Andrew Fountain - Breaking Bread (Communion) pt2--Where the church went wrong


Full sermon notes - Breaking Bread (Communion) pt2—Where the church went wrong

Breaking bread

Breaking bread

Image source: Ben Wickstrom

  • so why do I not call it “Communion”, or “The Lord’s Supper”, or “The Eurachist”
    • Simply because this is the name the Bible most often calls it
  • So why have people changed the name?
    • because they have changed the event from what Jesus gave us

Summary of Part 1

  1. Old Testament and cultural background
  2. Why do we do it?
    • Six Reasons
  3. Who is it for?
  • Eating together ==> public display of friendship
  • Covenant meal ==> done after making a covenant, the two parties would eat together
    • In Exodus 24 God ate with the 70 elders at Mt. Sinai after making a covenant in the wilderness
  • Jesus frequently ate with members of society who were despised, and regarded as unclean.
    • We can see the significance attached to sharing a meal by the reaction of his critics,
    1. As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him.
    2. As Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples.
    3. When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mat 9:9-11
  • So, to summarize, the cultural meaning is much stronger than in our culture
    • Powerful idea of expressing unity by eating together
    • Jesus is thought of as being here and part of the unity

2. Why do we do it?

  1. Look backwards as we remember Jesus’s death
  2. Proclaim what he has done as a witness to others
  3. Demonstrate our unity in Christ
  4. Come to Jesus as a priest who forgives our sins
  5. Obtain a blessing as by faith we receive the benefits of Christ’s death
  6. Look forwards to feasting with Christ in glory
  1. Look backwards as we remember Jesus’s death
    1 Cor 11:24. 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.”
    • So what does it mean to “remember”?
      • Simply not to forget?
  2. Proclaim what he has done as a witness to others
    1 Cor 11:26. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
    • how can it function to proclaim?
    • Pliny: Wrote to the Emperor Trajan less than 100 years after Christ
      • Confused by Christians and asks for advice
      • “it was their custom to disperse and to come together again to partake of food, of an ordinary and harmless kind”
    • People wondered why these Christians spend so much time in each other’s houses eating together
      • They were impressed by the level of love and community
      • It was designed to demonstrate unity and community!
  3. Demonstrate our unity in Christ
    • Whole problem in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
  4. Come to Jesus as a priest who forgives our sins
    • Talked about this last week
    • If have sinned, then this is the place to be to remind ourselves of forgiveness
  5. Obtain a blessing as by faith we receive the benefits of Christ’s death
    • Blessings such as increased assurance that we are not under condemnation but free and justified
    • Blessings of joy
    • Obedience leads to blessing
  6. Look forwards to feasting with Christ in glory
    Rev 19:9 Marriage supper of the Lamb
    1. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

3. Who is it for?

  • Everyone who is part of the body, and not living in disunity
  • If you have an issue with someone else here, sort it out first!
  • If you have some kind of rebellious behaviour towards God, (=disunity) repent first!
  • If you are feeling very guilty for your sinfulness
    • You are in exactly the right place!

Part 2:

  • How it was done in practice?
  • New Testament: Acts
  • New Testament: Corinth
  • New Testament: The “love feast”
  • Early church history and why things changed
  • How should we do it now?
  • First let’s look at earliest mention of the church in the book of Acts:

Acts 2:42-46

  1. They were devoting themselves to
    • the apostles’ teaching
    • and to fellowship,
    • to the breaking of bread
    • and to prayer.
  2. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.
  3. All who believed were together and held everything in common,
  4. and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.
  5. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,

Version: based on NET Bible

  • There are two references to “breaking bread”, in v.42 and v.46.
    • The first clearly refers to a spiritual celebration, since it is associated with teaching, fellowship and prayers.
    • The second reference is linked with eating meals for sustenance.
    • It would be very bad interpretation to make v.42 mean something very different to the identical phrase in v.46
    • so since v.46 is a real meal, so must v.42 be!
  • The Historian Jeremias claims this is an actual ‘order of service’

Order of Service:

  1. Began with teaching
  2. Followed by a fellowship meal, sharing food
  3. The climax was breaking bread
  4. Singing and prayers
    • “each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either on from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing... As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed.” (Tertullian)

  • Sequence of meal
    • Three possibilities have been suggested

1. Bread and wine as part of meal

2. Bread and wine at the end

3. Start with bread, end with wine

  • The best evidence is for the last arrangement, since it fits in well with what we know of the passover meal.
  • Abuse of the poor who were hungry
    • Secular descriptions of meals.
    • It was quite common in those times for hosts to provide meals of differing quality and quantity. “The picture that emerges from such Roman authors as Pliny, Martial, and Juvenal is one in which even at the same table privileged guests received both better portions and far more than others.

Corinth: Abuse of the poor

It would take too long to go into the details... of how I happened to be dining with a man—though no particular friend of his—whose elegant economy, as he called it, seemed to me a sort of stingy extravagance.
The best dishes were set in front of himself and a select few, and cheap scraps of food before the rest of the company.
He had even put the wine into tiny little flasks, dividing into three categories, not with the idea of giving his guests opportunity of choosing, but to make it impossible for them to refuse what they were given.
One lot was intended himself and for us, another for his lesser friends (all his friends are graded) and his and our freedmen.”
Pliny, Ep. 2.6

Corinth: Greed

“And how senselessly, to besmear their hands with the condiments, and to be constantly reaching to the sauce, cramming themselves immoderately and shamelessly, not like people tasting, but ravenously seizing!
For you may see such people, liker swine or dogs for gluttony than men, in such a hurry to feed themselves full, that both jaws are stuffed out at once, the veins about the face raised, and besides, the perspiration running all over, as they are tightened with their insatiable greed, and panting with their excess; the food pushed with unsocial eagerness into their stomach as if they were stowing away their victuals for provision for a journey, not for digestion.”
Clement of Alexandria

Paul’s Solution

  • Paul does not ban the feast, but stops the abuses
  • Would these two problems make any sense the way “communion” is usually celebrated?
  • They only make sense if a real meal was involved

Two reasons why it changed

  1. Suspicion about what the Christians were doing at their “love feasts”
    • Led to the meal gradually being dropped
  2. Increasing “dualism” —the idea that physical things are evil
  • The bread and wine gradually turned into a re-enactment of Christ’s death
  • Gradually bishops gained more power and soon only the “bishop” could bless the bread and wine
  • They became more and more symbolic because real food was physical and therefore evil
  • Even the tiny amount of real food was “transubstatiated” by the bishop into something spiritual

How we should celebrate it

  • There is no legal “order of service”
  • The principal is love, sharing, celebrating, remembering Jesus
  • We should generally not separate it from eating together

Updated on 2012-05-21 by Andrew Fountain