Questions and Answers relative to the "Second Serving" Issue
The subsequent eight
questions were submitted to me by one studying the "second serving" issue. I
thought they might be of some help to others; therefore, I have linked them to
the article, "The Lordís Supper, the ĎSecond Servingí Controversy"
(please first read the article before considering the
subsequent questions and answers). I have substituted the name of
the man who posed the questions, but retained the questions and my answers.
I shall as briefly as possible comment under each question. Also, please understand that I do not intend for the subsequent to be exhaustive or complete. Thanks for your interest.
How would you respond to one who asks the following questions:
1. Acts 20:7 is an example - the only passage for first day of the week assembly. In the example, that local church assembled and we know of two things that happened: they did so for the purpose of partaking of the Lord's Supper, and Paul preached to them. They appeared to have assembled once. Does having multiple assemblies not violate that passage by adding additional assemblies?
Answer: Jack, I have noticed that those holding the view that it is unscriptural for a local church to offer the Supper Sunday afternoon or night (second meeting time) to any who want to partake have now migrated to the position that it is unscriptural to meet more than once on the Lord's Day. I believe this is one tragic consequence of this Lord's Supper issue. Let me begin by saying that I believe that it is scriptural for a local church to assemble on the Lord's Day to break bread (Acts 20: 7). In this vein, there are a number of particulars for which we must contend. For instance, the following must be acknowledged:
A. The Lord's Supper is only seen being observed by the local church in the assembly on the Lord's Day (Acts 20: 7, I Cor. 11: 17).
B. Only those capable of discerning...partake (I Cor. 11).
C. Certain emblems are
used (Matt. 26, I Cor. 11).
I will affirm the above; however, within the circumstance of the foregoing, I believe there are certain matters not specified and regarding which brethren have no right to make an issue or bind. If a church wants to use one cup and presents the practice as just their preference without binding it or doctrinally excluding multiple cups, this is one thing. However, when they take the position, "More than one cup nullifies the Lord's Supper and reduces it to mockery," I must take issue. I do not see any emphasis placed on the literal "container(s)" but, rather, on the "contained."
What is there in the essential nature of a church assembling twice on the Lord's Day that would make it wrong or, put another way, what properties are present in Acts 20: 7 to indicate that the historian designed to teach that a local church may only once meet on the Lord's Day? On a historical plane, the only time that I have ever known of brethren even questioning assembling more than once being wrong is only in connection with the Lord's Supper sensitivities.
Why would it be wrong for a local church to meet twice, let's say, on the Lord's Day? After all, it is the "Lord's Day." For most, assembling once in a more than a couple hours setting would not be practical (children, etc.). Again, the objection all comes back to the Lord's Supper issue.
Why do we at Holly Street meet in addition to Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon? My answer is, edification. Do I teach that in order for a local church to be sound, they must meet twice on Sunday? No.
In view of the Passover and it being an anti-type to the Lord's Supper, why would it be wrong to offer an opportunity during the second meeting on the Lord's Day for those present desiring to partake of the Lord's Supper to be able to do so. I personally do not partake in the second assembly since I believe I have fulfilled my responsibility and privilege in the first assembly. However, do I have problems with offering this opportunity to the extent that I oppose it and insist such is a sin? No, I do not. The ideal would be that all be present Sunday morning and partake, but the ideal is not always the case in a real world (please revisit my below article).
2. You mentioned multiple
opportunities for worship on Sunday. Is the
origin of multiple services on Sunday not for the express purpose of
offering the Lordís Supper more than once? How might we address those who
say "We meet according to Acts 20:7 on Sunday morning, but the evening assembly
is really no different than a meeting night or a Wednesday."
I do not believe any can provide definitive proof either way relative, historically or biblically, to the number of assemblies on the Lord's Day. I assemble Sunday afternoon (second assembly) in order to engage in edification. Hence, based on my rationale and intent, I do not assemble Sunday afternoon to "break bread." The church at Troas had an extended meeting, apparently being largely influenced by the circumstances (Paul needing to leave and inject all the influence and teaching he could into the limited time). If there is one who physically could not attend the first assembly, then they would be, "...coming together to break bread." Again, I am not saying that any practice other than the one already mentioned as being "ideal" is totally free of questions and at least potential problems. However, I do not think what we practice at Holly street (qualified example) in meeting twice or in offering the Supper to any wanting to partake in the second assembly has such potential problems that we must tell one, "Since you did not make it this morning, you cannot partake tonight."
As to the "...comparable to the Wednesday night meeting matter," some are now saying that when they meet the second time on Sunday, it is not the assembly of Acts 20: 7, but a Bible class circumstance. Hence, they cannot offer the Supper. I agree that the Supper cannot be offered in the Wednesday night meeting for two reasons: A day other than the Lord's Day is present and a Bible class so understood is not "the assembly" of Acts 20: 7, I Corinthians. 11, 12, 14, etc. However, I see nothing in Acts 20: 7 to restrict a local church to only meeting once on the Lord's Day. To place emphasis on just "one meeting" is to emphasize a matter the historian does not accent, I am convinced. I think the number of meetings, whether they are morning, afternoon, or night, or if the church only assembles once on the Lord's Day is a decision for each local church and a matter of expediency. The serious problem enters when brethren begin to bind their preferences and designate all who do not agree as liberal and unsound. One preacher recently told me, "Don, there is no difference in a preacher advocating church supported institutions and in the preacher who is a part of a church that assembles more than once on the Lord's Day."
