Lesson 7 - The First Local Church cont.

The first church, as all churches should be, was a CONTINUING CHURCH. So far, we have considered their "continuing stedfastly in THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE and FELLOWSHIP." We will now study another characteristic of that first church.

4. "THEY CONTINUED STEDFASTLY ... IN BREAKING OF BREAD

a. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ACT?

1 Redeemed Israel and the Passover

The children of Israel were delivered out of Egyptian slavery by God. In delivering them He had to judge the wickedness of Egypt, by decreeing the death of "all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:12). To be delivered from this judgment, each Israelite family was ordered to "[take] a lamb...[and] kill it...[and] take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses...[and] eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread" (Ex. 12:3,6-8). This meal, celebrating their redemption, was called "THE LORD'S PASSOVER" (Ex. 12:11). It was so called, because as Moses said, "the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and WHEN HE SEETH THE BLOOD upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, THE LORD WILL PASS OVER the door, and WILL NOT SUFFER THE DESTROYER to come in unto your houses to smite you" (Ex.12:23).

2 Israel was a type

1 Cor. 1O:11 - "Now all these things happened unto them for ENSAMPLES (as types): and THEY ARE WRITTEN FOR OUR ADMONITION."

1 Cor. 5:7 - "...CHRIST OUR PASSOVER is sacrificed for us."

JBP - "We Christians have had A PASSOVER LAMB SACRIFICED FOR US - none other than Christ Himself!"

Each year Israelites remembered their miraculous deliverance from Egypt by celebrating the Passover. God had said "...this day shall be unto you for a MEMORIAL; and ye shall keep it a FEAST TO THE LORD throughout your generations" (Ex. 12:14). Just as Israel under the Old Covenant celebrated their redemption with an annual memorial feast, so the redeemed under the New Covenant celebrate their redemption through "Christ our Passover" in an oft—repeated meal of remembrance.

3 The Message of the Miracle Sign

The Lord Jesus knew for what purpose He had come into the world. He had come to "save that which was lost" by giving "His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 18:11,20,28). In His deeds and teaching He was declaring Himself to be Israel's Messiah and the world's Saviour. His miracles were "signs," which when understood correctly pointed to some aspect of His redeeming Person. One of these signs was THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND (Matt. 14:13—21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:1O·17); John 6:1-14." It is significant that, at the beginning of his account of this miracle, John should tell us that "THE PASSOVER, a feast of the Jews was nigh" (John 6:4). It is also most meaningful, that the day following the miracle, Jesus spoke at some length about Himself being "THE BREAD OF LIFE" (John 6:35). Looking now at the miracle itself, let us notice especially what is said about the loaves.

Matt. 14:19,20 - "And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and TOOK the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He BLESSED, and BRAKE, and GAVE the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And THEY DID ALL EAT, and WERE FILLED: and they took up the fragments that remained twelve baskets full."

Note the four words used to describe our Lord handling the bread. He "TOOK... BLESSED... BRAKE... GAVE." What Jesus did with the bread to enable the feeding of the multitude, God did with the "Bread of Life" to afford spiritual sustenance to "the world" (John 6:33). God "TOOK" Jesus in the incarnation; "BLESSED" Him at His baptism in the Jordan when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; "BRAKE" Him at Calvary, and "GAVE" Him at His ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit. We will meet these four words again as we pursue our study.

4 The Memorial Meal Officially Instituted

John the Baptist had introduced Jesus as "the LAMB OF GOD which TAKETH ANAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD" (John 1:29). There could be no mistaking this reference. John said at this time when "the Jews' passover WAS AT HAND" (John 2:13). Jesus was the One Whom the passover lamb typified. It is not surprising then, that His "hour" for giving His life in saving death should "come" at passover time. He was introduced at passover and died at passover.

Jesus wanted to share His last passover with His disciples. So they "made ready the passover," and "when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve" (Matt. 26:19,20). It was fitting that the last valid passover should be the occasion for instituting the real MEAL OF REMEMBRANCE. There is a definite link between the one and the other. The type must be fulfilled in the reality, and the shadow must be replaced by the Substance.

Matt. 26:26-28 - "And as they were eating, Jesus TOOK bread, and BLESSED it, and BRAKE it, and GAVE it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament (covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins." ("This do in remembrance of me" — Luke 22:l9).

Notice the use of the "four words" again. It is the manner in which our Lord handled the bread that accounts for this Memorial Meal being called "BREAKING OF BREAD."

5 The Memorial Meal Celebrated

i The Emmaus travellers (Luke 24:13-35)

After His resurrection, our Lord appeared many times to His disciples. One of these appearances was to two disciples as they travelled to Emmaus. "Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him ('something prevented them from recognizing Him' - JBP). "The disciples were obviously sad and the Lord asked them why. They told Him about "Jesus of Nazareth" and how they had hoped He was the Messiah. Then Jesus began to expound "unto them in all the scriptures THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF." As they approached the village Jesus intimated that He would go on, but they urged Him to stay with them as it was getting late. He agreed, and "went in to tarry with them." Then it happened. Notice the "four words."

Luke 24:30,31,35 - "And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He TOOK bread, and BLESSED it, and BRAKE, and GAVE to them. And THEIR EYES WERE OPENED, and THEY KNEW HIM; and He vanished out of their sight...And they told what things were done in the way, and how HE HAS KNOWN OF THEM IN BREAKING OF BREAD."

Some say that this was just an ordinary meal, and that they recognized Him by the nailprints in His hands. That could be. Others believe it was the first celebration of the Lord's Supper, presided over by the Lord Himself. Whatever our view, it must be said, that it is in the revelation of our Lord's giving of Himself as symbolized in the Communion that our eyes are open to know Him for who He really is.

ii The First Church

Acts 2:45,46 - "And they continued stedfastly...IN BREAKING OF BREAD...And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and BREAKING BREAD from house to house, did eat their meal with gladness and singleness of heart."

In the beginning, before the churches developed their structured life, they seem to have "broken bread" at every regular meal. While they were "daily in the temple" for worship, instruction, and ministry, it was in their homes that they entered into the intimate sharing of "the Lord's Supper."

iii Paul and the Disciples at Troas

Acts 20:7 — "And upon the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when the disciples came together TO BREAK BREAD, Paul preached unto them..."

"This is an important evidence of the keeping of the Lord's Day by the Church as a day for their Church assemblies." It was the day of Christ's resurrection (Luke 24:1), and the day when He "brake" bread with the Emmaus travellers (Luke 24:31). Paul indicates the first day as that on which the believers gathered and brought their "collection" (1 Cor. 16:1,2). This is also an important example of weekly communion as the practice of the first Christians. The things that Paul taught, he taught "everywhere in every church" (1 Cor. 4:17), so we might conclude that the practice in Troas was the practice in all the churches.

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #7

  1. Does "breaking of bread" relate to anything in Israel's history?
  2. Is there a relationship between Israel and the church?
  3. What great sign miracle in our Lord's life relates to the communion?
  4. Who instituted the communion? When was it instituted?
  5. How did the Emmaus travellers recognize our Lord?
  6. How often did the first church "break bread"?
  7. According to Acts 20:7 when were the disciples accustomed to "break bread"?