************ Sermon on Acts 2:42c ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 13, 2015
"Devoted to the Breaking of Bread"
Have you ever noticed how much of our communal life is wrapped around food? Wedding and funeral receptions both include food. Birthday parties and graduations always include food. Many people go out for breakfast, lunch, or supper with friends. As I was finishing this sermon I received an email from my sister:
This was my last week at work - it's been busy, I've eaten far too much already this week - funny how every event seems to circulate around food and meals. Anyhow, I had requested no big send off - some people have a big party, rent a hall, or go to lunch somewhere - I didn't want anything ... But they threw a small surprise party for me.
Church life is no different. The couple of times I was on Cadet camp-outs the menu was burnt hot-dogs, fried rattle snake, and no condiments. The GEMS, on the other hand, bring everything including the kitchen sink on their camp-outs. Food is a big deal at Youth Group conventions and retreats. Tonight, Sunday Evening Fellowship will meet for the first time this year; this meeting always starts with food. Once a month during the church year we have a fellowship dinner after the morning service and either cookies or ice-cream after the evening service.
Telling me what? Telling me Christians love to eat. And, more importantly, food helps to bring people together. Food and fellowship, food and community, go hand-in-hand.
Food brings people together. Not many people like to eat alone. Most of our widows tell me that meal time is one of the hardest parts of being alone. Sometimes it gets so bad that they can hardly eat a bowl of soup.
It feels wrong to eat alone. For food is meant to bring people together. The early church shared meals together. Our text this evening tells us they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). Later on the passage tells us "they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46).
This evening we continue our study of the state of the early church. We have learned that by the indwelling of the Spirit she was unified, magnified, and multiplied. We have also learned that she cooperated with the Spirit by devoting herself to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
I A Strange Devotion
A I have to confess I wondered how I was possibly going to preach on our text for this evening. What exactly is the breaking of bread? Am I going to say the early church loved to eat? Big deal! So do we. So nothing has changed after two thousand years. And, what does it mean that they were devoted to the breaking of bread? Doesn't that seem like a strange thing to be devoted to? Imagine Amy answering the phone with, "Hi, this is Trinity URC and we are devoted to the breaking of bread." That will cause eyebrows to go up.
B Keep in mind the meaning of "devoted." Devoted means to be loyal to someone or something. It means to give the highest priority to something or someone. It means to identify what is most important to you and to stick with it. It means to make clear what you are passionate about.
C The early church, as we have learned the last couple of weeks, was marked by devotion. They were passionate about the apostles' teaching, about the fellowship, about prayer, about evangelism, about worship, and about the breaking of bread.
II The Early Church Ate Together
A So, what does it mean that they broke bread together? First, it simply means that they ate together. In that time and place, if a person eats alone, he does not need to break the bread, because there is nobody to share it with. However, if you are eating with another person, the loaf of bread must be broken into pieces so everyone can have some.
Scripture tells us, "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46). They didn't have church buildings like we do today. In fact, for the first three hundred years the early Christians mostly met in homes. And when they met together they often enjoyed a meal because food brings people together.
Now, try to imagine the scene: people are eating and as they are eating they are talking and laughing and crying and listening to each other. Advice is given. Support is offered. Comfort is extended. Stories are said. Jokes are told. People are enjoying each other's company.
B Fast forward to today: people are eating together and as they are eating you hear the click, click, click of iPhones and iPads and smart phones. Ruth and I have actually seen this more than once when we have gone out for dinner - a family is eating together but no one is talking because they are all busy with their devices. Someone sent me a You Tube video:
A family is sitting down to dinner. The two boys are busy on their smart phones. The father reaches down and picks up an old typewriter and starts typing furiously. The boys look at him in amazement and then keep texting. Dad yanks the carriage back and types even more furiously. The boys finally catch on and put their phones away.
