The Lord's Supper - Once A Year?
I recently received a copy of the January edition of The WatchTower, a publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, from one of the members of this congregation. It had a question/answer page and the question posed concerned the Lord’s Supper. “What did Paul mean when he said: ‘As often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup’?” The respondent affirmed that the Lord’s Supper should be observed on an annual basis.
The writer offered several arguments. First, he notes that “often” (used in 1 Corinthians 11:26) is interpreted by some as meaning “frequently,” i.e., in the sense of many times. However, he argues that an annual observance of the Supper would mean that it has been celebrated “often” since its institution. Second, he observes that the Supper is a memorial and memorials, he claims, are “usually observed annually.” Third, he affirms that Jesus died on the day of the Passover, an annual festival and Paul even refers to Christ as our Passover; thus the Supper should be celebrated annually just like the Passover. Fourth, “Since Jesus’ sacrifice replaced the annual Atonement Day sacrifice, the Memorial of his death is properly observed annually.”
The respondent is correct when he notes that Paul was discussing the “how” the Supper was to observed, not “how often” (in 1 Corinthians 11). However, his conclusion that “there is no Scriptural reason to observe the Memorial more frequently than [once a year]” is incorrect.
Note that his argument based on the word “memorial” has no scriptural basis. It is true that the Supper is a memorial, but the word “memorial” itself demands no specific frequency. Even the fact that the Supper has some connection to the Passover and the Day of Atonement, annual festivals, demands no specific frequency. The Lord’s Supper is not the Passover. While the Passover foreshadowed some aspects of the Lord’s Supper, the Supper is a separate memorial. The writer draws some connections between the Lord’s death and the Day of Atonement and then borrows the frequency of the Day of Atonement and applies it to the Supper. By what authority? No scripture makes that argument; it is of human invention.
Acts 20:7 tells us that the Christians at Troas came together on the “first day of the week” to break bread, i.e., partake of the Lord’s Supper. Their worship was apostolically-approved (Paul was present). It is significant that we are not told the month of the year or even the day of the month on which they did this. When God instituted annual festivals in the Old Testament, month and day of the month were given. A specific day of the month was given when the festival was intended to be observed monthly. The Sabbath was observed weekly, thus only the day of the week (7th) was identified. Note that we are not given a month and day of the month with regard to the Supper, only a day of the week.
The Scriptures teach that the Supper should be observed on a weekly basis.