Was it meant to be a full communal meal or a symbolic loaf and cup? This topic was brought into the assembly by a brother who had himself been persuaded of the full meal interpretation. We were unaware at the time of the prevalence of this doctrine. The assembly gave it much consideration and came to the conclusion that it is an unsound teaching. After which a brother came to the area and spoke at a "conference" promoting the same full meal doctrine. Thus this letter was sent out to they that attended that "conference".
My Dear Brethren,
Today there is a resurgence of the doctrine that understands the Lord’s Supper to be a “full communal meal”. Conferences and web sites, books and tapes are all promoting it. As a result many of the Lord’s people are identifying themselves with the movement, even to the extent of distinguishing themselves as churches that “share a full meal as the Lord’s Supper”. Though many reasons may be behind the reappearance of this doctrine one reason seems obvious: The doctrine may well be looked upon by those involved, conscious or not, as a vehicle for change in an effort to regain a sense of community, a sense long lost to the church. Even so, it is possible the well intentioned, who desire the church to experience community, are seeing things in an unbalanced way under the influence of their zeal. A way in which has lead to the manipulation of the very things God has given to help experience His community and as a result may be working to establish a community of their own fancy. This, I fear, is what is taking place in this shift in the understanding of the significance of the Lord’s Supper and this is why I am writing this letter. However right the propagators of this doctrine may be in their concern for the state of things they are not right to allow their sense of need for community to influence their understanding of the ordinances. They are to allow the ordinances, as the Lord has established, to aid in the shaping of the Community of God.
Championing the Doctrine
The doctrine is being championed by many within the “House Church Movement”, a “movement” wherein the individuals share much of the same heart with others, including myself. But there is a difference: one forms a “movement”; the other does not. The “house churches” have become, perhaps, the more visible part of what God has been doing behind the scenes for some time now; more visible as a result of the activities like those mentioned above in promoting this doctrine. These activities have lead to associations with others and a collective identity of sorts, which is resulting in doctrine becoming more uniform among them…thus a “movement”. But, nevertheless, among all of us much emphasis has been placed on church community and the mutual participation of all the members in order to experience the reality of the headship of Christ over us. It is this emphasis which is in bold contrast to the institutional church and hence constitutes a challenge to the establishment.
Many believers, therefore, have viewed the institutional church to be the epitome of what God does not want and as a result have developed a tendency to see the institutional church as the enemy. Its formal, ritualistic and oppressive character is rigorously opposed to the extent an obvious theme has developed…Away with the formal and in with the casual. The out come is, things become very low key; emphasis is put on relationships; communication is encouraged to be in the form of conversation; teaching in the form of discussion. The idea being that, the more there is interactions among the members the more likely that which is intuitively known to be missing will be found. But the fundamental problem is not an outward one, important as the outward is, it is an inward one and no amount of outward psychological ‘place setting’ will bring about a solution. The community God intends is one that is born out of and carried on in the reality of knowing, loving and obeying the Living God. Even so, the institutional structure is indeed one that inhibits the reality of this expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and therefore must be discarded.
However, let me say it again, no changes in the outward things regarding our gathering together will bring about the reality of Jesus Christ. To get people together on the basis of the ‘way to be a community’ is to fabricate what is not real and then play acting sets in and an unhealthy introspection develops…“Are we having fun yet”?
Think how the Lord’s disciples were made into a “community”. It was not though any manipulations of circumstances that held them together and they certainly didn’t focus on their relationships. No, they argued and fought a good deal of the time but that which held them together was that each one of them was following the Lord. They either had to be a community or they had to stop following Him. Jesus Christ is what still holds His disciples together. He is our cornerstone. We will either get along with each other or we will leave off following the Lord.
Look at the Corinthians. The apostle had to deal with many problems but the problems arose because life was in their midst. The gifts were flying in every direction. They all had so much to share they were becoming rude to one another. The need was for order, so that all might be edified with the life already present. He was not creating order to bring about life. It does not work that way. Order does not initiate but sustain life. It is a dreadful thing to get people together on the basis of community, psychology or mutual cause and then to think it a church. It is the life of Christ that makes a church.
To sum up, community does not bring life but life community. We must forget about the institutions, stop being reactionary and follow our Lord. In dealing with structure, form and format of our gatherings we must do so out of a knowledge of Jesus Christ: “Who is sufficient for these things?’ Asked the apostle Paul and then added, “For we are not as the many, corrupting the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” (II Cor. 2:16f-17). So in our dealings with these matters let us understand it is only in faith, in hope and in humility before God we will come to know the mind of our Lord.
The Danger of Becoming Reactionary
This reactionary response to formality, however, may actually increase the likelihood of those involved being blind to the possibility of an influence by the spirit of our times. For there has been an aversion to formality and the inherent authority it represents for some time in our culture, the thought being that it is artificial, and oppressive to what is real. (Of course, in our society, what is considered real at present is the ugly and the idea of the beautiful, a facade for hypocrites to hide behind; therefore the flood of in your face degradation of all things lovely.) But it is more likely those in the movement feel it destroys intimacy and freedom in God’s House, as indeed it can if it is too stiff and rigid. But it should not be forgotten that it is a needed part of community life, if we understand it to be comprised of order, respect and honor.
Need for Decency and Order
In fact, like society at large, it is within the framework of order and decency that the church is most benefited. Even as the apostle Paul indicated when he commanded all things to be done decently and in order that all might be edified (1 Cor. 14: 40) and when he declared it his desire men know how to behave themselves in the House of God (1 Tim. 3: 14-15). Indeed, we are creatures that need order and thus set up rules in all aspects of our lives, for we know that without them we would accomplish none of our determined ends.
Our Lord used the formality of the culture at the time of His ministry to convey a lesson to His listeners when He spoke the parable of the man who showed up at a wedding feast inappropriately dressed (Matt. 22: 11-14). As the story goes, the host of the wedding, being offended, for the man’s dress demonstrated disrespect for the event and the people involved, had him bound and cast out of the festivities. Our Lord was able, in confirmation of the act of the host, to show a lesson in his action and in so doing gave respect to formality; because rules of behavior are for the purpose of benefiting all by showing honor to which honor is due, and respect to which respect is due.
This display of honor must be in the church as well, for therein are honorable men and women who stand before an honorable God. They are whom God has designated as holy and are distinguished from the world. They are to, likewise, be holy in heart and action and the ordering of the assembly is to be in such a way as to encourage this holiness as well as be fitting for its display, for God is holy.
They who were despicable a day before their rebirth, the next day, begin to carry themselves differently. In time, the life of Christ within them (if they continue to walk in the Spirit) forms a new disposition that is honorable and dignified…Man begins to shine forth the image of God: The saints become saintly! The rule of their heart is to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. They are being made ready to rule with Him in His kingdom. So respectful behavior begins to be displayed in such simple ways as letting others have the best seats, not eating the last piece of pie, saying please and thank you, yes Sir and no Mam…all of which, as good manners, make up a formality of sorts and demands an atmosphere in harmony for its display (1Tim. 2: 8-15).