That is pretty sad. But even sadder is a recent survey. Teenagers were asked how many times per month they sat down to an evening meal with the family. Take a guess at the answer. It will surprise you, even shock you. The average answer was once. One time a month their family broke bread together. Something is wrong, seriously wrong, when we are such a slave to our schedule of sports and music lessons and dance lessons and play practice and work that we are not able to eat together as a family. Many of the early Christians were slaves too but they made eating together a high priority.
Breaking bread together is an important part of community life, whether it is in a family or in a church.
As part of community life, the early church devoted herself to the breaking of bread!
C Now, remember who we are talking about. We are talking about Christian Jews. And, we are talking about Christian Gentiles. Up to this point in time, according to the Law of God, Jews were not allowed to eat with Gentiles. They couldn't fellowship with Gentiles. They couldn't even eat many of the same foods as the Gentiles. That was God's way of putting a hedge around His people in order to protect them and sanctify them (cf Leviticus 11). But all of that changes in the book of Acts. Now Jew and Gentile sit down together, eat together, fellowship together, and give visible expression to their unity in Christ. This was something new, something wonderful, something dramatic, something different. Former enemies were now friends and even brothers and sisters. No wonder they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. They worked at it and made it a priority.
III The Early Church Remembered the Lord
A There is also another meaning to the breaking of bread. Not only does it mean that they ate together, but it also means that they remembered the Lord together in the way that He instructed them when He instituted the Lord's Supper. More than one commentator has suggested that at the end of every meal they remembered the Lord through the bread and the cup.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this to the church at Corinth. He admonished them that when they got together they were not eating the Lord's Supper. "Each of you," he writes, "goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk." And then he passed on to them what he received from the Lord:
(1 Cor 11:23-25) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." (25) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." (26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
The early church would gather together. They would pool their resources for a major pot-luck supper. And they would end with a precious time of remembering the Lord.
B The early church was devoted to this. The early church was devoted to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42c). Later on in Acts we are given the following description: "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). This was the practice of the early church. This was their habit. "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread."
The early church was devoted to the breaking of bread, to remembering the Lord's death until He comes.
C Now, remember, it is called "the breaking of bread." Bread is broken because you are sharing with another person. The person doing the sharing is the Lord Jesus Christ. The persons being shared with are the members of the church.
Also keep in mind it isn't just bread and wine or bread and grape juice that is being shared. It goes much deeper than this. Our sharing is in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says about the bread, "This is my body, which is for you." Jesus says about the cup, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." The result? We share in the body and blood of the Lord. As Paul puts it to the church of Corinth:
(1 Cor 10:16) Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
Jesus' body -- symbolized by the bread -- was broken on the cross. His skin and flesh were torn and broken by blows with rods and fists, by whippings and scourgings, by thorns and nails and spears. And His blood -- symbolized by the cup -- was flowing and dropping and spilling.
Why? To be shared with us. His death, His pain, His suffering, His agony, His brokenness, His punishment is meant to be shared with us. So when we break bread together what are doing? We are sharing in the body and blood of the Lord. We are sharing in His death and suffering. We are sharing in His unspeakable anguish of body and soul.
D Think of what this means. Think of what this means that when we break bread together we share in the suffering and death of Christ. It means that:
-In Him we die.
-In Him we pay for our sins.
-In Him we experience God's judgment and wrath.
-In Him we are justified.
Jesus' body is broken and His blood is spilled so we can share in Christ and all His benefits.
I love the encounter that Jesus had around the table with the two men that He met on the road to Emmaus.
(Lk 24:30-31) When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. (31) Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Something mysterious and wonderful happens at the Lord's Table. Our eyes are opened and we see Jesus. Our eyes are opened and we realize He suffered and died for us. Our eyes are opened and we realize we share in Him when we break bread together.
"They devoted themselves ... to the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42c). They did this as Spirit-filled people. Because they did this the church was unified, magnified, and multiplied.
Tonight, let us break bread together. Let us share in Christ and all His benefits. And we too will be unified, magnified, and multiplied.
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