on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. [acts 20:7]
the importance of breaking bread
paul and his traveling companions land in troas to encourage the local believers for a week–and they gather on the first day–the Lord’s day [revelation 1:10]–even in the early days, the followers of Jesus designated sunday–the day that he rose from the dead–as a day of gathering and meeting, where they would break bread with the local church. some might say that the term “break bread” here simply meant the sharing of a common meal, but paul, writing to the corinthians, did not think of it that way.
the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? [i corinthians 10:16]
breaking bread together was not only a way to show who was participating in the body of Christ, but also a proclamation:
for i received from the Lord what i also delivered to you, that the 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.” in the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood. do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the lord’s death until he comes. [i corinthians 11:23-26]
when we gather to share in communion, we show that we are a community who remembers Jesus Christ and his work, the promise of the new covenant of his sacrificial death atoning for our sin, and ultimately, we issue a statement to the world:
“together we proclaim that we are God’s people that he gathered to himself through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ!”
you may have heard of the term ‘excommunication’–it is when an individual sins grievously, and is unrepentant of their sin–there is a process that is outlined in matthew 18 to separate them from the body of believers–such an incident is described in i corinthians 5–excommunication isn’t the ‘shunning’ practiced in some religions and cultures, but a refusal to allow such a person to break bread and share in the communion of the saints– (ex=out of, communion=of the community that shares in Christ’s communion) this is meant to call the unrepentant sinner toward repentance and restoration.
whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. but if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. [i corinthians 11:27-31]
when we break bread as a body, it is an opportunity to reflect, examine, confess and repent before the Lord–it is one of the reasons we gather and take communion regularly. being with the saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ allows us to see our sin and seek to be reconciled to those we have wronged [matthew 5:23].
as you rest in his presence today, thank him for the gift he has given to you in the local body, in the gift of regular breaking of bread, and the reconciliation that it initiates. if you have been neglectful of gathering with the saints, repent, and resolve that meeting with the body will be a priority, not out of legalistic burden, but out of the joy of being encouraged in the Lord! oh how i look forward to gathering with the breaking of the bread with my brothers and sisters in Christ!
and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. [hebrews 10:24-25]
i was glad when they said to me,
“let us go to the house of the LORD!” [psalm 122:1]