Chapter 4: The Biblical Alternative: God's Holy Day
“For to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: [but] you have a festive day every eighth day” – Tertullian, De Idololatria (2nd century).
The Biblical alternative to the observance of ecclesiastical holy days and seasons is the observance of that holy day which God has instituted. The first day of every week is God’s holy day—the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath. God has graciously given His Church 52 holy days (or “festival days”) each year. And the Lord’s Supper is the accompanying feast that He has given to His Church. That is, the Lord’s Supper is the feast that Christians are to observe on the Lord’s Day. For this reason I will argue in the latter half of this chapter that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated weekly—every time the Church gathers on the Lord’s holy, festival Day.
I. The Lord’s Day
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor
and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On
it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your
manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that
is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the
Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:8-11, NIV, emphasis added).
WSC 58 What is required in the fourth commandment?
“The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as He hath appointed in His Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself” (WSC, 58, emphasis added).
Although the moral law of God requires us (i.e., all men, Christian and non-Christian) to sanctify “such set times as He hath appointed in His Word,” it most certainly does not require us to sanctify days or seasons that God has not appointed in His Word. The set time that God has appointed in His Word for us to keep holy is “expressly one whole day in seven,” which is the Sabbath day.
The Westminster Assembly
elsewhere precluded all doubt as to whether there are other holy days in
addition to the Sabbath day. The appendix “Touching Days and Places for Public
Worship” to the Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Publick Worship of
God (1646) emphasizes that the only day that God has authorized as a
holy day is the Lord’s Day:
WLC 116 What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath,(1) and in the New Testament called The Lord’s day.(2) (1)Deut. 5:12-14; Gen. 2:2,3; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Acts 20:7; Matt. 5:17,18; Isa. 56:2,4,6,7 (2)Rev. 1:10
The Larger Catechism further explains that since Christ’s resurrection, this one whole day in seven is “the Christian sabbath,” which in the New Testament is called “The Lord’s day” and is observed on the first day of the week. Under the new covenant, the fourth commandment requires “all men” (believers and unbelievers) to sanctify or keep holy the first day of each week, for it is the Lord’s day. It is a holy day, for God has claimed this day for Himself. The first day of each week belongs to the Lord of heaven and earth!
The Lord’s Day calls us and all mankind to remember the significance of Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was an event as significant as the creation of the world. His first coming changed the keeping of time (i.e., the B.C./A.D. dating system); His second coming will mark the end of this present world and its present concept of time (i.e., In the new heavens and earth, there will be no sun or moon, Rev. 21:23.).
Tertullian’s statement, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, provides one reason why the observance of ecclesiastical holidays distorts the Gospel: “For to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: [but] you have a festive day every eighth day.” Church holidays distort the Gospel because they follow the same pattern as the world’s holidays, each being observed once a year. Scripture, on the other hand, reveals that God intends for every eighth day, the Lord’s Day, to be a weekly reminder of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Schwertley notes the practical effect of ecclesiastical holiday observance on the sanctifying of the Christian Sabbath:
God has been very generous to His people, giving them 52 holy days a year. When men add their own days (e.g., Christmas, Easter, etc.) they detract from, denigrate and even set aside the Lord's day. People love and give more attention to Christmas than they do the Lord's day. Many Christians spend nearly the whole month of December preparing for Christmas: decorating their homes, offices and churches, buying gifts, baking pies and cookies, practicing and memorizing Christmas carols, Christmas plays, Christmas carol recitals, etc. Many Americans rarely attend church but would never miss the Christmas service. The typical American winks at Sabbath breaking, fornication, adultery and drunkenness; but considers Christians who do not celebrate Christmas to be deluded fanatics.
While the world understands Good Friday to be the church’s annual celebration of Christ’s death and Easter Sunday to be the church’s annual celebration of His resurrection, Scripture teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection are to be celebrated the first day of every week! If the professing church only observed the Biblical holy days; if Christians truly revered, sanctified, and kept holy the first day of every week, would not the world take notice? Christians definitely would stand out from the world.
The world marvels at Muslims who diligently carry out their religious duties, praying five times daily and fasting during the month of Ramadan. These practices set Muslims apart from the rest of the world, which seems to be one factor attracting new converts to Islam. (Islam is the fastest-growing world religion and the fasting growing religion in the United States.) Yet, what sets Christians apart from the world? I believe the primary reason why the Church is losing its influence in Western society is that it is increasingly like the world. In many cases it is a spitting image of the world!
Yet, if Christians refused to work on the first day of the week, except for works of necessity and mercy; if Christians refused to attend sporting events, roam shopping malls, mow their lawns, wash their cars, watch movies, or do those things that unbelievers occupy themselves with on the first day of the week, surely the world would take notice. Surely unbelievers would wonder why Christians acted the way they did on Sundays. And this would provide a tremendous opportunity to proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I would explain to these unbelievers that the first day of every week is a holy day for Christians. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. He has claimed the first day of the week as His own holy day. And because Jesus is the Savior and Lord of my life, I want to live in obedience to His Law.
Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Because Jesus is my Lord, how could I think of doing my own pleasure on His holy day (cf. Isa. 58:13)? If I am truly Christ’s disciple, then surely I will not think it burdensome to set aside one-seventh of each week for Him. Rather, for me the Sabbath is a delight, for He graciously has provided me with a day to rest in Him—to escape from the stress and toil of this life. Every eighth day I am able to experience a foretaste of the heavenly life that I will experience after death for all eternity to come. (Indeed, by virtue of my union with Christ, I am already “seated with Him in the heavenly places” [Eph. 2:6].) In order to sanctify His Day, I spend the first day of each week in personal, family, and corporate worship, remembering what He has done for me, singing and praying to Him, receiving spiritual nourishment from Him, and joyfully celebrating this festival day He has given to His church. I enjoy the communion of the saints, that is, the fellowship of gathering with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have joined themselves together as a covenant community, consisting of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children.
Joseph Pipa comments in this regard:
Our observance of the Lord’s day serves also as a sign and testimony to our neighbors that we belong to the redeemed people of God. As we keep the Lord’s day holy it becomes a testimony to those around us that we are the special people of God. Often there is little that distinguishes us from our neighbors since many of them are outwardly moral, responsible citizens and many attend church. One external sign that God has given to us, the banner under which we live, is the observance of the entire Christian Sabbath. By this [and by the frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper—author] we testify that we are not our own; we belong to the Lord. Our faithful Sabbath-keeping may be a testimony to our neighbours and our behaviour may give us opportunity to explain our practice to them. For example, when we tell a neighbour that our children cannot come to a birthday party or that we cannot take part in a neighbourhood outing or sports event because we are Christians and want to dedicate Sunday to God’s worship and work, perhaps we will have an opportunity to explain more fully our reasons and faith.
Charles Hodge similarly notes the vital importance of faithful Sabbath observance for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the extension of the kingdom of God:
If men wish the knowledge of [Jesus’ resurrection] to die out, let them neglect to keep holy the first day of the week; if they desire that event to be everywhere known and remembered, let them consecrate that day to the worship of the risen Saviour. This is God’s method for keeping the resurrection of Christ, on which our salvation depends, in perpetual remembrance.
