Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Four-Fold Purpose of the Church: The Breaking of Bread

In this sermon, Pastor Babij teaches on the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Pastor Babij stresses that this celebration was instituted by Jesus Himself as part of worship and that only believers are to participate. Pastor Babij explains five reasons Christians should be eager to “break bread”:
1) It is commanded by Christ
2) It declares fellowship and unity
3) It prevents forgetfulness of what Jesus did for His people
4) It proclaims Jesus’ death and the way of salvation
5) It proclaims Jesus’ return

Full Transcript:

Let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to Acts 2:42 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Today we’re going to be looking at the next thing in this passage in Acts. The verse again says:

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The breaking of bread is talking about the Lord’s Supper, which is what we’ll be talking about today. Let’s pray.

Lord, this morning as we look at this passage and as we consider how the beginning of the Church, and how these very important things, were established, let us also be aware of how they continued throughout all of history. I pray that we would be faithful with a greater understanding and that we would be growing and know more because we are in the Word of God. Develop our faith stronger in You, because we know that we have been saved to worship You. That worship will continue forever, so help us get good at it and practice it. I pray in Christ’s Name, Amen.

Okay so from this passage of Scripture, we see already that you are definitely different after coming to Christ and becoming a real Christian not just in Word, but in deed, thought, action, and words. God is transforming us in Christ, and He is doing that in the context of the body. We are found together in one another because we believe the same message about Christ. The real indicator of real divine life in the soul is that all Christians will desire and devote themselves to the teaching of the Word of God, which is expanded upon by the Apostles. A second thing that we talked about already is fellowship. And this morning, we will be talking about the desire to devote ourselves to the breaking of bread.

In the original language of Greek, the article the means that the passage is not just talking about a meal together, but part of worship. This act became and is a significant part of worship for these new believers, for the beginning of the Church, and for the rest of Church history. We should be eagerly desiring to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. This is instruction about it so that when it does come up the first Sunday of every month we are ready. When there’s a holiday, we push it back to the second week in order to protect the Lord’s Table and those who are partaking of it. We need to ensure that those who are partaking are real believers because it is not just for anybody.

A newness of heart and life are necessary to the worthy partaking of the Lord’s Supper. It is only for true believers who understand the gospel and have personally received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and desire to obey and follow Christ and hunger for more of Him each and every day of their lives. It is always about that. We eat everyday but tomorrow we get hungry again. It’s the same spiritually. We should not just listen to a message, learn from it, then say we can live on that for the next month.

As these Scriptures make clear in 1 Corinthians 10:16, which says:

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

He’s questioning that when it comes to these things, we cannot mix them up with others. In other words, real questions desire real worship and part of that is the breaking of bread. This is giving the true picture of what God intended for His church, for His people to meet together, hear the teaching of the Word of God, and enter into fellowship and worship with Jesus at the center. Why did the gathered assembly of believers now who follow Christ begin at once to break bread? This is because of how the Lord began this ordinance at the Passover.

The Passover in the Old Testament was when the lamb’s blood was shed and put on the lentils of the door posts of those in Egypt. When the death angel came down to slay the first born, he would not slay those in whom the blood was applied. The death angel instead passed over them.

Jesus on that holiday instituted the Lord’s Table. So it has a lot of significance that we need to grow in our understanding of. Back then, one would take a piece of unleavened bread, break it into pieces, and hand it around to others to do the same. Then Jesus would pour out the wine into a cup and pass it along to others who gathered for the same purpose. In Scripture, the Bible is telling us that in these two passages in Acts, this is to be done among the gathered assembly. Look at what it says in Acts 2:46-47:

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The context of salvation here is having genuine relationship with God. So take your Bibles and turn to Luke 22 because right there is where the Lord Himself gave us this ordinance. It’s in other passages as well but verse 15 in this chapter includes all of the things I mentioned so far. It says in Luke 22:15-20:

And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

So this became the practice. Today this practice has somewhat fallen into confusion and into the category of being mysterious. This practice is treated as archaic and in some cases has been emptied of its most significant meaning. But for these first believers it was essential and necessary and they devoted themselves to this practice. So I must ask, why should we gather and break bread together?

Well they didn’t get together as a fact finding committee to decide what should be included in the worship service, it was already decided by the Lord. So this morning I want to consider five reasons why we should we imitate these believers’ concern for and devotion to the breaking of the bread. Take your Bibles and turn to 1 Corinthians 11:25, the first reason is to obey the Lord’s words. It says:

In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

“Do this” is an imperative and a command. So if the Lord in which you claim to love asks you to do something, your love will be demonstrated by your obedience. That’s how it fleshed out in these new believers. They simply heard it and did it. Don’t be like those who have a casual attitude towards the Lord’s Supper. They feel like they can attend it if they want or be absent if they want. However attendance at the Lord’s Supper is an obligation and an expression of fellowship.