3. How might we respond if
the evening assembly consisted ONLY of the partaking
of the Lord's Supper. By way of example, a group decides to have
an assembly at 9 on Sunday morning. At this assembly, there is
singing, prayers, teaching, giving, and the partaking
of the LS. That evening, the same group offers
an assembly from 6 to 6:15 for the LS. As a follow up,
how would we address this if over time ONLY those who didn't come to the
AM assembly came to the PM assembly. How does this kind of thing impact
Answer: Again, Jack, there is the "ideal" and every step away from the "ideal," while perhaps not having sufficient objection to constitute exclusion, does involve a gradation difficulty. I personally would oppose the action of question 3 for several reasons.
4. What about those who offer "early" and "late" services on Sunday morning. If one says that is not according to Acts 20:7 because the "whole church" is not assembling together (i.e., people are choosing which one they want to come to), would that not also eliminate the so-called "Second serving" at the PM service for the same reason.
Answer: Again, the "ideal" is for the church to come together.... I have known of unusual circumstances where a local church due to limited facilities met twice on Sunday morning. This was only a temporary arrangement until the problem was solved. However, I do not think such is tantamount to the example at Holly Street.
5. Does offering the
Lordís Supper at the PM assembly not play into the idea that the Lordís Supper
is a kind of "sacrament" and everyone needs to make sure they partake on Sunday
to be "right with God?"
Answer: There could be such a mental abuse on the part of some. We, you and I, know, though, that possible abuse does not necessarily negate a matter. Those pushing for negation and preclusion of the second meetingbased on possible abuses are often not considering that they are denying an opportunity that I believe some have to them (being able to partake).
6. There are places where
those partaking in the PM go off separately into
another room to do so. Do you have any thoughts on that arrangement, esp.
as it might impact this discussion in general?
Answer: I do not think such an arrangement as you mention in your question 6 is a fix or solution. Rather, I think such a practice presents more objections than it removes. Since I do not think the scriptures are emphasizing or binding total simultaneous action in partaking (see my article), but do bind partaking in the assembly, I would not advocate or practice the action of question 6.
7. Is 1 Corinthians 16 not addressed as an individual action? Such as: "Since you are assembled on the first day of the week, everyone make your contribution for the needy saints at that time -- don't make a special collection when I come" / whereas the assembly of Christians together is supposed to be for the purpose of partaking of the Lordís Supper? As such, is there a need for a designated "coming together" for the collection? Or could people not place their offering in a box on the wall any time on the first day? Are the items (LS and collection) really parallel?
Answer: Jack, I do not totally follow your thought progression expressed in question 7. The action of giving (I Cor. 16) and the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 11) are both performed in the assembly and constitute distributive action, individual action performed in a collective setting. One stated reason, in the case of the contribution, is so Paul would not have to wait for a collection when he came to Corinth.
8. And finally: This would not be an issue at all if there were only one assembly. By holding so strongly to the tradition of having two assemblies, have we not "created" a problem, especially considering there is not an indication of multiple assemblies in the scriptures? Is this a case of holding tradition above scripture?
Answer: Your question 8 does present much for consideration. Again, I stress, I believe a local church has the right to elect to meet once as opposed to more than once on the Lord's Day, all things equal and understood. I will not challenge them, debate them, or mark them as unsound. However, the problem enters when they view their practice as the only allowable practice and all else is sin and churches not duplicating their practice must be marked as unsound.
I do not presently believe that I must limit the edification potentiality and opportunity to reasonably assembling more than once on the Lord's Day because some have decided and are teaching that it is a sin to meet more than once, based on what I consider to be a radical approach and treatment of Acts 20: 7.
Just a quick reminder that I am not advocating any of these - just looking for some other thoughts to these kinds of statements, which I have heard over the years. Thanks.
My final comment: I, too, Jack, have questions and I do not have all the answers to every conceivable and proposed scenario and objection. There are objections to both sides of this growing issue. I do, though, have more serious objections to those binding only one meeting on the Lord's Day. I think such is extreme and is being done due to their problems with a church offering the Lord's Supper in a second meeting circumstance. They, I believe, are only creating more problems than they are trying to solve. Again, I also have some objections, but my objections are not strong enough to condemn the current practice of offering the Supper in a second meeting. My objections to the "fix" being proposed and now bound are greater than the "traditional practice" and I think is involving these brethren in teaching error (binding only one Lord's Day meeting).
I terribly regret seeing division now entering over this Lord's Supper issue. Rather than divide, I advocate practicing the traditional, a practice not without problems and possible abuses, but since the "ideal" is not always absolutely attainable, I think there is room or should be for diversity within the perimeters discussed. I am not prepared to tell a church, "You must stop meeting more than once." Moreover, I am not ready to tell a Christian who sincerely wants to partake of the Supper, but for some legitimate reason could not that morning, "We will not provide you with the opportunity to partake."
One more time: both sides have attendant problems. However, I think the "traditional practice" has fewer and falls within the scriptural realm of allowance. What troubles me is the binding of only one meeting and the division all of this is producing. The objection gradation scale must be employed, I believe, and all bend over backgrounds just as far as they can in these matters, without making laws or binding on others in areas of judgment.