The Church can invest as much time and money into Christmas and Easter celebrations as it wants, but it will continue to decline as long as it neglects to faithfully observe God’s holy day. Hodge emphatically reminds us that faithful observance of the Lord’s Day, as God’s holy day, is “God’s method for keeping the resurrection of Christ in perpetual remembrance.” R.L. Dabney likewise argued that the Christian Sabbath is “the bulwark of practical religion in the world, that its proper observance everywhere goes hand in hand with piety and the true worship of God; [and] that where there is no Sabbath there is no Christianity.” Indeed, Christians’ failure to maintain “the sanctity of the Lord’s Day” is perhaps “the major cause of the world’s failure to take seriously the church’s proclamation of Christ’s resurrection and its implications.”
WLC 117 How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified? A. The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day,(1) not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful;(2) and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy(3)) in the publick and private exercises of God’s worship; (4) and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.(5) (1)Exod. 20:8,10 (2)Exod. 16:25-28; Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21,22 (3)Matt. 12:1-13 (4)Isa. 58:13; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Ps. 92 (title); Isa. 66:23; Lev. 23:3 (5)Exod. 20:8; Luke 23:54,56; Exod. 16:22,25,26,29; Neh. 13:19
God has appointed the Sabbath or Lord’s day as a day for the work of celebration, anticipation, and re-creation. Geerhardus Vos, the old Princeton theologian, explains:
Inasmuch as the Old Covenant was still looking forward to the performance of the
Messianic work, naturally the days of labour to it come first, the day of rest
falls at the end of the week. We, under the New Covenant, look back upon the
accomplished work of Christ. We, therefore, first celebrate the rest in
principle procured by Christ, although the Sabbath also still remains a sign
looking forward to [anticipating] the final eschatological rest. The Old
Testament people of God had to typify in their life the future developments of
redemption. Consequently the precedence of labour and the consequence of rest
had to find expression in their calendar. The New Testament Church has no
typical function to perform, for the types have been fulfilled. But it has a
great historic event to commemorate, the performance of the work by
Christ and the entrance of Him and of His people through Him upon the state of
never-ending rest. We do not sufficiently realize the profound sense the early
Church had of the epoch-making significance of the appearance, and especially of
the resurrection of the Messiah. The latter was to them nothing less than the
bringing in of a new, the second, creation. And they felt that
this ought to find expression in the placing of the Sabbath with reference to
the other days of the week. Believers knew themselves in a measure partakers of
the Sabbath-fulfillment. If the one creation required one sequence, then the
other required another. It has been strikingly observed, that our Lord died on
the eve of that Jewish Sabbath, at the end of one of these typical weeks of
labour by which His work and its consummation were prefigured. And Christ
entered upon His rest, the rest of His new, eternal life on the first day of the
week, so that the Jewish Sabbath comes to lie between, was, as it were, disposed
of, buried in His grave.
This portion of the Larger Catechism’s teaching in regard to the sanctification of the Lord’s day and its corresponding section in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 21, section 8, has been a source of significant disagreement among modern Presbyterians. The dispute has been explained in terms of a division between the Puritan view (expressed in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms) and the Continental view (expressed in the teachings of the Reformers of continental Europe). A common illustration of the Continental view is John Calvin’s practice of “lawn bowling” on Lord’s Day afternoons. Most of those claiming the Continental view as their own draw exception to the Confession’s teaching that Christians must rest “even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful.” Some may take exception to more or less. From my personal experience, however, many of those who “subscribe” to the Continental view, in practice, disregard the entire teaching of the Confession regarding the Christian Sabbath. Nevertheless, I believe that many of those who hold to the Continental view genuinely believe it to be the more biblical view. It is to these individuals that the following comments are primarily intended.
I believe that the Puritan view of the Sabbath, expressed in WLC Q. 117 and WCF, 21.8, is a necessary application of the Biblical teaching regarding the Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath, as discussed above. If the first day of every week is God’s holy day, the Lord’s Day, and if the fourth commandment requires all men to sanctify or keep it holy to God, then what are the practical implications for us as believers? To answer this question we must consider the holiness of God.
Imagine if you were invited to attend a state dinner at the White House with the President of the United States of America. How would you dress? Would you not take the day off work and cancel any other appointments? Would you not prepare ahead of time for this special day? While you are meeting and dining with the President, would you continually look at your watch and be eager to leave so that you could meet a few friends for lunch at the Outback? Or would you decline the President’s invitation to join him for this splendid feast prepared by the White House chef, so that you could watch a Washington Redskins’s home game at FedExField?
How then should you respond to God’s invitation to meet with Him and feast with Him on the first day of each week? God is not merely a respected human leader. No, He is the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Lord of heaven and earth. If you are a Christian, He is your Savior and Lord. He is infinitely holy. And He has commanded that we observe the first day of every week as His holy day. How then should this affect the way we look at Sabbath observance?
Based on how they observe the Christian Sabbath, most professing Christians in America display a higher view of their President than they do of God. Not only do American churchgoers show more respect for their President than for God, they even show more respect for sporting events than for God. Regrettably, many professing American Christians seem much more eager to sanctify the Lord’s Day for the god of sports than for the God with whom they claim to have a personal relationship. Bruce Ray, in his book Celebrating the Sabbath, illustrates this depressing reality:
On almost any Sunday afternoon, you will find thousands of people crammed into some sports arena or stadium to cheer on their home team. They prepared for this event. They checked the team schedule and wrote this date on their calendar. They set aside some of their paycheck and bought the best tickets they thought they could afford. They will go to bed at a decent hour so that on the big day they will be rested and able to enjoy the game. They will plan to drive in early so that they can find good parking and not be late. Once in the stadium, they will sit for hours on uncomfortable seats or benches without complaining. They are not ashamed to be called fans (short for fanatics). They will shout and cheer and clap their hands and have a wonderful time. But next Sunday morning, look around you. Where are the crowds to clap and cheer and praise the Lord? They’re all at home, sleeping in. It was too hard to get out of bed this morning. They’re too tired after being out partying until two in the morning. Or they’re headed for the ski slopes. Or the lake. Or the office. There’s too much to do and too little time during the week, so they steal the time that God has specifically set apart for enjoying him and celebrating his works.
Ray astutely observes that “the central issue in Sabbath discussions” is “the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord. How does the Lord of the Sabbath want us to use the day for our good and his glory?”
In concluding this excursus, let us consider the prophet Isaiah’s message from the Covenant Lord to the exiles who had returned from Babylon before the rebuilding of the temple in 520 B.C.:
If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa. 58:13-14, emphasis added)
I think that the significance of Isaiah’s deliverance of this word from God has often been overlooked. Having been confronted by the holiness of God, the prophet Isaiah knew what it meant to sanctify God’s holy day, the holy day of the Covenant Lord.
This is the Isaiah who saw the Lord “sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Isa. 6:1). This is the Isaiah who heard the seraph call out to another and say, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3). This is the Isaiah who responded, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (6:5). In this theophany Isaiah came face to face with the holiness of God. For the first time in his life, he understood who he was and who God was. In the presence of the Holy One, his self-esteem was shattered. He recognized his sinfulness—in all its vileness. After receiving forgiveness (6:7), Isaiah responded to God’s call for a prophet (6:8). He volunteered for the job, which would involve proclaiming God’s message to a spiritually deaf and blind people.
