Along with prayer and Bible reading, regular obedience to Christ’s
command to break bread and drink wine in memory of his sacrifice is vital.
“... do this in remembrance of Me”, Jesus commanded (Lk. 22:19). It was his
wish that his followers should regularly do this until his second coming,
when Jesus will share the bread and wine with them again (1 Cor. 11:26; Lk.
22:16-18). The Lord Jesus gave Paul a specific revelation regarding the
breaking of bread just as He did concerning the resurrection (1 Cor. 11:23
cf. 15:3); the breaking of bread is that important.
The bread represents Christ’s body which was offered on the cross, and the wine his blood (1 Cor. 11:23-27). It does not literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus. When Jesus said “this is My body” (Mt. 26:26) we are to understand that ‘this represents, this is [a symbol of] my body’. Jesus was clearly referring to what was usually said at the Passover: “This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt”. It wasn’t of course literally the same bread. “This is” clearly means ‘this represents’ in Zech. 5:3,8; Mt. 13:19-23,38; 1 Cor. 11:25; 12:27. In some Bible versions, when we read the word ‘means’, it is simply a translation of the verb ‘to be’ (Mt. 9:13; 12:7; Lk. 15:26; Acts 2:12). ‘This is’ should be read as ‘this means / this represents’. The early believers appear to have kept the breaking of bread service frequently (Acts 2:42,46), probably once a week (Acts 20:7). If we truly love Christ, we will obey his commands (Jn. 15:11-14). If we have a true personal relationship with him, we will desire to remember his sacrifice as he has asked, and thereby encourage ourselves at the remembrance of that great salvation which he achieved. A period of quiet reflection upon his sufferings on the cross will make our own trials pale into insignificance when compared with those of our Lord.
The breaking of bread is fundamentally a service of remembrance; nothing magical happens as a result of doing it. In this respect it is the equivalent of the Passover feast under the Law of Moses (Lk. 22:15; 1 Cor. 5:7,8). This was a means of remembering the great deliverance from Egypt which God brought about through Moses at the Red Sea. The breaking of bread service takes us back to our salvation from sin through Christ, which was made possible on the cross and to which we became related by baptism. Keeping this commandment should therefore be something which we naturally want to do.
Physically taking the bread and wine makes the love of Christ for us, and indeed all the things concerning our salvation, become so real once again. Breaking bread about once a week is therefore a sign of a healthy spiritual state. If one cannot do it with fellow-believers of the Truth, it should be done alone. No excuse should be allowed to stop us keeping this commandment. We should make every effort to keep a supply of bread and wine with us for the service, although in extreme circumstances even a lack of these should not prevent us from remembering Christ in the appointed way as best we can. Jesus used “the fruit of the vine” (Lk. 22:18), and we should therefore use red grape wine.
To take the emblems of Christ’s sufferings and sacrifice is the highest honour which a man or woman could have. To take them with improper attention to what they represent is nigh on blasphemy, seeing that “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death ... Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:26,27). A breaking of bread service should therefore be held at a time and place where there will not be distractions and interruptions to one’s flow of thought. This may involve doing it early in the morning or late at night, in a bedroom or other suitable place. We are further advised, “Let a man examine himself, and so (in that humble spirit of self-examination) let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). We should therefore fix our minds on Christ’s sacrifice, perhaps by glancing through the Gospel records of his crucifixion, before we take the emblems. By doing so properly, we will inevitably examine our own conscience towards Christ, too.
A suitable order of service for the breaking of bread is as follows.
1. Prayer - asking for God’s blessing upon the meeting; His opening of our eyes to His Word; remembering the needs of other believers; praising Him for His love, especially as shown in Christ, and praying regarding any other specific issues.
2. Do the Bible readings for the day as specified in the “Bible Companion”.
3. Meditate upon the lessons to be learnt from them, or read an ‘exhortation’ - a Bible study upon those chapters which leads us towards the purpose of our service - the remembrance of Christ.
4. Read 1 Cor. 11:23-29.
5. Period of silent self-examination.
6. Prayer for the bread.
7. Break the bread and eat a small piece of it.
8. Prayer for the wine.
9. Take a sip of wine.
10. Concluding prayer.
The whole service should take just over one hour.