Not only do those who stay away rob themselves the benefit of remembering the Lord and the fellowship with other believers, but also rob the church body of what is entitled and expected of them. We are called to fellowship with the Lord and with each other. So the idea of living the Christian life alone in your bedroom behind your computer, is not a Scriptural idea, but a worldly and fleshly idea. It’s getting together with each other that is part of the means of grace that God has given us to grow us. It would be in line with the truth of Scripture to question that if someone would not desire to have fellowship with the Lord’s people, if they are in fellowship with Christ at all.

It is a mark of real believers that they are growing in their understanding of why they ought to be there and preparing themselves beforehand. They ought to be preparing their heart, confessing their sin, and making themselves ready to meet with the Lord and others in partaking of the Lord’s Table.

So again the first reason is that it is in obedience to the Lord’s Word. A second thing is found in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 is to declare our fellowship and unity. It says:

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

In other words, it is really pressing the point that there is a oneness and unity that is going on. The broken bread and poured out wine is a message that preserves the truth and the practical outworking of the content of the gospel. That is to drive out division and to keep the unity that God gives us in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Table includes an expression of unified, peaceful fellowship of the gathering of a local assembly. There are several things that are included when the Church gathers for the Lord’s Supper.

The first thing is that there is a mutual acceptance of one another. Each participant receives the Lord’s Supper because they have a faith in Christ and in His work on the cross. So eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine, they remember their Lord and give thanks for the grace God has given them. This particular action actually is an acknowledgment that those who are present, as far as one is able to judge other brothers and sisters in Christ, each one is accepting the other as having faith in the Lord. So there is a unified, mutual acceptance of one another because of what we believer and what family that we are a part of.

Secondly among the gathered believers, there is a mutual sameness that each stands together on level ground. That means that all who are present are sinners, all saved by grace through faith in Christ. It matters not whether they be Jew or Gentile, where they be bond or free, rich or poor, pagan or barbarian, whether they have red, black, yellow, or white skin. Spiritually they are all equal in the eye of the Lord and should be in the eyes of everyone in the congregation. So there is the unity and the mutual acceptance and sameness, which all leads to verse 17 which looks at the mutual unity. There is one bread and one body, and we are forgiven by God which allows us to be friends of God and of each other too.

If you notice in Scripture, even in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, there is a lot of disunity going on. If there is disunity in a church, the Lord’s Supper cannot be there. The bread may be eaten and the fruit of the vine may be drunk, and the words may be heard, but it is not truly the Lord’s Supper. The expressions of unity and fellowship in the Lord’s Supper are very serious and important for all believers. So when there is disorderliness or division in the church, these problems should be resolved before the Lord’s Supper. If such things are allowed to exist and tolerated, the Lord’s Supper will only be a sham. At worst it will be a hypocritical activity and it will be stripped of it’s significance. And this cannot happen in God’s Church.

That’s why we don’t want to have it every week either, because we don’t want it to become so familiar that it loses the significance. So once a month we partake of it and are reminded of the centrality of our faith in the elements, the bread and the fruit of the vine. All are focused in on Christ. In other words, unity gets the whole body looking and focused in on one person. They we are to focus on what He did for us and endured for us. He was crucified and no one else was crucified for us except Him.

In fact when Jesus was resurrected from the dead and He was walking with His disciples on the Road to Emmaus, at the end of His conversation about all the prophecies being fulfilled in Him, the disciples didn’t get it until they stopped at the house. The disciples asked Jesus to stay over with them and this is what happened in Luke 24:28-35:

And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

It was brought vividly to the disciples’ minds that it was Christ who suffered and accomplished salvation on the cross for them. They were at peace with Him in the Lord’s Table and now were considered friends of God and not enemies. That is now in the minds as it should be in our minds when we recognize what these elements are about. These elements are not simply bread and fruit of the vine, but they focus on a Person and what He did. And that’s what they always should do.

That brings me to a third reason why we should partake of the Lord’s Table and that is to declare our proneness to forget and to get so busy and distracted by things in our lives. We have good intentions but we tend to wander in our minds and what we do. This ordinance can reel us back into focus. Back to 1 Corinthians 11:25, it says:

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.

The regular practice of the breaking of bread does not prevent memory loss. We won’t forget that God sent His only Son into the world to do something about our flawed and helpless dilemma, of which there is no rescue by ourselves from our sin. Salvation is only possible through Him alone. We remember that through Jesus Christ at the Lord’s Table, God caused us to see our sin, and He sobered us in taking into account our sin problem. God granted you and I to submit to those terms for obtaining God’s provision for our sin by repentance and faith which are also gifts to us by God. We would have remained dead in our sin otherwise. We didn’t have any way to do anything about our condition without God.

