We so easily forget our Lord without a frequent reminder of Him and his benefits to all our senses, without which we also are so prone to wander and forsake Him. I remember one young husband and father say to our Session that he was thankful for weekly communion here, because (besides the exegesis of Scripture) it controlled his Christian walk the entire week as he anticipated returning to formal, familiar, and fond fellowship across the table from his living Lord and Savior Who Himself is hosting the affair. Indeed, the anticipation of such consistent times of fellowship should garner the same excitement and personal preparation that any wife enjoys as she readies for a dinner date with her husband. May the Bride of Christ not suffer spiritual malnutrition by being starved of fellowship with her holy and faithful Husband for the want of frequent, spiritually nourishing meals with and of Him.
What if you told your wife you only planned to take her on a dinner date once a year during your anniversary so as to make the expression of your marriage relationship extra special? And for that matter, you would also plan to have all other meals separately until that time, so as to enhance the enjoyment of your annual reunion across the dining establishment table of her choice? She would probably ask for marriage counseling to protect against the unnecessary straining of your relationship by an unreasonably forced lack of regular, deliberate, and intimate fellowship. Nor would she likely be consoled by your negotiating a compromise of quarterly or monthly meals together.
Instead, our heavenly Husband has given His Bride, the church, a way to grow fonder with Him by the bond of familiarity through the constant communion and remembrance of Him and His covenantally secure relationship with us. Just as wives need constant expressions of loving commitment from their husbands, so does Christ’s Bride need her Lord’s frequent communion.
One of the most frequent arguments against frequent (especially weekly) communion is essentially that such would lessen its specialness. Dr. Richard Bacon amply addresses this concern:
Having something infrequently does not make it more special. If it were suggested that there were certain intimate relations of marriage which should be had less often in order to make them more special, that would not be a very convincing argument. The way to make something special is by cherishing it, not by reducing the frequency. Reducing the frequency does not make something special; it just makes it infrequent.
Things that are extra special should be given extra attention. Especially things that are vital for our spiritual survival. Why do we eat and drink daily? It keeps us alive. Arguing for frequent (and weekly) communion in his book about the Lord’s Supper, Ken Golden writes, “Our bodies need food and drink to survive, the right amount to thrive. The same goes for spiritual consumption. Our souls also need food and drink, the right amount to thrive.” As well, he contends, “…the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace … the sacrament is ‘soul food and spiritual drink’ based on Melchizedek’s ceremony (Gen. 14:18-20) … If the sacrament is a means of spiritual growth, then why limit the opportunities to receive it? Since Paul calls it fellowship with the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), we should seek such fellowship as often as possible.” The Lord’s design is to give us a regularly scheduled spiritual dinner date to satisfy our hunger and thirst after His righteousness—and to develop a taste and appetite to constantly see that He is good while steering us away from the world’s cisterns to quench our desire for fellowship.
John Calvin thus appealed in his articles to the Geneva Council in 1537 for weekly communing with our Lord in His Holy Supper as a minimum for the practical benefits of Christ’s saints, as cited by T. David Gordon:
It would be desirable that the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be in use at least once every Sunday when the congregation is assembled, in view of the great comfort which the faithful receive from it as well as the fruit of all sorts which it produces—the promises which are there presented to our faith, that truly we are partakers of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, His death, His life, His Spirit, and all His benefits, and the exhortations which are there made to us to acknowledge and by a confession of praise to magnify those wonderful things, the graces of God bestowed upon us, and finally to live as Christians, joined together in peace and brotherhood as members of the same body. In fact, our Lord did not institute it to be commemorated two or three times a year, but for a frequent exercise of our faith and love which the Christian congregation is to use whenever it is assembled.
Elsewhere Calvin argued that “ …no meeting of the church should take place without the Word, prayers, partaking of the Supper, and almsgiving” (Calvin’s Institutes IV, xvii, p. 44).
The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God instructs that, at least normally, “The Communion, or Supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated …” Similarly, the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) Q&A 175 teaches that it is the Christian’s duty after having received the Lord’s Supper to so self-assess their participation as to “encourage themselves to a frequent attendance of that ordinance.” And the WLC Q&A 177 states, in contrast to baptism, that the Lord’s Supper is to be “administered often”.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers … And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Here we see that the daily (not just weekly!), diligent Gospel life of the Church is what God blesses to preserve the lives of Christians, and this included partaking of communion. Rather than cheapen our relationship with Christ (and one another) by the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper, instead it is encouraged and preserved. The early Christians’ regular worship practice included the devotion to apostolic doctrine (preaching and teaching the Word), breaking of bread (administering the Lord’s Supper), and prayer. Though singing (of Psalms) can be assumed from other NT texts, singing is not mentioned here while the Lord’s Supper is. Community activity in the covenant context of corporate worship involved communion as frequently as it did its other ordinary elements and means of grace. So Calvin appeals to the primitive church’s example as a Scriptural example:
Please God, gentlemen, that both you and we may be able to establish a more frequent usage. For it is evident from St. Luke in the Book of Acts that communion was much more frequently celebrated in the primitive Church, until this abomination of the mass was set up by Satan, who so caused it that people received communion only once or twice a year. Wherefore, we must acknowledge that it is a defect in us that we do not follow the example of the Apostles. (John Calvin, Letter to the Magistrates of Berne, 1555).
Acts 20:7 also shows that communion was an expected Lord’s Day Christian Sabbath church worship experience. Back in Acts 2, we see the effects of frequent communion did not deaden but instead enlivened their faith and fellowship together in Christ. In verse 47 the Lord used weekly communion and its other corresponding elements to add to the church. Verse 46 says the experience caused them to go to corporate worship and home gatherings with “simplicity of heart” and “one accord”. Verse 42 notes that they enjoyed “fellowship”—the same koinonia or “communion” of 1 Corinthians 10:16. Further, verses 42 and 47 highlight that they were “continuing steadfastly” and “praising God.” Thus, Calvin pastorally urges frequent communion for its practical benefits:
… if we duly consider the end which our Lord has in view, we shall perceive that the use should be more frequent than many make it: for the more infirmity presses, the more necessary is it frequently to have recourse to what may and will serve to confirm our faith, and advance us in purity of life; and, therefore, the practice of all well ordered churches should be to celebrate the Supper frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit.” (Calvin’s Tracts, Vol. II, p. 179).
The WLC’s long section of questions and answers on the Lord’s Supper describe what happens during the partaking of it and all the ways the practice benefits us inwardly and Christ outwardly (and thus why we should want to follow the model of Scripture in frequent participation of it):
… by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; and have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.