The Lord’s Supper: Acts

Luke records that the disciples broke bread together daily.

(Acts 2:46-47)  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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

E. M. Blaiklock writes in the Tyndale commentary on Acts,

Thirdly, fellowship is the keynote. The ‘love-feast’ (breaking of bread, 42) includes the Lord’s Supper, but was later separated from it. Eating together, especially in the East, has always been a prime sign of fellowship. There is perhaps room for the revival of ‘the common meal’.

There’s no basis to conclude that “break bread” means “take the Lord’s Supper.” Rather, the phrase is routinely used in Luke and Acts of eating a meal, although a meal with Eucharistic overtones.

(Luke 9:16)  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.

(Luke 24:30-31)  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

(Acts 20:7)  On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

(Acts 20:10-11)  Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.

(Acts 27:34-35)  Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

There’s surely a lesson or two in these passages, but I fail to see a command to assemble weekly to take the Eucharist. Rather, the pattern Luke is showing is that any meal taken in the name of Jesus is, in some sense, sacramental.

Although the Jerusalem church broke bread daily, the church in Troas evidently had adopted a weekly practice on Sunday. But “break bread” here is no different from “break bread” in Acts 2 — which refers to a meal, as do all the other references to breaking bread in Luke – Acts. This is much more a reference to the love-feast than to the Lord’s Supper, although it is surely both.

Now, at this point, we have a direct and clear statement that the Jerusalem church met daily and broke bread daily. We find that, many years later, the church at Troas met and broke bread on a Sunday. We are told that the disciples met weekly after Jesus’ resurrection, and we know that Pentecost was a Sunday. Sunday was clearly a significant day in some sense, but there’s no indication to this point that communion was celebrated only on Sundays or even that Sunday was the customary day other than in Troas. Rather, we have tantalizing trail of clues and suggestions — but no divine decree.

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13 Responses

  1. Do you think that God uses the fact that many things are not clear cut to make us study and dig deeper into his word?

  2. Or, maybe to make us have to put our faith in Him.

  3. It is true that there is no explicit command for the Lord’s Supper on the 1st day of the week. Yet, the Lord’s Supper is for the Assembly, and the Assembly is for the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10, 13, 20) for which I do believe that Paul and congregation at Troas were not mistaken to be the first day of the week.

  4. Brent, on February 23, 2010 at 9:07 am Said:
    Do you think that God uses the fact that many things are not clear cut to make us study and dig deeper into his word?

    I do believe that the new testament books are intentionaly not “clear cut”, because Jesus abhorred legalism (take note of how he responded to the legalist pharisees etc.). The very nature of the New Covanent is NOT about observing particular laws, rituals, etc. but of genuinely walking with God in a daily way. A “thousand years” before John the Baptist arrived, scripture in Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. clearly denoted that the New Covenent would be this way. We can dig deeper if we want, but if we read the whole thing then we will arrive at this conclusion. Jesus being the “second Adam” ( ? ) restored to mankind the potential relationship with God that Adam lost in the Garden.

  5. Brent,

    I’m pretty much where Paul is. The reason we find the texts so difficult is largely because we’re looking for a legal system in texts that are discussing relationships.

    Of course, even those who understand the text relationally have their own puzzles to sort out, but they are a very different kind of puzzles that leads to a very different kind of disagreements.

    I’ll be discussing a relational interpretation in a few weeks.

  6. Scott,

    I wouldn’t suggest that Troas was wrong to gather to break bread on the first day. I just don’t see a command.

    And although John’s vision took place on the Lord’s Day (surely an early church idiom for Sunday), that hardly means he attended an assembly that day or took communion. It does mean he considered the first day special in some sense.

    It’s interesting that there are so many hints that the early church considered the first day special, and yet not a single command to assemble or break bread on the first day.

    If God had intended to command a weekly assembly to take communion, this is certainly a surprising way for him to have done so. I mean, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are filled with precise instructions regarding what to do on what days. They have very detailed commands. And yet we are left with nothing but hints and indirect references.

    And so, rather than presuming there is a command that we must find hidden in the silences and affirmed by early church tradition, we really ought to ask whether God even meant to give commands in such an indirect way. Maybe we are looking for the wrong thing altogether.

  7. Jay

    To my humble thinking communion is an expression of gratitude to the Lord for his gift.

    I have been to many countries in the world and when they gather for a meal they spend a lot more time at eating and fellowship than we do. In this country we are fast food addicts that hardly taste anything we eat.

    In South America, Australia, and Europe they drink a couple of glasses of wine with a four to six course meal that may take more than an hour. We don’t even spend 15 minutes at Thanksgiving or Christmas meals.And of course wine would be sinful to a good church person.

    I wish we could, as a church take a common meal and have communion, with wine of course, but that may take more than the hour most spend in the worship assembly. We don’t want to spend more than an hour together….too busy.

    A good meal and fellowship, celebrating with a gracious heart our Lord’s gift would be great. We may even get to know each other a little more if we could loosen up.

    Cheers

    Bob

    Bob

  8. Bob, I can scarcely believe that most Americans only spend 15 minutes on a Thanksgiving or Christnas meal?

    Agape
    Wendy in Australia

  9. Wendy

    Probably a bit more,but we are do eat very quickly.and don’t enjoy fellowship as we should over a meal.We eat quickly at Thanksgiving and Christmas then watch football after the meal.

    You in Australia enjoy a meal better than most of us Americans. I have been to Australia many time looking for oil. Perth is a real nice place.

    Cheers

    Bob

  10. Wendy,

    We certainly spend more time on the Thanksgiving meal. It’s a big deal. Christmas, not so much.

    But I take your point. Thanksgiving is particularly comparable to the design behind the Lord’s Supper — it’s a family gathered in fellowship for a purpose deeper and bigger than just the family. And for many, Thanksgiving is the event that defines and forms us as family — at least after we’ve grown up and only see our siblings, nieces, and nephews once or twice a year.

  11. I really appreciated reading this blog. Thank you

  12. How blessed we would be if we all understood that “breaking bread” merely means, universally and in the inspired writings, eating a meal. And the two examples we have of it being done as a Lord’s SUPPER were evening meals. Are we trying to restore first-century Christianity?

  13. There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally.
    — Judge Billings Learned Hand

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