Tag Archives: theology

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.

“Unity In Diversity”…Does It Exist?

Unity in diversity.  Yes, there is such a thing.  The Lord Jesus wants his disciples to be united, even at times when there seems to be tremendous differences between them.  Both Jesus and his apostles decry division (John 17:20-23; Eph. 4:1-3).

Catholics and Orthodoxy, unite! (And just try to ignore that we still don’t believe in hardly any of the same things…)

Before we discuss this, however, let it be acknowledged that the denominational world generally has made up its own, ecumenical kind of “unity in diversity.”  To briefly summarize, its idea is to unite “believers” of widely divergent beliefs by encouraging them to simply “agree to disagree.”  To illustrate, the person who believes that baptism is immersion in water is encouraged to have fellowship with the one who believes that sprinkling will do just as well.  But this is a pseudo-fellowship, thinking that people can share in something they don’t actually share.  It turns a blind eye to the source of division.  Or to put it another way, it is not the unity the Bible teaches.  Paul pleaded “that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).  Christianity only acknowledges “one baptism”(Eph. 4:5); it also acknowledges only “one body” (Eph. 4:4; cf. Eph. 1:22-23) and only “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), thus rendering the multiple bodies/churches and faiths of denominationalism to be unscriptural and thus condemned.

There are some differences, however, among believers in which we can – no, must – unite.  First, there must be unity among believers of diverse nationalities, social standings and genders (Gal. 3:26-28).  No matter who we are – Asian or Caucasian…black or white…employer or employee…rich or poor…man or woman – those who have “put on Christ” in baptism stand on equal ground before God.  Consequently, they need to be viewed as standing on equal ground before each other, worthy of being embraced as brothers or sisters, regardless of skin color or what “side of the tracks” they come from.  Only the cross of Christ could bring this about (Eph. 2:14-16; Philemon 15-16).

Secondly, there must also be unity among believers with diverse skills and abilities.  Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth about the miraculous spiritual gifts they possessed, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4).  The Corinthians should have been united in their use of their gifts unto the edification of the church, but sadly, they were divided.  Paul implied that some who had one type of gift where “looking down their noses” at those who didn’t.  (An example of this is 1 Corinthians 12:21’s “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’”)  He also implied that others, because they didn’t have a certain gift, were jealous and consequently weren’t using the gift they did have.  (See verse 15’s “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”)  Corinth’s problems are still with local churches today, even though we do not possess miraculous spiritual gifts like they did (1 Cor. 13:8-10; cf. James 1:25; Rom. 12:2).  Those today who have a particular talent are at times proud and boastful, while those who consider themselves one-talent people are indifferent to their potential.  Until we cease focusing (in a negative way) on our diverse abilities and start concentrating on the unifying purpose for our having them (to build up the body), we aren’t going to be unified as we ought, and we certainly aren’t going to be productive.  We must realize that each of us is important, and put each other before ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).

Finally, there must be unity among believers with diverse idiosyncrasies.  In Romans 14 Paul called for unity among brethren who consciences differed.  Some could, with a  clean conscience, eat certain meats.  Some could not.  But Paul told them to “receive” one another, to not “despise” one another, and to not “judge one another” (Rom. 14:1, 3, 14).  Now, Paul wasn’t calling for the “unity in diversity” described in our introductory second paragraph.  He wasn’t calling for believers to accept and “receive” those who came with some extra or anti-biblical teaching or practice (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 John 9-11).  Rather, Paul dealt with disciples with diverse convictions concerning which, no matter which position a disciple took on the issue, did not involve a person in sin (Rom. 14:3-4).  Today, brethren have varying conscientious scruples, many times the result of how they were raised by their parents, culture, religion, etc.  The one who is “strong,” whose conscience will allow him to exercise what he knows to be a freedom in Christ because of his stronger knowledge of God’s Will and spiritual maturity, is not to run roughshod over his brother whose conscience will not allow him.  The brother who is “weak” in knowledge and spiritual maturity is not to condemn the strong, but is required to “grow in all things” (Eph. 4:15).  Friends, that’s biblical unity in diversity.

The body of Christ is a diverse group – believers of different races, genders, socio-economic classes, abilities, and scruples.  But the Lord desires for us to do all we can to work for unity.  “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)

What Produces Repentance?

Have you ever wondered why David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Sam. 13:14), never showed any sign of remorse over committing adultery with Bathsheba and his attempted deception and ultimate murder of her husband (2 Sam. 11)?  After all, it was David’s faith that motivated him to face the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17), and it was his love for God and compassion for others that kept him from killing Saul, his enemy, when he had the chance (1 Sam. 24, 26).  This same man would later showed kindness to the crippled grandson of his slain enemy (2 Sam. 9), and yet a short time after that he would give in to his lustful temptations and sleep with the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers, all while giving no sign of feeling guilty about his sins.

