Does "Breaking Bread" Refer To The Lord's Supper??

John W. Wood

Most men think so-most Denominations think so-Early church writers as far back as the third century thought so (The Int. Stan. Bible Enc.) - All Church of Christ Churches think so. In fact, for nearly seventeen hundred years it has been believed and taught by nearly all who profess to be Christians that BREAKING BREAD meant the LORD'S SUPPER. But is this true? Does the Bible reveal this to be so? Or, can we find it used in the Bible in some way that would definitely define it as an idiom for the LORD'S SUPPER?

The answer to these questions is: ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is no place in the scripture that identifies BREAKING BREAD as the LORD'S SUPPER. It has become a tradition originating out of the minds of men as far back as the third century, and has been accepted by all men as truth, remaining without correction to this very day. When we look into the Word of God we find that...

Bread Or Breaking Bread - Meant Common Food

When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray He said, "Give us each day our DAILY BREAD" (LUKE 11:3). "...Man does not live by BREAD alone, but by every word..." (Matt. 4:4). Proverbs say, "...give me neither poverty nor riches. But give me only my DAILY BREAD (Prov. 30:8). When Jesus was teaching his disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees he said, "...And don't you remember? When I BROKE the five LOAVES for the five thousand...And when I BROKE the seven LOAVES' for the four thousand...? (Mark 8:18-20). As you can notice, in these two events, Jesus says nothing about the fish they ate, only the breaking of the loaves.

On another occasion, the two disciples who had asked Jesus to stay at their dwelling, after having arrived at the village of Emmaus, were having a common meal when Jesus:

"...took bread, gave thanks, broke it... Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him...They then got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them...Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he BROKE THE BREAD" (LUKE 24:30-35).

The above scriptures clearly demonstrate that by divine revelation the expressions "BREAD" or "BREAKING BREAD" relate to common food. There is no place in the scripture where either of these two terms ever referred to the Lord's Supper.

When man takes upon himself the right to add meanings that God did not give, it will inevitably lead to many distortions, confusions, and inconsistencies that man can/could not foresee, due to his human limitations. These problems that have caused much fussing and fighting through the ages are still with us today. Some of these will now be discussed in this article. First...

Should The Lord's Supper Be Taken On The First Day?...Or...

...does it make any difference what day one takes it? Most would say it should be on the first day and they base this premise on the following verse: On the first day of the week we came together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7). The contention is, that since this is an example of the disciples assembling on the first day of the week, it follows that all disciples MUST assemble on this day of the week and break bread (take the Lord's Supper). First however, it must be assumed that "breaking bread" means the Lord's Supper. This, of course, IS NOT SO. This theory is not supported by the Bible.

Another problem comes when claiming that this is THE EXAMPLE for assembling and observing the Lord's Supper. If true, then shouldn't the following verse be just as valid: "And day by day, attending the temple together and BREAKING BREAD IN THEIR HOMES, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46)? Why shouldn't this example be as commanding as the first one? Do we have a right to choose between examples? What right does man have to exclude one above another?

Or, let's take another case. What about Acts 20:117 Which says: "Then he went upstairs again and BROKE BREAD and ate. After talking until daylight, he left." But this was after midnight! - during the hours of the night! - meaning it would have been a "night" service rather than "day." Since this is the only information we have of bread actually being broken after their coming together for assembly, it places it in direct conflict with Acts 20:7 where it states that the "breaking of bread" was on the FIRST DAY and NOT the SECOND DAY.

In those days (except for the Sabbath and special feast days of the Jews)...

Time Was Determined By Twelve Hours Of Day or Twelve Hours Of Night. Day Was Never Referred To As Night Nor Was Night Ever Referred To As Day.

