Scripture Query and Answer: The Lord's Supper and the Breaking of Bread

Luke 24:30; Lamentations 4:4; Acts 2:42‑46; Acts 20:7; Acts 27:35  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Q. As a recent dissenting work on “Baptism, &c., by Typicus” (Jackson, Walford, and Hodder), ventures to impugn the application of the terms “breaking of bread” in Scripture to the Lord's Supper, will you notice his arguments or assertions briefly?
ENQUIRER.
A. The writer begins with these words: “Of late we have frequently heard these words used as a designation of the Lord's Supper.” Certain Christians are understood to use it thus uniformly, and the error, he fears, is in danger of obtaining currency elsewhere. He boldly proceeds to show that it “nowhere occurs in Scripture to represent our Lord's institution!”
First, where can this man's acquaintance with facts be? Is he not aware that he himself is broaching a novelty of no ordinary magnitude? Does he not know the importance attached to the truth of this application of the scripture phrase by the body of the Reformers in opposing transubstantiation? They too appealed, from the earliest antiquity, to the entire roll of the Christian writers who touch upon the Lord's Supper. Nay, it was not a party view of the Protestants; for the Romanists laid equal stress on the same phrase as unquestionably referring to the Lord's Supper, in order to gather a seeming justification for administering the eucharist in one kind and withholding the cup from the laity. “Typicus,” therefore, starts with the confident rejection of that which no heat, nor conflicting claims in the mighty struggle of the sixteenth century could blot out from the common recognition of all, whether Papists or Protestants. I do not say his objection has never been mooted before; for what notion has not been? But it is certainly strange to find a person so entirely uninformed as to a plain matter of fact (owned all but universally and from the remotest times) as to insinuate that it is a sort of sound heard but of late frequently. I admit, however, that the decisive question remains—what saith the Scripture? If I have referred to facts, it is merely to show that the Christians he alludes to had really no debate with others in calling the Lord's Supper “the breaking of bread, “because it has never been seriously disputed in Christendom. I shall now prove that Scripture exposes his error, as much as notorious facts have been ignored by him.
He cites Lam. 4:44The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them. (Lamentations 4:4), Acts 27:3535And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. (Acts 27:35), Luke 24:30, 3530And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. (Luke 24:30)
35And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. (Luke 24:35)
. But the utmost he can draw thence, is—that which no sober Christian ever doubted—that the act of breaking bread is not limited to the Lord's Supper. It is a question of context, as with the use of almost every phrase in the Bible or anywhere else. Διάκονος is frequently employed for a domestic who is not a bondsman, frequently for general service from Christ Himself downwards. Does it therefore never mean an official deacon? This is a case exactly parallel: what is its value?
“Typicus” proceeds to notice the texts which do apply: Acts 2:4242And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42), 46; 20:7, &c., but with utter misconception of their force. Reasoning or expounding it cannot be called, but the merest assumption. He says that Acts 2:4242And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42), refers to “ordinary meals;” but why? Does the doctrine of the apostles, do the communion before, and the prayer immediately after, refer to external matters? The only fair question is, whether the phrase did not embrace along with the Lord's Supper, the Agape, or love-feast, which in primitive times—at least before 1 Corinthians—accompanied that Supper. But the spiritual concomitants in the verse, both before and after, prove that an ordinary meal is not meant.
Again, in verse 46, two religious facts are stilted in evident connection, their continuing with one accord in the temple, and their breaking bread at home, distinct from their partaking of food (which last does refer to ordinary meals) with gladness and singleness of heart: in all they were found praising God, and having favor with all the people. The twofold τε hinds together their resort to the temple and their breaking bread at home (for of course this Christian act could not be celebrated there); but a fresh construction parts off from both the taking of their common food, though I doubt not that for them even this had the halo of God's gracious presence around it.
