Tag Archives: questions

Questions: Does “Breaking Bread” Refer Solely To Communion? Does “For As Often As You Eat This Bread And Drink This Cup” Allow Personal Judgment As To The Frequency Of Observing Communion?

Since I started this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve had some really good questions pop up in the comments to my various articles and in private e-mails to me.  These questions are legitimate and deserve a biblical, logical answer (1 Pet. 3:15).  That’s why I started a “Questions” category in my blog a few days ago.  From time to time I’ll be posting articles which answer the questions people bring to my attention.

One reader gave me a great comment in response to my article about whether Christians should take communion every Sunday that deserves a biblical answer.  I’ve cited the comment below, along with my responses to each of the points raised within it:

If you do not mind a bit of positive critique, I find it an eisegetical stretch to claim that the 3,000 new Christians observed communion on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2. They may have, but the text does not record it. Verses 42-47 appear to provide a general description of the ongoing, daily activity of the early Jerusalem church. They met together, at temple daily and in homes, enjoying meals together. Breaking bread — in this context, as verse 46 indicates clearly, and in general usage in that day, and today — does not refer solely and exclusively to communion. Your article does not allow this obvious point.

I understand the reasoning behind this point of view.   Acts 2:42 mentions “the breaking of bread,” while Acts 2:46 uses the phrase “breaking bread.”  Since the latter verse also says that the early disciples were “breaking bread in their homes” and then mentions receiving “their food,” it is clear that the term “breaking bread” as used in Acts 2:46 is referring to the first Christians eating a common meal in their homes.  This conclusion is further strengthened when we see that the Greek word translated “food” (trophe) in Acts 2:46 is never used in the New Testament in any passages which talk about the Lord’s Supper.

However, it needs to be pointed out that just as we examined what the rest of Acts 2:46 brought out in order to arrive to the correct conclusion that “breaking bread” in that verse referred to an ordinary meal, we likewise need to examine what the rest of Acts 2:42 mentions in order to determine the proper usage of “breaking bread” in that verse.  In this case, the phrase “breaking bread” is surrounded by descriptions of acts of worship.  The verse records how the first disciples “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,” a reference to the preaching of God’s Word (Acts 6:2).  In addition, they also “devoted themselves” to “prayer,” another act of worship done during their assemblies.

Interestingly, notice also that they “devoted themselves” to “fellowship.”  This word comes from the Greek word koinōnia, and is defined as “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse.”  Paul was inspired to use this same word in correlation with the notion of “breaking bread” in 1 Cor. 10:16 when he wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  Notice that he is making an obvious reference to the Lord’s Supper in this passage (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-25), and in doing so he uses the term “communion” (koinōnia, “fellowship” in Acts 2:42) and the idea of “breaking bread” interchangeably.  In like manner, Luke in Acts 2:42 mentions both terms – “fellowship” (koinōnia, “communion” in 1 Cor. 10:16) and “the breaking of bread” – in the context of listing  acts of worship.  Thus, it is not an eisegetical error to conclude that he, like Paul, is using the terms interchangeably to refer to the Lord’s Supper.

Therefore, we see a distinct difference between Acts 2:42 and Acts 2:46 in how the two passages use the term “breaking bread.” The former uses it in the context of listing acts of worship, and uses it alongside a term which, when Paul used the same terms interchangeably, referred to the Lord’s Supper.  The latter uses it in the context of the early Christians eating food in their homes.  Therefore, the former refers to the Lord’s Supper, while the latter refers to a common meal.  Some translators imply that they recognize this distinction by their adding the article “the” in Acts 2:42’s “breaking of bread,” thus making the verse say “the breaking of THE bread,” while failing to do the same in Acts 2:46.  (Examples of this include Young’s Literal Translation and the Weymouth New Testament.)

Concerning why in my article I alluded to Acts 2:42 being evidence that the first Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper on the day of Pentecost, a Sunday, I came to that conclusion not because the text of Acts 2 specifically says so.  The commenter is correct to say that it does not specifically say so, although it is definitely implied considering that the day of Pentecost is what is referred to the immediate preceding context (Acts 2:1-42).  The main reason I stated that conclusion is given in the article, namely that Jesus had specifically mentioned partaking of the Lord’s Supper with his disciples in the kingdom on “that day” (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25) when “the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18).  The kingdom of God is the church of Christ (Col. 1:13), and the church came on the day of Pentecost, a Sunday (Acts 2:1-41).  Thus, Jesus’ prophecy of partaking it with his disciples (in spirit – Matt. 18:20; Heb. 2:11-12) on “that day” when “the kingdom of God comes” would have to have been fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the church began, which was the first day of the week.  In order for it to have been fulfilled, those newly baptized Christians would have had to have observed communion on that very same day.  The fact that Luke mentions these first disciples worshiping together (Acts 2:42) immediately after recording their conversion and the subsequent beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) lends credence to this view.

