Consistent with Protestant churches, Churches of Christ have rejected the five so-called false sacraments and accepted baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the proper sacraments of the church. Last year’s issue of Austin Grad’s faculty journal, Christian Studies, was focused on the theme of baptism. As a follow-up to those reflections, the new issue of Christian Studies (available online here) is devoted to the “Eucharist,” the early church’s favorite word for holy communion. To distinguish it from the self-centered meal that the Corinthian Christians were celebrating, Paul called this meal the “Lord’s Supper,” reminding the church who should be at the center of this practice.
Again, like other Protestant churches, churches of the American Restoration Movement rejected important aspects of the Roman Catholic Church’s sacramental theology. As good Protestants, they have taken for granted that communion is to be given in both kinds (bread and cup). Furthermore, with other Protestants, Churches of Christ have rejected transubstantiation.
Where Restorationist churches have generally differed with other Protestants, especially those of Reformed and evangelical backgrounds, is in the frequency of the meal. Traditionally, Restorationist churches have insisted on participating in communion every Lord’s Day and only on the Lord’s Day. Because this practice has been distinctive among most of their American Protestant neighbors, Restorationist churches have concentrated much of their Eucharistic theology on the question of frequency—specifically, on defending weekly communion against its many detractors. It should be noted that the opponents of weekly communion are now fewer and farther between, since more frequent communion has become the ecumenical consensus. At any rate, as a result of the focus on frequency, other significant questions about the Lord’s Supper have often been neglected or pushed aside in Churches of Christ.
Although the question of frequency is certainly important in its own right, the latest issue of Christian Studies intends to address other important issues related to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. What is it? How should we think about it? How should we practice it? How can our theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper be improved? The result is a collection of articles that are biblical, historical, theological, and practical. Collectively, they examine a variety of matters connected to the Eucharist, including related biblical themes, the presence of Christ, historical insights, and the proper communicants.
I invite you to read Christian Studies 30. It is my hope that the articles will be beneficial to you in your own study and reflection on this central rite of the church’s life. Christian Studies is intended as “scholarship for the church.” If it benefits you, pass it along to others.