Once we become believers, God gives us His Spirit to dwell in you and I and to make us willing followers of Jesus Christ. Now every single day, your life is evidence of repentance and faith in Christ. And you should start bearing fruit of being a believer. You will be evidence to yourself that you are a true Christian and not in doubt of your salvation.

You have been reading the Word of God, studying Scripture, and now you are sober and serious about your relationship with Christ and have a desire to be devoted to the things that He is devoted to as well. A fourth reason to being serious about the breaking of bread is found in 1 Corinthians 11:26, which is about declaring the Lord’s death. It says:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

This means that as often as we come together as a body, we should also be declaring the Lord’s death. We are making a proclamation to each other and to others that the Lord’s death was not a tragedy that brought everything to an end. His death actually took away the sting of death, which was the law, and fulfilled it. In 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 it says:

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is by His death alone that we are saved. This is the message that preserves the truth of the gospel: the sacrificed body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ announces the only way of salvation. That’s what we do, we proclaim that truth when we partake of the Lord’s Table. It seems like a strange activity, and others might not know why we do this. In church history, Christians were considered to be cannibalistic because people were eating the body of Christ and outsiders were not understanding what that really meant. They were actually accused of those things. But for those that gathered together in Christ Jesus, it was not strange at all but it was the center of what they believed. Many Scriptures actually point us that way, like 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, which says:

Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The death of Christ became a significant part of our salvation. Without it, there is no salvation. In Romans 8:3-4, it says this:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In Romans, it is focusing on Christ being the offering for sin. Christ became sin for us, who Himself never sinned. It was the just for the unjust so we could be brought to God. God punished Jesus for our sin, He sacrificed His body and shed His blood and that is why we break bread and pour out the wine. The bread stands for the sacrificial body of Christ, and the poured out wine stands for the poured out blood of Christ.

When I was in 1 Peter, Peter stressed that when he says in 1 Peter 1:18-19:

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

Christ became the One who fulfilled all those Old Testament sacrifices. In the Old Testament when someone offered up a lamb on the Day of Atonement, it had to be perfect and without blemish. They had to lay their hands on it and confess their sin, then the lamb was off to be slaughtered. And the shed blood would be shed on behalf of that sinner. All that is pictured in what the Lord did for us. When we faithfully gather, we declare to the community and the world that God’s only way of forgiveness and the way to be right with Him is through the death of His Son. We further declare that the agreement God made with His people has been sealed and ratified with the blood of Jesus Christ. So Jesus referred to the cup of wine, or the fruit of the vine, in 1 Corinthians 11:25, which says:

In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

He reiterates there that there is a new covenant and agreement that God makes with His people. This new covenant makes you fit to approach God, and to come into His presence and to live with Him eternally. In doing so, He alludes to the blood of the old covenant found in Exodus 24 when the Sinai covenant had been agreed to by the people. Moses took the blood of the burnt offering and the peace offerings and threw it on the people. This is what it says in Exodus 24:7-8:

Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

In other words, the covenant was ratified by the blood based on their obedience. The problem was that they disobeyed and broke the covenant, which was based on keeping the law. The curses came upon them instead of the blessings. Jesus’ blood actually confirmed the new covenant promise that it is true and binding to all who believe and obey the gospel. That leads to the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God. It is based on faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is much different than the Old Testament where everything was taken care of by Christ where it required faith in what was already done.

Now just to back some of that up, take your Bibles and turn to Hebrews 9 and 10. I want you to see that all the offerings that were done in the Old Testament could have never accomplished what Christ accomplished. The Word of God in Hebrews 9:22 says:

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Now look at Hebrews 10:9-11 which says:

then He said, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

In other words, that is the old covenant. The Lord establishes a second thing, which accomplishes what the first thing could not accomplish. The sacrificial system could not accomplish salvation. It could not take away sin forever and make one right with God forever. In fact if you remember, there were actually no chairs or places to rest in the tabernacle or temple. The priests were never done offering sacrifices on behalf of the people, they had exhausting work that was never complete.

Now I don’t know about you, but work that is this exhausting is when you don’t ever fully complete something or feel fulfilled by it. These priests went home knowing that this whole process was going to have to be repeated the next day, month, year, and so on. By fifty years old, they were so worn out from all these sacrifices. That’s what sin does, it wears you out because you can never do anything to erase it or eliminate it from your heart and life to the point that you are satisfied and made right with God! Notice the wonderful thing that is recorded in Hebrews 10:12-14 which says:

But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. waiting from that time onward until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Is our salvation secure? You better believe it is for eternity. Why did Jesus sit down? Because the work was done! The task of redeeming and cleansing a people for God was complete! He sat down whereas the priests could never sit down. You see these believers regularly met together for the breaking of bread in order to declare His death and all that entailed. Every time we hear the Word of God, we just build on that knowledge which establishes our faith and makes us into strong, serious, sober, and continuous Christians. There is nothing that can break our stride. We know what Christ has done and there is confidence in our hearts what He has done. It makes us want to have a resolve no matter if anyone else is doing it.

