The Breaking of Bread
September 10th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
THE BREAKING OF BREAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-10-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Breaking of Bread. This fall holds for me—and I could pray for a multitude of others—one of the richest preaching experiences of my long, forty-year ministry. Every Sunday, for how many Sundays I do not know but for many, every Sunday morning at the 8:15 o’clock service and at the 10:50 o’clock hour, I shall be preaching through the Book of Daniel. The title of the sermon this coming Lord’s Day is Daniel in the Critic’s Den; and the title of the sermon for the following Sunday will be How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace. These messages are designed to present to us an infinite assurance that God’s Word is true; that it is a revelation from heaven; that it is a disclosure of the love and grace and sovereign purpose of the mighty God our Savior. Now every night, Sunday night, I preach through the life of Christ. I have been doing that for a long time, longer than you realize. Now I shall continue doing it for a long time to come. Every Sunday night there will be a sermon from the life of Jesus. You could call it; “I’m Bragging on Jesus”—presenting the Lord Jesus.
Now, once a month we have the Lord’s Supper in our dear church. Once a quarter it is at the morning hour; then the rest of the first Sunday’s of the month, or, if it is, as a Labor Day weekend and the pastor’s gone, we will observe it in an evening on the second Sunday; but once a month we observe the Lord’s Supper, every time in the evening, except once a quarter; and we do that in the morning once a quarter for older people and others who are not able to come at night. But I love to observe the Lord’s Supper at night; “and the night, the same night, the night in which Jesus was betrayed He took bread and blessed it and broke it” [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. I have often said—and you’ve heard me a thousand times—it is not a breakfast, it is not a lunch, it is not a dinner; in every language under the sun a supper is an evening meal; it is a meal that is eaten at night. And I love to observe the Lord’s Supper, not at breakfast time, or at lunch time, or at dinner time, but at nighttime. Now in the hour that we have the observance of the supper, I know it is from the life of Christ, but especially, I seek to prepare a message that has to do with the profound reverential meaning of this breaking of bread. So the title of the sermon tonight: The Breaking of Bread.
I point out to you first of all in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, and let’s all turn to it, in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, starting at the forty-first verse and reading to the end of the chapter, there is the expression “and breaking bread from house to house” [Acts 2:46]. Wherever that expression is used in the New Testament, it refers to the Lord’s Supper. They called it the breaking of bread, and you’ll see it in the text that we shall now read together. Acts chapter 2, beginning at verse 41; now all of us reading it out loud together:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And 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,
Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Now as you read the passage did you notice the references to the breaking of bread? Any true New Testament church will have two inviolate ordinances. One, the initial ordinance; we are baptized in the likeness of His death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection: buried and raised with our Lord [Romans 6:3-5]. And the recurring church ordinance: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in the prayers” [Acts 2:42]. And then again in this short passage, “And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house” [Acts 2:46]; the congregations met mostly in the homes. It’s hard for us to believe that for almost three hundred years there were no church houses. The people met in homes and wherever they could find a place of convocation. “And breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God; and the Lord added daily those who were being saved” [Acts 2:46-47].
Now, let me say a word, and we’ll pass beyond it; how often should we observe this Lord’s Supper? In the text that we have read it is very apparent that those early disciples, those beginning Christians, observed the Lord’s Supper every day. When they had a meal, they closed the meal with a little form, a dedicated service; they broke bread in the name of our Lord, and they drank from the cup in the name of our Lord. Apparently, from what we have read, they observed the Lord’s Supper every day; which is all right. If we were to observe the Lord’s Supper in this church every day, we had a service here every day; it would be perfectly in order. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, in the church at Troas, we know that they observed the Lord’s Supper in that church on the first day of the week, on Sunday; there was a Sunday in which they observed the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:6-7]. How often should we observe it? The Lord left it to us. In 1 Corinthians 11:26 He said, “For as often, for as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come. For as often as you do it,” and God left it to us. We can observe it every day, and that would be all right. We can observe it every week, and that would be all right. We can observe it every month, and that would be all right. When I was a boy, the church which I grew up observed it once a quarter; and that’s all right. The Lord left it to us.
