Break the Bread of Life
I want to use part of our Brother Wayne’s message at the Lord’s Supper table last week as the jumping off point for this week’s bulletin article. Wayne pointed out a stock phrase that we use in the churches of Christ (like “guide, guard, and direct” and “separate and apart”) that I had never noticed before: “Be with Brother Preacherman as he breaks unto us the bread of life.” Wayne directed our attention to the true bread of life, our Lord Jesus as we partake of Him in the Lord’s Supper (John 6.35, 54).
The Lord’s Supper message got me thinking—which is what a Lord’s Supper message ought to do!—about the connection that we draw between the Lord’s Supper and the sermon when we pray, “Be with Brother So-and-so as he breaks unto us the bread of life.” It’s an implicit connection, but it’s there in our prayers. Most importantly, it’s a biblical connection that we would do well to remember every once in awhile as we take the Supper or hear the sermon.
Paul draws the connection in his instructions in 1 Cor 11.23-26: “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” (emphasis mine).
To take the Lord’s Supper is to proclaim His death until His return. The Lord’s Supper is a sermon unto itself. The connection is explicit; the word translated “proclaim” (κατανγελλέω) is often used of preaching the Gospel. In fact, Paul uses the same word in 1 Cor 2.1 when talking about his own preaching; “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.”
It is worth remembering when you take the Lord’s Supper that you are not merely fulfilling an individual obligation between yourself and the Lord. Of course, we should understand that the individual cannot possibly be the first priority of the Supper by virtue of it being a meal. In the ancient world, meals were always shared. The “microwave dinner for one” would have been unthinkable—even if they had had microwaves. But the Lord’s Supper is communal and public beyond the clear and obvious implications of putting a meal in worship. The Supper is a public statement that you make every time you take it. It is a confession before God and before all assembled that you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. It is a public statement of faith in the bread and wine that give eternal life.
This connection works in the other direction as well, just as we use the metaphor in our prayers. Bread is a fairly common metaphor in Scripture for teaching, especially from the Word of God. Consider Matt 4.4, “But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,”’” or Matt 16.11-12, “’How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Paul picks up this metaphor for doctrine in 1 Cor 5.6-8 when he admonishes the church for accepting the man who has his father’s wife: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In this passage especially, the connection between public doctrine and the Lord’s Supper is explicit: any who will not accept the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” is not fit to “celebrate the festival,” “for Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” That doctrine, of course, comes through the public preaching of the Word.
Speaking of the Word, we should understand one final connection between the Lord’s Supper and the sermon. Both acts of worship “break unto us the bread of life” in a fairly literal sense in that both of them pertain to the Bread of Life, who is the Word, Jesus Christ. We should understand that the Supper and the sermon share the same foundation with every act of worship: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entire worship assembly is our participation in the Gospel of Christ.
As such, each of the acts of worship is essential. We don’t get to pick and choose which ones we engage in, because they are all participations in the Gospel.