However, when rules of behavior are out of sync with the desired end then it becomes artificial and oppressive and we all know of so many problems of this nature among assemblies, institutionalized and not. But for the sake of an example, to bow and curtsy when the King approached was appropriate long ago but to do so now toward an approaching President would be archaic and not fitting the situation. This behavior, under these circumstances, has lost its desired effect and is no longer benefiting. For the need for order grows out of purpose.
Understanding, therefore, why we do what we do in these matters is mandatory. The reason for meeting as believers, for instance, in any particular occasion, needs to be understood by the participants, then the time and place, seating arrangements and who will watch the children can be dealt with and this all works toward defining a way of doing things. It was as a result of practical issues in the early church that the apostle Paul found the need to give the exhortation in 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 concerning order in the assembly. We, also, after many years of meeting as a church in home settings, have experientially discovered that if their lacks some sort of order, along the lines of good manners and respect for one another, as well as the Lord, it is unlikely spiritual growth and edification, much less friendship, will result. This is where order, or formality if you would, helps attain the desired end.
The Social and the Spiritual Needs are to be Met in the Assembly
In addition, we have found there to be two different needs among the saints when it comes to gathering together: the social and the spiritual. To meet these needs requires our awareness of the difference; for when we gather for social activity, we come with one mindset and when we gather to edify one another spiritually, ministering to the Lord, we have yet a different attitude. So then, a formality of sorts is needed to distinguish the differing ends in view and the differing behavior desired in relation. For our spiritual edification, a reverent atmosphere out of respect to our Lord is most conducive in knowing His presence among us and being able to fellowship in Him. Where as, for our social edification there need be more of a focus on interactive and personal relationships; so a relaxed atmosphere is preferable. Often both will be experienced in any particular meeting, creating a most beautiful harmonious setting where familiarity with one another in loving expressions is influenced by the reverence prevalent in honnoring the Lord’s presence among us. A sence of nobility and dignity mixes with the warmth and closness and there is peace, rest and joy in God’s House. But, again, socializing alone will not meet all our needs; it will not meet our spiritual needs, as spiritual fellowship will not meet our social needs. Therefore, there should be a balance, with each receiving the attention they deserve. As the Preacher, the king of Israel has said: “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven...”
Ordinances not Social but Spiritual in Nature
Now I’ve said all this in hope that I would convey the understanding that it is not out of character for the assembly to be where there can be a sense of order and respect, reverence and dignity. For nowhere more likely are these traits to be seen than in the observances of the ordinances such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; understanding they are symbolic in nature and their very purpose is to present to the mind the truth behind the action. Therefore, the form is of utmost importance, for in the form is the conveyance of the truth. As the apostle Paul indicated in his letter to the Romans, when writing them concerning baptism “…are you ignorant”, he asked, “that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” as if to say, they should have understood this truth in the action itself. This is because the ordinances are spiritual exercises, not social, in that they are displays of truth.
This is in harmony with the nature of the New Covenant…the ministration of the spirit (2 Cor. 3:8): the spiritual taking preeminence over the outward while the outward corresponds in perfect harmony to the spiritual. This is why baptism is not a literal burial and the Lord Supper not a literal meal. For they are truth in demonstration, avenues of revelation, platforms for testimony…it is the meaning behind the action that is important and the event itself is not to become as prominent as to cloud it.
Therefore, we should be aware how important these ordinances are to the Lord and how important it is they represent correctly the truth intended, according to the Lord’s instruction. For the truths they represent are fundamental truths and as a result have been the targets of the Lord’s adversaries from the beginning. We cannot, therefore, allow ourselves to become reactionary or oppositional to any group, not even if that group is the institution church; for in our enthusiasm it is easy for us to become biased and differ just to differ. We would then no longer be able to discern the true from the false and, as a result, will no longer abide in the truth. But, concerning this ordinance the Lord Himself instituted, this may be what is taking place at present.
Consequentially, it is not surprising, since the Lord’s Supper is the most hollowed ordinance in the institutional system, to see the manner in which the Lord’s Supper is observed become an issue with the “movement”. The Lord’s Supper as a full meal, celebrated with the gayeties of a feast, is in striking contrast to the reverenced observance of the institutions, and as a feast, in the home setting, accomplishes the objective of setting the stage for a casual atmosphere over the whole gathering. But, again, beware; the Lord does not want revolutionaries but men and women that follow Him.
Now, having said all this concerning order and having even used the word “formality”, it is likely those who do not know me may have gained an impression that I am stuffy and rigid and perhaps have not fully been delivered of “institutionalism”. Well nothing could be further from the truth. Those that do know me are fully aware how it is the opposite that I have been accused of through out the years. But my aim is to give some balance to the current focus. For much of the teaching today, in regards to nature of the gathering of the saints, is reactionary and off balance. The emphases is placed on the social over the spiritual and therefore one is unable to even think of the possibility of such things as reverence and seriousness in our gatherings, or an atmosphere which is conducive to knowing the Lord’s presence which at times even evokes awe and quietness.
It is because of the influence of such teaching that the minds of many are bent to envision the ordinances in a way that fits this laxity and with this I am concerned. I am also concerned with the overall direction things are taking among many. For the “how to” instructional sort of teaching is far too prevalent. It appears to me what is being implied is that all we have to do to be a “biblical church” is to implement an interpretation of what constituted the “early church”, while, as I have already said, the reality of knowing the living God in our midst seems of little significance. But now to deal with some of the teachings I am referring to concerning the Lord’s Supper.
Indications of Weakness in the Teaching
If this dramatic shift, in the manner in which The Lord’s Table is practiced, is to be accepted, there must be the corresponding theology for credibility. But the arguments, for the most part, are weak and at times have even been distasteful, probably in an effort to hide the inherent vulnerability. If truth is in your corner there is no reason for this.
Also, it is an indication of a weak argument when one states their beliefs in absolute terms, with the appearance of full assurance, when there is no ground for such. For instance, some have reasoned on a particular line, unconvincingly, and then have stated their conclusion emphatically: “God’s Word quite undeniably teaches, (the full meal communion)”; “Having shown the Lord’s Supper to be a full meal …” etc. After one of the all day conferences one of the attendees admitted he had gone expecting to be somewhat persuaded only to leave stronger than ever in his understanding of the table consisting of the Loaf and Cup alone and this because of the weakness in the arguments. He actually concluded he was convinced the teacher himself did not really believe what he was teaching. For to hear one speak in such a manner often gives the impression he is trying not only to convince others but himself also.