Likewise, with the Troas church setting, in Acts 20, lends itself to three views on the breaking of bread. First, the reference could be to communion, as verse 7 seems to indicate. Breaking bread, however, could refer to a common meal, as verse 11 seems to indicate. A third option is that two bread breakings took place, the first being communion and the latter a common meal. The wording of the text itself allows these possibilities; however, I tend to accept the third option, so we seem to agree fairly well here.  Of course, the inspired Luke is not writing liturgical instruction in the text. His focus is on Paul’s preaching and the miracle performed, as he references the church’s practice of meeting on the first day of the week, or Sunday, with an emphasis on communion. Luke does not intend in this text, however, to imply that communion or a worship gathering is restricted to the first day of the week only. If so, then worship and communion are both restricted to Sunday only.

Prov. 30:5 says that every word of God is “tested.”  In other words, the inspired writers had a reason for every word that they wrote.  Therefore, we should not be so quick to imply that Luke’s intention was to focus solely on the miracle and the discourse.

With this in mind, a careful reading of Acts 20:7 and Acts 20:11 brings out several notable points, some of which are similar to the distinction between Acts 2:42 and Acts 2:46.  For one, examine the phrase “we were gathered together” in Acts 20:7.  The personal pronoun “we” shows that Luke was present on this occasion.  However, what is even more interesting is the expression “were gathered together.”  It comes from the Greek verb synagō, and Luke used this verb in a passive voice form.  Grammatically, this means that Luke was stating that he and his fellow disciples did not gather or assemble themselves together on the first day of the week not by their own authority, idea, or suggestion; rather, they “were gathered together” by an extraneous or external directive.  From what source did this extraneous directive come?  The only other specific scriptural evidence we have comes from 1 Cor. 16:1-2, which has Paul – under inspiration (1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Eph. 3:3-5) – directing the Corinthian and Galatian churches (and implicitly, all other churches – 1 Cor. 4:17) to take up a collection for needy saints “on the first day of every week.”  Therefore, God was the source of the extraneous directive which gathered together Luke and his fellow disciples on the first day of the week, and Paul’s inspired usage of the Greek term kata in 1 Cor. 16:2 combined with what we read in Acts 20:7 shows that God directed the early Christians to assemble together “on the first day of every week.”

Keeping this in our thoughts, let’s examine the phrase “to break” in Acts 20:7It comes from the Greek verb klaō, and Luke used this verb in an infinitive tense.  Grammatically, this means Luke was stating that the purpose for the disciples being called together on the first day of the week was “to break bread.”  Was the specific purpose they assembled together on the first day of the week to eat a common meal together…or was the specific purpose to partake of communion?  The scriptural evidence shown in the preceding paragraph and compiled in my article suggests the latter.  Would God have called them together on the first day of every week simply to eat a meal together?  Or would he have called them together to memorialize his Son’s death through observance of communion, and to do so on the day his Son had referred to while instituting the Supper?

Now, look at Acts 20:11.  A careful reading of the verse shows that the only one who had “broken bread”at this point was Paul, rather than the entire group.  Furthermore, the word “eaten”comes from the Greek word geuomai and has among its definitions, “to taste” and “to take nourishment.”  Geuomai is never used in any passages which mention the Lord’s Supper, thus giving support to the conclusion that Acts 20:11 is referring to Paul eating an ordinary meal after the entire assembly of disciples had earlier observed the Lord’s Supper in Acts 20:7.

Concerning the commentor’s inference from my article that communion and worship could only be done on Sunday, he is partly right.  Of the five acts of worship described in the New Testament (singing, hearing a message from God’s Word, prayer, communion, and giving of our means), only communion and the giving of our means have any sort of specific day assigned to them (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).  On the contrary, Christians are told to sing praises whenever they are cheerful (James 5:13), which would take place not only in the assembly (Heb. 2:12) but also throughout the week (Phil. 4:4).  Likewise, Christians are told to continually devote themselves to prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17-18) and to the Word (1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16).  Thus, we are to worship God through receiving instruction from his Word, prayer, and song throughout the week, either publicly or privately…but the observance of the Lord’s Supper and the giving of our means are limited to only Sundays.

