Should the Lord's Supper be practiced at night?

THE HOUR — THE BREAD

Ought we not to observe the Lord’s Supper only at night, and only with unleavened cakes, seeing this was the case at the institution?

Of course all admit that the Lord’s supper was instituted “the same night that He was betrayed,” “while they were eating,” that is, as the passover meal was drawing to its close. This was in the evening by a definite direction of Jehovah, but no direction was given that the Lord’s supper should be observed at any special hour of the day. Acts 2:42 and 46, where the “supper” is, I think, certainly in view, makes no mention of the evening, but simply states that “they broke bread at home” (R.V.), in contrast with the daily public meeting in the temple.

In Acts 20:7 the first day of the week is specifically mentioned, but we are left to gather incidentally that the observance was in the evening. There is, moreover, a very simple reason, quite apart from any spiritual significance, which I have never heard attached to the hour, why the evening was probably the time usually chosen in those early days, because it was the most convenient or the only time free in the day.

The observance of a “Sunday” on which shops were shut, and work closed down as to-day among men of all creeds or no creeds, was then quite unknown. For those who stickle for an exact imitation of the institution, one wonders why they do not celebrate the feast on the Thursday, the original day of its institution. We certainly only have custom rather than direct command for the first day of the week, though I do not question that this is the right day. Christianity is not like Judaism, a religious system of “days and months and years,” worked on a time-table, but a life to be lived on spiritual principles in the power of the Spirit, and governed by the Word, but not by inferences or deductions merely. Of course believers are perfectly free to break bread in the evening, if convenient, but it is not the only time, for the Word is “as oft as ye do it,” which cannot be limited to any particular hour of the day.

As for the necessity of using only unleavened bread, there is not a hint in Scripture for making this a sine qua non. Christians, no doubt, may use it if they see fit, but they have no right to impose it on their brethren. It is mere ceremonialism. The word, “artos,” used for the bread or loaf, simply stands for any mixture of flour and water, baked. There is nothing wrong about leaven itself, though, in the Scriptures typical of evil, but its anti-type is not leaven (to interpret a type by itself is not very helpful exegesis), but “malice and wickedness” or some such defiling sins (1 Corinthians  5:8). What we are called to do, is, not, like a company of Jews before the Passover, to search for literal leaven, but to examine ourselves for unjudged sin. To be occupied with the hour of the day, or the exact components of the bread and wine is to substitute the accidents* for essentials, and human inferences for Divine commands. I would close with the following weighty words of the well-known  servant of Christ, John Wesley: “What the Bible commands is good, what the Bible forbids is evil: what the Bible neither commands nor forbids, either in plain words or in undeniable inference, is a thing in itself indifferent, and neither good nor evil. The Bible is our sole guide and our adequate guide in faith and conduct.”

Matters on which the Bible does not legislate are left to the judgment of believers. The course good for one, may not be so for another. We are “by reason of use to have our senses exercised to discern between good and evil.” If the above principle were understood, it would help us to distinguish between things commanded, things commended, and things left entirely open, like the hour of the breaking of bread, or the exact kind of bread to be used, and it would prevent the harmful habit of judging one another on matters where even an apostle would confess he had no commandment from the Lord.

W.H.

* A property or quality of a thing which i not essential to it, aa whiteness to paper, the texture of cloth, the exact composition of bread.