They were not on a twenty-four hour time-keeping system as we are. The daylight hours were considered as day and hours of darkness were considered as "night." The Jews began the Sabbath then as do the Seventh Day Adventists today (when the sun goes down, the Sabbath begins). Otherwise the Jews then, and the Adventists today, observe all days like everybody else. This is plainly shown by the scriptures that follow:

Jesus said, "...are not there TWELVE HOURS in the DAY?" (John 11:9). "...so must the Son of Man be THREE DAYS and THREE NIGHTS in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:41). These men are not drunk as you suppose, seeing it is but the THIRD HOUR of the DAY" (Acts 2:15). Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the NINTH HOUR (Acts 3:1). Then he called two of the centurions and said. "at the THIRD HOUR of the NIGHT get ready two hundred soldiers..." (Acts 23:23). And he took them the SAME HOUR OF the NIGHT, and..." (Acts 16:33). On the FOURTEENTH NIGHT we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea..." (Acts 27:27).

Some, however, still argue that it was by Jewish time (Int. Bible Ency.). However, a careful examination of the scripture (Acts 20:7-11) will show that...

This Event In Jewish Time Would Not Be Possible

The reason for this is very simple. For example, if it were by Jewish time and they waited until after midnight to take it (this still being the first day), then Paul departed on the WRONG DAY! He would have departed on the first day instead of the "Next" day, as the Bible says he would do (Acts 20:7b). In other words he would have needed to wait another twelve hours (after the sun set) for it to be the "next" day. Then, of course, if Paul did leave on the next day (the second day) as the scripture reveals that he would, then they would have observed the Lord's Supper on the WRONG DAY, for after the sun had set the evening before, the "after midnight hours" would have placed the "breaking of bread" (Lord's Supper) into the second day (the same day that Paul left Monday). It would have been too late for the first day observance.

But some would say: "No, no, you've got this wrong. The Lord's Supper was taken before Paul did his long sermon-during daylight hours." This may be, but it leaves you with new problems: How to deal with the "BREAKING OF BREAD" after the midnight hour. Did they take the Lord's Supper during "the day" and again during "the night" (after midnight); that is, twice in less than a twenty-four hour period? If you believe that they did, then you should obey and do the same. Or, will you say, as many do, that this "after midnight" experience was just ordinary food? To do this you would have to live with the same contradictions, inconsistencies and prejudices that others do, which should become more apparent after considering the following observations made concerning the text of Acts 20:7-11:

1) The primary purpose stated in verse seven for having the assembly was to break bread.

2) After assembling the only mention made of bread being broken was after midnight.

3) Two days are involved in this text, the first day (Sunday) and second day (Monday).

4) The assembly that began on the first day did not end until the morning (daylight hours) of the second day. That is, their assembly which began on the first day overlapped/ continued through the night and into the second day; which means they would not only have taken the Lord's Supper twice within twenty four hours (to be consistent), but would have taken it twice during the same assembly!

There would be no problems or irregularities with the above if the BREAKING OF BREAD were understood to refer to common food as God has revealed it to mean. It is when man decides, by his reasoning/philosophy that it should refer to something else, such as, "The Lord's Supper," that the discrepancies set in.

To call the "first" day as the only day for the Lord's Supper can only be done with prejudice, because saying that "breaking bread" refers to "the Lord's Supper" is ONLY AN ASSUMPTION, not fact. Also, for some to say that "bread" (Lord's Supper) was broken on the first day, when it is not specifically mentioned as having been broken that day, and then to declare that the "breaking of bread on the second day meant common food (when this is the only record we have of "bread" ACTUALLY being broken during that long extended assembly, which began on the first day and ended on the second), is not only inconsistent but is a contradiction and abuse of the word of God. There is NO LEGITIMACY to such reasoning. It distinctly contradicts God to declare that the "breaking of bread" in verse eleven means something different than "to break bread" in verse seven; for this "bread breaking" was the purpose for assembling in the first place, and it all took place in the same appointed assembly, where it was intended to happen.

It is quite likely that some men of the past saw some of the problems that would follow if they used "different'' meanings for the same expression; like saying, "breaking bread" refers to "the Lord's Supper" sometimes, and at other times mean s "common food" - especially when there is no precedent or example of it ever being used that way. It appears that some went to great ends in an attempt to be consistent (See comments below). However...