There is one last reason to partake of the Lord’s Table which is found in 1 Corinthians 11:26. We not only proclaim the gospel but also declare our Lord’s return. It says in the passage:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

The Lord’s Table points forward to Christ’s sure return. Just as Jesus’ sacrifice was sure, His return is sure. He is coming! When we get to 2 Peter we will see that there are scoffers questioning when He will come. They say that this Christianity is untrue. So we sit at the Lord’s Table and declare on behalf of Christ in His return! We shout to the world that we believe in a future day that we shall eat and drink with Christ in His eternal Kingdom.

I say every time that I use this passage of Scripture in Matthew 26:29 which says:

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ will come back to this earth. He will come as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He will come riding on the clouds of Heaven and surrounded by innumerable hosts of holy angels and redeemed saints. Why is He coming? Acts 3 tells us that it is for the restitution of all things. Christ will come back and reconstruct the universe. The Greek word used there means to place things back in their former condition. Now why must He do this? Well the fall of man into sin brought chaos upon humanity and the whole universe. The universe was cursed because of Adam’s sin and rebellion as well as ours. When the curse came, it brought disease, thorns, briars, wars, murder, and all kinds of social disorders. It brought earthquakes, hurricanes, and a general wearing down of all creation. That’s what sin has done.

When God sends His Son again into the world, He will send Him back to put things right. The Messiah will lead the whole universe from bondage to paradise and it will be restored. In Romans 8:21 it says:

The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Even creation is waiting for that day when He will come back. So if you believe in the imminent return of Christ, like all the Apostles did, it will prepare you for His presence. If He comes tomorrow, will you be ready? If you believe that, then you will live differently. Each day will be lived before the eyes of Him of whom you are ultimately responsible. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, has designed this ordinance to have beneficial effects on the believer who participates in it. The participants who come to the Lord’s Table come with a growing understanding of what they are doing and why they are coming. Some of you have a good understanding of this ordinance. Others may have never heard what the Bible teaches on this subject. And still others may not have grasped the importance of this ordinance.

But I want to admonish you not to make yourself absent during the breaking of bread in this assembly. I often ask in the membership class if it’s sin to keep yourself from the Lord’s Table. Usually people pause because they don’t know how to answer that question. Of course there are some things to consider in answering the question. But once you consider it, I would have to say that God has set everything up so that you take care of what you have to and then partake. Bottom line is do not make yourself absent from the Lord’s Table. It’s part of worship.

Let us as a church body to be devoted to faithfully and regularly partake in the breaking of bread so as to put our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and return on display, the unity of the church and the gospel all on display. There is a seriousness and soberness connected to the Lord’s Supper. There is also a joy connected to it.

It would be strange if a person went into a rose garden merely to look at the thorns. It would be bizarre. It is the rose that brings a delight to the sight and a sweet smell to the nose. In the same way, there is a joy in remembering the Lord and His death in recalling His great love to us and remembering His sacrifice on the cross. There is a joy in realizing our sins are forgiven. There is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus.

There is a joy in recollecting all that has been accomplished by our Lord on the cross. There is a joy in renewing our pledge of devotion to Him, whom we owe so much. There is a joy in imparting ourselves and our fellowship to our brothers and sisters in Christ and not denying them that. There is a joy knowing that being faithful in this regard pleases our Lord and brings glory to His Name and at the same time protects the unity and peace of the body.

Just to think of this thing as no big deal, as something to take or leave is wrong. When it’s time to partake of the Lord’s Supper, be present, sober, and joyful. Be mindfully prepared to proclaim the gospel because you have embraced it. Make yourself ready for Christ’s coming because it could be at that moment. It could be tomorrow because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

True Christians desire true worship. They are continually devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and to the breaking of bread. Next time I will look at the next one, which is to the prayers.

Next week, Greg Ho will be preaching. I’ll be here but Khaleef and I are leaving for a pastors’ conference in Florida and will be returning on Friday. Pray for Greg Ho as he prepares for the message.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You again, for You have been so kind to us. Our faith is so rich. The depth of the knowledge of what You have done is so deep, we can’t reach the bottom. I pray that You would be building this panoramic picture in our minds of the great work of God and that it would only increase our faith and give us a joy in our hearts, as well as a desire to tell others who don’t know it yet. Work in our hearts and let us be faithful to the things that are basic to Christianity and are so foundational to our spiritual growth. I pray that we would learn to please You. We cast our cares upon You this morning, and guard our hearts and minds with Your peace. Let the joy of the Lord be our strength. I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.