God was intimately involved in forming the personalities of those men whom He foreordained to receive His revelation. By means of secondary causes, God formed each writer’s personality so that he might be uniquely qualified to receive God’s revelation and express it in the manner He intended. Isaiah was no exception. Isaiah understood the holiness of God, insofar as the finite can comprehend the infinite. Isaiah knew of the crucified Messiah who would justify many (Isa. 53). Isaiah knew that His Redeemer was “the Holy One of Israel” (54:5). Isaiah knew that Christ would build up His Church, His bride with whom He would establish a perpetual covenant of peace (Isa. 54). Isaiah knew that God would establish a new humanity, composed of both Jew and Gentile (Isa. 56).
It is in this context that we must understand Isaiah’s teaching in Isaiah 58 regarding the observance of the Sabbath. And it is in this context that we must understand the Puritan view of the Sabbath.
The Lord’s Day is to be sanctified by “an holy resting all the day,” for all the day is the Lord’s Day. The Puritans rightly taught that we should rest “not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful.” If you have truly met with God for worship on His Sabbath day, if your “eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts,” if you have experienced “personal disintegration” before the holy presence of Almighty God, why would you even want to engage in worldly employments and recreations? Why would you want to vacuum your house, watch a football game, or spend the afternoon playing basketball? Why would you want to study for an Algebra or Chemistry exam? Why would you want to talk about current events in the news, or what’s going on at work, or the batting averages of your favorite baseball players? Surely Isaiah was not thinking about such “worldly employments and recreations” when He was in the presence of the holiness of God.
If you are Christ’s disciple, then your proper response should be to desist “from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word” (Isa. 58:13, emphasis added). Instead, you should devote your time to the service of the King. You should say, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8). You should make it your delight to spend all God’s holy day (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship.
And the Westminster Assembly also recommended that we “prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day,” because they took seriously the solemn responsibility of coming into the presence of the “Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 54:5).
If I am spending tomorrow meeting and dining with the President, would I not make sure I had everything ready for that special day? Would I not be sure to arrive early? Would I not want to be well dressed? Would not all my other “pressing concerns” have to be put on hold for a day? How much more then should we prepare ourselves for meeting for worship with the King of kings? How much more then should we prepare ourselves for respecting and honoring the holiness of God’s appointed holy day?
I believe that the Westminster Assembly’s so-called Puritan view of the Sabbath is the Biblical view of the Sabbath. For the Westminster divines’ view is that which properly accounts for God’s holiness. If this is God’s holy day, then I have no right to be thinking, doing, or speaking about those things that relate to my six days of the week. Rather, every word of my mouth, every thought of my mind, and every deed that I do must be in recognition of the holiness of this day and that it is His day, not mine. To even entertain a thought to the contrary is sinful, for in doing so I am saying, “God, I know that you said this was Your holy day. I know that the Sabbath is for my benefit. But I’d rather do things my way. I believe that I have the liberty to do whatever I want on any day of the week, and I won’t be bound by the yoke of your law.”
Where is the Christian who will say, “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Thy law.” (Ps. 119:97, 113, emphasis added)? Those who love God’s law have great peace (Ps. 119:165). Submission to Christ’s Lordship, submission to the Lord of the Sabbath, is what brings true joy and delight. In contrast, there is a penalty for those who insist on “doing it my way”:
The rejection of the Sabbath rest today still carries a death penalty, though not by the civil authorities. Those who reject God’s rest and insist on their full ability to labor without ceasing bring death upon themselves in the form of unrelieved stress, hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, and a multitude of diseases. Sabbath breaking still brings death physically.
The Puritan view of Sabbath-keeping is not a list of do’s and don’ts. Pastors do not have the right to impose such a list on their flock in a legalistic fashion. Rather, each individual Christian must decide for himself how he will spend the Lord’s Day, as his conscience dictates. (However, church leaders do have a responsibility to discipline church members who flagrantly, obstinately, and habitually profane the Lord’s Day, in accordance with the Biblical principles of church discipline outlined in Matthew 18.) But if one is convinced that the Puritan view of Sabbath-keeping is the Biblical view, which I believe it is, then it should not be difficult for those who desire to please God and live in obedience to Him to figure out how to observe the Lord’s Day properly.
In applying the fourth commandment to our lives, let us remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
When God declares that a day is His holy day, and when He commands you to meet with Him for worship, how do you respond to Him? Do you have more respect for the President, the god of sports, the god of the shopping mall, or the Lord of heaven and earth?
--- End of Excursus ---
WLC 119 What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required,(1) all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them;(2) all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful;(3) and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.(4) (1)Ezek. 22:26 (2)Acts 20:7,9; Ezek. 33:30-32; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13 (3)Ezek. 23:38 (4)Jer. 17:24,27; Isa. 58:13
The fourth commandment forbids “all profaning” the Lord’s Day “by idleness.” Because this is His day, it is not just a day to catch up on neglected sleep from the previous week. Additionally, the fourth commandment forbids “all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.”
During worship services (especially prayers and sermons), what do many Christians tend to think about? Their worldly employments and recreations. As soon as the worship service concludes, what do most people tend to talk about? Their worldly employments and recreations.
If there is one thing that American Christians are professionals at, it is compartmentalizing their faith. Yet, God has commanded believers to seek “the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” We are to set our “mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2). We are to glorify God through all that we do, say, and think (1 Cor. 10:31). These commands are not limited to one day a week. Rather, this is how we are to live seven days a week.
Yet, the fourth commandment, in particular, prohibits us from such “needless words, works, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.” God has given us six days a week to be in the world, dealing with all these worldly matters. But He has given us the first day of every week to focus on Him alone. The Lord’s Day reminds us, at the start of every week, that we are in but not of the world (cf. John 17:11, 14-16; 1 John 2:15-16, emphasis added).
If we desire to sanctify or keep holy to God the first day of the week, then let us dialogue with Him in corporate worship. Before the service, let us contemplate what it means to be worshipping by the power of God’s Spirit, in the courts of Heaven, in the company of angels (cf. Eph. 2:6-7; Heb. 12:22-24). Let us worship as those who are truly in the presence of the holy God—as those who by faith and in Spirit are citizens of Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, worshipping as the one body of Christ. And may such contemplation direct our thoughts, words, and actions throughout the remainder of the day.
WLC 121 Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment? A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment,(1) partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it,(2) and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments,(3) and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion;(4) and partly, because we are very ready to forget it,(5) for that there is less light of nature for it,(6) and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful;(7) that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it;(8) and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.(9) (1)Exod. 20:8 (2)Exod. 16:23; Luke 23:54,56 with Mark 15:42; Neh. 13:19 (3)Ps. 92 (title) compared with Ps. 92:13,14; Ezek. 20:12,19,20 (4)Gen. 2:2,3; Ps. 118:22,24; Acts 4:10,11; Rev. 1:10 (5)Ezek. 22:26 (6)Neh. 9:14 (7)Exod. 34:21 (8)Deut. 5:14,15; Amos 8:5 (9)Lam. 1:7; Jer. 17:21,22,23; Neh. 13:15-23
The Westminster Assembly was wise to devote a catechism question to the single word remember. For how easy it is for us to forget the fourth commandment. Indeed, the majority of Evangelicals have forgotten the fourth commandment, and many Reformed and Presbyterian Christians would like to forget it. Yet, God said, “REMEMBER!”