Trying To Be Consistent In An "Errant Position" Will Ultimately End In A Distortion Of The Truth

For example, consider Paul's experience on ship in the Adriatic Sea. Paul had told all of them to take some food and eat for it had been fourteen days since eating and they would need the strength the food would give them. "After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he BROKE it and began to eat" (Acts 27:35). Was this "bread" Paul broke the Lord's Supper? You may think it is ridiculous to even ask such a thing. Perhaps, but there are MANY who think it was. The following excerpts will not only show that many (Intellectuals?) thought Paul and his companions took the Lord's Supper on the ship, but will also show that some thought that Jesus took the Lord's Supper after his resurrection at the village of Emmaus where he was having a meal with two of his disciples when he BROKE, the bread (Luke 24:30):

"It would appear as if the apostle had also partaken of the Lord's Supper, together with his Christian companions, on board the ship toward the close of his fateful trip on the Adriatic (Acts 27:35). (Int. Stun. Bible Enc.)"

"So generally, in fact, has this EMMAUS "breaking of bread" been recognized by the Catholic Church as the sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural abuse which administered the elements under one form..." (Pulpit Comm., Vol. 16, Luke 24)

But now, let us notice another very revealing and important fact concerning the Lord's Supper and that is: When relating to the Lord's Table, ALWAYS ....

Both Elements - Bread & Wine - Appeared in the Scripture

NEVER was the Lord s Supper discussed in scripture without the inclusion of BOTH. Sometimes the form was different, but both were always present. NEVER was it ever represented by the one term breaking bread." This is only an aberration out of the mind of man.

Only two places in scripture inform us that Christians ever took the Lord s Supper and these are (1 Cor. 10:16, 21; 1 Cor. 11:20-29). Without these, no man would even know that the Lord s Supper was ever taken by those early Christians.

I am going to point out some terms used in verses taken from these two references in 1 Corinthians which relate directly to the BREAD and the WINE. These expressions will appear TEN TIMES - in different forms - but will include both elements in each case. They are as follows:

Chapter Ten
* The cup-the bread (v. 16)
* The Lord s table (v. 21)

Chapter Eleven
* The Lord s Supper (v. 20)
* The bread my body - The cup my blood (v. 23-24)
* Eat this bread and drink this cup (v. 26)
* Eats the bread or drinks the cup (v.27)
*The body and the blood (v. 27)
* Eats the bread and drinks the cup (v. 28)
*Eats and drinks (v. 29)
*Eats and drinks (v. 29)

Ten distinct references, all relative to the Lord's Supper (the Lord s body and blood), yet NOT ONE time did he ever use the term BREAKING BREAD to refer to the Lord's Table. It ALWAYS, in EVERY instance included the bread AND the wine. In other words, the Lord's Supper was a participation (communion) in BOTH the body and the blood. It was never in abbreviated form (except the two terms: Lord s Supper and Lord's Table which are distinctly defined by the scripture as including both the bread and the wine). Certainly this would have been a most opportune time to use "breaking bread" in one or more of these instances, but it does not appear - even though the opportunity was abundant.

Men have been so conditioned to accepting this as divine fact that some are going so far as to incorporate it into the translation. That is, they are (in at least one version) replacing "breaking bread" with "Lord's. Supper" (The Simple English Bible, Acts 2:42: 20:7), and referring to it in the footnotes as "an idiom usually referring to the Lord's Supper."

Notice that the word "usually" is in the footnotes to help explain the substitution. But why? If it is truly an idiom for the Lord s Supper, why wouldn't it mean the same in the other passages such as: (Acts 2:46, 20:11, 27:35, Luke 25:30)? The excerpts below will show that many do believe that "breaking bread" in these verses represent the Lord's Supper.

[I do think the Simple English Bible to be a very helpful version, with excellent clarity and understanding, especially for those who are just beginning to read the Bible, but in this case it is a tragic error. Hopefully it will be corrected.]

