By Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Controversy over whether or not it is scriptural to make provision for the Lord’s Supper to be served at the Sunday evening assembly, hence in more than one assembly, continues to plague some churches. I know of at least one church in Missouri that split over the issue and other congregations who are troubled over the matter.
Those who object to Sunday night communion do so for various reasons. These can be broken down into three catagories: (1) The “Time Argument”, with its subdivisions of “Sundown-to-Sundown Day Theory” and “The Daylight Theory”; (2) The “One Assembly” argument; and (3) The “Stumbling Block” argument. An explanation of each of these theories will be given as we study each objection in this article and the ones to follow.
With deep concern for the unity of the church, the reader is asked to study carefully the material which is presented. In these writings the writer is defending the right of the church to offer the Lord’s Supper in more than one assembly on the Lord’s Day. I do this because I believe it is the authorized thing to do. I offer no defence for any abuse of the Lord’s Supper. I am defending the right of the church to make provision so that it will be possible for the individual Christian to do exactly what he is commanded to do: “but let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). It is my conviction that this provision can be made at both assemblies on the Lord’s Day, so that those who cannot attend the morning assembly will have the opportunity to commune with their Lord. It is not my position to enquire into reasons as to why people do not attend Sunday morning, nor to question their motives. If a person is deliberately forsaking the assembly Sunday morning, knowing he can commune Sunday night, he should be dealt with as any disorderly person is dealt with. Just because one may abuse the second assembly communion does not mean it is wrong to serve communion at night.
The Time Argument
First, let us deal with the “Sundown to Sundown” theory. According to this position, Sunday evening communion is unscriptural because it is observed after sundown and hence is not on the first day of the week. The basic assumption is that the Divine manner of reckoning the beginning and the end of a day is from sundown to sundown. It is argued that this was the only way of reckoning days in the Bible. It is further asserted that Pope Gregory changed the counting of the day
from sundown-to-sundown to our present method of counting time.
In answer to the theory it, should be observed that Pope Gregory is not responible for our midnight-tornidnight count of time. He did make a calendar reform in 1580 to correct certain errors in the calendar then in use which dated back to Caesar in 46 B. C. Please observe that calendar reforms involved changes in the order of months and their length, not changes in the reckoning of the start and the end of a day. Our calendar required an adjustment of one day every 3,330 years! A check with Encyclopedias will reveal that the manner of reckoning the day has varied from nation to nation as far back as history records.
Now it is a fact that most of the Bible employs the sundown method of counting a day. But this is not the only method employed in the Bible. The New Testament also uses Roman time. The issue is this: is the sundown-to-sundown method of counting time on Christians today? There are three possibilities: (1) It is a part of a universal law of God, applying to all people throughout all time. For this to be true two things must be proven: First, the existence of such a universal law running throughout all dispensations; secondly, the fact that the sundown theory is a part of that law. This writer denies that there is such a law and waits for proof of its existence. It will do no good to appeal to Genesis 1:5,8, because the error lies in the fact that these passages are not a statement of a law, but a fact. The word “day” means a 24 hour period and Moses is simply telling us of the first, second, third, etc. 24 hour periods in the earth’s history. Proof that this is not a universal law is seen in the impossibility of its being observed universally. For example, at Tromso, Norway, a city of about 10,000 inhabitants, located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, there are three months of the year when the sun never sets and three months when it never rises. How could the sundown theory apply there? According to this theory a church could observe the Lord’s Supper but one time in the three month day (no more than one assembly where the Lord’s Supper is served, remember) and that provided the day began on the first day of the week. There would be a three month’s period when they could not observe it at all since it is perpetually night. It is by no means clear that in Genesis 1:5,8, the “evening and morning” means from “sundown to sundown”.
(2) The sundown-to-sundown day might be a part of the law of Moses. This of course is correct. Throughout the Old Testament the Jews were instructed to begin the new day at sundown. This was as much a part of the Mosaic law as the Sabbath. An attempt, however, to bind the sundown method of reckoning the day on Christians is just as scriptural as attempting to bind the Sabbath upon them.
(3) It could be a part of the law of Christ, and hence a part of the New Testament. If this is true, there would be instructions regarding it recorded therein. Where is the record in the New Testament? Let us have proof or else those who bind the sundown theory are making a law where God has made no law!
The sundown-to-sundown count of the day is not the only count used in the Bible. The midnight-to-midnight Roman count has the approval of the Holy Spirit. The Roman count is used in the Gospel of John. This is seen in the comparison of his account of the trial crucifixion of Jesus with Mark’s account. Mark 15:25 says that Jesus was crucified the 3rd hour of the day, Jewish count. This corresponds to 9 o’clock our time. In Mark 15:33 we learn that Jesus hung on the cross as darkness covered the earth from the 6th hour until 9th hour. This is from noon to 3 p.m. our time. Since the trial preceeded the crucifiction, the trial must have taken place before the 3rd hour (Jewish time) since that was the hour when he was crucified. In John 19:14 we learn that the trial before Pilate was in progress at the 6th hour. Is this according to Jewish count? If so, John and Mark contradict each other. The true explanation is that John was using Roman time, according to which the day began at midnight. Thus, the 6th hour would 6 a.m. This fits perfectly with Mark, for as seen, the crucifixion took place at the 3rd hour, Jewish time, 9 a.m. Since infidels have used these passages as evidence of supposed contraditions in the Bible, those who would bind the Jewish count of time must either agree with the infidels that this is an error, or give up their theory as to the necessity of following Jewish time. John uses Roman time and thereby places the approval of the Holy Spirit upon it.
Friend, the New Testament Law of Christ does bind upon people any certain language, calendar, reckoning of days, names of days and such like. Rather, it encourages Christians to be conformed to the laws and customs wherever they may live. One should study carefully 1 Corinthians 9:20-22; 1 Peter 2:1 and Romans 13, in this connection. Changes in the laws governing the count of time may come about through God’s direction as described by Daniel: “Blessed be name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are His: and He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings and setteth up kings…” (2:20-21). Thus, God, acting through kings has changed and does change “the times and seasons.” I observe the midnight to midnight count of time because it is the law of the land in which I live. God teaches me to observe such laws. I therefore resist the teaching which would bind the Jewish count of time on us today. (More to follow).
Truth Magazine XXI: 5, pp. 73-74
February 3, 1977
(Author’s Note: A number of years ago notes taken from Earle West’s sermons on the subject. 7 articles draw heavily upon these notes).