Satan, “the god of this world, has blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Cor. 4:4). He is “the ruler of the kingdom of darkness, the ruler of the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2, author’s translation). Has Satan blinded the minds of the Church? I don’t think so. For a remnant yet observes the Lord’s Day.
Yet, the Westminster divines astutely noted that Satan and his wicked workers of iniquity have been quite effective in their labors “to blot out the glory” of the Lord’s Day, and “even the memory of it,” seeking to “bring in all irreligion and impiety.” Satan has indeed labored quite successfully in blotting “out the glory” of it. For most professing Christians look on the Lord’s Day as a burdensome yoke that is too great for them to bear. They do not delight in keeping it holy to God. Satan has also labored quite successfully in blotting out “even the memory of it.” For many evangelicals think it is nothing but a reminder of a bygone era—an abrogated law of the “dispensation of law” or the “dispensation of Moses.” And Satan has labored quite successfully to bring in “all irreligion and impiety.” The Lord’s Day has been profaned in every way imaginable, most notably by the corruption of true worship. Satan has worked through false (and misled) teachers in church history to devise all sorts of “self-imposed worship,” not the least of which is those ecclesiastical holidays which have been the object of our study in this book. The Lord’s Day has fallen on hard times since the turn of the 20th century, as the Church has abandoned it in exchange for holy days and seasons created by the Church.
Joseph Pipa comments:
Following the Puritans, the uniform practice of English and Scottish Reformed
churches until the middle of this [the 20th] century has been the
Sabbatarianism of the Westminster Standards. Such was also the practice of
English and American Baptists and Methodists. In Holland, although there was
more theological resistance, the primary position favoured a strict observance
of the Lord’s Day.
Yet, I am confident that truth will prevail! God will raise up modern Reformers; He will raise up a Hezekiah, a Josiah, a John Calvin, or a John Knox. He will either restore true worship in His church through such Reformers, or He will return first and deliver us from this present evil age to the true worship that shall forever await His elect. But, either way, “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against Christ’s Church (Matt. 16:18, NIV).
Following John Murray, Robert L. Reymond delineates a three-fold import to the sacramental sign and seal of baptism: First, baptism denotes union with Christ in His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. Second, baptism signifies the cleansing or purification from sin’s defilement and guilt. Third, baptism symbolizes the spiritual work given that name in Holy Scripture, namely, Christ’s work of baptizing His people with the Holy Spirit.
The Westminster Larger Catechism asks the question, “How is our baptism to be improved by us?” (Q. 167). It answers,
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others;(1) by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein;(2) by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements;(3) by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament;(4) by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace;(5) and by endeavoring to live by faith,(6) to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness,(7) as those that have therein given up their names to Christ;(8) and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.(9) (1)Col. 2:11,12; Rom. 6:4,6,11 (2)Rom. 6:3-5 (3)1 Cor. 1:11-13; Rom. 6:2,3 (4)Rom. 4:11,12; 1 Pet. 3:21 (5)Rom. 6:3-5 (6)Gal. 3:26,27 (7)Rom. 6:22 (8)Acts 2:38 (9)1 Cor. 12:13,25,26,27
Question 167 of the Larger Catechism reminds us that one of the ways in which our baptism is “improved by us” is by “drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening [making alive] of grace.”
Baptism should be a regular occurrence on the Lord’s Day, for several reasons: First, baptism is a holy sign and seal of the covenant of grace, which represents Christ and His benefits. It is one of just two sacred ordinances that have been entrusted to Christ’s church. Second, baptism is a reminder to every member of the covenant community of his or her covenant responsibilities. It is a reminder of their union with Christ and of their duty to “work out” their “own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). During times of temptation and when we are present at the administration of baptism to infants and adults, we should draw strength from this reminder of our union with Christ in His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. We should remember that we were baptized into Him, dying to sin but being made alive to God in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. 6:11). With the Apostle Paul, we should declare, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). We have been cleansed or purified from sin’s guilt and defilement, by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). We have been born again by the Spirit (John 3:1-6). Therefore, we do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1, 4).
The Larger Catechism notes the similarities between the sacrament of baptism and the other sacrament of Christ’s church—the Lord’s Supper:
WLC 176 Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's
III. The Lord’s Supper
The second sacrament by which Christ reminds us of His death and resurrection is the Lord’s Supper. Not only has God ordained the first day of every week as His day; He has provided us with a meal to enjoy with Him, which is called “the Lord’s Supper.” The Lord’s Supper is the feast that God has instituted for our benefit and enjoyment. This is the means that He has ordained for us to remember His death and resurrection:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26, emphasis added; cf. Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22)
Joseph Pipa notes the close connection between the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper in Scripture:
The term John uses [“the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10)] means a day that belongs peculiarly to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the often used phrase, “the day of the Lord,” but a term that means a day “belonging to the Lord.” This term is used only one other time in the New Testament, by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20 to describe the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not an ordinary meal, but a meal that belongs exclusively to the Lord, and was appointed to celebrate His redeeming work and to communicate grace to His people. In like manner, the first day of the week is called the Lord’s day because it is a day that belongs peculiarly to the Lord and was appointed to commemorate His completed redemption and to communicate grace to His people.
Reformed churches teach, following the Westminster Confession of Faith, that “worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament [the Lord’s Supper], do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses” (WCF, 29.7, emphasis added).
Robert L. Reymond adds, “The Lord’s Supper becomes then for the ‘worthy’ communicant a means of grace, not automatically, but through the blessing of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in him who by faith receives the elements. By them the crucified Christ spiritually gives himself and his atoning benefits to the believer to strengthen and nurture him”.
Reymond points out that the view held by most Reformed churches differs slightly from that of John Calvin, as expressed in his Institutes, 4.17. He explains, “While Reformed churches generally follow Calvin’s lead in his insistence that Christ is ‘really, but spiritually, present’ to believers in the Lord’s Supper, not every Reformed theologian follows Calvin’s exposition in its every detail”. Citing the criticisms levied against Calvin’s teaching by Charles Hodge, William Cunningham, and Robert Lewis Dabney, Dr. Reymond convincingly demonstrates that Calvin’s exegetical and interpretative error in his treatment of Jesus’ teaching in John 6 led to his error in his exposition of the Lord’s Supper.
The Larger and Shorter Catechisms provide the following definitions of the Lord’s Supper:
WLC 168 What is the Lord's supper?
A. The Lord's supper is a sacrament of the New Testament,(1) wherein, 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,(2) have their union and communion with him confirmed;(3) testify and renew their thankfulness,(4) and engagement to God,(5) and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.(6) (1)Luke 22:20 (2)Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-26 (3)1 Cor. 10:16 (4)1 Cor. 11:24 (5)1 Cor. 10:14-16,21 (6)1 Cor. 10:17
WSC 96 What is the Lord's supper?
A. The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.(1) (1)1 Cor. 11:23-26; 1 Cor. 10:16
The meaning (import) of the Lord’s Supper can be explained and summarized under the following five headings: 1) a commemorative celebration; 2) an eschatological anticipation; 3) a means of grace; 4) a demanding ordinance; and 5) a vindicating apologetic.