"Originally the apostolic church celebrated communion at every meeting for worship. They continued steadfastly in the apostle's teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42, 46). Very soon, however, if we may judge from the Acts and the Pauline Epp., its administration was confined to the meeting on the first day of the week... In Corinth it seems to have been restricted from the beginning to the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). By a slow transition the deipnon was transferred from the midnight hour to the morning. At least we find that Paul kept it after midnight at Troas (Acts 20:11). It would appear as if the apostle had also partaken of the Lord's Supper, together with his Christian companions, on board the ship toward the close of his fateful trip on the Adriatic (Acts 27:35)" (The International Standard Bible Ency., p-1925).

Now regarding the account in Luke 24:30:

"Where was a deep significance in the concluding act of this memorable appearance of the risen Lord. This taking the bread, and blessing it, and breaking it, and then giving it to them, was no ordinary act of courtesy, or welcome, or friendship, which, from a master or teacher, might be shown to his disciples. It resembles too closely the great sacramental act in the upper room, when Jesus was alone with his apostles, for us to mistake its solemn sacramental character. The great teachers of the Church in different ages have generally so understood it. So Chrysostom in the Eastern, and Augustine in the Western Church; So Theophylact, and later Beza the Reformer all affirm that this meal was the sacrament...So generally, in fact, has this Emmaus "breaking of bread" been recognized by the Catholic Church as the sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural abuse which administered the elements under one form..." (Pulpit Commentaries, Vol. 16, Luke 24, P. 272)

The above quotes demonstrate how far error can carry man when he changes the TRUTH. It entraps one into accepting the ridiculous. As a result of this grave error it has caused sad disputes and arguments over days, time keeping, regularity of observances, etc...

Most consider "breaking bread" as an "idiom" meaning the Lord's Supper. But "breaking bread" is already an "idiom," meaning "food." What man has done is to take an "idiom" (meant for food) and applied it as an idiom for the Lord's Supper when actually...

"The Lord's Supper" Is The Idiom God Gave For The Bread And The Wine!

Man in his folly has taken an "idiom" and used it to represent an "idiom!" This, of course, is one of those things that results when man tampers with the TRUTH. THE WORD OF GOD correctly represents things as God wants them to be. When man intervenes spiritual distortion follows.

But WHY did God place such (as many think) an insignificant thing as "breaking bread" (eating food) in the scripture? Did it have any importance? INDEED IT DID! One of God's MOST VALUABLE LESSONS has been OVERLOOKED due to this misapplication. When we leave things as God intended them to be...

The New Life That God Intended-The New And Living Way Appears

The "new life" - the new and LIVING WAY (Heb. 10:20) was a NEW LIFE that was to become incorporated within the individual-something all the people could see-an event that depicted God's glory before the world (2 Cor. 3:2, 3). This is what Jesus taught his disciples. "...and glory has come to me through them" (John 17:10b). "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10b)."...By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). "This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples... I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:8, 11).

The Prophet Isaiah said: "and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isa. 35:10). The Prophet foretells the HIGH STATE OF JOY AND HAPPINESS that would characterize God's people when they would once again see His glory (Isa. 35:2).

Now as we look at Acts 2:42-47 a NEW PICTURE emerges; we see a NEW LIFE being lived in th o se early days, just as Isaiah said it would happen. They were living and practicing the things Isaiah revealed, and that Jesus had taught them to do. It was the FAMILY OF GOD listening to instructions from their Father (through the Apostles), sharing together (fellowship), eating together, caring for one another, praying and praising God together. In other words it is truly a description of GREAT JOY; something man had never known before. Instead of hating and being hated (Tit. 3:3) now they loved one another, and ALL the people could see this by the way they lived and treated each other.

"All the believers stayed together. They shared everything. They sold their property and the things they owned and they were dividing the money, giving it to anyone who needed it. Every day the believers met together with the same purpose in the temple courtyard. They ate together in their homes, eating their food with joyful hearts. They were VERY HAPPY. The believers were praising God. All of THE. PEOPLE LIKED THEM. More and more people were being saved every day..." (Acts 2:44-47). (The Simple English Bible)

This NEW LIFESTYLE demonstrated...