The Weight of the Argument
Nevertheless, the weight of the argument that promotes the “full meal” Lord’s Supper is along the line that denounces the ordinance as a memorial of our Lord’s death. We are to understand our Lord’s words “Do this in remembrance of Me” to actually mean ‘Do this to remind Me”; remind Him of what? To return for us! Some involved have shared with me they, positively, disagree with this interpretation. But what has not dawned on them is that to do away with this interpretation is to pull the rug out from under the “full meal” practice, for without it their theology will not stand: it remains a memorial.
Indeed, this teaching is startling and offensive…For, to be told, He who loves us so much that He died for us…Who constantly intercedes for us… Who has said He would be with us to the end of the age…to be told He needs reminding to return for us…takes the very heart out of our faith. Quickly! Cast this sort of teaching away, for it is defiling and in time will undermine our trust in our Lord! How is it that such a statement could be made?
The Lord’s Supper and the Kingdom
The reason to interpret the Lord’s words in this shocking way is to shift the primary focus of the ordinance to that of the coming kingdom and the feasting now (as the “full meal” Lord’s Supper) as a prelude to the feasting then. So the ordinance becomes a looking forward and not a memorial looking backward. It is no longer to remember the death and suffering of our Lord but it has become a preamble to good times. Now, this may sound plausible to some for we all, hopefully, have in our hearts the hope of our calling, which is to be actualized at the return of our Lord. However, this is not the purpose of the ordinance and such a meaning would be in contrast to the nature the Lord has characterized of our testimony during this age. For we as the people of God are not to be known for our constant celebrating and feasting. But we are to be known for our sober mindedness in serving a living God, bearing the testimony of the love of Christ to all men, even in the midst of all tribulation, rejection and privation. This age, as the only time we have to share in our Lord’s sufferings, is not the time for feasting and festivities but the time in which “all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. This is the time of resolve, against all odds, to live holy lives. In this spirit is our testimony; for now is the time we suffer in relation to the coming kingdom (2 Thess. 1: 5).
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying there are not times of relief, times wherein we might have joyous interaction over meals as a community. Thank the Lord we in America have had this blessing always, (and with it our own distinctive testing). But what I am saying is that, doctrine will not be along that line which establishes as a testimony that which is in contradiction to the true character of this age…an age wherein men are rejecting Christ, an age wherein the followers of the Lord will suffer. This age is characterized as the time our Lord is away from us and therefore a time of fasting not feasting (Matt. 9:15). It is in the presence of our Lord, when He returns, then we will celebrate and not before…For He is our joy in that day.
To celebrate the coming kingdom now, in His absence, is inappropriate and dishonoring to Him. It would be like starting the parade before the hero comes home; like a would be Bride celebrating weekly her coming wedding feast, to do so is to take away from the actual event…the one time in all eternity event! The event the universe waits for and even groans for! No, it is not as they teach; the meaning that is communicated is wrong. The proclamation of the Lord’s death is the testimony in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26). We along with the heavens wait for Messiah’s Kingdom and the manifestation of the sons of God, when the King of Glory will be present as Lord of Lords and King of Kings; then we will rejoice! But now, FOCUS ON THE FIGHT! There will be plenty of time for celebrating in that day.
A Covenant Meal?
Much emphasis is placed on the Lord’s Supper being a “covenant meal”, but what is meant by this is never really made clear. It is said, as a “covenant meal”, it symbolizes the coming marriage supper of the Lamb, the wedding banquet, the great feast when Jesus comes with His Kingdom; but as has been stated above this is not correct. (In passing, however, allow me to point out the fact that it does not seem to present a problem that the meal is “symbolic”, when it represents what is according to their mind. But if it is thought of as a symbolic supper consisting of only the Loaf and Cup, then there is a problem after all (which, by the way, is more in line with being symbolic, a “full meal” representing a “full meal”? Where’s the symbolism?). So, it appears that the symbolic nature of the Supper is not really an issue.)
Anyway, as I was saying, just what is meant by a covenant meal is not clear. If what is meant is the meal establishes the covenant that of course is wrong. The meal does not ratify the covenant collectively or individually. What confirms the New Covenant in any one’s life is faith and this faith is initially exhibited in baptism. Nor is a meal ever, in scripture, the “sign” of a covenant, as has been suggested in an attempt to show circumcision the Old Covenant counter part to the New Covenant’s Lord’s Supper. Strange exegesis! There is simply no correlation. But the “sign” of the New Covenant is the seal of the Holy Spirit in the lives of each individual believer as circumcision was for the Israelite (Eph. 1: 13-14, Rom. 2: 28-29).
So, again, what does the meal have to do with the Covenant? Covenants in scripture have no essential need for a meal; more times than not there is no meal involved; it does not equate to “signing on the dotted line" or “closing the deal”. If a meal is involved it is only in relation to celebrating after the fact. We have already shown how celebrations of this nature are a one-time event, such as wedding feasts after the vows, or a king celebrating after he received a kingdom, etc. But if an event is of such significance as should be remembered then there is often established a commemorative celebration, a looking back, a remembering. This is likely to be in the form of an “anniversary”; so as not to forget the past historical event. This is what God did with the Passover…It is now a memorial. This is what Jesus Christ has done for the event of His death…The Lord’s Supper is also a memorial (Not an annual observance, however.)
With any commemorative observance the original event determines what sort of celebration it will be. On Independence Day fireworks represent the bombs in the war that freed America and hotdogs the American way of life. On Thanksgiving Day prayers with turkey for turkey was the sort of animal the Pilgrims would have eaten. So what manner of celebration should the Lord’s Supper be? It is in memory of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most solemn event the universe has ever known! Or ever will know! Of which the angles had watched from the beginning when the Son of God left heaven and all His glory to become a helpless babe among men, so that He might have a body to offer as a sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10: 4-12). Then on that evil and dark day, after He had been betrayed by His friend, beaten, mocked and nailed to a cross, His intrinsic Glory did shine: In love so magnificent, He prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. The sun was darkened the earth quaked; “My God My God why has thou forsaken Me” rang out over the wailing of those that loved Him and the jeers of those that hated Him. Finally, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit” and His lifeless body no longer gasped for air but hung motionless…The Lord of Life was dead! Out of love for His enemies He died willingly! …For sinners lost and without hope...For you and I! What sort of celebration should there be? : “Do this in remembrance of Me”…“For as often as ye eat this Bread, and drink the Cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.” My heart sinks within me to know some would think this a time to saturate their fleshly appetites. No! This is a time to remember our Lord in His dying for our sins, a time to express all our love, all our thanks and to praise Him with our whole hearts: Behold our Lord, the Lamb upon the throne, who was slain….He is worthy of all honor, glory and power forever and ever. The Loaf and Cup are representative food, holding spiritual significance and therefore implies spiritual satisfaction not physical. By partaking of the Loaf and Cup we have communion with all His death has gained for us, that is, we receive His life as our own. Praise Him!