First, the Lord’s Supper is a commemorative celebration. The Lord’s Supper is to be a commemorative celebration of the church’s redemption, which “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7; cf. Exod. 12:46) accomplished when He died as our sacrifice at the time of the Passover (John 18:28; 19:36). By it the church looks back to the historical actuality of Christ’s cross work and remembers (1 Cor. 11:24), not reenacts, and proclaims (1 Cor. 11:26) Christ’s sacrificial death for the church.
Second, the Lord’s Supper is an eschatological anticipation. The Lord’s Supper looks forward to the coming of the eschatological kingdom (see, e.g., Luke 22:16, 18). By partaking of the Lord’s Supper “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), the “worthy” communicant anticipates that glorious time in the Eschaton, at the return of Christ, when the church as the perfected Bride of Christ will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven at the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9) and drink anew with Christ of the fruit of the vine in His Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).
Third, the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. Reymond explains, “By his ‘worthy’ participation in the Lord’s Supper, the celebrant ‘communes’ by faith with his Lord’s slain body and blood, which were offered up for him in death as his sacrifice for sin (John 6:50-58, 63-64; 1 Cor. 10:16), thereby experiencing a spiritual nourishment, growth in grace, and renewal of thanksgiving and engagement to God”. The Larger Catechism, Question 170, enlarges upon this aspect of the Lord’s Supper:
WLC 170 How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord's supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord's supper,(1) and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses;(2) so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner, yet truly and really,(3) while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.(4) (1)Acts 3:21 (2)Matt. 26:26,28 (3)1 Cor. 11:24-29 (4)1 Cor. 10:16
John Calvin comments regarding the benefits of the Lord’s Supper:
[The Lord’s Supper assures us of] our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours. As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of Heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be cut off from us than from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
Fourth, the Lord’s Supper is a demanding ordinance. The Larger Catechism explains what the observance of the Lord’s Supper requires of us:
WLC 171 How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves(1) of their being in Christ,(2) of their sins and wants;(3) of the truth and measure of their knowledge,(4) faith,(5) repentance;(6) love to God and the brethren,(7) charity to all men,(8) forgiving those that have done them wrong;(9) of their desires after Christ,(10) and of their new obedience,(11) and by renewing the exercise of these graces,(12) by serious meditation,(13) and fervent prayer.(14) (1)1 Cor. 11:28 (2)2 Cor. 13:5 (3)1 Cor. 5:7 compared with Exod. 12:15 (4)1 Cor. 11:29 (5)1 Cor. 13:5; Matt. 26:28 (6)Zech. 12:10; 1 Cor. 11:31 (7)1 Cor. 10:16,17; Acts 2:46,47 (8)1 Cor. 5:8; 1 Cor. 11:18,20 (9)Matt. 5:23,24 (10)Isa. 55:1; John 7:37 (11)1 Cor. 5:7,8 (12)1 Cor. 11:25,26,28; Heb. 10:21,22,24; Ps. 26:6 (13)1 Cor. 11:24,25 (14)2 Chron. 30:18,19; Matt. 26:26
WLC 174 What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper in the time of [i.e., during] the administration of it?
A. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance,(1) diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions,(2) heedfully discern the Lord's body,(3) and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings,(4) and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces;(5) in judging themselves,(6) and sorrowing for sin;(7) in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ,(8) feeding on him by faith,(9) receiving of his fulness,(10) trusting in his merits,(11) rejoicing in his love,(12) giving thanks for his grace;(13) in renewing of their covenant with God,(14) and love to all the saints.(15) (1)Lev. 10:3; Heb. 12:28; Ps. 5:7; 1 Cor. 11:17,26,27 (2)Exod. 24:8 compared with Matt. 26:28 (3)1 Cor. 11:29 (4)Luke 22:19 (5)1 Cor. 11:26; 1 Cor. 10:3,4,5,11,14 (6)1 Cor. 11:31 (7)Zech. 12:10 (8)Rev. 22:17 (9)John 6:35 (10)John 1:16 (11)Phil. 1:16 (12)Ps. 63:4,5; 2 Chron. 30:21 (13)Ps. 22:26 (14)Jer. 1:5; Ps. 1:5 (15)Acts 2:42
WLC 175 What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper?
A. The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success;(1) if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it,(2) beg the continuance of it,(3) watch against relapses,(4) fulfill their vows,(5) and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance:(6) but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament;(7) in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time:(8) but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled,(9) and to attend upon it afterward with more care and diligence.(10) (1)Ps. 28:7; Ps. 85:8; 1 Cor. 11:17,30,31 (2)2 Chron. 30:21,22,23,25,26; Acts 2:42 (3)Ps. 36:10; Cant. 3:4; 1 Chron. 29:18 (4)1 Cor. 10:3,4,5,12 (5)Ps. 50:14 (6)1 Cor. 11:25,26; Acts 2:42,46 (7)Cant. 5:1-6; Eccles. 5:1-6 (8)Ps. 123:1,2; Ps. 42:5,8; Ps. 43:3-5 (9)2 Chron. 30:18,19; Isa. 1:16,18 (10)2 Cor. 7:11; 1 Chron. 15:12-14
Fifth, the Lord’s Supper is a vindicating apologetic. Robert Reymond explains,
In the life and death struggle between Christianity and theological liberalism, indeed against all antisupernaturalism, the Lord’s Supper, both by its sign character (bread broken, fruit of the vine poured out, recipient participation) and by the words of institution (“my body which is for you”; “my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin”), stands as a vindicating apologetic that the evangelical interpretation of the death of Christ as a substitutionary, atoning death by sacrifice (over against the portrayal of his death as that of a martyr in a noble cause or as that of a misguided fanatic) is the only true and proper view of Christ’s death work. The Lord’s Supper itself preaches the substitutionary atonement and proclaims both the Lord’s sacrificial death in our behalf and his final return to judgment.
1. The Apostolic Teaching
In Greece, Paul and Luke assembled with the people of God to break bread and to hear the preaching of God’s word on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The Lord’s Supper was observed every Lord’s Day and may have been observed even more frequently. Calvin writes in his Institutes,
Luke relates in The Acts that this [frequent communion] was the practice of the apostolic church, when he says that believers “. . . continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” [Acts 2:42, cf. Vg.]. Thus it became the unvarying rule that no meeting of the church should take place without the Word, prayers, partaking of the Supper, and almsgiving. That this was the established order among the Corinthians also, we can safely infer from Paul [cf. 1 Cor. 11:20]. And it remained in use for many centuries after.
In the apostolic church, worship services had a two-part structure: Word and Table. The Lord’s Supper was administered every week, every time the Word of God was preached.
In The Didache
(early second century) the term Lord’s Day is used to describe the day of
worship: “‘On the Lord’s day of the Lord, come together, break bread and hold
Eucharist, . . .’”.
