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Four Reasons for Weekly Communion

In recent years, weekly Communion has become increasingly popular in Reformed worship. There are many advocates and also critics of weekly Communion within the Reformed church. I consider myself an advocate of weekly Communion, but I do not think it should be used as a litmus test to determine Reformed orthodoxy, nor do I think it should be a decisive factor in deciding whether or not to join a Reformed church.

While Scripture contains no explicit command regarding communion frequency, it does commend the practice of celebrating the eucharist frequently (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17–34). There are many reasons why a more frequent celebration of the eucharist is desirable and beneficial for the church, and I want to briefly state some of those reasons here. These four reasons are derived from the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as summarized in the Westminster standards.

First of all, the Lord Jesus Christ and, in him, all the saving benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed and applied to believers by means of the sacraments (WSC 92). The sacraments are not bare, empty signs but true means or instruments of saving grace. They are, in fact, “effectual means of salvation for the elect” (WSC 88, 91).

They truly communicate and confer what they signify to those who receive them in faith. The “grace promised” by God is “not only offered but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Spirit” through the sacraments (WCF 28:6). A frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper is desirable and beneficial for the elect because it is an effectual means of their salvation.

Secondly, the benefits that are offered, given and conferred in the Lord’s Supper are all the benefits of the new covenant. Worthy receivers do “really and indeed” feed “upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death” (WCF 29:7). Christ himself is given to us in the sacrament as nourishment for our souls.

By the agency of the Holy Spirit, the body and blood of Christ are no less truly and really “present to the faith of the receiver” than the “elements themselves are to their outward senses” (WLC 170). Through the mouth of faith, we “truly and really” feed on Christ as the bread of life given by the Father through the Spirit to our “spiritual nourishment and growth in grace” (WLC 168, 170).

By faith, we “receive and apply” to ourselves “Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death” (WLC 170). A frequent observance of the eucharist is desirable and beneficial for the saints because of all the glorious benefits received by means of it.

Thirdly, the eucharist is also designed to strengthen the unity of the saints and nourish their Christian love for one another. In the Lord’s Supper, says John Knox, Christ himself gathers us “unto one visible body” and knits us together so that we become “members one of another.”[1] Paul teaches that although we are many in number, we become one body when we all share in the one bread of the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17).

A frequent observance of the eucharist is desirable and beneficial because the sacrament nourishes and strengthens the unity of the church and establishes a bond of mutual and fraternal love among the saints. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper calls us to live in peace with one another. It incites us to reconcile with our brothers if there is enmity between us. Since it is a sign that we are one body, it calls us to pursue the restoration of broken relationships among believers (cf. Matt. 5.21–26; Didache 14:2). 

Fourthly, the Lord’s Supper calls the saints to repent of their daily failings and to look to Christ alone for forgiveness, assurance and strength to obey. It calls us to love the Lord will all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Paul’s instruction that we examine ourselves before participating in the Supper teaches us to inspect our faith, repentance, love and obedience—all of which are essential and constitutive elements of the Christian life (1 Cor. 11:17–34; WSC 97). Hence, we should examine ourselves in these areas frequently not occasionally.

Furthermore, if a member of the church has been suspended from the Lord’s Table or excommunicated, these censures lose much of their impact on that member if the Lord’s Supper is celebrated infrequently. Every celebration of the eucharist reminds those who are excluded from the Table of their need to pursue repentance and restoration.

A frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper enables the censure to have a more significant impact on them. For these reasons and for many others, a frequent celebration of the eucharist is desirable and beneficial for the church.

Endnotes

[1] Kevin Reed, ed., The Selected Works of John Knox (Dallas, TX: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1995) 67–68.

 

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DAVID NOE

4 years ago

Thank you, Glen, for a very well-written and insightful essay.

glenclary@gmail.com

4 years ago

You’re welcome, David. Blessings!

John D. Chitty

4 years ago

How did it take me this many posts to notice your new blog? I’m so excited to see this welcome addition to the Reformed blogosphere! I’ve added you to my blogroll, and will be following it very closely.

glenclary@gmail.com

4 years ago

Thanks, John!

John D. Chitty

4 years ago

When I began learning about Reformed theology in the late ’90’s, weekly communion was part and parcel of what I learned to value. However, in the providence of God, my family wound up in a church that practices monthly communion. My whole life it had been quarterly, and then for a few years to a church where we were lucky to get it three times per year (subject to when “the Spirit” told the pastor to do it). For this reason, I appreciate your opening remarks about frequency not being a reason against joining a Reformed church, and I can testify that going from 2-3 to a monthly frequency has been a thorough blessing to my family! How much more weekly? That remains to be seen!

Randall Perkins

4 years ago

Glen,

Good caveats in the 1st paragraph. Great post overall!

glenclary@gmail.com

4 years ago

Thanks!

Mark Mannion

1 year ago

There is a very interesting book about how Christians stopped receiving communion regularly. Unfortunately it’s in German (Christologie und Kommunion) so not all will be able to read it (https://www.aschendorff-buchverlag.de/detailview?no=13358). I really enjoyed reading it!

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