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Our Church Life in the Face of Covid-19 (4): Continuing Steadfastly in the Breaking of Bread by Keeping the Feast with Unleavened Bread

May 20, 2020

Our Christian life is a life of continual feasting. When the Lord saved us, He not only became our life, but also our life supply. In the Old Testament, the Israelites, who typify the church, were called out of Egypt to hold a feast unto Jehovah in the wilderness (Exo. 5:1). Thus began their journey of 40 years, throughout which the Lord never ceased to supply them in every way. In a sense, their entire journey was a life of feasting, of taking God as their all.

When the Lord came, He enacted a New Testament for us by the shedding of His blood. This is our common heritage, in which are all the bequests for us to enjoy and experience. After preparing all the provisions, He called us to feast with Him (Luke 14:17). All that Christ is, has accomplished, attained and obtained, are all realized by us in spirit as we feast on Him. Moreover, He not only feeds us individually, but even more so corporately, by providing a table in the wilderness for us to sustain us all through our days (Psa. 78:19). He brought us to the church, His banqueting house, and His banner over us is love (S.S. 2:4). As our Christian life started with a feast, it continues as a life of feasting through the Lord’s table.

The Bread-Breaking Meeting Being the Most Important Gathering of the Church

The most important gathering of the church that we must endeavor not to miss is the bread-breaking meeting. The Lord is the host and He has invited us all to feast with Him regularly and continuously by keeping His table steadfastly until His return. In this meeting both God and man are satisfied. As we remember the Lord by eating and drinking Him in spirit, we afford Him the real worship that satisfies Him.

Believers in the early church life were so enthusiastic for the Lord’s table that they met together to break bread every day from house to house (Acts 2:42, 46). Later on they had their bread-breaking meeting at least once a week in larger gatherings of the church during the Lord’s Day (20:6-7). What is the spiritual significance of the bread-breaking meeting? Proper knowledge and understanding largely affects our attitude in coming to the bread-breaking meeting. For this reason, we would like to fellowship with the saints about the significance and importance of the breaking of bread, especially during this period of stay-home restrictions, so that we can continue steadfastly in the breaking of bread by properly keeping this feast even during these times of community quarantine.

The Bread-Breaking Meeting Being Instituted by the Lord

One thing that makes the bread-breaking meeting significantly different from other church meetings is that this is a meeting instituted by the Lord Himself. During supper, on the night that the Lord Jesus was betrayed, the Lord took the bread and blessed it. Having given thanks, he broke it and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat. This is My body, which is given for you. Do this unto the remembrance of Me.” Similarly, after they had dined, He took the cup and gave thanks. Then He passed it to them and said, “Drink of it. All of you. This cup is the new covenant established in My blood, which is being poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, unto the remembrance of Me.” (Matt. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:19-20; John 13:2; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). The Lord did not ask the disciples to remember His birth as is commonly practiced in Christianity through Christmas, but He charged them to remember Him by keeping the bread-breaking meeting.

Replacing the Feasts in the Old Testament

The Lord personally instituted the bread-breaking meeting immediately after He and His disciples had eaten the Passover (Matt. 26:19; Mk. 14:14; Lk. 22:7, 13). He did this to replace the Feast of the Passover because He was going to fulfill its type and be the real Passover to us (1 Cor. 5:7). Today, as we attend the bread-breaking meeting, we are keeping the real Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matt. 26:17; 1 Cor. 5:8), which was a seven-day feast (Lev. 23:6). During its first day, the Passover was celebrated (Lk. 22:1; Mk. 14:1). This is particularly significant because it symbolizes a new start as the one-day Feast of the Passover was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exo. 12:6, 11, 15-20; Lev. 23:5). As the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread were to the Israelites in the Old Testament, so is the bread-breaking meeting to us believers in the New Testament. This is the reason we need to come together on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, to the bread-breaking meeting. The New Testament feast of the Lord’s table will continue on in this age as our foretaste of a richer and fuller enjoyment in the coming kingdom of God when the Lord will feast with the overcoming saints at His return (Lk. 22:30; 13:28-29) in the marriage dinner of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), which is the consummation of our life of feasting.

