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Breaking of Bread, also called the Lord’s Supper, refers to a special worship service instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. This ordinance of Christ does not impart a special form of grace, but it does unite every believer in worship and remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ until He returns.
JESUS: THE LAMB OF GOD
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world.’
Jesus consciously fulfilled all righteousness. John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). Jesus intentionally sacrificed Himself, to atone for the sins of the world and propitiate the wrath of God against sinners. Through faith by grace in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God imparts His righteousness to us. Jesus became our Passover lamb who was sacrificed for our sins, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 2:24).
Jesus was betrayed during Passover, the Jewish feast commemorating the deliverance of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Yahweh (an Old Testament name for God) instructed Israel to sprinkle blood from a sacrificed lamb upon their lintels and doorposts and Yahweh would spare them (Exodus 12:1-12; Hebrews 11:28). Otherwise, the angel of death would kill the firstborn son in that house. In this picture from the Old Testament, God symbolized the blood of Christ sparing the life of God’s people. Just as the blood of the sacrificed lamb provided escape from death for Israel enslaved in Egypt, so the blood of Jesus Christ provides salvation from sin and eternal life to everyone who believes. Christ became the Passover lamb for every believer (1 Corinthians 5:7). The night of His arrest, Jesus was eating the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:8ff.).
THE FIRST BREAKING OF BREAD
The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
In the evening, before Jesus was arrested later that same night, Jesus brought His disciples together in the upper room for a last meal with them before He went to the cross. Just before Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, the Lord was instituting a memorial of His life, death, resurrection and eternal work. He was eager to eat the Passover with these men and had made special preparations (Luke 22:15).
when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’
1 Corinthians 11:24
While the disciples were eating with Him, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take it; this is My body” (Mark 14:22). The bread symbolizes the body of Christ. In the divine plan, God prepared a body of real flesh for Jesus (1 John 4:2). Before the foundation of the world, Jesus eternally existed as a Person dwelling with the Father and Holy Spirit, united as one God (John 1:1; Colossians 1:15; John 10:30). In the fullness of time, God prepared a perfect, sinless body for Christ, being conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary (Galatians 4:4; Matthew 1:20). Therefore, Jesus offered His body as a holy, living sacrifice to bear the sins of the world and sanctify a people for God (Hebrews 10:5). He did not die for His own sins, because He had no sin, but for my sins and your sins, the Just for the unjust (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 3:18). Jesus offered the sacrifice just once, and for all people and times. Jesus also took the cup and used it as the symbol of several truths.
In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’
1 Corinthians 11:25
The cup pictures the past because Jesus wants us to remember Him. It focuses our attention exclusively upon Him as the object of worship during the Breaking of Bread service: “. . . do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). As we look back, we see our Savior. We remember the work of Christ, in paying the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), propitiating the anger of God at the sin of the world (1 John 2:2), opening a new and living way to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:22), and demonstrating the love of God for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:2). He stands now as the Author and Perfecter of our faith as we fix our eyes upon Him, particularly in the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus also linked the cup to our present blessings in Him. In the cup, we have the “blood of the covenant.” He explained that the covenant included pouring out His blood for many so that their sins would be forgiven (Matthew 26:28). Without the shedding of blood, God cannot forgive sin (Hebrews 9:22).
THE NEW COVENANT
In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’
1 Corinthians 11:25
Jesus also described a “new covenant” in His blood (1 Corinthians 11:25). The word “covenant” means an agreement between two people, and only comes into effect when the maker of the covenant dies. Therefore, Jesus died to bring about the redemption of sin, a crucial feature of this new covenant we have with God (Hebrews 9:15-18). When Jesus lifted that cup, and called it the new covenant in His blood, He intended for each of us to remember, as often as we drink it, that He alone is the author of that new covenant, and He alone offers redemption from sin. In Him we live victoriously, and drink together as people joined to Him under the “new covenant” of eternal blessings and forgiveness. God writes upon the tablets of our hearts with the Spirit of the living God, so that we have become ministers of the new covenant who have received life from the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:1-6). At the Lord’s table, we see the Maker of that covenant in the wine we drink together.