No Pattern Established in the Events of the Night Our Lord Was Betrayed
It is being taught that, the Lord Jesus was referring to the whole of the Passover meal when He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” and in so doing He has set up a pattern for the observance of Lord’s Supper. What escapes notice is that the Passover was:
1. Observed yearly,
2. in the evening,
3. with a roasted spotless lamb, unleavened bread and better herbs on table,
4. by Jews only (or circumcised gentiles who had joined with the Jews),
5. as a memorial of an historical event, (when Israel was delivered from the Death Angel and Egypt),
6. but with only twelve men attending that night,
7. and with feet washing in the midst of the supper.
We could go on and mention more; however, I think it is evident that there is no pattern given unless it is acted out as:
In April, on the night of the Passover, after having a spotless lamb roasted and cakes of unleavened bread baked, twelve circumcised Jewish men from each assembly are to gather in an upper room to eat this meal, wash each others feet and then pass a loaf and cup for all to partake of.
This of course is nonsense. There is no pattern. The Lord did not refer to the Passover meal when He said “do this in remembrance of Me” but He referred to the Loaf and Cup alone. There is no ground for taking bits and pieces of the record of the night our Lord was betrayed to form a pattern of one’s own devising for the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
The Text I Corinthians 11:17-34
Yet another issue is the text of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, which is tortured, in paraphrasing in part and literalizing in part, in an effort to make it agree with this doctrine, insisting on acknowledging only the one issue of the “full meal” being addressed by the apostle. But all this confusion is elevated when it is understood Paul was addressing two issues…the communal meal and the Lord’s Supper, which the church in Corinth was taking in context with each other.
Indeed, they were mixing the two and they were in danger of becoming undistinguishable; therefore the apostle could say, “What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in?” indicating that it was better for them to eat their own suppers at home rather than behave the way they were at the Lord’s Supper; for the communal meal was not mandatory but the Lord’s Supper was and they were primarily gathering for the Lord’s Supper not the meal. They had, as we have, the liberty before the Lord to have or not to have a meal together, there were and are no ruling on such. But if it or any other action interferes with the intended reason for the gathering, which in this case was to proclaim the Lord’s death in the memorial observance of the Loaf and Cup, it could, and should be set aside.
So, again, can we have a meal in context with the Loaf and Cup of the Lord? Yes we may. With or without, it matters not. But can we have a “full meal” as the Lord’s Supper? No we may not! There must be discrimination: The Table is set with food from the altar of God, the Cross of Jesus Christ…That which has been offered to and received by God is alone adequate…It is holy (1 Cor. 10: 14-22). Our portion is Christ; God’s portion is Christ. There is to be no mingling of other foods, for in Christ alone is our fellowship, not only with God but also with our brothers and sisters as well. It is the intention of God to sum up all things in Christ and Him alone and this is accomplished through the death of our Lord, (Col. 1: 19-22) which the table proclaims.
The Corinthian Judgment
Those in favor of this doctrine tell us that judgment was upon many in the church of Corinth because of their relations with each other during the communal meal, which were displayed in their divisions, greediness and drunkenness. This is insisted on in spite of the clear statement by the apostle that it was because of them being guilty of eating the Loaf and Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner and this in distinction from them eating the “full meal”. By doing so they became guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord!
Now, let me emphasize what is clear, it is not said they were guilty because they ate the “full meal” in an unworthy manner but only the Loaf and Cup (1 Cor.11: 27). However, if the “full meal” were an integral part of the Lord’s Supper, as is taught, judgment would be over the whole and no distinction could be made. But it is made! And that because the meal is not part of the Lord’s Supper! When our Lord was crucified, His murders treated Him as a common man and placed Him among common thieves, they refused to accept Him as the Holy One, they would make no distinction. Share not in their sin. Discern the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Loaf and Cup. Sanctify Him! Keep the Table of the Lord holy. For through the very gates of Jerusalem He will yet return hailed as the Holy One!
The Meaning of the Term “Breaking of Bread”
It has been stated, as if it were an unquestionable fact, that the term “breaking of bread” refers to a common meal in the first century. From this premise it is argued since the Lord’s Supper is referred to as the “breaking of bread” it must, therefore, be a “full meal”. This reasoning is wrong. The term was Jewish and was used by them in the same way we would today use the term “saying grace” before we eat. Their meal was started by taking a loaf, breaking it and then passing it to others while giving thanks to God. It was no more used to designate the meal then our “saying grace” designates a meal. Listen how silly it would sound for us to ask someone over for dinner using our equivalent term: ‘Please, we would like to invite you to come over tonight and say grace with us.’ The response would likely be a puzzled look. For we just don’t talk like that and neither did the Jews. Our brother John Gill brings this out in his exposition of Acts 2:42: “…though the Jews used to begin their meals with breaking of bread, yet the whole repast, or meal, is never by them called by that name; …”.
However, we are all in agreement that the term came to designate the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament and not only among the Jews but even among gentiles. Also, now that we understand that the term was never used to designate a meal but knowing the ordinance was referred to as a supper we may be perplexed over the seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction for the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic meal and as such can be easily treated in the manner as if it were not a meal.
So it makes a lot of sense, understanding the designation “breaking of bread” was derived from the term for giving God thanks, for the Supper to take on this name. For the Lord took the Loaf and blessed it and the Cup likewise in an action so similar to that of the common way in giving thanks it seems only natural for the ordinance to have taken on the simple name. The term “The Breaking of Bread”, being that which is done before a meal yet distinct from it, actually accentuates the fact that a meal is not included. ‘The Eucharist’, another early designation synonymous for the Lord’s Supper likewise has this thought behind it, for its meaning is also, ‘the giving of thanks’… “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor.10: 16 NIV). How beautiful! The term “The Breaking of Bread”, like the word Agape and Maranatha, it too has taken on a new Christian character, a new meaning. How fitting! For the Lord’s Supper is a remembering of our Lord in His death wherein we give thanks…THANK YOU LORD JESUS! THANK YOU FATHER…“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son.”
Beware of Dogmatism
Teachers promoting this doctrine would have the assemblies observe the feast weekly as a mandatory ordinance and have stated so with surprising dogmatism. They have so much as said to not have the Lord’s Supper as a full meal each Lord’s Day is to disqualify a church from being a “biblical church”. Statements displaying this sentiment demonstrate the extreme importance placed on this doctrine. In fact, it seems the full meal teaching is becoming a rallying cry of the “House Church Movement”, massing the recruits to form a front line, which is delineating them as an entity.
