Taking the Lord’s Supper Out of the Assembly

Communion Cup

Shortly before His death, Jesus instituted a memorial to help His disciples remember Him and the sacrifice He was about to make on the cross (Matthew 26:26-29). This memorial was later referred to as “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20).

In the first century, Christians “gathered together” to observe this memorial “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). This memorial consisted of the bread which represented Jesus’ body and the cup (fruit of the vine) which represented His blood that was shed on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Paul also emphasized to the brethren in Corinth that when they would “come together to eat” (partake of the Lord’s Supper), they were to “wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:33).

The New Testament stresses the importance of following the pattern revealed by the apostles. Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13, NKJV). The brethren in Thessalonica were told to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). If any did not do this, the brethren were to “keep away” from them not “not associate with [them]” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Everything we do must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), which is to do things by His authority (cf. Matthew 7:21-23; 28:18-20). John warned against going beyond this pattern as well as accepting those who do:

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

Recognizing the authority of Christ and the need to follow the pattern revealed in the New Testament, there are certain points we understand about the observance of the Lord’s Supper:

  • The emblems – We are to use unleavened bread to represent Christ’s body and fruit of the vine to represent His blood (Matthew 26:17, 26-29).
  • The purpose – We are to partake of the Lord’s Supper in order to remember the death of Christ on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:26).
  • The time – The Lord’s Supper is to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
  • The frequency – Just as the command to the Jews to remember the Sabbath day implied every Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8; Numbers 15:32-36), the instruction to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) implies an observance every first day of the week. The fact that Paul, while on a hurried trip to Jerusalem, remained in Troas for seven days in order to be there to partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7, 16) supports this.
  • The place – Every New Testament example of Christians observing the Lord’s Supper since the establishment of the church shows them doing this in the assembly of the local church (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:33). To cite the example of Paul stopping in Troas again, it is significant that although he was traveling with other Christians (Acts 20:4), they did not observe the Lord’s Supper together wherever they happened to be; instead, they made sure they were in a local church assembly on the first day of the week in order to partake.

Most brethren that I have encountered recognize that the Lord’s Supper consists of the bread and fruit of the vine (and only those emblems), that it is to remember the death of Christ, and that it is to be observed on the first day of every week (and not on any other day). Yet for some reason, when it comes to the place of the Lord’s Supper, some brethren are either unsure or simply act as though the New Testament has nothing to say about it.

  • Some take the emblems of the Lord’s Supper out of the assembly in order to serve a church member who is sick at home or in a nursing home.
  • Some will take the few Christians needing to partake of the Lord’s Supper, but were unable to be present earlier on Sunday when the rest of the brethren assembled, and send them out of the assembly into a back room separated from the congregation and have them partake of the Lord’s Supper there.
  • Some brethren, when traveling, will take along the emblems of the Lord’s Supper and partake out of the assembly rather than finding a local congregation with which to meet and observe the Lord’s Supper in that assembly.

The problem with each of these scenarios (and other similar cases) is that the Lord’s Supper is not being observed in its authorized place – in the assembly of the local church.

Why are brethren tempted to take the Lord’s Supper out of the assembly? Is it because of convenience? Is it because they think the place is irrelevant? In reality, the motive behind this is immaterial. It is possible to have best of intentions and still be guilty of doing things that are not in harmony with the will of Christ. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23). More than likely, these individuals had good motives; yet they were doing things for which they had no authority.

The Lord’s Supper belongs in the assembly – not necessarily in a “church building,” but in the assembly of a local church – because that’s where the Lord, through His inspired apostles, placed it. Rather than finding reasons to “justify” taking the Lord’s Supper out of the assembly, we simply need to follow the pattern as it has been revealed to us.


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Comments

  1. James Shewmaker says

    This article is correct.

    However, when attempting to correct this problem, I have discovered that some brethren are incapable of determining what does and what does not constitute a local church. Some seem to think that a collection of brethren who happen to be together on a particular Sunday can function as a local church even though none of them are “local members” and in point of fact they are members of one or more local churches which are assembling elsewhere that Sunday.

  2. Daniel Hughes says

    Each Sunday, a group of 6 to 8 members of our congregation conduct a worship service at a local nursing home, consisting of singing, prayers, a short lesson and communion.

  3. Tim Haile says

    Andy, you did a great job on this article and teaching on this subject is always needed.

  4. Your article has touched on several very important things, particularly that the observation of the Lord’s Supper should be done within the assembling of the church. Taking the emblems to the sick looks like a good work and so some do that, but the Lord’s Supper was never meant to be a substitute for the assembling of the saints. We should visit the sick, that is, we should CARE for them and that means actually caring for them, loving them and helping them. Just taking them grape juice and a cracker doesn’t show that.

  5. Good article sounds scriptural Will study it more. Jp