Q: Would it be alright, in light of 1 Corinthians 11:26, to partake of the Lord's Supper or Communion more often than just once a year?
A: 1 Corinthians 11:26 reads, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Many have interpreted this Scripture to say, “Take it as often as you please.” But this is not what the Scripture teaches.
Reading the context, Paul was reminding the disciples of the events that happened on the “same night in which He (Christ) was betrayed.” (verse 23). Paul stated that on that night, Christ took the bread and the wine, gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take, eat… do this in remembrance of Me… This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (verses 24, 25).
Christ commands His converted disciples to partake of the symbols of bread and wine “in remembrance” of “the Lord’s death.” This is a memorial — and memorials of momentous occasions are always observed annually, once a year, on the anniversary of the event they commemorate. It should be noted that God specifically denotes seven ANNUAL Sabbaths to be observed in their appointed times. These annual Holy Days are either memorials of events that have already taken place, or they foreshadow events that will still occur. It is during these annual observances that we are instructed to keep exactly what God has commanded.
Christ and His disciples were keeping the Passover — an annual celebration of the time when Old Testament Israel was spared from death. In ancient times, the Israelites had to take some of the blood of the Passover lamb and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel of the houses where they ate the lamb (Exodus 12:7-8). God had promised to “pass over” the Israelites, when He saw the blood (Exodus 12:13, 23). The entire service was called the “LORD’S Passover” or the “Passover sacrifice” (Exodus 12:11, 27) — it was a “memorial,” to be kept “by an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14, 27).
Luke 22:15 tells us that Christ had “desired with fervent desire to eat this Passover.” We read in Matthew 26:17-20 that the disciples had prepared the Passover, and that Christ and His disciples ate it — that is, the Passover lamb — “when evening had come.” (Matthew 26:20; notice also Mark 14:12-18, 22). Christ changed the symbols that night from the flesh and the blood of a lamb to the bread and the wine of the true “Passover Lamb” — Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7; notice, too, John 1:29). By partaking of the bread and the wine on the Passover night, we symbolically partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ for the continued forgiveness of our sins (John 6:35, 48-51, 53-56), as well as for our physical and spiritual healing (Matthew 8:16-17; Is. 53:4; 1 Peter 2:21-25), eventually leading to eternal life (John 6:58). So we see that it was the night of Jesus’ last Passover supper that He introduced new symbols. What was changed were the symbols–not WHEN or how often Passover itself was to be observed.
The Passover was kept once a year — “as a memorial.” On the night when Christ was betrayed, He kept the Passover. The Passover was at that time celebrated as a supper — that is why it is called in Scripture “the Lord’s supper.” We are today to continue keeping the Passover, but not as a meal — not as “the Lord’s Supper.” We are to only partake of the symbols of bread and wine on the Passover night — we do not eat a full meal during the Passover service. In fact, we are told that we must “discern the Lord’s body” — we must distinguish the symbols of bread and wine from an ordinary meal (1 Corinthians 11:29). 1 Corinthians 11:20, 34 tells us, “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is NOT to eat the Lord’s Supper… But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.” (As an aside, nowhere does the Bible speak about “communion,” during which we are to partake of bread and/or wine).
There is no evidence in the Bible that the New Testament Church ever partook of the symbols of bread and wine more often than once a year. Some point out that the disciples “broke bread” on other occasions as well, and that this proves that they frequently partook of the New Testament Passover symbols. However, the term, “to break bread,” simply means, “to eat a meal.” Acts 2:46 tells us that the disciples “broke bread daily from house to house,” eating “their food with gladness.” They were eating bread daily to satisfy their hunger. Paul says, however, that if we satisfy our hunger, when we partake of the symbols of bread and wine, we do it to our condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:34). “Breaking bread,” then, was just a common term to indicate eating a meal.
Paul did NOT say in 1 Corinthians 11 that we should partake of the “Lord’s Supper,” and that we can do so “as often as we please.” Rather, we are partaking of the New Testament Passover symbols of bread and wine once a year — during the Passover service — in memory of and as a memorial of Christ’s death and sacrifice. Every year, when we do so, we proclaim Christ’s death until He returns.