With this in view, the Lord commanded the disciples to “do this”, instilling in them the importance of their coming together to eat the bread and drink the cup. The Lord even asked His disciples to do this as often as they could until He comes back (1 Cor. 11:26). As we gather for the bread-breaking meeting (Acts 20:7), we come together to eat the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:20) and attend the Lord’s table (1 Cor. 10:21).

Eating the Lord’s Supper Being to Remember the Lord

As we remember the Lord in the bread-breaking meeting, this is not a time for us to ask for blessings through supplications and petitions. In a real sense, in all the other meetings of the church, it is Christ toward us; but in the bread-breaking meeting, it is we toward the Lord. We need to prepare ourselves and come at the appointed time to worship the Lord in spirit, by remembering Him in His person and work.

Remembering the Lord Himself

The first aspect of the bread-breaking meeting is eating the Lord’s supper. It pertains to a relationship between us and the Lord and can be called the vertical aspect of the bread-breaking meeting. The emphasis of eating the Lord’s supper is the remembrance of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:20, 23-25). By eating the Lord’s bread and drinking His cup, we eat the Lord’s supper to remember the Lord.

Regarding the Lord’s supper, the bread signifies the Lord’s individual, physical body that He gave for us (1 Cor. 11:23). The bread also connotes life—the eternal life of God (Jn. 6:33-35, 48). Thus, the bread is a symbol signifying the Lord’s body, which was broken on the cross to release His life in order that we may partake of it. Whenever we see or receive the bread, we remember how His body was given for us (1 Cor. 11:24) so that we may have His eternal life, and how His body was broken for us so that He could be distributed as bread to us.

The cup signifies the new covenant that the Lord enacted for us by the shedding of His blood (1 Cor. 11:25). Whenever we see or receive the cup, we should consider how the Lord partook of flesh and blood for us (Heb. 2:14), how He bore our sins, was made sin for us, and was judged and cursed for us. He shed His blood for us in order that we may be redeemed from our sins that our sins may be forgiven (Matt. 26:28), and be brought from our fallen condition back to God and to God’s full blessing.

The Lord shed His blood to constitute our cup of blessing, our eternal blessed portion (1 Cor. 10:16), which is God Himself as the believers’ portion (Psa. 16:5). Formerly in Adam we were sinful and evil, and the portion that we deserved from God is the cup of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:10; 21:8). However, the Lord drank this cup on our behalf on the cross (Jn. 18:11). Hence, His salvation became our portion (Lam. 3:24; Col. 1:12), the cup of salvation (Psa. 116:13), and cup of blessing that runs over (Psa. 23:5). By drinking the cup, we experience God Himself as our all-inclusive, blessed portion. This is to remember the Lord in a genuine way.

Declaring the Lord’s Death

As we eat the Lord’s bread and drink of His cup, we simultaneously remember the Lord and declare His death (1 Cor. 11:26). Originally, the blood was in the flesh. When blood is separated from the flesh, it means that death has occurred. The bread refers to the Lord’s body and the cup to His blood. The bread and the cup, displayed separately on the table, signify death. While we are remembering the Lord, we display the Lord’s death for ourselves and for others to see, including the angels. Christ’s death on the cross has terminated all the negative things, and their end is openly displayed.

We take the Lord’s supper unto the remembrance of Him by declaring His redeeming death until He comes back to set up God’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29). In His first coming, the Lord accomplished an all-inclusive redemption through His death for the producing of the church. After His death, He ascended to receive the kingdom, and will come again with the kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14; Luke 19:12). The period between His first and second comings is the church age. The church thus bridges the gap between the Lord’s two comings and connects His death in the past with God’s kingdom in the future. Hence, to declare the Lord’s death until He comes implies the declaring of the existence of the church for the bringing in of the kingdom.