It is therefore plain and certain that, in giving its central place to the breaking of bread, the Christians whom “Typicus” blames are subject to God's word; and that there is departure from that word where His children merely go to sing or pray or hear a sermon, save at ram intervals, which is the line of things to which he invites his brethren. But “Typicus” is also inexcusable in forgetting that there is a deeper cause of separation from the various sects of Christendom—the universal exclusion of the Holy Ghost from acting freely by whom He will in the Christian assembly. (According to 1 Cor. 12; 14).
As for Acts 20:77And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7), neither italics nor capitals will relieve “Typicus” from the charge of unbelief, nor add a particle of strength to the weak assertion that “there is not the slightest evidence to prove” that it was the Lord's Supper. The language is decisive that it was then the practice of Christians to come together on the first of the week, and this to break bread. (Comp. also 1 Cor. 16:22Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2).) The critical reading (ἠμῶν), which rests on much the best authorities, seems to me stronger than the vulgar one (μαθητῶν,), which probably grew out of a desire to make easier sense with αὐτοῖς. Nothing is simpler: all came together to break bread, but with prominence given to Paul and his companions in “we,” the family word. Again, the direction of the apostle's discourse was naturally to those of 'Irons, which drew him out at great length, “we” coming in again in the next verse. Dean Alford, I know, thinks that the Agape followed, but he does not doubt for a moment that the breaking of bread means, or at least includes, the Lord's Supper. To me it seems the gravest objection to the inclusion of the Agape (which was a real meal, though not a mere ordinary one), that the apostle had himself, previously to this date, severed authoritatively the two things, because of the disorder which had entered at Corinth from their connection. Is it not harsh to suppose that he broke the Spirit's rule as to this given in his own inspired epistle? The Agape, no doubt, continued long, but thenceforward separate from the Lord's Supper. In verse 7 of this chapter it is intimated that “to break bread” was what drew together on the resurrection day; from verse 11, it would appear that Paul after his discourse as well as the matter of Eutychus, broke (riot bread, hit) “the (τόν) bread.” There is no ground to talk of a second time. How this indicates that the sanctioned practice for all on the first day of the week was “a meal—Nothing More,” I cannot divine, save as knowing that man's will may account for anything.
As even “Typicus” admits the application of 1 Cor. 10:1111Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) to the Lord's Supper, I have no controversy with him here. This only need be remarked, that, in the first of these scriptures, the expression—Lord's Supper—does not occur, but only in the last. With this fact before his eyes it is absurd, then, to argue so confidently that Acts 20:77And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7) cannot mean that Supper because the explicit designation dues not occur there. I should have thought the inverse conclusion more reasonable: that, 1 Cor. 10:1616The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16) bring confessedly the Lord's Supper without being thus styled, Acts 20:77And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7) may be so too, and similarly Acts 2:42, 4642And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)
46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (Acts 2:46)
.
What can we think of the heart or intelligence of one who, in the face of these passages fails “to find any trace in the Scriptures of the celebration of the Lord's Supper by the apostles more frequently than once a year?” This almost incredible inference is due to the author's head being muddled with the type of the Passover and with types in general, of which Ire manifestly does not understand the alphabet. The paschal supper falling yearly is a reason to his mind for a yearly Lord's Sapper which supplanted it unless the Christians were otherwise instructed, which he thinks they were not! He suggests, however, that “a more frequent observance is doubtless conducive to the interests of the Church.” No wonder that one who begins with slighting Scripture, should think, next, that man—himself—is able to improve on it and furnish something more for the interests of the Church. The readers of the BIBLE TREASURY will not desire to hear more of such men unless God peradventure be pleased to give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. But it seemed well to dispose briefly of these assertions; for, if confidently made, they are apt to impose on the ignorant when the mass of Christian professors know the Scriptures or the power of God so feebly as in our day. Speculation blinds the Dissenters, as much as tradition closes the eyes of the Tractarians or their allies.— “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
“As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do skew the Lord's death till he come.”