Now to my text, “The breaking of bread”—the breaking of bread is a symbol of death, the breaking up of the house of this tabernacle. And we live in a world of death; it is our common lot and portion in this world and in this life. I have come to a place in my pastoral ministry in the church where there is an increasing sensitivity to the loss of these that I knew and loved so well. While I was gone in this preaching mission and in a few days of rest, the chairman of our deacons, who for thirty-five years presided over these consecrated and dedicated men, the chairman of our deacons, passed away to be with the Lord. And as I thought of the translation of Judge Ryburn, my mind, of course, went back to the time when I first saw him and first knew him: he was chairman of the pulpit committee that invited me to be undershepherd of the church. And as I think of those men and that one woman, of the seven on that committee—they all have passed away except the woman, who lives in Mart, and Ralph Baker who is still here in the church. Judge Ryburn, the chairman, has been translated. Orville Groner, the secretary of the committee, has been translated. Chesley Brown, a wonderful businessman, has been translated. Paul Danna, the banker, has been translated. Bob Coleman, the assistant to Dr. Truett for forty-one years, has been translated. One by one, one by one. It is a rare thing that the flowers that are dedicated in our program, it is a rare thing that they are dedicated to people that I do not know; most of whom I have buried. Yet when we began that sweet memorial ministry, it was a rare thing that I knew anyone to whom the memorial flowers were dedicated. And as I grow older and continue in this ministry in God’s grace and goodness, that will be increasingly true.
We live in a dissolving and broken fellowship. We live in a dissolving home. There is no one in divine presence tonight but who lives in a broken home. Your mother is gone, or your father is gone, or your grandparents are gone, friends are gone, sometimes a wife, a husband, sometimes a son or a daughter; we live in a dissolving fellowship. There is a brokenness in all of the relationships we make in life. Breaking bread, it is a picture, a dramatic presentation of our lot and portion in this life. But, oh, it has a precious, and a marvelous, and a heavenly, and a triumphant meaning. Look! Paul wrote in the same Corinthian letter, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia…” How would you translate that? “Is it not the community, is it not the communion, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” [1 Corinthians 10:16-17]. Do you see there, God does not separate His church as being partly here and partly there; we are ever one. Some of us here, and some of us there, but always one in the Lord. “There is one bread, there is one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” [1 Corinthians 10:17], and whether there in glory, or here in the pilgrimage remaining to us in the world, we are yet, and still, all of us one in Christ.
I have an opportunity in time to remind you of sermons that once in a while I will preach on the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew and the eighteenth verse. “This is My church,” said the Lord, “I build My church on this rock” the deity of Christ [Matthew 16:18], “Thou art the Christ, the Son of God [Matthew 16:16]. And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” [Matthew 16:18]. The gates of Hades refer to the locking of death, the doors of death; death violates, death ruptures, death destroys, death breaks every relationship we make in this life—all except one: the relationship we make in Jesus, death cannot destroy, nor can death hold these, the least of God’s saints, who have placed their trust in Him. Whether there in glory, or whether here in this pilgrimage, we are one bread, we are one body in Jesus.
I love a hymn that our singer loves. And I’m grateful there’s one song at least that both of us like. And he sings it once in a while here. The tune is called “Holy Manna.” I want you to notice how that hymn closes; I have copied two stanzas:
Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the holy One comes down;
Brethren pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
Let us love our God supremely, and let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new—
Then He’ll call us home to heaven,
at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us
with sweet manna all around.
[“Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” by George Atkins]
Think of it! When we sit down in the kingdom of God at the marriage supper of the Lamb, “For I will not drink of this cup,” says our Lord, “till I drink it new with you in the kingdom of God” [Matthew 26:29]. Christ Himself will serve us with sweet manna all around [Luke 12:37]. It’s a token here; it’s a promise for a glorious tomorrow.