It may not be fully realized just how much this practice separates from fellowship others who are not in agreement with it. Nonetheless, it is almost impossible, in the assembly context, for fellowship to continue, seeing how the meal is the primary focus. It is emphasized that the reason we are to gather, as a church, is not chiefly to teach, pray, sing, etc. No, according to this teaching, nothing, which one would typically expect from a church gathering for edification is of necessity but that which is necessary, which is paramount, is that, we must eat a communal meal as the Lord’s Supper.
Again, strong statements as this are clearly unbalanced and indicate that perhaps this doctrine has become an obsession, accompanied by zeal reckless in its overall affect. Look at the situation before us: Those which have a conscientious objection to this, believing that for them to take of the Lord’s Table with other food in addition to the Loaf and Cup would be to mix the holy with the common and thus violate the ordinance, they are not considered and, indeed, can not be considered if this doctrine be practiced. So the natural outcome of such teaching is to obstruct from participation in the assembly anyone that disagrees with the full meal doctrine; establishing in a practical way the acceptance of this doctrine as the door into fellowship. Are they unaware that this in consequence establishes a sect?
One must ask, since this doctrine forces division upon the church, could it possibly be that something is wrong with the doctrine itself? Is this issue of mode correct which forces those with conscience before God outside of fellowship? Is the “full meal” an essential doctrine? If so, then we are right in forcing the matter of separation over it. If it is not an essential doctrine then something is wrong. Brethren! Have we not learned anything? Is the church to give latitude to those which differ in their views on baptism, head coverings, feet washing etc., and in doing so find ways to avoid coercion, but at the same time institute a mode of observing the Lord’s Table that excludes, not only from the Table but in a practical way the assembly, those who can not agree?
At this point, having just made these inquires, I realize, in contrast to what has been spoken and written, openness among they that hold this doctrine and have identified with the movement may not be present to the extent it has been suggested. It would seem doctrine is becoming more defined and unified and it feels as if there is a trend of less tolerance and less liberty developing…time will tell. However, we should not be surprised if this is so, for it is the dynamics of any evolving “movement” and is to some extent to be expected.
The Activity of the Spirit not the same as a Movement
The activity of the Holy Spirit, however, is not the same as “a movement”. But action that is of God is as that which our Lord described to Nicodemus, when conversing with him about the spiritual birth needed for entrance into the Kingdom of God. “The wind”, He said, “bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth...” that is, the origin, activity and control is with God. This was aptly displayed on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, when “the sound of a mighty rushing wind” filled the upper room, while at the same time, the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of the saints baptizing them into one body, the Body of Christ. It is this characteristic of God doing and God acting, God originating and God leading which made the early church what it was…alive...and alive to God!
However, not all see this, nor understand the difference and are busy trying to “catch the wind” with promoting and organizing, advertising and selling, defining and denominating, in short institutionalizing all over again. They unknowingly are trying to make that which is heavenly earthly. However, it is not possible. That, which is ridden after you’ve roped and harnessed, after you have done all the work, is not the wind but only a rocking horse and the distance it goes is the same distance, as far as spiritual distance is concerned, as any other rocking horse the world has already known. So it is with “movements”. Oh brethren, that we might know the living God in our midst and not just be occupied with ‘the way to do’ church! For what good is it to have the perfect order of the early church yet not have the Spirit? Oh, that we might live in, walk in and breathe in the Wind of God!
Plea for Objectivity
Now, let us back away from a reactionary frame of mind and free us from the currents of any “movement” and look again at the Table of the Lord.
Our Lord instituted the Loaf and the Cup as a memorial of His death to help keep His great love towards us always the focus of our hearts when He said “Do this in remembrance of Me”. It is in our recollection of such a loving sacrifice, when participating in the ordinance, He that gave His only Begotten Son is glorified, even as praise and thanksgiving flow from the hearts of those being saved. Join in, even now, while our thoughts are occupied with our Lord’s death. Be at one with the very heart of God the Father in His affection for His Son and let your heart sing as the angels, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain”. Contemplate the wonder of it all:
When I think of how He came so far from glory,
Came to dwell among the lowly such as I,
To suffer shame and such disgrace,
On Mount Calvary take my place,
Then I ask myself this question who am I?
Who am I that a King would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray not my will but thine Lord?
The answer I may never know,
Why He ever loved me so,
That to an old rugged cross He’d go
For who am I.
Yes, the Lord, knowing what is best for us, intended for His memorial to be a reverenced and most solemn act of remembrance. This disposition sets the atmosphere for the assembly in a much different way than the jubilance of a feast. For, indeed, the heart is made pliable and open to change when the suffering and death of our Lord is contemplated; affecting us so as to have a desire to please Him Who loves us so. We, each individually before the Lord, turn our wills to choose to die to ourselves, even as He died for us, when the Loaf and Cup, having been sanctified in blessing, is passed from one to another. Deep joy and thanksgiving pervades; that which is more likely expressed in tears and silence, in hymns and prayers than the more shallow expressions one would expect from feelings of happiness in a feast.
Focusing then on the emblematic significance of the table, bearing only the Loaf and Cup, the Body and Blood of our Lord is displayed as hollowed; the heart is made right in affection and the mind in soberness, so as to be ready to receive from the Lord through the ministries He has given us for one another. For the desired outcome of the memorial is holy lives lived out from His love so grandly displayed in the Table, a table set with that which alone can satisfy both God and man...the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will avail for our salvation or our sanctification but what the Loaf and Cup represent. They must then stand-alone!
The Theme of the Church is Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
The Cross of our Lord is forever the theme of our lives and our gatherings. It is from this position, this attitude, the community we call the church emerges. Any other is on the wrong foundation and misses the mark of what God desires and what we truly need. The church as a community is the outcome of us beholding Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Therefore, the apostle Paul, when preaching the Gospel determined not to know anything among them, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2: 2). Then neither let us add to nor take away from the Table the Lord has set for it represents Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Mire not the picture. The outward representation must correspond to the spiritual reality. Distort the outward representation and we lose the reality. The truth is in the Table, as the scripture states, it proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor.11: 26). It does not focus on the community of the saints nor the joy we will have in the coming kingdom; these aspects are secondary in nature and are realized by focusing alone on the death of our Lord, the primary truth portrayed. For the church did not die for us, does not give us life. No, the Lord Jesus Christ alone died for us: He alone saves us. His Blood alone is the Blood of the New Covenant, His Body alone the sinless offering and we are made the fullness of God in Him. What might seem a sparsely furnished table to the appetites of the carnal flesh is actually a feast to the spiritual man, fully satisfying his soul. For only Jesus and Him alone is that which can satisfy our hearts. His fullness all creation cannot hold and all His fullness is portrayed in the Loaf and the Cup and we are made the fullness of God in Him, in our COMMUNION.
In Him Who Loves Us
You’re Fellow Servant
The following are selections from a larger dialogue which resulted as a consequence of this letter being read. That which below is shared hoping it to be edifying in helping clarify questions some who have read the letter has voiced.