Whenever we eat the Lord’s supper with a view of continually remembering Him in His first and second comings and in a spirit and atmosphere of hoping and waiting for His return, we also hasten the Lord’s coming. As we remember the Lord and partake of all the blessings from Him, our hearts are attuned to live towards Him while waiting for His advent, and we echo His promise, “I come quickly,” as we cry out corporately, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Attending the Lord’s Table Being to Fellowship with the Saints

The second aspect of the bread-breaking meeting is attending the Lord’s table. It conveys a relationship between us and the saints and can be called the horizontal aspect of the bread-breaking meeting. Whereas eating the Lord’s supper is for us to remember the Lord, attending the Lord’s table is for all the members of the Body of Christ to fellowship in the Lord (1 Cor. 10:16-17) in His accomplishments for us, the stress of which is on the fellowship among the saints. Its emphasis is not just the individual drinking of the blood of Christ but a joint participation in His blood, which is the circulation of fellowship in the Body of Christ.

Being in the Mutual Fellowship of the Body

This joint participation is the mutual fellowship among members of the Body each time we “partake of the table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21). That is why we must partake of the Lord’s table not by ourselves, but together with other saints; otherwise, we would only have the vertical aspect of the bread-breaking meeting. This fellowship makes us participants in the Lord’s blood and body. We are not just one with the Lord, but also one with one another. We not only love the Lord, but we also love one another. We identify ourselves with the Lord as well as with co-members in the Body of Christ in the fellowship of His blood and body.

The bread and the cup are the constituents of the Lord’s supper, which is a table—a feast, set up by Him so that His believers may remember Him by enjoying Him as such a feast. Therefore, to remember the Lord is not to lock yourself alone inside your room and meditate on Him, but it is to attend the Lord’s table and feast on the Lord together with the saints.

Testifying of the One Body of Christ

Regarding the Lord’s supper, the bread refers to the Lord’s physical, individual body, which He gave for us on the cross, while in the aspect of the Lord’s table, the bread points to the Lord’s corporate Body – the church, which is constituted with all the regenerated believers brought forth through His resurrection from the dead. We are the bread, and this bread is the church. Together we share and partake of the bread which not only symbolizes the individual body of Christ, but also the one corporate, mystical Body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17).

The bread signifies the one Body of Christ. Although we are many, yet we are one Body because we all partake of the one bread. Our joint participation in the one bread makes us all one. This indicates that our partaking together of Christ makes us all His one Body. The very Christ that we all partake of constitutes us His one Body. Therefore, each time we come to the Lord’s table to break the bread, we testify of the oneness of this mystical Body, that is, the universal church. Our participation in the Lord’s table during the bread-breaking meeting is a testimony of this unique fellowship of His unique Body, without any division either in practice or in spirit.

The Worship of the Father

Based on the Bible, there are two sections to the bread-breaking meeting: the remembrance of the Lord and the worship of the Father. According to the sequence in God’s salvation, we first receive the Lord and then draw near to the Father. In Matthew 26:26-30, after the Lord Jesus broke the bread and sang a hymn with the disciples, He led them to the Mount of Olives to meet with the Father. A principle is implied and established, that is, after we have broken the bread to remember the Lord, we are led by Him to worship the Father together.

In the first section of the meeting, we have the Lord Jesus before us. In the second section, after the breaking of bread, we have the Father before us. Before the breaking of bread, the Lord leads us to remember Himself; all the hymn-singing, thanksgiving, and praising should have Him as the center. In the second section, we have the Father as the object of our praise and worship. Before the breaking of bread, we see the Lord Jesus as the only begotten Son that is depicted in Hebrews 2—the grain that has fallen to the ground and died (Jn. 12:24). After the breaking of bread, we see the Lord Jesus as the firstborn Son, and we the many sons of God, His brothers. He is leading many sons into glory, and in the meeting, He is leading us His many brothers to sing praises to the Father.

