Monday, May 22, 2017
Have you ever said, “What if?” Some would not admit it, but a lot of us are guilty of reading our culture and traditions into the Bible rather than understanding the passage from their viewpoint. What if we made a comparison of what is recorded in scripture and paralleled it with what we usually do? Would there be a lesson to learn?
There are three passage concerning the institution of the Lord’s supper in Matthew 26:17, 26-29; Mark 14:12, 22-25; and Luke 22:7, 15-20. Each gives us the dialogue of Jesus stating, “I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; and Luke 22:15-16). According to studies on the Passover, each person brought his own cup to the Passover Feast. There were four times when these cups were filled with wine. Matthew and Mark give us that statement being made with the fourth cup as Jesus is instituting the communion during the Passover meal. Luke supplies more details and shows the statement was made during the third filling. This isn’t unusual since the different accounts sometimes abbreviated what they were telling. For example, Matthew gives us more details concerning two men among the tombs of the Gergesenes or Gadarenes, whereas Mark and Luke focus only on one. Most of us restrict ourselves to the singular man and last cup. What if we accepted Matthew’s two men and Luke’s two cups? What lesson have we missed by failing to recognize what God has inspired?
The fourth mention of the Lord’s Supper is when Paul wrote to the Corinthian assembly, correcting them over their divisions (v.18), heresies, (v.19), and refusal to wait on one another or share (v.21). He encourages them to examine themselves when they partake (vv.28-29). Only in Acts 20:7-11 do we have the actual practice of partaking with Paul, Luke, the Troas’ members, and the rest of Paul’s companions being involved.
Since church buildings, financed by the local congregation, aren’t mentioned until the fourth century, we find “breaking of bread” taking place in the homes of members (Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7-11). Congregations did not have a post office box nor street addresses. They did not have church signs with a church name on it. Yet, Luke doesn’t indicate that Paul and entourage had any problem finding this three-storied house where the brethren were meeting (Acts 20:7). What if we met in homes as they did? How would this be different and what would no longer be practiced if there wasn’t an auditorium to house “about three thousand” (Acts 2:41)?
They were meeting on the first day of the week, but not at the time of day which we do. Sunday is not usually a work day for us. It was for them. Saturday was the day of rest for the Jewish population. Sunday was the first day of the work week. The Troas brethren were meeting at night. Congregations today have Sunday night services, but most members are usually at home by 8:30 pm unless they decide to stop off at Cracker Barrel! What if we met for one service on Sunday evening and stayed until midnight or after to break bread? Would we? Can you imagine what most comments were when one member first suggested that the house meetings begin at 9 am on Sunday morning?
The Troas brethren were apparently keeping Jewish time. If so, the first day of the week began at 6:01 pm on our Saturday and continued until 6:00 pm Sunday night. Luke tells us that they “came together to break bread.” Paul preached to them (v.1). Our meetings are geared more to our convenience and comfort than what those saints in this assembly in Acts 20 were doing. A thirty-minute sermon is long for most modern disciples. Forty-five minutes is stretching it and causes a malady called “fidgeting.” Even if Troas began at 8 pm, Paul was just getting his second wind at midnight. He may have preached longer if that young man had not fallen out the window (v.9)! What if our assemblies lasted hours taking us past midnight? Who would be the first to demand “a change”? Would your “spirituality” be questioned if you did?
The expression “break bread” and “broken bread” are mentioned twice in the passage. Luke informs us that they came together to break it and the second time it is mentioned after midnight. Churches today will have a Sunday morning serving of unleavened bread and then again Sunday night for those who missed that morning. Yet, inspiration doesn’t illustrate our convenient second serving. It also doesn’t give us a pattern of partaking on Sunday morning. That was started several centuries after the first one as a convenience to make things more comfortable for modern man. What if we returned to the one evening serving illustrated in Acts 20?
The Passover Feast used unleavened loaves and wine. Jesus used those two items to memorialize his body and blood. In the first century families prepared the two and brought them to the assembly to share (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Today, as a matter of convenience we buy Matzah bread, which comes in the form of crackers or small bite size squares, and Welch’s. Haven’t we miniaturized the communion? What if we still prepared the loaf and each in a house meeting broke off a piece and our cup was the same size as those used by Jesus and the apostles? Because the Corinthians would not share nor wait, some drank too much while others remained hungry due to that refusal to wait and share the unleavened bread! What if they ate back then what we eat today during the Lord’s supper? Wouldn’t they still be hungry? When did we decide to change? Was it motivated by convenience?
What if there are other lessons to be observed from Acts 20:7-11? When the word “change” is mentioned, some are uncomfortable and consider any deviation from our modern practices to be movements away from biblical authority. Yet look at the changes that have transpired between the first century and today. What is interesting is that a lot of those changes which we have instituted were for our convenience and comfort! Our changes neither make us more spiritual nor less. What has not changed is Jesus (Hebrews 13:8). Our relationship with him should change in only one direction. We should grow up (1 Peter 2:2)!