Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 17, 1950

The Lord's Supper-Duty Versus Privilege

By Robert C. Welch

It has been said by some members of the church that the Lord's supper is a privilege of every Christian; that there are blessings to be derived from partaking, but; that in the absence of any specific command we partake of it only as a privilege. That is the idea and the practice of the denominations. They provide it only when convenient, annually or quarterly. The members are riot taught that it is their duty to partake of it even on those infrequent occasions. Thus, many of them refuse to take it, considering it to be some mere formality of the denomination.

The word "privilege" is listed in dictionaries as an antonym of the word "duty." That does not mean that an act cannot be both a privilege and a duty. But it does indicate that privilege does not include duty; neither does duty include privilege. As a citizen of this country I have the right to report a crime to the authorities. It is also my duty to report such crime, because the law has been so written. There are times when I would consider it a blessing to be able to report crime. Yet, under certain circumstances, it would not be considered a blessing. That crime would be reported because of duty and not as exercising the privilege. If a man's son committed a crime, what father would consider it a blessing to report it? Yet his sense of duty could sometimes lead him to do so. On the other hand, I am privileged to take a civil injury to court for settlement, but the law does not make it my duty to file suit. Before studying whether the Bible teaches that partaking of the Lord's supper is a duty, or whether it is a privilege; we can see the possibility of its being both a privilege and a duty. But if it is a duty we must find out from other things if it is a privilege. And if it is a privilege we must find from further study if it is a duty. Neither word indicates or includes the other.

For an act to be a privilege there must be some right granted or some blessing there from. Partaking of the Lord's supper is a privilege of the Christian, if the above conditions of a privilege are correct. It is given to those in the kingdom of God, "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." (Luke 22:29, 30) It serves as a glorious reminder of the death of the Lord until he comes, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come." (1 Cor. 11:26) It is a communion of the body and blood of Christ, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:15) Failure to partake of it worthily cause Christians to be weak and sickly, thus it must contain some blessing. (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

A duty is that which is required by one's station or occupation. Duty springs from commands, or from law. We may learn our duty from positive commands in the law, or we may learn it from the common practice of the citizens. This is true with respect to our duty to God. The disciples who were guided by inspiration in the times when men were inspired did certain things. Those things were recorded by inspired writers. We recognize those things to be our duty also. Furthermore we have express commands given in the law of God. It is our duty to obey those commands. We have the example of those disciples, directed by inspired men, meeting together to eat the Lord's supper, "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20:7) Furthermore we have the command of the Lord to eat this supper, "For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of me." (1 Cor. 11:24) Not only did they come together that time mentioned in the Book of Acts, but they were in the habit of assembling to eat this supper. It is true that they were taking it in an unworthy manner for they were making a gluttonous feast of it instead of a memorial of Christ in true worship. It was for that reason that Paul could indicate the purpose of their assembling, and their inability to worship, in these words, "When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord's supper." (1 Cor. 11:20).

With the common practice of the disciples established from the Scriptures; and with the positive command given to eat the Lord's. supper; we have every means of proof demonstrating that it is a duty to partake of the Lord's supper. Let no one follow the doctrines that it is a privilege only; but let us realize it to be the duty of each child of God. Let us observe this feast, then, to share the blessings of it. Let us keep the feast every time duty enjoins, each time opportunity affords, that the blessings of communion with Christ's body and blood in his kingdom may be ours; that, partaking of it in a worthy manner, we may avoid the weakness and sickness and sleep of soul that inspiration records concerning some in these words, "For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep." (1 Cor. 11:30).

(To be continued)