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper continued to be an essential element of
worship. Similarly, Justin Martyr’s Apology (A.D. 150) expresses that
“the ministry of the Word” and “the ministry of the Table” were essential
elements of any worship service. He describes a typical 2nd century
Scripture Lesson (Law, prophets, apostles)
Sermon (seated in cathedra)
Common prayers (standing)
Ministry of the Table
Kiss of Peace
Offertory (elements from people)
Eucharistic prayer (praise)
Consecration of elements (thanksgiving)
Deacons distribute elements
Collection for poor
3. John Calvin
John Calvin advocated weekly administration of the Lord’s Supper, as the conclusion of every worship service. Calvin’s liturgy, like that of the early church, consisted of two parts—a “liturgy of the Word” and “liturgy of the Upper Room.” Calvin describes his view regarding proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper in his Institutes:
. . . the Supper could have been administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, and at least once a week. First, then, it should begin with public prayers. After this a sermon should be given. Then, when bread and wine have been placed on the Table, the minister should repeat the words of institution of the Supper. Next, he should recite the promises which were left to us in it; at the same time, he should excommunicate all who are debarred from it by the Lord’s prohibition. Afterward, he should pray that the Lord, with the kindness wherewith he has bestowed this sacred food upon us, also teach and form us to receive it with faith and thankfulness of heart, and, inasmuch as we are not so of ourselves, by his mercy make us worthy of such a feast. But here either psalms should be sung, or something be read, and in becoming order the believers should partake of the most holy banquet, the ministers breaking the bread and giving the cup. When the Supper is finished, there should be an exhortation to sincere faith and confession of faith, to love and behavior worthy of Christians. At the last, thanks should be given, and praises sung to God. When these things are ended, the church should be dismissed in peace.
Lawrence C. Roff, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, comments that Calvin “wanted weekly sacrament with Scripture given authoritative prominence.” Calvin’s conviction that the Lord’s Supper should be observed “very often, and at least once a week” was not just a preference; it was a conviction, based on his understanding of the apostolic teaching, as cited above.
Calvin further articulates that the Lord’s Supper
was ordained to be frequently used among all Christians in order that they might frequently return in memory to Christ’s Passion, by such remembrance to sustain and strengthen their faith, and urge themselves to sing thanksgiving to God and to proclaim his goodness; finally, by it to nourish mutual love, and among themselves give witness to this love, and discern its bond in the unity of Christ’s body. For as often as we partake of the symbol of the Lord’s body, as a token given and received, we reciprocally bind ourselves to all the duties of love in order that none of us may permit anything that can harm our brother, or overlook anything that can help him, where necessity demands and ability suffices.
In Calvin’s day, the usual custom was to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper only once a year. In response to this minimalization of the Lord’s Supper, Calvin writes:
. . . the Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually. None is indeed to be forcibly compelled, but all are to be urged and aroused; also the inertia of indolent people is to be rebuked. All, like hungry men, should flock to such a bounteous repast. Not unjustly, then, did I complain at the outset that this custom was thrust in by the devil’s artifice, which, in prescribing one day a year, renders men slothful all the rest of the year. Indeed, we see that already in Chrysostom’s day this degrading abuse had crept in; but we can see at the same time how much it displeased him.
Augustine, bishop of Hippo, who was one of the greatest theologians of the first millenium of the church, referred to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a “sign of unity” and “bond of love.” Calvin concurs with Augustine, maintaining that frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper plays an important role in the nurture and maintenance of unity in the body of Christ. He writes that the Lord intended for the Lord’s Supper to be
a kind of exhortation for us, which can more forcefully than any other means quicken and inspire us both to purity and holiness of life, and to love, peace, and concord. For the Lord so [spiritually—author] communicates his body to us there that he is made completely one with us and we with him. Now, since he has only one body, of which he makes us all partakers [spiritually—author], it is necessary, that all of us also be made one body by such participation. The bread shown in the Sacrament represents this unity. As it is made of many grains so mixed together that one cannot be distinguished from another, so it is fitting that in the same way we should be joined and bound together by such great agreement of minds that no sort of disagreement or division may intrude.
Calvin is here merely echoing the Apostle Paul, who writes, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17). Calvin further elucidates the role that the observance of the Lord’s Supper should have with respect to the unity of the body of Christ:
We shall benefit very much from the Sacrament if this thought is impressed and engraved upon our minds: that none of the brethren can be injured, despised, rejected, abused, or in any way offended by us, without at the same time, injuring, despising, and abusing Christ by the wrongs we do; that we cannot disagree with our brethren without at the same time disagreeing with Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving him in the brethren; that we ought to take the same care of our brethren’s bodies as we take of our own; for they are members of our body; and that, as no part of our body is touched by any feeling of pain which is not spread among all the rest, so we ought not to allow a brother to be affected by any evil, without being touched with compassion for him.
Most modern evangelicals hold to the Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper, which discounts the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace. The Zwinglian view denies the unique presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, rendering the ordinance a bare memorialism, commemorating the death of Christ. Zwinglians teach that “the elements are symbolic visible representations of the death of Christ”. This view moved churches to infrequent, quarterly communion.
Bucer and Knox shared Calvin’s real, spiritual presence view of the Lord’s Supper. While the civil magistrate in Geneva only allowed Calvin’s church to observe monthly communion, Knox brought even greater separation of word and table by infrequent observance of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was only observed quarterly in Knox’s Scotland—arbitrarily on the first Sunday in March, June, September, and December to avoid any liturgical seasonal observance.
On the other hand, the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England mandated weekly observance of communion. Communion and sermon were essential parts of every Lord’s Day service. The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) includes a “liturgy of the Word” and “liturgy of the Upper Room.” By 1562, however, the observance of the Lord’s Supper began to move from weekly to quarterly.
In Puritan England, monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper was the norm. In Colonial America, churches continued monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper at first, but it gradually slipped to infrequent practice—often only annually. 
During the Great Awakening, Wesley “strongly advocated weekly celebration” of the Lord’s Supper. Wesley held to Calvin’s doctrine of real, spiritual presence. His worship liturgy consisted of Word and Sacrament, and this pattern was also found among such men as George Whitefield, Howel Harris, Daniel Rowland, and the Welsh (Calvinistic) Methodists.
Yet, in modern times quarterly communion has been the norm, although an increasing number of Reformed churches have begun to offer monthly communion.
A frequent objection to weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper is that such frequent observance will cause the ordinance to become common or ordinary. Therefore, we should observe the Lord’s Supper less often, lest it become routine. I disagree with this assessment, for the following reasons:
First, it would seem that the apostolic church included the Lord’s Supper in its worship each Lord’s Day (see, e.g., Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20). They did not seem to be concerned about observing the sacrament too frequently.
Second, this same objection could be raised against any other element of our worship. We don’t limit our preaching of the Word to once a month, lest we bore people with too many sermons. We don’t limit our prayers to “quarterly,” lest people get bored with our routine of “adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.” Why then should we limit our observance of the Lord’s Supper? Is not the Lord’s Supper just as much a mean of grace as the preaching of the Word or prayer?
Third, if the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic, visual “sign and seal” of the covenant of grace, why would we want to hamper our evangelistic effectiveness by hiding this “gospel presentation” from those assembled for worship? Who is harmed by this “invitation system” that God has appointed to invite his people to spiritually feast with him? If anything, it should be difficult to restrain a church that is serious about evangelism to observe the Lord’s Supper only once a week.
Fourth, the Lord’s Supper is a means of spiritual nourishment that God has graciously given to His church. Why then do we want to resist being nourished? If we only consumed food and drink on a monthly or quarterly basis, what would happen to our physical health? Why then do we starve and dehydrate ourselves spiritually? Few would argue that we should only eat and drink monthly, lest it become too ordinary. Why then should we skip the spiritual feast that God has prepared for us?
Finally, consider what God says about the other means of grace. In regard to the study of God’s Word, God says, “Blessed is the man” whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). In regard to prayer, God says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). In light of these statements about God’s other means of grace, why should we presume that God desires for us to observe His sacraments on a quarterly or monthly basis?