Thank you for the time you gave to responding to my letter concerning the Lord's Supper. In your response you listed 6 concerns you have with "the overall thrust" of the letter. I hope to address some of what is contained in them now.
Please, as stated already, understand my response to be in love and in no way critical of you personally. Now, to follow your example... please except my apology before hand if what I write may offend you in anyway.
YOUR 6 CONCERNS:
#1. You state you think it is unfair to attack another's teachings without informing that person and giving them an opportunity to respond and you mention the names of some whom you suspect I am alluding to.
Thank you for pointing out the "attacking" is toward a teaching rather than a brother. For at no time have I "attacked" anyone nor suggested evil motives in anyone's heart. If it appeared that way I apologize. It was not my intention. I sincerely believe all involved with these doctrines have, also, the best intentions and are all men of integrity. However, I have chosen not to name names, as I have stated, for a number of reasons. The doctrines are spoken by many and are not just an expression of one brother but, as I have said, represent a developing movement in my estimation. You have named at least five in your response that you indicate would be in agreement with each other concerning this doctrine. I am afraid you may have possibly offended someone for not mentioning others who also might be considered by some as worthy of notoriety in respect to this doctrine. For there are others as well. They add up to far too many for me to deal with all individually. Anyway, I have no desire to make this personal between me and just one other brother. If I was interested in just winning an argument, I agree, that is the way to go but that is not my intention. All that I have dealt with in my letter is public and I would guess most of the ones attending the conference have heard some, if not all, of the arguments I respond to. I will leave it with them to decide if I have constructed "straw men" or have given a true representation of the teachings prevalent in the movement. I do not rest in my arguments alone for what I desire to accomplish but I trust in the Spirit of Truth to convict the hearts of the readers where ever there is truth.
#2. You deal with a number of things under this concern:
A) Much in the same nature of your #1 concern is that, you feel, since I have not cited the writings of individuals, my arguments are very shallow and frustrating.
How this is I fail to understand. Even if it were that I was arguing with only myself saying 'if this than that' truth may still be arrived at. I am not trying to tear down others, not even a movement. I am trying to help others to come to the knowledge of the truth. Truth has not an essential attachment to individuals, unless that individual is our Lord of course. Therefore, there is no reason truth cannot be known outside of identifying personalities.
B) You quote me:
"...as I was saying, just what is meant by a covenant meal is not clear. If what is meant is the meal establishes the covenant that of course is wrong."
Then you ask, ”Who was it that ever said it (the meal) established the covenant?”
Well, that is my point; no one has made clear what they mean by a covenant meal. So in my letter I went on to deal with what I could think of as possibilities of what they meant. That is why I said, "If what is meant...” You in fact have done that which others have done when you state "Covenant meals do figure in the OT, and may indeed have some bearing on the Lord's Supper as a "New Covenant meal". You here make a statement but do not define what you mean by it.
Again, as I've stated in my letter, there is no essential need for a meal in making a covenant in scripture. When there is a meal in scripture, in connection with cutting a covenant, it is a one time celebration in the same way we would celebrate "closing a deal” by going out to dinner afterwards. Though there is no example in scripture, unless it be the Lord's Supper, it is feasible that a covenant of such magnitude that the event would be desired to be remembered could be set up as a memorial and in that way re-celebrated at set times. However, this was not done with the dedication of the Covenant of the Law when Moses sprinkled the blood on the book and all the people. Then, indeed, Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu as well as seventy of the elders of Israel went up the mount and did eat and drink before God but this was only done the one time in celebration of the Covenant. No memorial was instituted, therefore, no repeating of the celebration (Ex.24). This meal cannot then be understood as an OT type of the Lord's Supper for it was a one time event and an event in which not all Israel attended. In contrast the Cup and Loaf are to be frequently taken and by all under the New Covenant. It is this meal, however, on Mt Sinai, celebrating the dedicating of the Covenant of the Law which one would naturally expect to be the prefigure counterpart to any New Covenant meal if there be one; but, as we have seen, it just does not fit as a shadow.
The feasts of Israel, however, are different. They were given as commandments under the Covenant. They had nothing to do with establishing the Covenant and should not be understood in that way as covenant meals. They might be understood as meals commanded by the Covenant but not meals in relation to the celebration of the instituting of the Covenant. Even the Passover, which scripture more likely places as a type of the Lord's Supper, was not a covenant meal in the since of a celebration of the making of a covenant. It is observed as a memorial of an event in Egypt which took place before the Covenant was ever dedicated, even before the Law was given. It was later incorporated into the Covenant by command to be observed as a memorial celebration as God had stated. So if what you mean by a covenant meal is a meal which God, in covenant relation with us, has commanded we eat, then that is fine. But why would you do so? The scriptures do not. We then would also need to refer to all things the Lord has commanded us to do under the Covenant in the same way: covenant baptism, covenant prayers, covenant assembly, covenant evangelism, etc. I don't need to point out this is not and never has been the practice. Therefore, I would guess, the term you have used along with others is in reference to the making of a covenant and if that is so, then we are talking about a memorial celebration in memory of an event. So if the Lord's Supper is a covenant meal (which I am not saying it is) it is so, as a memorial and as a memorial is looking back to an event.
A) Here you suggest I have been dogmatic, reactionary and judgmental. Also, that I have not taken into consideration the possibility that I have misunderstood others nor the possibility my own position may not be fully correct. You then quote me to give evidence:
"However right the propagators of this doctrine may be in their concern for the state of things they are not right to allow their sense of need for community to influence their understanding of the ordinances." (p.1)
You continue by insinuating that I have dogmatically assumed the propagators of this doctrine is driven by their need for community.
Sir, you have quoted me out of context. Above, in the same paragraph you took the quote from, I qualified my statements with these words:
"Though many reasons may be behind the reappearance of this doctrine one reason seems obvious: The doctrine may well be looked upon by those involved, conscious or not, as a vehicle for change in an effort to regain a sense of community, a sense long lost to the church."
Please note that I said "may" in the above quote. This indicates not dogmatism but the opposite. I am very open to the possibility of being wrong about the motivation of the propagators. Nevertheless, I think I have amble reason to state this as a likely possibility. All one has to do is spend a little time in the material written about "Home Church" and I believe it will become evident. (No Sir, I will not quote anyone here either.) Please understand, I am not insinuating that to be motivated by the desire to experience the community God desires us to experience is a wrong motive at all. I am very much desirous of this myself but because of this I need to be the more cautious of the possible influence this desire may have on my perception of things. Also, I would hope others would keep me balanced by their objectively sharing with me their concerns in matters as well.
B) You continue by stating I am wrong to think that argument for the full meal Lord's Supper lives or dies on the interpretation of our Lord's words, "Do this in remembrance of Me". Well let’s look at it.