Now I have one other thing: the breaking of bread [Acts 2:42, 46], not only does it represent the breaking up of the tabernacle of this body [2 Corinthians 5:1], it also represents the brokenness, the bruising, the afflictions of our lives; for bread is the bruising and the crushing of the grains of wheat; and without the grinding and the bruising and the crushing and the baking in the fiery furnace, there could be no bread. That is why it is such a marvelous type of our Lord. God chooses first; God bruises second; and God uses third, and always in that order: God chooses us, don’t know why, cannot understand His grace that He should call us by name, but God chooses us [Romans 8:28-30], and whom He chooses, He bruises, always; then, He uses.
Look: when the Lord God appeared to Abraham in the fifteenth chapter, the glorious fifteenth chapter of Genesis, when it says Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness [Genesis 15;6], in that glorious fifteenth chapter, the Lord sent Abraham into a deep sleep [Genesis 15:12]. And in that deep sleep, he saw a vision of a fiery furnace. And the Lord God said, “And for four hundred years thy seed shall be in affliction in a fiery furnace” [Genesis 15:13]. That’s God; and out of the afflictions of Egypt came Moses [Hebrews 11:25], and the law [John 1:17], and the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], and Sinai [Hebrews 12:18], and the revelation of the moral character of God [Romans 3:20, 7:7-9]: out of the fiery furnace. Do you remember again in the Book of Malachi, when it announces the glorious coming of the Lord, it says, “And He shall sit as a refiner of silver” [Malachi 3:3], in the crucible that melts and burns”; the Lord, a refiner of silver, His people in the crucible of fire [Psalms 66:10-12; 1 Peter 1:7].
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply:
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
[“How Firm a Foundation,” George Keith]
Crushed, broken, and beat in the fire. As the author of the Hebrews says of our Lord Jesus, “Though a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” [Hebrews 5:8].
And in this closing word, may I speak of those broken things? Broken things, the breaking of bread, the afflictions of God’s saints. Job, “Lord, Thou hast broken me asunder” [Job 16:12]. Oh, I wish I had time tonight to follow the pride of that patriarch. Read the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Job and see how he was in his affluence, and in his riches, and in his fame, proud of it, lifted up in it [Job 19:1-20]. But when God had broken him, Job bowed in the ash heap and said, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6], a new man when God broke him.
Or David, in the fifty-first penitential Psalm, he cried, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:17], breaking us. Or Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of the Pharisees [Philippians 3:5], proud, self righteous; but when he met Jesus in the way, they were leading him by the hand into Damascus [Acts 9:3-8]. When God broke him, he was another kind of a man. And it is not until you go through the afflictions of the fiery furnace that you really come to know God: breaking bread [Acts 2:42, 46].
I one time heard a little group describing a minister. And one of the group had known him years ago and said, “Oh, what a marvelous and gifted preacher.” And the other said, “But have you heard him lately?” And the first said, “No, it was years ago.” And the second said, “But you ought to hear him now, since his only child died. You wouldn’t recognize him; he’s another man, and he’s another kind of a preacher.” Breaking bread [Acts 22:42, 46]. There is a humbleness, there is a contrition, there is a dependence upon God, there is a denial of the adequacy of self, and a committal to the grace of Jesus that comes in the breaking of our lives. “Let us break bread together on our knees. Let us take the cup together on our knees” [“Let Us Break Bread Together,” Negro Spiritual, arranged by William J. Reynolds].
Lord, children of the ground, made out of dust and ashes, a poor, miserable worm, on Thy kind arms I fall; breaking bread together before the Lord [Acts 2:42, 46].
Now we sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, you, somebody you, to give himself to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? A family you, a couple you, or one somebody you, while we sing, while we wait, while we pray, would you make it now? I’ll be standing here; come and give me your hand, “Pastor I give you my hand, I give my heart to God; and here I am, here I come.” Do it now; a couple, a family, you, while we stand and while we sing.