A member from the Methodist church in Winthrop asked me about the frequency of Communion yesterday. "Does the Bible speak about how often we are supposed to take communion?" It's an interesting question - one the church has wrestled with from at least the second century. My response to him is listed below:
From my research the Bible has only one command (strictly speaking) concerning the frequency of communion. In 1 Cor. 11:25, Paul explains that Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, AS OFTEN AS YOU DRINK IT, in remembrance of me." That's the ONLY biblical command concerning frequency that I can find. (It's interesting to note that the Gospels don't include the words, "as often as you drink it." I'm not saying Jesus DIDN'T say that - just interesting to note.)
In the Book of Acts, there seem to be REFERENCES to the frequency of communion, but they are by no means COMMANDS. Acts 2:42 & 46 seem to suggest that the believers celebrated communion as often as they ate and drank... meaning perhaps breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Acts 20:7 seems to suggest that they celebrated communion every Sunday, although (once again, strictly speaking) the Greek and the English say "when we met to break bread" not "when we ALWAYS met to break bread." Whether these references refer to the formal Holy Communion celebration that we have in mind is up for debate. If these references do refer to Holy Communion, then they seem to suggest that the early church practiced it every Sunday, if not more frequently.
The Didache (an important extra-biblical document written around the first or second century) commands that communion be celebrated every "Lord's Day" (meaning Sunday). This seems to support Acts 20:7.
In practice, though, the church has celebrated communion both frequently and infrequently throughout the years. During some periods it was celebrated multiple times per week. During other periods it was only celebrated once a year. When the Protestant reformers parted ways with the Roman Catholic Church, they celebrated communion less frequently to disabuse their congregations of certain unbiblical beliefs about it. In recent centuries, there has been a push to celebrate communion more frequently.
All this to say, the topic has seen much debate. If you believe “as often as you drink it” refers to celebrating communion every time a disciple eats and drinks, then we should be celebrating communion every day. If you believe “as often as you drink it” means “every time you celebrate communion, do it in remembrance of me” then we still don’t have an answer to the frequency. “As often as you drink it” doesn’t answer the question “Yes, but how often?” – if you see what I mean.
Therefore, because there isn’t a definitive biblical case to be made for the frequency, I am comfortable with the monthly celebration common to most Protestant traditions. I wouldn’t mind doing it more, but certainly no less.
I hope that answers your question thoroughly enough!
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I've been feeling the need lately to share those extra thoughts that don't make it into Sunday's sermon. So this is where they'll end up!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)