Thank you for listening to this service from Calvary of Albuquerque. It's our hope that this message will help you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Father, we worship before You. Our worship includes not only singing, but we want to hear from heaven, we want the sure Word of God that has preached in simplicity and purity to enter our lives and make a difference in the way we think, and the way we live. So part of our worship is our attention to the preaching of Your word, and we are so grateful Lord that Your plan salvation included us, and we are about to take these elements in a little while to symbolize that reality. In Jesus name, Amen!
Show up hands, how many of you remember the cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle, raise your hands. Well, we are dating ourselves right? Because that's an old cartoon, wouldn't it great though? Okay, so you remember in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons there was the story of Mr. Peabody, he is that bow-tie wearing dog, real smart dog, real dyed dog, and he has an assistant named Sherman, and they have a fictional contraption called the WABAC machine, because you get in this machine and you go way back to whatever event in history you want to be a witness at.
So this morning, go into your mental WABAC machine with me, 3,400 years, and there we are standing on the plains of Moab, and there is a Moabite standing next to us, and he is gazing down into the valley below him where the children of Israel are spread out in their tents, all surrounding this unusual structure known as the Tabernacle. The Moabite winds his way through the enchantments of Israel and comes to the gate of that cloth courtyard, and says to the gatekeeper as he looks at all the activity going on in the outer court, he says, can I go inside? The gatekeeper said, "well, what tribe are you from? If you are in any of the tribes of Israel you are welcome".
The Moabite said, "well, no, actually I am not an Israelite at all, I am a Moabite". The gatekeeper would say, "no you cannot come in." And the Moabite then would say, "well, what would I have to do to get inside?" the gatekeeper smiled and said, "well, you would have to born an Israelite". So the Moabite hangs his head and he goes, I wish I would have been born an Israelite. He keeps looking and he sees a man dressed in a special robe, bearing an animal that he kills and sacrifice, and washes at a special place called the Laver, and then goes inside a tent that is right in the central part of the courtyard into a hidden room.
And the Moabite says, "what's in there?" Gatekeeper says, "that's the holy place. Inside that room is a golden lampstand, there is a table with bread on it, and there is a little golden altar. The man that you just saw is a priest, and he walked in there, and he is going to change the bread, trim the lamps and light the incense." The Moabite said, "Oh, I wish I would have been born an Israelite, because I would love to see inside that room." The gatekeeper says, "well, even I can't go in that room, again, you have to be a priest, and only those who are from the tribe of Levi of the House of Aaron, can go into that room".
The Moabite says, "oh well, I wish I would have been born an Israelite, from the tribe of Levi and the House of Aaron, I'd love to get that close to God." What else is in there asked the Moabite? The gatekeeper continues, "well, beyond that room, is a veil and beyond that veil is a very special room, called the Holy of Holies, and in that room, is a golden chest, and that is where God dwells among His people". The Moabite says, "Oh, if only I would have been born an Israelite, and only if I would have been born of the tribe of Levi, the House of Aaron as a priest, I would love to go into that room."
The gatekeeper says, "well, you couldn't go into that room." You see only a special class of priest known as the High Priest can enter that room, and the Moabite says, "well, I wish I would have been born an Israelite, of the Tribe of Levi, of the House of Aaron, and as a priest, and as a High Priest, I would go into that room, I'd go every single day, I'd go three times a day, just so I could get close to God". The gatekeeper said, "well, you couldn't do that either, because even the High Priest can't go in everyday, even the High Priest can only go into that room once a year, after an elaborate personal sacrifice, and only for a very short period of time."
Well, by this point the Moabite just simply hangs his head, turns away with no hope of ever entering into the presence of God. Our little story illustrates, and hopefully will help you understand why the breaking of bread was such a priority to the early church? Because it speaks of access, access. Suddenly God who was so far off is made close by something Jesus Christ did. Now the setting of Acts Chapter 2, took place just a few weeks after the Crucification of our Lord. So the early church would have well remembered that on the day that Jesus died, something happened in the temple, do you remember what ripped?
The Veil of the temple ripped in two, from top to bottom, that was God's way of saying, "You have access". There is no separation any longer, anyone can come and have intimate fellowship with God through My Son Jesus Christ. And the breaking of bread is that symbolic demonstration of access to God.
Now Acts 2:42, just one single verse, this is the third week we have been in that Verse, it is a snapshot. Verse 42 is a snapshot, a one verse cameo of life in the early church, and gives us the four marks that distinguished it.
