Every day a business man drives past the building where the assembly meets. He often is puzzled at the sign out front that anounces, “10:00am – Lord’s Supper.” One day, he meets a brother from the assembly. He can’t help but ask, “Why do you celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday morning at ten o’clock? Isn’t supper time in the evening?”
Day one … and it was so. Day two … and it was so. Our God is a God of order, organization, and timing. Creation went like clockwork; everything was done correctly and on time. Even the cross was completed according to the divine timeline when “at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). So why does the Bible not say exactly what time of day we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Does the Scripture leave it up to us to decide or does the Spirit give us guidelines to plan the timing of the Breaking of Bread meeting?
We do not know what exact time was on the clock when the Lord Jesus instituted the Breaking of Bread. We do know that the Passover Supper was over (Luke 22:20; John 13:2). Judas had gone out and it was night. Jesus had just taken the last cup in the Jewish Passover meal and then introduced something new. The Scripture uses the same word to describe the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, it is most probable that the Lord Jesus did introduce the Lord’s Supper in the evening. However, He also introduced it on what was likely Wednesday, not on Sunday. Therefore, when He instituted the Breaking of Bread, He focused on the practice and the purpose of the meeting and not the precise timing of it. He did say, “As often as ye do this,” but He did not say how often or exactly what time during the week.
The word “supper” is generally used for a feast or a meal as in the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:16). In itself, the word does not specify time which is why it is used to describe the marriage supper of the Lamb in a place where there is no night. It is more the idea of a formal and satisfying meal eaten with care, and the thought of enjoyment of communion.
The Book of the Acts says that the disciples had the Breaking of Bread on “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). The apostle Paul arrived in Troas at the beginning of the week so he had to wait seven days to be able to keep the Lord’s Supper with the believers. The Bible also says the offering of money was to be taken on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:2). In both passages, though, the article is missing. Therefore it is emphasizing a priority rather than a point in time. “First of the week” or “Firstly, in the week” is the expression which appears congruent with the practice in the book of the Acts.
The Jewish day begins at 6:00pm. Therefore, first in the week for them would likely be on Saturday evening. Therefore, it is very possible that the apostles in the Jewish communities celebrated it on what we would call Saturday evening or night. Perhaps that is what happened in Troas when, after the Breaking of Bread, Paul preached all night and Eutychus fell asleep and plummeted out of the window.
However, in Corinth, no time of the meeting is mentioned. It seems that many of the believers were slaves and likely had to work through the whole day on Sunday. Perhaps they celebrated it Saturday night or even later on Sunday; we are not told. Paul certainly taught them the preeminence and priority that the Lord should have and so they would celebrate it on the first opportunity possible in their week.
The expression, “first of the week,” is also used to describe the resurrection. All four gospel writers use the expression and Mark specifically states, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene” (Mark 16:2). Matthew adds that it was “as it began to dawn.” The resurrection took place early Sunday morning, teaching us the beginning of a new era that coincides with a New Testament, a new Comforter, and a new entity – the local church.
In our calendar and schedule, the goal is to be able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a priority first in the week. Each local church takes into consideration the calendar used, the situation of the believers, and the availability of the building to reach a conclusion as to when they can first carry out the Breaking of Bread in each new week.
It is called the Lord’s Supper because it is the “Lord’s” and not because of its original timing. Priority is shown by observing it as soon as possible in the new week. It is called a supper because it is the solemn feast which we are commanded to observe for the remembrance and honor of our Lord.