Sunday Evening Communion (II)
Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Dade City, Florida
Controversy continues to exist over the scripturalness of making provision for the Lord's Supper to be served at the second or evening assembly. Those who object do so for various reasons, one of which is the "Time Argument". This position is broken down into the "Sundown-to-Sundown Day Theory" and the "Daylight Theory". In our first article we dealt with the "Sundown Theory" and in this writing we wish to discuss the "Daylight Theory". If space permits, and likely it will, we will also deal with the "One Assembly Argument". We will then need to discuss the "Stumbling Block" argument. These are the three main objections made by those who object to Sunday night communion. It would be well to reread our first installment on the matter before us before proceeding with this presentation.
The Daylight Theory
According to this theory the Lord's Supper must be observed during the daylight hours and some of the passages used are: John 11:9; Matt. 20:1-6; Acts 2:15, 42; 3:1, etc. These passages are supposed to prove that "day" means only a 12 hour period of daylight.
In response, let it be said that one strange thing about this is the seeming inconsistency. Some of the objectors will argue contradictory doctrines just so long as those doctrines agree in opposing the thing they are determined to oppose. Some will argue on one hand that we must observe the Jewish count of time, then turn around and offer the above scriptures to argue that the Supper must be taken during daylight hours. This appears to me to be hobby-riding.
Freely we admit that both in the Bible and in our modern speech, the word "day" sometimes refers to daylight. Among the Jews, much more than with us today, the daylight was the time of work, of commerce and business. The daylight was divided into 12 equal periods or hours. However, it is denied that "day" always refers to daylight in the Bible. It is also denied that the expression "first day of the week" refers to daylight only.
In both English and Greek "day" has various meanings. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, for example, defines the word "day" (1) the time of light, or interval between one night and the next. (2) the period of the earth's revolution on its axis". In defining the Greek hemera translated "day" in the New Testament, Bagster's Lexicon says, "the interval from sunset to sunset; the interval of 24 hours, comprehending day and night'. In the light of this how could anyone possibly build a theory on the dogmatic assertion that "day" always means "daylight" or 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Jesus said to Peter, "I say unto thee, that this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice" (Mk. 14:30). Jesus obviously understood that "day" could include "night". Other passages with this usage are John 20:1, Acts 27:20, etc.
It seems to this writer that if the time of day is the essential thing, then the reply could be made that the weight of scripture is in favor of night communion rather than daylight. The Supper was instituted at night. Every reference to it-where there is any indication of time suggests a night observance. The very fact that it is called Supper suggests in our common speech an evening meal. Based on these facts I suppose some would contend, in the extreme, on observing the communion at night. It would be interesting to put the Daylight contenders together with the night contenders and see the results.
When the Bible uses ordinals such as "first", "second", etc. in connection with the idea of a day, a 24 hour day is always meant. This rule is well established as a rule of Bible interpretation. The rule is suggested by Genesis 1:5 where we are told that "the evening and the morning" comprised the "first" day. All of these "days" of Genesis 1 are evidently 24 hour days. All students of the Old Testament realize that the Sabbath began at sundown one evening and lasted until sundown the next evening or a period of 24 hours. The Sabbath was the "seventh day". If the seventh day was a 24 hour day, then the first day is also a 24 hour day. Our conclusion is that at any time within the 24 hour period declared by the law of custom to be the first day of the week, Christians may partake of the Supper. Let none bind where God has not bound.
The Stumbling Block Argument
This argument is very popular among those who object to Sunday night communion. The position runs something like this: having communion on Sunday evening encourages people to have a lax attitude toward worship. It encourages them to visit, to go fishing, to go to ball games, and have a general good time on Sunday morning. Then, they can drag into the assembly of the church for the communion Sunday night. One critic has framed his objection this way: "they have the idea that it makes no difference what they do on the Lord's day, if they can get a little piece of bread and wine Sunday night they are all right."
In my estimation this criticism reveals a very shallow understanding of what determines the attitude of people toward the Lord's Supper and worship. Presence at the morning service is not proof of a high regard for worship, nor is presence at the evening service proof of little regard for worship. The fact is that teaching, not the hour of meeting determines one's attitude. If a person has been taught little or nothing concerning his attitude, he will have a lax attitude regardless of the hour set for worship.
The assertion that evening worship encourages a lax attitude is limply someone's opinion. The fact that some brethren and sisters seek to create an opportunity for worship after a day's work, or at a time when some can relieve them in their care of the sick seems to demonstrate a very fine attitude and spirit. It certainly shows an unwillingness to let the day pass without making a special effort to worship despite the hindrances. Let the reader judge the interest and attitude of two common classes: Member "A" - No work on Sunday. He comes to the 11 a.m. worship period, but sits at home watching T.V. at the 7:30 p.m. worship. Member "B" - Must work to make a living and cannot come to the 11 a.m. worship. However, he does come at 7:30 p.m. One could attend worship twice on the Lord's day, but does so only once. The other came the only time he could (see Jack Freeman's Let Him Eat And Drink, Know the Truth Publications, Dickinson, Texas).
It certainly is agreed that the evening service can be abused. But so can the morning service. There is little if any difference between the one who abuses the forepart of the day and worships at night or worships in the forepart of the Lord's Day and abuses the latter. Further, the Bible does not make rules governing our conduct on the first day of the week except the requirement that we worship at that time. We deplore a worldly spirit any day! The abuse that can be made of the evening worship cannot prove that service unscriptural. Can the abuse of the morning worship prove it unscriptural? The facts show a need for more teaching on how to take communion worthily.
Let us seek to do God's will and refrain from the promotion of opinions and hobbies that confuse the brethren and threaten to divide the body of Christ. (More to follow).
Truth Magazine XXI: 6, pp. 87-88