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
Now we are going to consider this third mark this morning, the breaking of bread, and I would like to give you four important characteristics of this one activity, breaking bread. Number one, breaking bread is a priority. Please again notice, they continued steadfastly. They continued steadfastly in breaking bread. Now there is a little bit of a debate as to what breaking bread actually means. Some say it refers to just the communion service, others believe, it refers to having a meal with someone. I think it's best to see the answer as it's both. A beautiful tradition began to develop and was very popular in the early days of Christianity called the Lovefeast.
The Lovefeast was a meal, like a potluck, where people would bring their food together, and they would share it with each other, and in the middle or at the end of that meal, they would take the elements of communion, and that whole service was called breaking bread. Now some people have looked at the list in Verse 42, and when they come to this third mark, breaking bread, they are a little bit puzzled that this would make the top four. Okay, we understand the Apostle's doctrine; you got to be devoted to that, that's the Bible, you got to understand what the Bible says in your life. And fellowship, you got to have that. But breaking bread, why would that be listed third in the four important things that mark church life?
I mean, for example, why wouldn't you say, they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and discipleship or evangelism, why breaking bread? I think there are a lot of answers to that, but I think it could be best stated this way. If you want to move forward successfully, you have to look backwards correctly. You have to stay in touch; we have to stay in touch with our spiritual root system. If we forget the sacrifice of the cross, if we leave that behind, we are not going to be able to do anyone any good, and may I say that churches that over time become liberal in their approach, are those who forget and fail to remember the death, the resurrection and the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, our spiritual foundation is wrapped up in that.
It's also a priority to the early church for the simple reason that Jesus commanded that we do it. Right, He said, do this often in remembrance of Me, really that's all that we need to do it. You don't have to –well, I am going to pray about having communion, why pray about it? Jesus said, do it. There are some things in the Christian walks, some issues that aren't so black and white that we struggle to determine the will of God, and well, here's one area where we never have to worry about what the will of God is, it's spelled out clearly, do this, do it often, and do it in remembrance of Me. So breaking bread is a priority.
The second thing I would like you to notice is that breaking bread has a pattern; it's based on something else. It wasn't as if Jesus one day said, "Hey John, go get me some bread, would you? Peter, bring in some wine, I have an idea." Now this was a pattern that was based on something that they were familiar with, so turn to Luke Chapter 22, Luke 22, and you will notice in Verse 14, here are few Bible pages turning, that's a good thing.
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him." "And he said to them, with fervent desire I've desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: "For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." "And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:" "For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." And he took bread, gave thanks. By the way gave thanks is the Greek word, eucharisteo, that's where we get the term the Eucharist, it means, the giving of thanks. "He gave thanks, broke it, and He said to them, "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." "Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed out for you."
So the breaking of bread has a pattern, and the pattern is the Passover, a familiar meal that all Jewish people celebrated, and still do, but the disciples certainly were familiar. When they sat down in that upper room with Jesus, they knew what was coming. It was a celebratory meal that looked back to Egypt in the deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage of Pharaoh. Do you remember that Jesus one time said, "do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy but to fulfill." To fulfill. This is where that statement really comes into view, for we are seeing how Jesus was the complete fulfillment of what the Passover initially was to speak of. Jesus in fact transformed the traditional Passover meal to speak of an infinitely greater rescue what He would do on the Cross.
Now a little explanation is helpful. The Passover meal was structured around four glasses of wine. It would begin where the host would take, and the wine was red, because it was symbolic of the Blood of the Lamb that was smeared on the entrances of the homes in Egypt. He lifted up the wine glass and gave the traditional Hebrew blessing, "Baruch attah Ahdonnay, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Bohray pree hagawfen." "Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us the fruit of the wine." And the evening would commence, then there would be the second glass of wine, and the second glass of wine would then be lifted, blessed, and with that came the taking of the unleavened bread, what we will call Matza, cracker, and the unleavened bread was dipped in bitter herbs, that spoke of bondage of their forefathers in Egypt, and also dipped in this sweet, thick fruity paste, known as Charoset, which reminded them of the mortar that their forefathers made for the cities in Egypt, and it would be dipped, eaten by the host and passed out to the rest.