THE FREQUENCY OF
BREAKING OF BREAD
Jesus also intended to create a blessed tradition for His followers. He wanted for them to gather, to remember Him in His death, to celebrate His victory over death, and to proclaim His Name until He returns. How often should believers Break Bread together?
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Shortly after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached to Jerusalem and three thousand souls were added to the church in one day. Those Jerusalem believers began to meet “day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house . . . .” (Acts 2:46). The number of men came to be about five thousand (Acts 4:4) and the Lord added to that number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). They were baptized and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer (Acts 2:42). They were feeling a sense of awe. (Acts 2:43). There, the early Christians were breaking bread daily, moving from house to house and also eating together with gladness and sincerity of heart (Acts 2:46). Notice the distinction between Breaking Bread and eating meals together. In some cases. the phrase Breaking of Bread may mean only eating a meal, but often it refers to the Lord’s Supper.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
Later in Acts, Paul met believers at Troas on the first day of the week to break bread and for preaching of God’s word (Acts 20:7). We may glean from these passages that breaking of bread occurred as often as every day and also on the first day of the week. Therefore, the New Testament church had a variety of times it observed the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. At Christ Assembly, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday based upon the verses above, but recognize that Scripture does not set a mandatory frequency for the ordinance. It does, however, provide very specific guidelines for observing the ordinance.
EXAMINE YOURSELF, THEN EAT
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:27-28
In Corinth, the believers had problems with the Breaking of Bread. Paul said they were divided and factions existed among them. Some of them were drunk and others were hungry (1 Corinthians 11:17-20). He instructed them to return to the original practice for the Breaking of Bread which he received from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul warned that some of the believers were sick and others slept because they had partaken of the Lord’s Supper while they were divided, drunk and shaming other believers (1 Corinthians 11:29-30). He urged each believer to examine his own heart and so avoid partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. (1 Corinthians 11:28). This self-examination should include looking into your own heart to be sure that you are in fellowship with the other believers (1 Corinthians 11:28). Furthermore, if you know that someone else has a problem with you, then you would do well to seek reconciliation with that other person before you partake of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 5:23-24). The Bible emphasizes that you must seek out the brother or sister who has something against you. Do not disrupt the service by doing it during the service, but rather go to them before you worship, in private, and seek reconciliation. The way to cure divisions in the Body of Christ is for members to reconcile with each other. Finally, be sure to confess your sin to God and know that He will forgive you, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). To partake unworthily means that you “will be disciplined by the Lord so that you will not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Romans 8:1).
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
1 Peter 5:1-2
God created the office of elder in the church for the purpose of overseeing the flock of God. The Elders serve as under-shepherds of Christ. They do not lord their authority over believers. As the Elders exercise their oversight function, believers should submit to them, for they keep watch over the souls of believers as men who will give an account (Hebrews 13:17). The Elders should be careful to allow only believers to partake of the elements at the Lord’s Supper. The Elders must also know the spiritual condition of the flock. If the Elders know that a person will be eating and drinking the elements of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, they must be careful to stop that practice. In some instances, the person under discipline for unrepentant sin will be excluded from partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:11). The Elders must take action to guard the sheep from wolves outside the flock and from perverted people who arise within the flock seeking to draw people out of the flock to follow perversion (Acts 20:28-29). The Elders must silence rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers who corrupt the flock and upset entire families (Titus 1:10-11). They must also take steps to remove the immoral, covetous, idolaters, and revilers, drunkards, and swindlers who claim to be believers, but persist without repentance in such behaviors (1 Corinthians 6:9-13). They must also be sure that if people are unwilling to work, and have the ability to work, that they do not eat the food of others (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Likewise, everyone who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition received from the apostles must be kept away from other believers (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In a similar way, people who promote foolish controversies and disputes must be warned twice, and then rejected from the fellowship as a factious person (Titus 3:9-11). Also, all antichrists who promote false doctrine should be identified and exposed, so that no one would invite them into their homes or even greet them. For those who do greet them or invite them into their homes, and by doing so receive their false teaching, they participate in the deeds of antichrist and so must be excluded from the fellowship of believers (2 John 1:6-11). In all cases. the Elders must promote repentance from sin and seek forgiveness for believers, or salvation for unbelievers. Absent such repentance and salvation, only believers in fellowship with God and the assembly should be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Elders should be careful to love the flock and know from direct fellowship the spiritual condition of the flock and follow the Scriptures on who may be offered the Lord’s Supper. The Elders, along with the entire assembly, must always seek restoration of the fallen believer, and never impose punitive measures aimed at a believer, for every believer stands holy and blameless before the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:4). Some believers have dirty hands, and need to experience the faithfulness and righteousness of God by confessing their sin and having God forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness, so that they may return to fellowship with the local assembly (1 John 1:8-9)(See Step Two–Quiet Time–Confession).
