Among some professed followers of Christ in the world of Christendom, the thought that believers must conform their way of thinking and/or their way of doing things to the teachings of Jesus, at times is not a popular idea. Furthermore, to conform to these teachings is not usually thought of as a way of being accepted by God. And those who would dare call attention to any discrepancies in the way something is being done contrary to the oracles of God, usually results in the term “legalist” being applied to the attention caller. Well now, please allow me to label myself a “legalist”, at least for the duration of this post.
Jesus promised the twelve disciples: “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.” (John 14:26) And, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you in all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.” (John 16:13)
In these two passages of Scripture, Jesus is talking to His twelve disciples who walked this earth with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him and physically touched Him, not to any of the leaders of 240 denominational churches, councils, synods, and not to yours truly Stan Butler, and not even to you Mr. or Mrs. John Doe. The promise of the Holy Ghost we (the world) received at our baptism is that “He will reprove (convict) us of sin (what’s wrong), of righteousness (what’s right), and of judgment (the rewards for doing what’s right and the perils for doing what’s wrong).” (John 16: 8-11) He does not give us new revelation on when and what we can change as we please concerning the administration of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So what the Apostles wrote and we read in the Scriptures concerning the early church and its administration is the direct result of the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised His disciples. After reading and discerning the Scriptures, we must conform to how things were done in the Early Church if we are to please God.
The subject at hand is “breaking bread.”
When in the Scriptures does “breaking bread” mean “ a common meal”?
When does “breaking bread” mean “the Lord’s Supper”?
Can we discern the difference?
The world at large does not apply the term “breaking bread” to eating today as they did in the first century church. Therefore, when seeing the term “breaking bread” used in the Scriptures, we must examine the context to determine when a common meal is being referenced or if the verse is speaking about the Lord’s Supper. Let’s look at the examples given in the Scriptures and put them in perspective.
As a common meal the Scriptures show that an actual breaking of bread took place in Matthew 14:19; 15:36, Mark 6:41; 8:6&19, Luke 9:16; 24:30 and in Acts 27:35. And a figurative breaking of bread in Luke 24:35; and Acts 2:46.
As the Lord’s Supper the scriptures show an actual breaking of bread in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24. And a figurative breaking of bread in Acts 2:42; 20:7&11.
Also 1 Corinthians 10:16 describes the “breaking of bread” in the Lord’s Supper as a sharing, a fellowship, a communion, or a participation in the body of Christ.
With minimum study of the Scriptures, a concerned believer can determine both on what day of the week the saints met to eat the Lord’s Supper (break bread) and that it was the main reason they met. We will find Acts 20:7 to be a big aid in that determination. Luke records; “and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them… Paul just happened to be in Troas visiting, so the preaching was secondary. The primary reason for assembling themselves together was to participate in the Lord’s Supper, to break bread. Notice should be taken that this happened on the first day of the week, and would come to be known as the Lord’s Day in the early church. (Revelation 1:10)
This is backed up by Paul’s statement to the Corinthians who when gathered together in one place were scolded for their misuse of the Lord’s Supper. (Corinthians 11:20-34). They were told that if they were hungry…to eat at home.
We find in Acts 2:42 that the early church was steadfast in this practice of breaking bread. We also see that this was done in a church setting as prayers were offered, doctrine was taught, and fellowship was enjoyed. Offerings were also taken up during these Lord’s Day assemblies as is noted in 2Corinthians 16:2
Acts 2:46 lets us know that they met daily in the temple, but ate their common meals breaking bread from house to house and ate their meat with gladness of heart. They did not observed the Lord’s Supper every time they met.
The Lord’s Supper was not just another “nice” thing they did when they assembled. To them it was the very reason why they met, the center piece of the worship service. Many of them were possibly there when Jesus was mocked, beaten, and crucified. They may have seen His blood being spilt. They knew that once cleansed of sin through baptism, that this was the way to participate in that spilt blood for the forgiveness of their sins as believers. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Ghost recalled to memory the words of Jesus when He said to His disciples, “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day, for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him.” (John 6:53-56) And no doubt the Holy Ghost refreshed their memory back to when Jesus taking bread in the upper room, broke it and said, “Take eat, this is my body.” (Mark 14:22) and holding the cup said, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28) They wanted an ongoing cleansing upon confession and repentance. They wanted to dwell (remain) in Christ their New Covenant, and they wanted Him to dwell (remain) in them as well. Thus they were obedient to the teaching and instruction of the Apostles to gather weekly on the Lord’s Day and renew their commitment to that Covenant.
Can we do any less than the pattern left for us to follow, i.e. offer Communion on a monthly, quarterly, semi annual or annual basis? “Absolutely not!” is the restorer’s cry. “We can do as we please!” is the reformer’s cry.
Can we do any more than the pattern left for us to follow, i.e. offer Communion at weddings, funerals, special services such as Good Friday, and Christmas Eve? “Absolutely not!” is the restorer’s cry. “We can do as we please!” is the reformer’s cry.
As for me and my house, we’ll meet when the church is assembled for worship and/or Bible study and we’ll participate in the Lord’s Supper only once a week, every week, and only on the first day of the week, as was the pattern in the early church.
I now relinquish my label of “legalist.”