Then they would eat the meal. When the meal was done, the roasted lamb had been eaten, at the end of the meal, the host would lift up the third glass of wine, this was called the Cup of Redemption, unleavened bread would be broken, and again that traditional Hebrew blessing, "Baruch atah adonai, elohaynu melech ha'olam hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz."
Blessed are you Lord God, King of the Universe who has given us bread from the earth, and that is Verse 19, where after that Jesus broke it and said, "this is My Body which is given for You, do this in remembrance of Me." I can just picture the jaws of all the disciples dropping at that point.
Then that third glass of wine was held up, the blessing given, and then Jesus in Verse 20. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you". So that's the pattern of it, and whereas the Passover meal spoke of the temporary physical deliverance out of slavery, the Lord supper would speak of the permanent spiritual deliverance from the slavery of sin. So when the early church committed themselves to the breaking of bread, the Lord supper and that meal, what they were doing is recreating that night of Passover in a very stripped down and easy to facilitate form. So the breaking of bread has a pattern.
Now turn with me to 1 Corinthians Chapter 11, and we are covering a lot of ground, and the only regret I have, is in a swift study like this, we can't probe deep enough, we are just kind of skimming the surface. But here in 1 Corinthians 11, we understand that breaking bread has a purpose, it has a purpose, and we are only going to read a few Versus, it's a pretty hefty chapter that deals with this, but we want to look at just a few things. Breaking of the bread has a purpose, and there is a purpose by looking back to the past. There is a purpose by dealing with our present, and the third purpose is it takes us to the future. The past, present and future is the purpose for communion."
First of all the past, look at Verse 23,
1 Corinthians 11:23-24
"For I received" and by the way, it is believed that 1 Corinthians was written before Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. So this becomes the first and primary account of the Lord's supper in scripture.
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the 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; do this in remembrance of Me."
So Paul understood that the first purpose for communion was to look back, retrospect, remember the Cross, remember the Sacrifice, remember the Night Jesus gave this meal a significance. This is the remembrance. Isn't it interesting that Jesus didn't say to His disciples ever, "Hey you guys, I want you to remember Me, so build a beautiful huge mausoleum over My grave to remember Me". That wouldn't have done any good, since He only occupied His grave for a weekend, and left being resurrected. Nor did He ever say, build a huge marble column or a statue where I preached the Sermon on the Mount, so that every time people go to Galilee, they will remember Me.
Now what He said was, "I want you to remember Me with a meal. Do this often, when you do this, you look back and you remember." Now I just want to quickly say that, as odd as it might seem, communion which means the unity of believers together, has become so controversial through the centuries that it has actually divided the church. And that is because of the viewpoints that some have had toward communion. There is one belief called, Transubstantiation. Now that's a huge word I know, transubstantiation is the belief that these elements, the bread and the wine, literally become the actual Flesh of Jesus and the Blood of Jesus, they turn into Blood and Flesh, called transubstantiation. Cyril of Jerusalem, believe that, Gregory of Nyssa, believed that. John Chrysostom believed that, and that is, and has been the position of the Roman Catholic Church.
They become the Body and Blood of Christ. Now the reformers didn't believe that. A second viewpoint was postulated by Martin Luther called, here's another word, ready? Consubstantiation. They don't turn into His Body and Blood, but there is a special presence of the Body and Blood with the elements, with the elements.
There is a third viewpoint I happen to hold to that one, and that sees the elements has figurative or emblematic, this was the position of John Calvin, this was the position of Huldrych Zwingli, and that is, we are not looking at the Body and Blood of Christ when we hold up the elements. They are like lenses, we are looking through them to see Christ, it's an emblem, it's as figure of what He did.
And people get all hung up and say, yeah, but Jesus said, "This is My Body" it is His Body. Yeah, but Jesus also said "I am the door." Does that mean He is a piece of wood with hinges? No, that is a figure of speech, right? Plainly so. That's easily observed, simply to say, I am the way I am the portal I am the means by which anybody and everybody can get to heaven, and no other means. So and Jesus said, "this is My Body, it was figurative and emblematic. it's a look to the past. Second, it's a look to the present. Look at Verse 25
1 Corinthians 11:25
"In the same manner, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is", now that's present tense, "is the new covenant in my blood; this do, as often as you drink in remembrance of me"."
