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Regarding the Lord's Supper, does it matter how we sit – in a circle or behind each other? Is the time important – morning or night?

We have no information in the New Testament as to how the believers in the early church arranged themselves positionally when gathered for the Lord's Supper. There does not appear to be any real spiritual meaning from Scripture in the way believers are seated on such an occasion. Not a few brethren think that arranging the seating in a circle or a square best expresses the idea of fellowship or helps the believers to enjoy the truth of the Lord being in the midst (Mt 18.20). The remarks of Norman Crawford in his book Gathering unto His Name, are interesting: "The chairs are not arranged for an address to be given to an audience, but are formed around a simple table that stands in the middle, upon which has been placed a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Toward the back of the room there are chairs that are separate from the circle where people may sit to look on".

It must be remembered that the above is a description, not of a church gathering in New Testament times, but of assemblies today. It is to be questioned whether the early believers used chairs anyway, but rather sat reclined according to eastern custom around the table. Many assemblies think that the truth of fellowship is visibly manifested by a circle and shows a distinction between those who are in the assembly and those who are not in fellowship. Whether believers sit in a circle or behind each other really matters not. The important point is to know the Lord's presence. Are we to say we can enjoy more of the Lord's presence sitting in a circle than sitting behind each other? Let us be careful.

Regarding the second question, we have no command as to the time on the Lord's Day at which we should remember the Lord. From Acts 20 we see that the Apostle Paul broke bread in the evening with the believers at Troas. Many of the believers in the apostolic period were slaves and could not gather for the Breaking of Bread earlier in the day. It is true that the Lord Himself instituted the Supper during the night in which He was betrayed, but there is no mandate from the Lord as to what hour on the Lord's Day believers should gather. Across the world from country to country what is most convenient to all is the important matter.

John J Stubbs

Could you explain the difference between body, soul and spirit, particularly the distinction between the latter two.

Inasmuch as there is one God eternally existing and manifesting Himself to us in three Persons, so man is a trinity of spirit, soul and body. This is clear from Paul's prayer for the preservation of the Thessalonian believers, "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5.23). We often speak of these three elements in the reverse order, namely, "body, soul and spirit", but the Scriptural order is "spirit, soul and body".

Clearly man is more than "body". The body was formed first - "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground" then He "breathed into his nostrils the breath (or spirit) of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen 2.7). It is true that the last expression is also applied to animals; thus we read of "every living creature" (Gen 1.21; 2.19), but this was not the result of God's inbreathing. Animals are "souls" but of a vastly different order from man.

The spirit and soul of man, although distinct, are never viewed as separated one from the other. They are only divisible in a metaphorical sense by the word of God - "the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit" (Heb 4.12). The spirit and the soul together form the spiritual side of man's constitution, which is sometimes described, as a whole, as "spirit" and sometimes as "soul". The separation of the soul (Gk ekpsucho - Acts 5.5,10; 12.23) or spirit (Gk ekpneo – Mk 15.37,39; Lk 23.46) from the body is called death.

The "spirit" is the means by which we are able to apprehend and worship God: "God is [a] Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4.24), and also know "the things of a man" (1 Cor 2.11). The "soul" is the seat of the intellectual and emotional faculties; whilst the "body" gives us the use of the five senses: smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch.

The Lord Jesus Himself in His holy manhood is tripartite. Thus with the Lord Jesus having said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2.19), we read, "But he spake of the temple of his body" (Jn 2.21). In the garden of Gethsemane, with the cross in view, He could say to Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Mt 26.38). Then from the cross, we hear His words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23.46).

David E West


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