into Judaism. The Hebrew letter was written to show that the New Covenant was much better than the Old Covenant. The New Covenant has a superior priesthood, sacrifice, and promises. Jesus was superior to Moses, angels, Joshua, and Aaron. The writer shows them the folly of returning to an inferior system. He encourages them in Hebrews 10:23 to “hold fast to their faith in Christ without wavering.”
It is here that the writer encourages them to provoke one another to love and good works by not forsaking their assembling together. As they saw the destruction of Jerusalem’s judgment approaching (from the signs that Jesus gave in Matthew 24) they were to exhort one another.
He reminds them that if they sin willfully after they received the knowledge of the truth, (that is leave the New Covenant and return to the Old Covenant) there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. Instead, he informs them judgment and fiery indignation awaits such.
If you forsook the covenant of Moses, you died without mercy. Jesus is superior to Moses. So how much worse punishment would a man be worthy if he trod the Son of God underfoot and counted the New Covenant’s blood by which he was sanctified, unholy and thereby despised the Spirit of Grace?
To return to Law keeping from grace is unthinkable. His exhortation to stay faithful to Christ is further encouraged by reminding them that God will judge His people and take vengeance on those who abandon His Son. He encourages them to remember the former days under the Law, and remember their afflictions and suffering upon becoming a Christian. They were to remember what they endured, and what he had endured to bring them to faith in Christ. Cast not away your confidence. There is a great reward for remaining faithful. Be patient so you will receive the promise when Jesus comes. It is by faith in Christ, not Law keeping, that we shall live. If you draw back to the old covenant, God will have no pleasure in you. He then shows the necessity of faith in holding to God’s promise by giving the roll of heroes who were saved by grace through faith (paraphrased).
You will note that the command was not, “Forsake not the assembly”, it is “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” Now, for the record, I have never missed the Lord’s Supper more than four or five times in my Christian life. That was always a result of sickness. Last year, I averaged standing before an assembly teaching or preaching an average of 27 hours a week. It should be obvious that I believe in assembling together, and my views on this subject has never led me to be absent from His Memorial.
The illustration I gave our mutual acquaintance was this: Suppose my son and I was scheduled to preach in Arizona on Monday. I intended to leave Thursday, but a death in the congregation caused me to stay to preach a funeral that deferred my leaving until Saturday. So I leave on Saturday evening and start my trip for Arizona. I drive through Sunday to hear my son preach on Monday morning. I missed the Lord’s Supper because I did not take the time to find a church with which I could commune. If I had died on Monday evening not having taken communion, would I have been lost because I missed the Lord’s Supper? I deny it. God knows my heart. He knew I was not treading Him underfoot. I was not forsaking Him. I was not denying the efficiency of His blood. I was not returning to sacrifices of the Law.
It is interesting to me to realize that under the Law, one must observe the Passover each year. The penalty for missing it was to be cut off from the congregation. The one missing Passover could partake of it a month later if he was unclean due to touching the dead or was on a journey. Numbers 9:13
Now that was under the old covenant. How about the New Covenant? Well, under grace some believe that you have to take communion 52 times a year under a penalty of eternal damnation! Is that grace?!! Or is that Law?
Under Law you took Passover once a year with the exception of being on a journey or a death. Some say that under grace there is no such exception for missing 52 times a year!!! That is a strange theology! It seems to me that there is no more grace under Law!
Let’s not be ludicrous. Jesus desires for His people to come together on the first day of the week to remember Him. We are not Catholics. The Lord’s Table is not a re-sacrifice of Christ. We are not Jews offering up a sacrifice. We are Christians gathering to remember our Lord’s death and His sacrifice, and what He accomplished for us on the cross.
We gather to remember His death and share in the blood of His covenant. We do not wish to despise grace by turning back to Judaism or to the world. We do not wish to trod Him underfoot and count His blood unholy by not coming to assemble with the Church. That these things occur by a one-time absence while traveling, I wholeheartedly deny. That would be returning to Law keeping for salvation.
Our disagreement with our friend is this: What constitutes a permissible absence? It is not a question of whether weekly communion is to be the practice of the Church. On that we are agreed. The man’s problem who misses the memorial is not that he missed a service, but that he desired to do so. His problem isn’t that he missed receiving the remission of his sins, because he was not at a sacrifice, but that he had no desire to be there.
To turn grace to license, to trod Jesus underfoot, or to count His blood unholy by turning to another religion, or returning back into the world, is a fearful thing. However, to leave on a trip, to care for a sick child, to take a vacation, or to be where there are no saints with which to gather, is not to reject Christ. God is quite capable of reading hearts. He knows why we are absent, and what our heart’s desires are. I suggest that some need to stop trying to make the New Covenant Scriptures another Law from Mt. Sinai. We are not under Law. We should not Judaize and call it grace.
The point of communion is that we share in the benefits of Christ’s death when we partake of His Body and Blood. We have fellowship with Him in forgiveness, salvation, redemption, sanctification, justification, peace, joy, and hope because we commune with Him. I Corinthians 10:16
No Christian in his right mind would want to miss sharing in the benefits. To teach that a Christian only gets these benefits on Sunday at communion is heresy, and a return to Law keeping.
I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is always effective to the Christian even if he was absent from the assembly.
I grieve over those whose concepts of God’s grace makes these New Covenant Scriptures a second thundering from Mt. Sinai. I do not think they believe it themselves, for I have never known one who held this view to practice Church discipline on one absent on Sunday.
Surely, an intelligent Christian can see that we have not traded a commandment for a “once-a-year sacrifice” to a 52-week observance of a ritual. The assembly is a time of joy when Christians gather together to share the benefits in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Let’s not return to Law keeping as a means of salvation.
Let’s commemorate what He did for us on His cross each Sunday as the early Church did whenever we can possibly be there!