I was surprised not to find a reference to 1 Cor. 11:23-26 in your article. There, Paul states:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“Do this . . . .” “. . . whenever you drink it . . . .” “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup . . . .” Paul, here, gives inspired leeway as to when the Lord’s Supper is observed. It is “whenever.” The immediate context is “when you come together as a church” (vs. 18, 33), which appears to be at least on the first day of the week, or Sunday (1 Cor. 16:2). The Jerusalem church, however, came together daily (Acts 2:46). (Could the Corinthian church have gathered daily as well?) From this, shall we not conclude that a “whenever” observance of the Lord’s Supper could be daily, on Sundays, or at any time?

This is an understandable conclusion to come to after a casual reading of the passages under consideration; yet, in light of what is shown above and in the article under discussion, it is found to be erroneous.  The “breaking of bread” in Acts 2:46 is shown conclusively to refer to an ordinary meal eaten in one’s home, and is the only usage of the term in correlation with the record of the first disciples meeting daily in the temple.  The “breaking of bread” in Acts 2:42 is used in correlation with acts of worship done immediately upon coming of the kingdom on the first day of the week which was Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), thus showing that it’s a reference to communion and making it fall under the significance of the singular “day” mentioned by Christ when he instituted the Supper (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), that day being the first day of the week.  Therefore, we can conclude that the first disciples worshiped in the temple through instruction of God’s Word, prayer, and song and ate together on a daily basis, but the only time they observed communion and gave of their means would be on the first day of every week.  The fact that church history shows that the early Christians did this, as cited in the commentor’s point below as well as in my article, gives more credence to this conclusion.

You do well in citing the so-called Church Fathers to buttress your view on weekly communion. I prefer weekly observance as well, based on the Troas text in Acts and early church history. I will not, however, condemn other believers on the basis of their Lord’s Supper observance frequency, whether it is daily, on Sunday, once a quarter, on Passover, on Christmas Eve, etc. – since Paul’s inspired citation of Jesus indicates that we may observe communion “whenever,” of course with the proper spiritual mindset. To do otherwise, is to speak where scripture has not spoken and to go beyond what is written, or intended, in scripture.

Ps. 119:160 brings out how “the sum”or “entirety”of God’s Word is truth, meaning that we have to take all of what Scripture says about a certain matter into account in order to know the whole truth about that subject.  For example, many say that all one has to do in order to be saved is to believe in Jesus and cite John 3:16…all while ignoring other passages which stress the necessity of confession of that faith in Jesus (Rom. 10:9-10), repentance of sins (2 Cor. 7:9-10), baptism (1 Pet. 3:21; Mark 16:16), and obedience (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23).  In like manner, Paul did use the seemingly general term “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” in 1 Cor. 11:26, but that is not the only thing Scripture has to say about when and how often to observe communion.  Paul was among those who “were gathered together” by the extraneous divine directive on the first day of the week to observe communion (Acts 20:7).  He himself was inspired to single out the first day of every week in his command for Christians to give of their means (1 Cor. 16:2).  His Lord and Master mentioned a singular “day” in which he would spiritually observe communion with his disciples, that day being when the kingdom came (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:15; Luke 22:18; cf. Matt. 18:20; Heb. 2:11-12).  The kingdom – the church – came on the day of Pentecost, the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-42; cf. Lev. 23:15-16).  Taking all of that scriptural data into account alongside of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 11:26 shows that Paul only had in mind Sundays when he wrote, “For as often as you…”  

Paul and other inspired writers also wrote the very thing the commenter alluded to above: how imperative it is to not go beyond what is written in Scripture (1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:6-9; Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).  Those who decide to partake of communion on days other than Sunday are doing exactly that, regardless of their sincerity (Matt. 7:21-23).  In doing so, their worship is based on the traditions of men rather than on the commandments of God, and is thus vain (Matt. 15:7-9).  It is my prayer and hope that what is shown here helps all who read it to know and obey the truth about these matters.

Questions: Is The Bible The Only Way God Communicates With Man? Is It Really From God?

Since I started this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve had some really good questions pop up in the comments to my various articles and in private e-mails to me.  These questions are legitimate and deserve a biblical, logical answer.  Therefore, I’m starting a “Questions” category in my blog, and from time to time I’ll be posting articles which answer the questions people bring to my attention.

