Recently, the leadership of Community announced the decision to include communion in our weekly corporate worship service. The decision itself was made more than a year ago after the elders spent some considerable time and energy discussing our distinctives and how they might be more fully expressed in our worship and practices. This adjustment was an obvious and unanimous conclusion. Having consulted with all those involved in our worship, it seems best at this time to implement this change to our liturgy. In an effort to fully explain the decision and the logic behind it – a sermon was preached in our main service offering some specifics. If you missed it, that sermon is available online and via our podcast. Also, the text of that sermon is included below. We are excited about the change and are confident it will strengthen the Body’s faith in Christ. – The Elders of Community Bible Church, Sola Fide
So All Our Members May Partake.
This is more practical than theological, but a weekly communion service means all of our members will be able to participate with more frequency. There are those who often miss the Lord’s Table in its current monthly offering. Whether due to business travel, vacation, sickness or other ministry responsibilities on Sunday, some may go for months without participating. This new format will help ensure our members have ample opportunity to partake of the table with the rest of the Body of Christ.
It’s in Keeping with the Biblical Pattern.
In his instructions concerning the Lord’s Table Christ provided no direction regarding frequency. The emphasis is on remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The focus of the Lord’s Table is on the why and not the how (Luke 22:14-23). So, as it concerns frequency, it is up to the individual church or tradition to decide. This is what’s known as the “best practices” of local churches. As a church we are “free” to participate in the Lord’s Table with a frequency that is best for us.
As you look at the history of the early church it is apparent the Lord’s Table was a regular part of their gatherings (Acts 4:42-47; 20:7) and occupied a central place in their worship. Although it was never commanded, it is evident the early church was participating in the Table “whenever” they gathered for worship. Obviously, this is an observation and not a command of Scripture. With this in mind, we have deemed it best for our local church to partake in the Lord’s Table weekly rather than monthly, as has been our practice.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, 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. – 1Corinthians 11:23-26
It Makes Sense Given Who We Are.
“Faith and not faithfulness” is a central conviction running through our beliefs, practices and piety. The meaning of this expression is simple: The focus is now upon what God has done in Christ and not what we must do (Romans 5:1). We have come out of the confusion of pietism and found our home in the Reformed and confessional world. Among other things, this means that our assurance no longer rests in our faithfulness to Christ, but in Christ’s faithfulness to us. His work and not ours is the basis of our justification before God. Our works are doxological and a result of the Spirit’s power within us. There is nothing left to merit or earn.
Therefore, our message is “faith” (God’s promises) and not “faithfulness” (human merit). This, of course, is in direct contrast to the normal church experience. The motivation for Christian living is usually derived from one of three messages – inadequacy, guilt or doubt. We have a hard time grasping that absolute assurance is a proper motivation for piety. Point is, our message (Gospel) points out to Christ and not in to us. As a result of this, it makes complete sense that the outwardly focused practice of communion would be a fixture of our services.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
It Was the Conviction of the Reformers.
John Calvin provides an important perspective concerning the frequency of communion. Calvin argued (although it should be noted the leadership in Geneva denied his wish) that communion should be a weekly part of the church’s worship. He saw the layman’s participation in the Lord’s Table as a rebellion against self-justification in medieval sacramentalism. The church restricted participation to a few worthy souls. Typically, the laity, deemed unworthy, could only look on as priests took Holy Communion. In most instances acts of penance were required before the average man could participate. This is where Calvin made the connection between Sola Fide and the Lord’s Table.
Calvin argued for weekly communion for the exact reason Rome prohibited it – believers are actually unworthy in and of themselves. Without the reminder of Christ’s finished work the burdened saint would only despair. Penance is not what’s needed. An alien righteousness is. Our justification lies outside of us in Christ. Believers need the constant reminder of God’s good favor that comes through faith in Christ alone. The Lord’s Table is a perpetual reminder of a once for all sacrifice. Through it we are ushered back to Christ’s work. As such, it is a symbol of Sola Fide and a means of grace by which the believer may rest in God’s favor. Since we constantly struggle against sin and feel our inadequacy in the Law we are in constant need of assurance. The Lord’s Table, instituted by Christ himself, is our reminder.
We ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms. We may gather from Paul that this was the order observed by the Corinthians, and it is certain that this was the practice many ages after. – John Calvin
“It is Finished” Is Our Final Word.
Since the ordinance of the Lord’s Table symbolizes our redemption in Christ, it serves as a proper doxology to our services. Our desire is to leave the pilgrim saint with the infinite benefits of Christ ringing in their hearts. In this sense, the Lord’s Table will serve as a capstone to our weekly services. By a weekly participation in communion Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Sola Christus will be the last messages our members hear. As the reformer said, we offer this “remembrance to sustain and strengthen“ your faith. As you depart our regular services we want you to rest in what he has done and not depend on what you must do. “It is finished” is our final word to each other.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony* of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but din the power of God. – 1Corinthians 2:1-4