What Does The Breaking of The Bread Mean In Acts 2:42 and 20:7?
It has been assumed that all references to "breaking bread" (Luke 24:35, Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:16) in the New Testament are referring to a common meal and never refer to the Lord's Supper. As a result, it is denied that the "breaking of the bread" in Acts 2:42 and "to break bread" in Acts 20:7, refer to the Lord's Supper.
In Luke 24:13-35 (after His resurrection), Jesus sat with some of His disciples, took bread and broke it (Luke 24:30). They later told the apostles how Jesus had been made known to them in breaking of bread (Luke 24:35). This was obviously a common meal because the church had not yet been established (see Matthew 26:29; Acts 2) - the time when the Lord would be the host of His table.
In Acts 2:42 we read, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." This verse summarizes the practice of the brethren after the establishment of the church. Notice the spiritual nature of every item: doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3), fellowship (1 John 1:3-7), breaking bread (Acts 20:7), and prayers (Acts 12:5). The Greek uses the definite article "the," making the phrase to read, "the breaking of the bread." It does not refer to just any bread, but to a specific bread, a special bread. This verse is obviously a reference to the Lord's Supper.
Acts 2:46 describes the conduct of Christians in Jerusalem in the early days of the church. They continued "daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart." "Daily" indicates the frequency of their meeting together. Grammatically, it does not modify "breaking bread." Notice also there is nothing in the phrase "breaking bread from house to house" that indicates a church worship assembly (which is where the Lord's Supper is to be observed; see 1 Corinthians 11:20-30; Acts 20:7). Breaking bread is explained in this text as eating meat (food, nourishment). It is translated "food" in Acts 24:17 and James 2:15. Acts 2:46 obviously refers to a common meal.
Acts 20:7 states, "And upon the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread ...." This was a church assembly on the first day of the week when Christ's disciples came together to worship. Their purpose for assembling together was to break bread. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, the Corinthian church was assembling together for the purpose of the Lord's Supper, even though they had abused it. This is most likely a reference to the Lord's Supper since it is in a worship context. Their assembly was not just what they decided to do in their local situation. They were following the decrees (Acts 16:4) and apostolic traditions (2 Thessalonians 3:6). This is a divine example regarding worship on the first day of the week in observing the Lord's Supper.
First Corinthians 10:16 states, "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?" Notice how this verse connects the communion, the breaking of bread and the Lord's table (1 Corinthians 10:21) together as one.
The very fact that Jesus took bread, broke it, and instituted the Lord's Supper is a clear and undeniable fact (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19). When studying the five verses which mention "breaking bread," how could anyone deny that breaking bread is not only used to refer to eating a common meal (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:46) but also to partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16)?
The phrase "breaking bread" is a figure of speech called a synecdoche where a "part stands for the whole." In other words, the phrase "breaking bread" includes both the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. It is simply a reference to the "Lord's Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20), the "Lord's table" (1 Corinthians 10:21), the "communion" (1 Corinthians 10:16), and "to break bread" (Acts 20:7).
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