A great question was asked in response to the fourth article in my series on Accurate Hermeneutics.  Here it is:

The people you read about in the Bible… are mostly people who came to know God without reading the Bible — certainly without reading their own stories or anything found in it later. In other words, that was possible then and remains possible.

But if someone read the Bible without knowing God, how would they recognize any truth in it? At best they would be like Job before his epiphany, knowing God only by hearsay, “by the hearing of the ear.” Although Job was living an exemplary life, doing much good and no wrong, this was not a condition in which he could remain happy; it was worth great suffering to get beyond it.

While you were diligently reading, couldn’t God [in a sense] come up behind and say, “Excuse Me?” Would you then tell him, “Go away, this is the only source of information I can trust”?

The first time on record God gave written communication to man

In response to the first paragraph of the question, the Bible reveals many people who came to know God without reading Scripture.  In fact, we have no inspired record of any written communication from God to man until he gave the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai and then inspired Moses to write for Israel the Pentateuch, which consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Ex. 20:1-17; 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9-11).  However, that is not to say that God did not communicate to man in any way before Moses.  Before the nation of Israel received God’s written law at Sinai, Genesis records God speaking directly to various patriarchs, people and kings (Gen. 1:28-30; 4:9-15; 6:13-22; 12:1-3; 20:3-7; 21:17-18; 25:22-23; 26:1-5; 28:10-15), and also indirectly through miraculous prophetic interpretation (Gen. 40:1-23; 41:1-39).  We also read in Genesis of God-fearing people from families, countries, and backgrounds different from those to whom we read that God directly spoke, which implies that God also directly communicated with these people even though we have no specific record of him doing so (Gen. 14:18-20; cf. Josh. 2:9-13).  This divine, miraculous communication outside of inspired Scripture would continue at certain times with certain people both during and even after inspired men started writing the Old Testament (Num. 22-24; Josh. 1:1-9; Judg. 6:11-27; etc.).

The Holy Spirit comes upon the twelve apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)

It would also continue during the time when the New Testament was being written.  Men who already had inspired Scripture from God in the form of the completed Old Testament still directly received communication from Deity during the days of Jesus, sometimes without knowing so (Matt. 1:20-25; 2:12-15, 19-20; 3:16-17; Luke 1:67-79; 2:8-14, 25-38; 9:34-36; John 11:49-52; 12:28-30).  Jesus would tell his apostles that the Holy Spirit would directly communicate with them after he had gone (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15).  This the Spirit did, starting on the day of Pentecost and continuing on from then (Acts 2:1-4; cf. 4:31; 5:1-10).  Later, the apostles would through the laying on of their hands give other Christians like Stephen and Philip the ability to miraculously receive communication from the Holy Spirit and thus miraculously prophesy (Acts 6:5-6, 8-10; 7:55; 8:18, 26-29).  Around this same time, some of these apostles and prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Scriptures which would become the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

However, does God communicate to us directly today?  The person who wrote this question believes so (considering that he said, “…that was possible then and remains possible.”), but is that what the Bible teaches?  Scripture teaches that while God spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs in various ways at various times, he now speaks to us through his Son (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 15:15).  God’s Son, interestingly, is referred to “the Word” (John 1:1, 14).  Jesus told the future writers of the New Testament that they would be inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15), who would only communicate to them what Jesus and the Father told the Spirit to communicate (John 16:12-15).  These men would then write the New Testament Scriptures under inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The Scriptures they would write under inspiration therefore came from God’s Son (1 Cor. 14:37).  Thus, whenever we read our Bibles, we are reading a message from the Son of God, who is the only way God communicates to us today (Heb. 1:1-2).  Any other method of communication is cursed and forbidden (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19), and since it is not Scripture would not equip us to do any truly good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The miraculous spiritual gifts imparted by the apostles through the laying on of their hands (Acts 6:5-6, 8; 8:5-18) – some of which are direct communication from Deity (1 Cor. 12:1, 4-11) – ceased “when that which is perfect has come”(1 Cor. 13:8-10), “that which is perfect”referring in the literal Greek to that which is “complete” or “mature.”  This same word is used to describe the complete Word of God, “the perfect law of liberty”(James 1:25; Rom. 12:2).  In other words, God’s Word says that miracles involving men (including receiving miraculous, direct communication from Deity) would cease when the New Testament was completed.