Their argument ("Do this to remind Me") is along this line: The full meal Lord's Supper, as a prefigure celebration of the coming feast at the return of our Lord, when He comes in His Kingdom, is to be celebrated with a forward looking emphasis toward that day. Expectation of the Kingdom is its primary purpose in opposition to understanding it being in its primary purpose a memorial which is a looking back. It, therefore, should share in the character of that Kingdom feast which is one of jubilance and rejoicing. It is not to have a backward looking emphasis as a memorial of our Lord in His suffering and death would have. It is not to have the mood which a memorial would require which is one of somberness and reverence, soberness and seriousness.
Now, indeed, I agree the memorial of our Lord in His death and suffering would set a different mood than the celebration of the Lord's Kingdom. We agree on that! (That is the writings I have read and the speakers I have heard.) However, it should not be thought that there is sadness or over bearing sorrow at this memorial. The memorial of the Lord's death does give us joy but of a different kind than a feast. Just observe the Viet Nam War memorial. People, when there, are indeed solemn yet also proud. We share in that as well in remembering the death and suffering of our Lord. If we then add to that our joy in knowing our Lord is now alive and is to return for us we have the right mood for the observance. The visitors to the war memorial show respect to the memory of those that gave their lives for them and we also do this in regards to our Lord. "Do this in remembrance of Me" and "We show forth the Lord's Death until He comes" implies this sort of observance. To interpret it as "Do this to remind me" will not fit with the sort of celebration a memorial requires. It is that simple. One interpretation is a memorial the other a festive celebration. You can't have it both ways. They are in conflict with each other. I think it would be immature, for one who would see the Lord's words as indicating a memorial, to think the surroundings of a festive feast need not effect the appropriate disposition the observance as a memorial demands.
I am not denying there are multiple aspects to the memorial. All memorials have in addition to the primary focus of looking back also a present and forward aspect to them. But they are only realized when the memorial aspect is foremost. Again, take the War memorial as an example. We have the mixed feelings of sorrow, thankfulness and gratitude while we remember they that died. We have present joy for all that they have gained for us by their sacrifice. There is yet also resolve and dedication toward the future, motivating us to be ready for the wars that may come, or even help encourage us in the wars that are (Remember the Alamo!). There should be even a sense of dedication to living rightly, for their sakes, aroused in our hearts. This all comes out of remembering our loved ones, our heroes.
All of this sentiment fits nicely into the attitude we are to have as God's pilgrims on this earth, as comrades in arms fighting the war against spiritual darkness, as members of the coming kingdom; but ever so much more deeply, seeing it is our Lord which we remember and knowing that He is raised out from the dead and is returning for us. So we are here on earth and He in heaven and we are to observe the Lord's Supper "until He comes". This is because we need, while we wait for Him, the encouragement to go the way our Lord went: The way of the cross! The way of suffering! The way of resolve! The way of self sacrifice! Etc. Once our pilgrimage is over there is no need for the Lord's Supper any more because there is no need for suffering for Him, or making war with the spiritual wickedness. The Supper is to cease. We only observe it "until He comes". Then, at His coming, when the war is over, peace reigns in the King of Peace. We enter into God's rest. It is time to celebrate! We will feast in the Kingdom!
However, if the Lord's Supper prefigured this Messianic feast it would not be indicated as "until He comes" but it would be the experience of the fullness of the feast we have all along been, in a lesser sense, celebrating. It would not be understood as having ceased at His return. So to understand the Lord's Supper as a foreword focused celebration, with the word's of our Lord" Do this in remembrance of Me" to mean "Do this to remind Me" is a totally different sort of observance than the memorial observance indicated in our Lord's words. One interpretation does away with the other.
C) You ask, "Which arguments are you referring to as weak?”
My goodness, the ones I dealt with in my letter are examples.
Again you ask, "How have you demonstrated that they are weak arguments?"
Have you really read my letter? Its there. "Who are they "distasteful" to?” Well, if to no one else, to me.
You state my word's, "startling and offensive", regarding the teaching which would instruct us to understand the Lord's words "Do this in remembrance of Me" as "Do this to remind Me" as a "strong accusation" .
Please, you make it sound as if I am accusing someone of being intentionally offensive when you say I made a "strong accusation"; when it is the doctrine that I referred to. The ones teaching this doctrine, I would think, have not the intention to offend.
The doctrine would have us, as believers, reminding our Lord to return for us. You seem aware of this teaching and in some degree in defense of it, have given us the example of God placing the rainbow in the sky as a reminder for Himself, as a possible indication this teaching has validity. I totally disagree with this conclusion. There is no where in the scriptures, I know of, where God the Creator has given man His creation (or any other created being) the responsibility to remind Him of anything. To do so would be to place the creation above the Creator. For in doing so God would be indicating to the creation it can do what God cannot...remember. It was God that placed the rainbow in the sky, not man! Man has nothing to do with it! The groans of the children of Israel while in Egypt was because of their sufferings, not intended to remind God of His Covenant, not directed by God to them to do so as a reminder for Him. The scripture just states He remembered when He heard their groans, that is, He acted in accordance with what He promised Abraham. To understand these or other scriptures in such a way that would indicate man is responsible to remind God of anything is wrong. When the scripture states 'God remembered' it is not intending for us to think God could forget. He can't. He knows everything. It is for His creation, which can forget, God states He remembered. It should be understood as if He says, 'God does not forget! He can be trusted in to keep His word! To be caring for man in all his situations and to act on what He has said!' Look up the verses and you well see that it is so. God never has and His Son Jesus Christ does not put Himself in a predicament that would even appear as if He needed reminding for anything much less reminding for Him to return to us!
In regards to this teaching you take issue with my "emotionalism" when I say "Quickly! Cast this sort of teaching away..."
For this I will not apologize for there is a time to be emotional... When a friend is about to drink poison or a child pick up a viper for instance. I want the saints to first stop what they might be contemplating doing and then give reflection and examination to determine if this snake is poisonous. If it is, they will thank me for my emotionalism.
#4 Concern: Has a lot in it which causes me to think you have had some difficulty in understanding what I wrote for you just seem to be stating everything wrong in reference to what I thought I wrote. I will assume it is my faulty writing ability which is the problem and so as to not bore everyone with me trying to rewrite the letter I will pass on doing so. I will however, address a few things you've said.
A) I assume my readers know some fundamentals, that is, that the ordinances are symbolic in nature (baptism= burial and the Lord's Supper= the Body and Blood of Christ). I do not feel the need to prove this. Also, I did not indicate that, because baptism is not a "literal burial" that therefore the Lord's Supper is not a "literal meal", as you have indicated I have. What I thought I conveyed was that their symbolic nature was in character with the spirit of the New Covenant.
