Does Breaking Bread = The Lord’s Supper?

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  Acts 2:42-47 NIV

Shortly after Peter’s first sermon, 3000 people were baptized.  They became believers in Jesus.  The verses above describe what happened afterwards with these people.  They had four things in common:

1.  They were taught – specifically, they were instructed in the apostle’s teaching.  Simple enough to understand.

2.  They congregated, gathered, or practiced fellowship.  They met together.  Again, easy enough to grasp.

3.  They “Broke Bread.”  This one’s a little fuzzy.  We’ll come back to it.

4.  They prayed.  Simple

Let’s go back to breaking bread.  What was commonly understood when someone used this term?  Was it the Lord’s Supper?  Was it a general term for sharing a meal?  I don’t think we can definitively say one way or the other.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:23–34 states, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that ythe Lord Jesus on the night when 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.”

There is a direct connection from the symbolism of breaking bread to Christ’s atoning work on the cross.  But, I don’t think it’s universal.  It’s interesting that the Syriac Version of the New Testament  equates the breaking of bread with “the eucharist” or the Lord’s Supper.  Again, I think it is a religious injection rather than an original intent.

Regardless of which you think it is, Acts 2:46 states, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”  It’s the “every day” breaking of bread “in their homes” that makes me think.  And so, I’d like to ask a few questions:

Do you think the Breaking of Bread refers exclusively to the Lord’s supper?

What, in your view is significant about breaking bread in homes?

Were they doing those things “every day” because the church was new?  Or, is that prescriptive for the church today as well? 

For Related Posts, see:

Oh No! They asked questions during The Lord’s Supper!

Grape Juice Drops and Cracker Crumbs Lord’s Supper?

 

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    1. There are other times Jesus “Broke bread”. Namely at the feeding of the 4000 and the feeding of the 5000. Matt. 15:36 for example. Perhaps it just means to share it, and give thanks to the Lord for it. Like you said–“I don’t think we can definitively say one way or the other.” but that would be my guess anyway based on these passages that have nothing to do with the Last Supper.


    2. Do you think the Breaking of Bread refers exclusively to the Lord’s supper?

      No I think it refers to eating together, sometimes, probably often that meal was turned into the “Lord’s supper when they reflected on the symbolism of the bread and wine.

      What, in your view is significant about breaking bread in homes?

      There is something special and communal about sharing food with friends. It is one of the basic building blocks to developing community. There is a saying “home is where the heart is.” To share meals with friends in our own homes is about as warm and communal as activities come.

      Were they doing those things “every day” because the church was new? Or, is that prescriptive for the church today as well?

      The early Christians were in a low-tech, Mediterranean culture which placed a high priority on extended family and the web of local relationships. Our Western cultures downplay this, to our detriment in my opinion. We don’t do anything in homes with friends “every day.” In fact, we do very little in the homes of our friends. So, we might need to do this differently but I do think we should consider a functional equivalent. And I do think if we went counter cultural (found ways to spend more time together in warm community) it would be a draw instead of a detraction. But I don’t think meeting in homes every day is a prescription.

      One other thought. Does this mean that all the new Christians were meeting every day or does it mean that out of this large group of new converts there were many groups meeting every day? In one case each Christian would meet every day. In the other, they might meet once or twice a week but while they were not meeting there would be others who did.


    3. I think “breaking of bread” definitively means partaking in the Eucharist. Christian worship centered around the Eucharist and thanksgiving for the Eucharist for the first 1700 years.

      You can see on the road to Emmaus in (Luke 24) that Christ teaches two disciples, but is only revealed to them in “the breaking of the bread”. As soon as Christ broke the bread the men recognized him, and he disappeared. This is what happens when we receive Holy Communion. We receive eternal life, we recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread.

      In Christ’s own words:

      “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:53-58

      If we want eternal life we must either eat and drink from the body of Christ, or figure out a way around this very direct teaching.

    4. Pingback: Tomorrow’s church – Part 5: Food and fellowship. | Church in a Circle

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