The Bible is all we need. Through it God has already given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

Therefore, we know that God would not, as the commentator hypothesized, come up to us and whisper in our ear while we were reading our Bibles, because God has already told us how he communicates to us today.  He has already directed us to go to his Word for guidance in doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and has condemned everything else.  He said that miraculous, direct communication from him would cease when his Word became complete.  He does not lie (Tit. 1:2), so we can be confident that all we need to do is to go to his Word and “rightly handle” it in order to be on the right path (2 Tim. 2:15).

However, can we know that the Bible truly comes from God?  As the commenter asked, But if someone read the Bible without knowing God, how would they recognize any truth in it?” That’s a great question, and the answer is a resounding “YES!!!”

Consider this.  What no one can successfully dispute due to overwhelming secular evidence is that the Bible contains sixty-six books which were written by approximately forty different authors over a period of 1,600 years.  The books were written on three different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.  They were written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  The authors of these books came from very different backgrounds.  Moses was a prince trained in the universities of Egypt who later became a shepherd.  Peter and John were fishermen.  Joshua was a military general.  Nehemiah was a butler.  Amos was a herdsman.  Luke was a doctor.  Daniel was a slave who became one of the prime ministers of two different empires.  Matthew was a tax collector.  Paul was a tent maker and a rabbi.  David and Solomon were kings.  These men wrote their books in very different environments.  For example, David wrote his books during times of war and hardship, while his son Solomon wrote his books in times of relative peace.  What the authors wrote about in many cases were subjects that were extremely controversial, topics such as the nature of sin, man’s redemption from sin, the nature of God, and the origin of man and the universe.

In spite of all that, there is harmony and continuity in the Bible.  This is very important to point out, because no other similar collection of writings would be able to claim the same thing!  For example, what if one took just ten authors from only one walk of life, from only one generation, from only one place, from only one time, from only one continent, speaking only one language, and all ten were in only one frame of mind…and asked them to write on just one controversial subject?  Would what they wrote be united in harmony?  Or would the result be a conglomeration of ideas?  I think all of us would agree that the end result would be a hodgepodge of different takes and opinions on the controversial subject!  However, what we see in the Bible is unity and harmony from many authors, from many walks of life, from different times, writing on many controversial subjects.  Why is this so?  It is because they all were moved by the same Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).  To anyone with an open mind, this is evidence that the Bible is inspired by God.

If God doesn’t exist and the Bible isn’t his Word, then how did the writer of Isaiah know to write about “the circle of the earth” back in those primitive, ancient times?

What might surprise some is that there is also overwhelming scientific evidence which, when combined with plain common sense, supports the Bible’s claim of being inspired by God.  For example, the book of Isaiah, written around 701 B.C., says that the earth is round (Is. 40:22).  The book of Job, likely written around 950 B.C., says that there is an empty space north of the earth (Job 26:7), the earth is suspended over nothing (Job 26:7), air has weight (Job 28:25), and there are springs in the sea (Job 38:16).  The Psalms, likely written around 990 B.C., say that the oceans have currents (Ps. 8:8).  The book of Ecclesiastes, likely written around 950 B.C., says that the winds move in a circular motion (Eccl. 1:6), and all rivers flow into the sea without causing it to overflow (Eccl. 1:7).

Historically, man did not become 100% sure about the roundness of the earth, the fact that it is suspended over nothing, and that there is an empty space north of it until the latter half of the twentieth century.  We did not discover that air has weight until the barometer was invented in the 1600’s.  Sea currents were not charted until the 1800’s.  Wind currents were not charted until the twentieth century.  It took almost 1,500 years for Western Civilization to explore enough of the planet to state with certainty that all rivers empty into the sea, and it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that we discovered that there were springs of fresh water in the oceans.  Around that same time, we figured out the water cycle and thus discovered why the oceans do not overflow.

How could men living in ancient times write about these scientific facts thousands of years before science discovered them?  What technology did Isaiah, Job, David, and Solomon have to make such claims?  Without factoring God into the equation, there is no logical explanation.  However, if one takes into consideration that these men were inspired to write these facts by a Being who created both them and the entire universe, then not only does the Bible’s claim of Divine inspiration become valid, but the existence of God is also extremely logical!

Time does not permit me to write in detail right now about all the prophecies written in Scripture which are historically fulfilled, nor does it permit me to write about archeological discoveries continually being made which support events recorded in the Bible, such as a recent discovery of John the Baptist’s cave.  Nevertheless, I encourage the reader to take evidence such as what is presented in this article and use it to plant the seed of truth in honest, open minds!  God does exist, and the Bible was definitely inspired by him!  Since it is, let us “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21), and encourage others to do the same!