For many of us, the message of 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 is a familiar one. We have read and reread it. We have heard and reheard it countless times on Sunday. Yet, even with such abundant repetition, it never loses its special meaning. Never. What is revealed in that text?
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’
Instituted on the night of our Lord’s betrayal, this eating of bread and drinking the cup is identified in the same letter to the church at Corinth as “the communion,” “the Lord’s table,” and “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:20). By the Spirit, Paul also refers to it as “the bread which we break” and “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Yes, it is breaking bread.
It is a wonderful privilege to be able to break bread with the saints. It is a unique blessing that is reserved only for those who are in the Christ. We should not take it for granted nor take this activity lightly.
When we break bread, that is a time to Remember. Remember what? Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are to remember Jesus. Anything specific that we are to remember? Paul went on to say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (11:26). The Lord’s Supper points to, and takes our minds back to, the death of Jesus. It is a memorial for us . . . a time to remember the death of Jesus and what it means to us. At Calvary, our Lord “endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2), “gave Himself” (Ephesians 5:25), “suffered for us” (1 Peter 4:1), “shed” His blood (Matthew 26:28), and “bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24). Taking the time to focus our minds on the Savior’s cross, His agony, His last words, His last breath – the Lord’s Supper memorial was arranged for our benefit. Thank God for it.
When we break bread, that is a time to Reflect. On what do we reflect? We look inwardly and reflect on ourselves. In what way? We read, “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. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27,28). So, as we break bread, we are to examine ourselves. What is it about ourselves that we are to analyze? We are to examine the manner in which we break the bread and drink the cup. As we do so, we are to discern the Lord’s body (11:29). To fail to do that, to fail to do it in remembrance of the Christ, that is what Paul identifies as partaking of the Supper “in an unworthy manner” (11:27).
We are to reflect on ourselves, making certain that we approach the breaking of bread with a proper spirit and frame of mind. Please note that when Paul speaks in this context about doing something “in an unworthy manner,” he is not talking about how we live (whether our behavior is worthy or unworthy). He is not pointing to our conduct throughout the past week. He is not talking about how we have sinned in the past seven days. He is speaking specifically about how we approach and partake of the bread and the cup. When we partake of the Supper, are we genuinely focusing on and recalling Jesus’ sacrifice, or are we just going through the motions? That is Paul’s point here.
When we break bread, that is a time to Respect the occasion. Breaking bread is such a serious matter. If we fail to do so with the correct frame of mind, then we eat and drink judgment to ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:29). Even when matters are ideal, it can be challenging to keep our minds focused during the Supper. But when noisy chaos abounds in the assembly as we try to break bread, concentrating on the cross and the One dying on it is nearly impossible.
It is totally out of place for Christians to be chatting with one another during the Lord’s Supper. It is completely inappropriate for saints to be messing with their mobile phones when we break bread. It is wrong to allow kids to run around causing commotion as we break the bread. Brethren, it is a holy, sober occasion. It is embarrassing when pandemonium reigns during the Supper. Okay, I’ll say it: it is sinful to be noisy and disrupt the concentration and worship of others. If we have been doing that, we need to cease it, lest we cause fellow saints to be distracted and thereby eat and drink condemnation to themselves. Congregational leaders, if this is what happens in your congregation during the breaking of bread, it is up to you to put a stop to it.
As we break bread, we are to remember, reflect, and respect. Let us cherish the blessing of being a child of God and being able to worship Him.
— Roger D. Campbell