Man's Nearness To God Through Prayer

As the Bible says, "...(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which WE DRAW NEAR TO GOD" (Hob. 7:18). "In him...WE MAY APPROACH GOD WITH CONFIDENCE" (Eph. 2:12). "...he is able to save completely those WHO COME TO GOD THROUGH HIM, because he always lives to INTERCEDE for them" (Heb. 7:25). When we pray to God Jesus intercedes for us by his Spirit (Rom. 8:34, 26).

When these early disciples "broke bread" (ate their meals) together with prayer it was one of the most valuable lessons to the Jews. Praying to God before eating was never before known to the Jew, except when Jesus introduced this practice when feeding the five and the four thousand (Matt. 14:19; 15:36). When Paul was on his fateful trip to Rome, after urging the others to eat "...he took some bread and GAVE THANKS TO GOD IN FRONT OF THEM ALL. Then he broke it and began to eat" (Acts 27:35).

They demonstrated before the world, for the first time as God's people, their thankfulness to God for their very subsistence - the food they ate. The Jew did not do this. It was first innovated by Jesus when he fed the five thousand and later the four thousand. Much of the praying done by the Jew was in ritualistic form, like - facing towards the sanctuary, towards Jerusalem, three times a day, in the temple, etc. (Kings 8:22, 29, 30; 2 Chron. 6:32, 34, 38; Dan. 6:10; Luke 2:37; Matt. 6:5).

The Jew in Jesus' Day, did not know how to pray. Jesus said,

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men... And when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matt. 6:5, 7).

One of Jesus' disciples said to him, "...Lord teach us to pray,..." (Luke 11:1).

As you can see, prayer to God was/is a very serious matter. It brought man closer to God. It demonstrated man's nearness to God. But when man substituted "Lord's Supper" for "breaking bread" the true picture vanished. Instead of seeing a "new life" being lived day by day in the lives of those early Christians, it became a "structured" type service with certain things they MUST do-something like we see today in "Church services" - rather than the "new and living way" that was spontaneous within the individuals. This does not mean that the importance of the Lord's Supper is to be diminished, but that it be practiced in its proper perspective. Like Jesus said,

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect JUSTICE and the LOVE OF GOD. You SHOULD HAVE PRACTICED THE LATTER WITHOUT LEAVING THE. FORMER UNDONE" (Luke 11:42).

It was their WAY OF LIFE that demonstrated their JUSTICE and LOVE FOR God.

Man's Life Demonstrates Whether He Loves God - Not How He Performs

This is contrary to man's normal thinking. He tends to think if he can list the numerous "services" that he had never missed, how prompt he is at arriving for "Church," the number of preaching missions he has been on, his ability to lead in singing, how much money he has put into the "Church treasury" etc., that these are the things which pleases God, but HE IS WRONG! Yes, some of these things are important, but God is more concerned in how you treat people you live with (Gal. 6:10), than in the outward "forms of service." He said:

"...let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to DO GOOD AND TO SHARE-WITH OTHERS, FOR WITH SUCH SACRIFICES GOD IS PLEASED" (Heb. 13:15,16)."...I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as LIVING sacrifices, holy and PLEASING to God -this is your spiritual act of worship" (Rom. 12:1).

The Pharisees were zealous for keeping the "Law" (Phil. 3:5), but Jesus said, "...I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts" (John 5.42). That is to say, "performance" means nothing unless it is, as Paul says...

Doing The Will Of God From The Heart (Eph. 6:6)

Like the apostle John said, "dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18). "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17). This is why such a tragic error was made by exchanging "breaking bread" for "The Lord's Supper." It was a vain attempt by man to decide what God "meant," while the intended lesson (the New and Living Way - a Life that demonstrated a "loving love" - John 4:16) was LOST.

The Lord's Supper should be observed in the way HE prescribed and at a time HE designated -"For AS OFTEN as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).

My concern and hope now is that all who read this article will re-assess their views on this subject with an unbiased mind and study the scriptures to assure themselves as to the misjudgments of some men who started this grave mistake ages ago.