Yet, this all changed – apparently in an abrupt manner – when the prophet Nathan called him out on the carpet for his sins with the forceful accusation, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:1-15).  One minute David, blind to the fact that Nathan’s story of the rich man who killed the poor man’s one prized lamb related to his own sin, was indignant over the perceived sins of others.  The next minute, after being indicted for his adultery, deception, enticements to drunkenness (cf. Hab. 2:15), and murder, David was confessing his sin against God with the greatest of sorrow and remorse (Ps. 51:1-15).  What brought the penitent change of heart?

First, Nathan forcefully brought David’s sins to his attention by directly attributing the sinful actions of the rich man in the parable to the king himself while also warning him of the consequences of his wrongdoing (2 Sam. 12:1-7, 9-12).  Too often, we Christians see their brethren commit sin and naively hope that they will repent without having to inconvenience ourselves with the potential awkwardness of rebuking and warning them.  This shows within us a lack of spirituality (Gal. 6:1) and concern for the well-being of their souls and our own (James 5:19-20; Ezek. 3:17-21).  Repentance – and forgiveness itself – will never come without a direct acknowledgement of the wrong done (1 John 1:9) and fear of God’s wrathful punishment (Rom. 2:4-11; Heb. 12:28-29).  If we want to bring about a change of heart within the sinner, we must rebuke and warn them lovingly and truthfully (Eph. 4:15; Acts 2:36-37), humbly and gently rather than argumentatively (2 Tim. 2:24-26), and yet sharply if need be (Tit. 1:13).  We must also never forget that we ourselves will never truly repent of ourselves without first acknowledging our wrongs with honest and open hearts (Luke 8:15) while having that godly fear (2 Cor. 5:11).

Secondly, Nathan reminded David of God’s great love for him by listing all the blessings the Creator had bestowed upon the king (2 Sam. 12:7-8).  In Steven Spielberg’s epic World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) is saved from death by the sacrifice of Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and most of his platoon.  Decades later, an elderly Ryan looks down at Miller’s grave at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and tearfully confesses that he’s tried to live his life the best he could in order to atone for Miller giving his life for his.  Many veterans whose friends have died in battle to save them feel the same way.  Yet God gave a much greater sacrifice when he gave his Son up to die a horrendous death on a cross to save us, wretched sinners who were his enemies rather than friends (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-11).  Add to this all the wonderful blessings that God gives to us on a daily basis (Matt. 5:45; James 1:17), just as he did with David.  When we remember all that God does for us with unselfish and humble hearts, we will be motivated to detest the sin that offends our Savior and repent.

This is true because our humble and honest remembrance of God’s great love, mercy, and numerous blessings on our behalf will bring about godly sorrow, which leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:9-10).  In Spielberg’s movie, the older Ryan breaks down in tears as he approaches Captain Miller’s grave, no doubt due to remembering the great sacrifice that man and others made for him.  Likewise, the psalm David wrote after Nathan rebuked him for his sins is filled with remorse and anguish as he remembers the salvation God offers to him (Ps. 51:8, 12, 14).  Unlike worldly grief, which leads to spiritual death in hell (2 Cor. 7:10; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8) and is selfishly based only on sorrow over the punishment one receives here on earth for one’s sins, godly grief is based on anguish that one committed the sin in the first place due to the great offense it gives to our Savior and King.  Only this will truly lead us to repent and thus be saved (2 Cor. 7:10).  Do we grieve over our sins, and if so, what kind of sorrow is it?  We should examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) so we will know if we need godly sorrow in our lives.

Furthermore, godly sorrow will motivate one to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20).  The thief who has worldly sorrow only over the fact that he got caught and is now being punished will steal again at the first opportunity.  However, the thief who has godly sorrow over the fact that he stole in the first place because it grieved his Creator and Savior will now detest the very idea of stealing and thus be motivated to never do it again.  As a result of the repentance brought on by their godly sorrow, the Corinthians became very diligent in their strong desire to fearfully and zealously serve God and clear themselves of the guilt of their sins which they now indignantly detested (2 Cor. 7:10-11).  Likewise, we never read of David committing adultery or murder again after his repentance over his wrongdoing with Bathsheba and Uriah.  In other words, their actions proved that they had truly repented.  When we commit to repentance, do our actions prove it?  Or are we deceiving ourselves?

Too many today have no idea what true repentance means, or how it is produced.  This contributes to the lack of true conversion to Christ among many, the lack of zealous commitment to his cause among more, and the growing immorality and apostasy within the brotherhood.  We must go out of our way to teach potential converts the true meaning of repentance and how it is produced before we baptize them, while reminding new converts and ourselves of how true repentance is manifested within our lives.  With God’s help, doing so will have a highly positive impact on our own spiritual well-being and that of the church overall.