B) You quote me as stating this doctrine forces division on the church. You seem to acknowledge this by not arguing the point. (Again, the reason it causes division is because the "full meal" plays such a prominent part of the assembly meeting itself, making it near imposable for those which disagree to inter in, that is, in a practical way.) You say my appeal is to emotion when I plead with the brethren to consider this divisiveness which is an out come of this doctrine. You make a comparison to other denominations which have divided over the doctrine of baptism as an example. You conclude that their divisions do not make baptism wrong and thereby imply the division this doctrine causes does not prove the doctrine of the Lord's Supper as a "full meal" is incorrect either.
You are right about baptism. It does not make baptism wrong for the denominations to divide over it. It makes the denominations wrong! Baptism does not, in its nature, disrupt the assembly. Baptism involves the one being baptized and the baptizer alone. It should not cause division. It is the people that cause division under the scenario you have given. Whereas, the "full Meal", which encompasses the whole assembly meeting, forces out those that disagree in a practical way, not a theological way as is your example of baptism. Freedom of conscience is violated by the setting itself. For the meal encompasses the whole church when it meets. It makes it extremely difficult for any not accepting the "full meal" to be able to attend. What do they do while the whole church feasts? What part can they have in the whole ordeal? And if it is, as it was at least at one of the meetings I've visited, where the ministry for edification takes place literal at the table, then, the whole assembly time is robed from they that differ. It is totally different than the example you give of the doctrine of baptism. Please, hear me when I say that God hates division and will judge us because of it. It is a work of the flesh and not the Spirit. It is something we are not to take lightly.
A) You state I seem to have these traits: "...Platonic dualistic thinking..." "...borders on a mystical, almost sacramental view of the "Loaf and Cup".
I wonder what you mean by such statements. I wonder if anyone knows really what you mean. I wonder if Plato himself would know. But why do you state these in question form but not addressed to me? When I am right hear to answer? If you really would like to know what I think just ask me (and in a way someone as simple as I can understand). I will gladly answer.
B) You quote me:
"To celebrate the coming kingdom now, in His absence, is inappropriate and dishonoring to Him"
Then you ask, "But why can't we? Where does scripture forbid this?!"
Sir, this is a matter of understanding what is generally accepted as proper. Is it appropriate for the family to begin eating the reunion celebration before he that has gone away returns home? Is it appropriate for the bride to celebrate her wedding without the presence of her husband to be, while he is gone away? Remember the sin of Saul when he would not wait for Samuel while at Gilgal (1 Sam. 14:8-14). Know what it means to wait. As long as our Lord is away we wait to celebrate the kingdom. How noble was Uriah when he refused to go into his house to eat and to drink and to lie with his wife while the ark, Israel and Judah abode in booths and his lord Joab, and the servants of David encamped in the open field (2 Sam. 11:11). Even so, our Lord has taken a vow not to drink of the fruit of the vine, therefore not to celebrate, until the kingdom shall come (Luke 22:18). For we are in the field. We are fighting the war. Then how can we think of celebrating the kingdom? Has the nations bowed the knee? Have we received our reward? Is the battle still not raging? What we are given is a memorial observance of His great act of dying for us. He died in order that He might one day celebrate with us in His Kingdom. Wait then for that celebration! Wait for that day! Do we have to be told not to celebrate now while away from Him?! Many things God would have us see with our hearts and know His will with out being told. My father need not tell me to wait till he is seated before we eat dinner. It would be disgraceful if I had to be told. This is a matter of love, honor and respect. The eating and drinking the Lord has promised us is in that kingdom when His followers shall sit on thrones, when He is with us (Luke 22:29-30). We are given no other thought concerning celebrating the kingdom but while in the kingdom. Wait!
The rest of your response, including concern #6, I believe I have covered already, at least in spirit.
(Below are the comments of a different brother than the one above)
At this point I feel I must just demonstrate how serious, scandalous and slanderous some of Mr. Sherfey's article actually is. In a section (ironically) entitled 'Sectarianism', he writes:
"So the natural outcome of such teaching is to obstruct from participation in the assembly anyone that dissagress with the full meal doctrine; establishing in a practical way the acceptance of this doctrine as the door into fellowship. Are they unaware that this in consequence establishes a sect?"
In the light of the fact that I have completely refuted any idea that either I, or those with whom I sometimes stand side by side in itinerant ministry, believe or teach any such thing - I e, that the door into fellowship is acceptance of practicing the Lord's Supper as a full meal - and have, to the absolute contrary, rather demonstrated that we would actually consider any idea that any secondary doctrine or practice constitutes the grounds of whether believers have fellowship with each other to be both absolutely wrong and downright evil; to therefore suggest and infer, as he has most clearly done, that the content of what I taught that day "in consequence establishes a sect" is actually a mischievous, libelous and downright scurrilous statement.
You accuse my letter of being "scandalous and slanderous" when I refer to the practice of the full meal Lord's Supper as being an obstruction to the participation in the assembly for those that disagree with the doctrine. I stated this was so in a practical way not in an intentional or theological way. (If my poor writing ability lead you to think I was saying ones were intentionally obstructing, I again apologize. However, I honestly do not think it does.) It is the setting that I was referring to. You, however, make a defense for the belief and teachings of you and your associates as if I was referring to a theological statement you may have made. The fact that the practical consequences of the practice of this doctrine makes it almost impossible, for those that do not believe in the full meal, to attend assembly is obvious. Because of this and, on a practical basis, the door of fellowship is closed on those that disagree with this secondary doctrine. This may be an eye opener for you. Did I not say in my letter that this aspect was not fully understood by those involved? I think I did (I don't have it in front of me at present). I hope I'm making my point clear now anyway: It is not on the basis of the overt theology nor is it implied to be in the awareness of the teachers that this exclusion takes place. It is consequential of the setting of the practice itself. When I said it is sectarian and divisive it is because it literally pushes out from the assembly those that would disagree and this is because it encompasses the whole assembly. Think about it. Understand what I am saying. If you have questions ask. Let us address what has really been said or, forgetting the confusion of the past, let us deal with what we now know are the issues. And let us do so in love.
There is, however, one specific point in his article which I do want to answer. Mr. Sherfey states that the whole edifice of the understanding that the Lord's Supper is a full meal rests on the thing I taught about it looking forward to the Lord's Coming as well as looking back to His death; and I do have to say that such a statement is sheer nonsense.
You make a point of addressing the fact that I stated the full meal doctrine lived or died on the interpretation of the forward looking aspect of the supper. You seem to think that I was insinuating that I was quoting someone as saying such; you in particular. Well I was not doing so. It is my own conclusion, as I believe is indicated in my letter. Please if you would like to take up a dialogue and deal with the issue of the Lord's Supper I am all for encouraging it but lets leave out this reoccurring idea that I am trying to slander someone or misrepresent someone. Let’s deal with the issue of the Lord's Supper. (For a fuller answer to this question see CONCERN # 3, b above.)