Due to the neglect of the Lord’s Supper in our day, I have included the following three questions and answers from the Westminster Larger Catechism as a reminder regarding the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper.
WLC 169 How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord's supper?
A. Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord's supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.(1) (1)1 Cor. 11:23,24; Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19,20
WLC 172 May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord's supper?
A. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof;(1) and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it,(2) and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ,(3) and to depart from iniquity:(4) in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians(5)) he is to bewail his unbelief,(6) and labour to have his doubts resolved;(7) and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be further strengthened.(8) (1)Isa. 50:10; 1 John 5:13; Ps. 88 throughout; Ps. 77:1-12; Jonah 2:4,7 (2)Isa. 54:7-10; Matt. 5:3,4; Ps. 31:22; Ps. 73:13,22,23 (3)Phil. 3:8,9; Ps. 10:17; Ps. 42:1,2,5,11 (4)2 Tim. 2:19; Isa. 50:10; Ps. 66:18-20 (5)Isa. 40:11,29,31; Matt. 11:28; Matt. 12:20; Matt. 26:28 (6)Mark 9:24 (7)Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30 (8)Rom. 4:11; 1 Cor. 11:28
WLC 173 May any who profess his faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, be kept from it?
A. Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church,(1) until they receive instruction and manifest their reformation.(2) (1)1 Cor. 11:27-31 compared with Matt. 7:6 and 1 Cor. 5 and Jude 23 and 1 Tim. 5:22 (2)2 Cor. 2:7
The move from weekly to quarterly (or even just annual) communion in Scotland and later in America had disastrous ramifications for the church’s worship. Surely these men who advocated less frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper had only the noblest of motives. Yet, I fear that their decision to decrease the frequency of the observance of the Lord’s Supper may be partially responsible for two serious distortions of true worship in modern times.
First, I raise the question of whether the introduction of the observance of ecclesiastical holy days in Reformed and Presbyterian churches might have been averted, in part, if the Lord’s Supper had been observed weekly. The Lord’s Supper is God’s appointed feast. It was the means that He appointed for commemoration, edification, and celebration. By withholding this sacrament from God’s people, they were left in a state of spiritual starvation. In response, they invented their own “feast days” (such as Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter) as a substitute for the spiritual nourishment that they were deprived of by the Church—or in the case of modern Presbyterians, they looked to Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans for this substitute.
Second, I raise the question of whether “the invitation system” and “altar calls” employed by modern evangelical churches would have become as predominate as they are today if the Lord’s Supper had been observed weekly. The Lord’s Supper was an integral part of the apostolic church’s liturgy. The preaching of the Word was always to be followed by the Lord’s Supper. While modern evangelicals have not returned to the Roman Catholic altar, they have invented another man-made “altar,” which they have termed an “altar call.”
The “invitation system” is another attempt by men to replace the Lord’s Supper with an ordinance of human invention. Paul says that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). When the Church departed from the apostolic example, by divorcing the preaching of the Word from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it left a void, which the “invitation system” has sought to fill.
The modern “altar call” provides an opportunity at the conclusion of every worship service briefly to proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection (although many churches in our day have difficulty articulating the Biblical Gospel) and to call for a response. Yet, if the Lord’s Supper was being conducted weekly, this “invitation” would seem needless and redundant. For in the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s death and resurrection are proclaimed at the conclusion of every worship service. Those who are not confident of their conversion are left to ponder why they are unable to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and this should cause them to ask a church member or pastor how they, too, can become part of the body of Christ.
Instead of inviting those assembled to “come forward and make a decision for Jesus,” the Lord’s Supper calls those gathered to examine themselves and invites only those who are members of the visible church of Christ to the Lord’s feast. Instead of focusing on the individual’s decision to choose Christ and come forward, the Lord’s Supper focuses on Christ’s invitation that is limited only to those whom He has invited to feast with Him. And, in proclaiming the Gospel, this sacrament also calls all unbelievers who may be present among the assembly to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ (i.e., to trust in His works; in His substitutionary, atoning death by sacrifice) alone for salvation.
Most importantly, in contrast to the “altar call” or “invitation system,” which has been invented by men, the Lord’s Supper was ordained by God to be observed “until He comes.”
 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3., ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 70.
 “In connection with the concept of the eighth day, the early church emphasized the festive character of the Sabbath; a holy festival, celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Joseph A. Pipa, The Lord’s Day [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1997], 136).
 Matthew Henry, Commentary on the New Testament, Colossians. New Modern Edition Database. Vol. 8. (Hendrickson, 1994).
 Although the moral law of God is binding on all men, the unbeliever, dead on account of his trespasses and sins, cannot keep it. His every thought, word, and deed is sinful. Thus, apart from the regenerating grace of God, it is impossible for him to sanctify or keep holy to God the Lord’s Day. Nevertheless, he still is accountable to God for his transgression of God’s Law. His only hope is to place his trust in Christ alone, to be justified by grace alone through faith alone, for “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20; cf. Gal. 2:16).
 Westminster Confession of Faith (1646; reprint, Glasgow, Scotland: Free Presbyterian Publications, 2001), 394, emphasis added.
 Pipa notes, “The Old Covenant people looked forward to the accomplishment of redemption, so they kept the Sabbath at the end of the week. After the Rest-giver had accomplished His work, the New Testament Church kept its Sabbath on the day He entered into His rest, signifying that although we wait for the consummation, we already have begun to participate in this rest” (The Lord’s Day, 126.).
 Los Angeles Times (31 May 1996), 3. New York Times (21 Feb. 1989), 1. “Five to six million strong, Muslims in America already outnumber Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Mormons, and they are more numerous than Quakers, Unitarians, Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists, combined” (“Collection of Quotes,” 20 July 1998, electronically retrieved 26 June 2002 at www.thenlightenment.com/whyislam/quotes.html).
 Pipa, The Lord’s Day, 64-65.
 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (1871; reprint, USA: Hendrickson, 1999), 3:330, emphasis added.
 Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (1871; reprint, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996), 379-380.
 Robert L. Reymond, “Lord’s Day Observance: Man’s Proper Response to the Fourth Commandment,” Presbuterion: Covenant Seminary Review 13:1 (Spring 1987), 22.
 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology Old and New Testaments (1948; reprint, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), 141-142, emphasis added.
For a detailed consideration of the holiness of God, you might
consider the book on this subject by R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God
(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1998).
 Bruce A. Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest in a Restless World (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2000), 114.
 Ibid., 92, emphasis added.
 Robert Reymond comments, “Any attempt at recovering a Reformed spirituality would do well carefully to study the best of the Puritan literature on the observance of the Lord’s Day. Observance of the Lord’s Day not only provides unhurried time for prayer, reading of Scripture and meditation all day long, but also becomes the day around which all the rest of the week is organized. For if one knows he is going to devote a day to spiritual concerns and eliminate all secular distractions, he will also know that he must organize the remaining six days in such a way that his other obligations will be met.” (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 877.)
 Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath, 85.
 Worship is a dialogue between God and man. God speaks to us through the reading and preaching of His Word and through the signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace (i.e., Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). We respond to God chiefly through prayer and song.