Some Practical Matters on the Bread-Breaking Meeting

The Bread and the Cup

In instituting the first bread-breaking meeting on the night of His supper with the disciples, the Lord used unleavened bread (Exo. 12:15; 13:7), not just any leavened bread. The cup, on the other hand, contains the “product of the vine” (Matt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25), which means “juice of the grape”. Hence, we may use bread made without leaven or yeast, and either unadulterated grape wine or pure grape juice for the Lord’s table. It should also be noted that the Lord’s emphasis in our partaking of His body and His blood was on the spiritual reality of receiving Him into us; it by no means implies that the bread and the wine in the cup actually become the flesh and blood of Christ as erroneously taught in the leavened, heretical teaching of transubstantiation by Roman Catholicism.

Our Preparation Before the Meeting

There are three things we need to prepare before coming to the bread-breaking meeting. First, we should maintain a holy diet in our daily living, not just in the meeting, by eating Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35, 57) every day so that we can be renewed day by day (morning by morning) by being nourished with the fresh supply of the resurrection life (2 Cor. 4:16). We can do this by pray-reading the Word and reading the ministry that opens up the Word. Second, every day we should drink the cup of blessing, the cup of salvation, continually throughout the day (1 Cor. 10:16; Psa. 116:12-14, 17) by calling on the name of the Lord (conversing with the Lord, thanking the Lord, and praising the Lord). Third, we should avail each day of the continuous and constant cleansing of the Lord’s blood throughout the day (1 John 1:7, 9) by confessing our sins.

Coming to the Bread-Breaking Meeting in a Recovered Way

We should come to the Lord’s table meeting in a recovered way: come with a love for the meetings (Psa. 84:1-2; 122:1), come in newness of life and of spirit (Rom. 6:4; 7:6), come with a voice of joy and praise (Psa. 42:4; 126:3; 149:5), come with thanksgiving and praise (Psa. 100:4; Ezra 3:11), come with an exercised spirit (Eph. 5:18), and come with some offerings (Psa. 96:8; 1 Cor. 16:2). Physically we need to be punctual and be dressed properly, even if the bread-breaking meeting is held right in our own home.

Words of Warning and Exhortation

In 1 Corinthians 5, 10 and 11, the apostle Paul also gave several warnings regarding the improper eating of the Lord’s table.

Not Being Involved in Immorality and Idolatry

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul warned against gross immorality in the church and for such an offending person to be removed from the fellowship of the church. In chapters 10 and 11, he warned the Corinthian believers regarding idolatry, which involves eating of the food sacrificed to idols (10:19) and is tantamount to fellowship with demons (v. 20). Hence, coming to the bread-breaking meeting, we want to make sure that we do not in any way offend Christ the Head.

Not Being Involved in Division

Paul issued an even stronger warning in chapter 11 against those who may be partaking of the Lord’s bread and cup “not for the better but for the worse” (v. 17). He also pointed out that some of them were making divisions in the Body (v. 18). He affirmed the ones who were “approved”, those who were not divisive, as compared to those who were involved in “parties” (v. 19), referring to those who make divisions.

He sternly rebuked that “whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord” (v. 27). He charged everyone who comes before the Lord’s table to “prove himself” (v. 28), for “he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body” (v. 29). To not discern the body is to fail to evaluate the significance of the bread that we take at the Lord’s table, and to eat it loosely. The result is judgment and loss to such a believer, as he may become weak and sick, or even sleep, meaning to die (v. 30).

Whenever we participate in the Lord’s table, we must discern whether the bread on the table signifies the oneness of the Body of Christ that we endeavor to keep or any division of man. In discerning the Body of Christ, we should not partake of the bread in any division or with any divisive spirit. Our participation in the Lord’s table must be in the unique fellowship of His unique Body without any division in practice or in spirit [fn. 1 Cor. 11:293]. Inasmuch as the Lord’s table is a testimony of the oneness of the Body of Christ, any bread-breaking meeting, regardless of size and venue, should be conducted in the fellowship of the Body in coordination with the elders in the local church.

May the Lord bless all the churches during these trying times, and bring us all into the true significance and the reality of the practice of the bread-breaking meetings in our church life in every locality. Let us continue steadfastly in the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), and let us do so by keeping the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8).

(A Word of fellowship from the Co-workers in the Philippines)

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