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.
1 Corinthians 11:18
Paul developed the concept of spiritual unity by explaining the ministry of the Holy Spirit within the Body of Christ (the Church). The Holy Spirit distributes the spiritual gifts to each member (believer) of the Body of Christ, so that each member performs essential functions in the church. All the members must honor and respect all the other members as essential members. Within the Body of Christ, divisions tend to arise among believers. They quarrel and fight, spreading disunity. When the assembly gathers for the Lord’s Supper, some people are drunk and others are going hungry. Paul emphasized that factions show who are approved by God in the congregation. Jesus said that if you know that another believer has a problem with you, lay your offering aside at the altar, and go and be reconciled to your brother before you worship (Matthew 5:23-24). We should be sure to seek reconciliation with other believers before we gather to partake together the Lord’s Supper.
PROPERLY AND ORDERLY
But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
1 Corinthians 14:40
The Holy Spirit alone should lead the Breaking of Bread service and only believers may partake of the elements. We unite to remember the Lord Jesus Christ, and to praise and worship Him. This service uniquely focuses upon Jesus Christ alone. The males (1 Timothy 2:12-14; 1 Corinthians 14:34; see Assembly Practice—Silent Submission) choose hymns and read Scripture that focus upon Jesus, because we are to remember Him. The women must cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11:3-16; Genesis 3:16, 2:18; see Assembly Practice—Head Covering) and participate silently. Never let silence by males or females be mistaken for inactivity—we should pray and worship even as we wait for the Holy Spirit to lead us. As the Holy Spirit fills everyone, the men lead with Scripture passages, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Everyone sings, making melody with our hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God our Father (Ephesians 5:18-20). Everything must be done properly and in order during this time structured only by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:40). Every speaker should be careful to limit his remarks so that others will have ample opportunity to participate. We avoid petitions and prayer requests during this time, because we do not want to focus upon ourselves, but rather devote this time to the praise and worship of Jesus Christ alone. We also partake of the elements together. When a brother feels led, he will pray for the bread and give thanks to God. Then each of us will partake together. Likewise, another brother will pray for the cup and we will drink it together. Usually, we conclude with a song (Matthew 26:30).
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
At the Lord’s Supper, believers have a time where the word of Christ richly dwells among them. They speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in their hearts. Jesus sang with His disciples, even on the night before He died (Matthew 26:30). The Lord’s Supper also allows male believers to speak, and to use their spiritual gifts to the glory of God, while the women remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:34). Men may give extended messages (Acts 20:7). The Lord’s Supper should be a time of joy, worship, and remembrance of Jesus. The believers edify one another through the ministry of the spiritual gifts, and worship God in spirit and in truth, for God seeks such worshipers (John 4:23-24).
FOCUS ON THE LORD JESUS
UNTIL HE RETURNS
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26
The bread and the cup also allow us to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26). Only Jesus can so beautifully tie together the concept of death taking away sin to the eternal life He provides as a gift to every believer. Jesus said He would not “drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of heaven comes” (Luke 22:17-18). Jesus never leaves the bitter taste of death lingering in the elements, but always adds the aroma of glory to come. Jesus lives and we proclaim His life every week as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. When His kingdom comes, then the living Christ will drink the cup with His disciples (Matthew 26:29). From that first Lord’s Supper, the church of Jesus Christ has followed His command to partake together and so proclaim His death until He returns in power with great glory.
First Steps in Christ–Step Eight–Lord’s Supper