 The Bible teaches that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). By virtue of our union with Christ, we are even now “seated with Christ in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Here, “we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:14). As we live our earthly lives, we live as “sojourners [resident aliens] and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11, NKJ), as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). But we look forward to that heavenly city that God has prepared for us, which presently finds its visible form on earth, as Christ’s church. The church is “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God,” for it is built on “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Heb. 11:10; Eph. 2:20, NIV; Rev. 21:9-10, 14). Thus, we are to live as citizens of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2); Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22); the Jerusalem above, for “she is our mother” (Gal. 4:26). We are to live as members of Christ’s body. We are to live as the bride of Christ, which He purchased with His own blood. We are to live as those who have been granted access to the holy of holies (Heb. 12:22-24). We may confidently, boldly enter the Most Holy Place, for we have been covered by the blood of the Lamb (cf. Heb. 10:19).
 The 1832 version of the Constitution and Standards of the Associated Reformed Church in North America also provides recommendations regarding proper sanctification of the Lord’s Day in Chapter 3, section 8 of its Directory for Worship, entitled “Of the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day”:
The Lord’s day ought to be so remembered beforehand, as that all worldly business of our callings may be so ordered, and so truly and seasonably laid aside, as they may not be impediments to the due sanctification of the day when it comes.
The whole day is to be celebrated as holy to the Lord, both in public and private, as being the Christian sabbath. To which it is requisite that there be a holy cessation or resting all that day from all unnecessary labours; and an abstaining, not only from all sports and pastimes, but also from all worldly words and thoughts (Isa 58:13).
That the diet on that day be so ordered, as that neither servants be unnecessarily detained from the public worship of God, or any other person hindered from the sanctifying that day.
That there be private preparations of every person and family by prayer for themselves, and for God’s assistance of the minister and for a blessing upon his ministry; and by such other holy exercises, as may further dispose them to a more comfortable communion with God in his public ordinances.
That all the people meet so timely for public worship, that the whole congregation may be present at the beginning, and with one heart solemnly join together in all parts of the public worship, and not part till after the blessing.
That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in public, be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons; especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard, and catechising of them; family conferences; prayer for a blessing upon the public ordinances; singing of psalms; visiting the sick; relieving the poor; and such like duties of piety, charity, and mercy, accounting the Sabbath a delight. (Constitution and Standards of the Associated Reformed Church in North America [Pittsburgh: Johnston and Stockton, 1832], 425.)
 Such was Satan’s tactic in leading Eve astray in the Garden. In his craftiness, the serpent said to Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Or, perhaps a better translation, “Even though God has said you shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden. . . .” The serpent called into question the truthfulness, or veracity, of God. As the father of lies (John 8:44), the serpent stated error as though it were fact. The serpent wanted Eve to feel restricted by God’s command. The serpent blasphemously imputed falsehood and evil motive to God. So we should not be surprised if the devil employs similar tactics in attacking Christians today. (For a brilliant exegesis of this passage [Genesis 3], see Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 440-446ff.)
 Pipa, The Lord’s Day, 154-155.
 The Westminster Confession of Faith defines sacraments as “holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word” (27.1). For a good introduction to the sacraments as “means of grace,” I highly recommend Dr. Robert L. Reymond’s treatment of the subject in his A New Systematic Theology of the Christian faith, pp. 917-923.
 Since Jesus speaks of being baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, baptism also signifies union with the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 925-926.
 Pipa, The Lord’s Day, 127-128. Robert L. Reymond further clarifies that the Greek word kuriako,j, kyriakos, which means “belonging to the Lord,” occurs only twice in the Greek New Testament—in 1 Corinthians 11:20, where it refers to the “Lord’s Supper,” and Revelation 1:10, where it refers to the “Lord’s Day” (Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 805).
 Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 961.
 Ibid., 961.
 Ibid., 961-964.
 Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 966. For a full discussion of the import of the Lord’s Supper, I refer my readers to pp. 964-967 of Dr. Reymond’s Systematic, which will be summarized below.
 Ibid., 964-965.
 Ibid., 965.
 Ibid., 965-966.
 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics, vols. 20-21 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 4.17.2.
 Robert Reymond adds “that those who come should come as though they were coming to a banquet table, and should come with the expectation of being fed the ‘richest food’ available to mankind” (A New Systematic Theology, 966).
 Ibid., 967.
 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics, vols. 20-21 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 4.17.44, emphasis added.
 Pipa, The Lord’s Day, 135.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Ancient and Medieval Worship,” unpublished course syllabus.
 Robert L. Reymond notes, “John Calvin resisted the separation of Word and Sacrament into two distinct services . . . . He contended that the celebration of the Supper should be attached each week to the preached Word to form a natural climax to the Sunday service. Beginning his service from the Table with confession of sin and scripture sentences assuring pardon of sin, during the singing of a metrical psalm and acting in his “prophetic capacity,” he ascended to the pulpit and preached, usually no longer than half an hour. Then acting in his “priestly capacity” he returned to the Table, offered to God the congregation’s prayers of intercession, and without any interruption, gave the words of institution and a serious exhortation, which included fencing the table from unbelievers, then distributed the elements. After a short admonition, a hymn, a prayer of thanksgiving, and the Nunc dimittis, he ended the service with a benediction.” (Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 876, n. 17, emphasis added.)
 Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.43, emphasis added.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Reformation Worship,” unpublished course syllabus.
 Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.44, emphasis added.
 Ibid., 4.17.46, emphasis added.
 St. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 26.13, as quoted in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 7, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 172.
 Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.38, emphasis added.
 Robert Reymond, citing Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Roland Bainton, argues that Zwingli, himself, probably did not hold the view held by later Zwinglians (see Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 921, n. 23; cf. 960).
 Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 960.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Reformation Worship,” unpublished course syllabus. Robert L. Reymond notes that Zwingli called for a quarterly observance (Easter, Pentecost, autumn, and Christmas) (A New Systematic Theology, 957).
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Reformation Worship,” unpublished course syllabus. This minimalization of the Lord’s Supper by John Knox and/or the Scottish church seems to have been an overreaction to the abuses and distortion of the sacrament by the Roman Catholic Church.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Puritan and Revivalistic Worship,” unpublished course syllabus.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Puritan and Revivalistic Worship,” unpublished course syllabus.
 Lawrence C. Roff, “Puritan and Revivalistic Worship,” unpublished course syllabus.
 My readers should note that while on the one hand I have strongly endorsed the position of the Scottish Presbyterians in regard to their views regarding the observance of church holidays and the Lord’s Day, I beg to differ with their practice regarding the Lord’s Supper. In my humble opinion, the minimalization of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in Scottish and American Presbyterianism may be one factor that led to the introduction and growing acceptance of the unbiblical, substitute “feasts” and feast days in Presbyterian and Reformed churches during the late 19th and the 20th century.
 In a similar fashion, an increasing number of churches holding to so-called “believer’s baptism,” have added “infant dedications” to their worship services, as a substitute for infant baptisms. Just as the “invitation system” is a cheap substitute for weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, so also infant dedications necessarily denigrate the sacrament of baptism, which should rightly be administered to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and to the children of one or more believing parents. (For Further Study on infant baptism, I recommend reading Robert L. Reymond’s treatment of the subject in his A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 935-950. Also, I recommend reading Robert L. Dabney’s treatment of infant baptism in his Systematic Theology (1871; reprint, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996), 777-799.
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