You are living in the new covenant, I just want that to become such a good news to you. It's now, it's present, you are in it, it's a whole new deal, it's not ratified by bringing an animal every week to church and getting it slaughtered, and you go, "I feel better." It's a once and for all sacrificed that established a new covenant, and you're in it now, and this is what I want to say about the present tense. God forbid, that our relationship with God should ever become confined to the past. Oh, I remember the day I came to Christ, oh, that was so good, and the first few weeks, wow! Okay, that was then, this is now, how are you doing now, how is the new covenant going today?
You see, when we take communion, it's a reminder that we once gave our lives to Christ, and they are still His. He is still in control, that's why I don't like the bumper sticker, I am not really crazy about a lot of bumper stickers, and probably my least favorites is, God is my copilot. And if you have that on your car, forgive me for saying that, no notes in the Agape boxes please. Just get a different bumper sticker, would you? God won't be your copilot, He wants the keys. He is driving that baby, He wants the pink slip, He is not going to be, "Okay, I'll come along for the ride." No, no, He is in-charge, and communion is a reminder that presently my life is governed by Him. So we look to the past, we look to the present and third, we look to the future, Verse 26:
1 Corinthians 11:26
"As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
So a communion reminds us that there is something more up ahead. It's not just a past event, it's not just a present hope, the one who came and died and left, and is now absent in the flesh is coming back in the flesh, physically, to rule and to reign. Jesus even alluded to that and we read it, "I will not drink of the fruit of the wine, until I drink it a new with you in My Father's Kingdom." Just think of that. The next time Jesus Christ breaks bread, and distributes drink, you will be with Him, you will do it at the marriage supper of the lamb, and I think that as believers, we can go so bogged down with what's happening now, and what's going on with economy, what's happening with Korea, and Iran, and oh no, and we get so bogged down, and we go, wait, wait, wait time up. Jesus is coming!
C.S. Lewis said, "It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world." I think you become most effective when you live right on that edge. I am responsible now, but Jesus is coming, communion reminds us of that.
And the fourth characteristic about this activity, is that breaking bread requires preparation. This is unlike any other meal, you don't really have to prepare for going to McDonald's or going to lunch, you just show up. But not with this one, Verse 27
"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord".
Let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup," "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." "For this reason, many are weak and sick among you and many sleep," "For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged," "But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."
So communion requires self-examination, where we pause and we look inwardly, and we consider how we are doing with God. We consider our motivations, we confront our own personal sin, we confess that sin to Him, and there is repentance of that sin.
That's called personal inventory, and from time to time, we all need to take personal inventory, communion helps us take personal inventory. There is an old business statement that says, "A man who doesn't take inventory, will eventually become bankrupt." So as to not become spiritually bankrupt, we take spiritual inventory. Now I want to clear up an issue, Verse 27 speaks about an unworthy manner, not an unworthy person. And I have to bring that up, because inevitably there is somebody out there who feels unworthy to take communion. I am so unworthy to be here. I am so unworthy -- stop right there. That's what the Cross is all about, Jesus died for unworthy people.
Grace means blessing conferred to unworthy people, you don't get worthy and take communion, but you can take the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. What is that? Well, if you come to the Lord's Supper conveniently, that is, you ignore the command by and large, when communion is announced, just like, "Oh whatever, no big deal, it's not a priority in my life. After all I am first, I worship me." Well, that would be an unworthy manner, or if you were to come to the Lord's table ritualistically, your heart is really not in it. You will do it, you will go through the emotions, but the emotion is absent. If you come superstitiously, thinking, Man, I have so blown it, I just got to get communion, because if I get communion, that's how I'll get saved, or grace will be conferred to me if I take communion.
Or if you come sinfully, if you come to the Lord's Supper with bitterness in your heart, with hatred in your heart, with sin in your life that you refuse to repent of, and you take communion, that's an unworthy manner. Now having said that, one of the basic underlying points that Paul is making, isn't to avoid communion, this isn't to push people away from it. It is communion, it's something we take together, and we should take boldly, just, just make sure you deal with stuff that needs to be dealt with first, that's all. Having said that and done that, then move into it with confidence. There is this Scottish Theologian named John Duncan, who is an Elder at a Presbyterian Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he was passing a communion one day, he was part of the team doing that, and there was girl in the church that he knew quite well. When the elements came to her, she turned her head and pushed them away as if to say, I am unworthy.
Well, he knew her, he knew her spiritual walk, and he knew that she had a tender conscious, and he just pushed the tray right into her face and said, "Take it Lassie! It's for sinners." You take it, it's for sinners, and if you have never given your life to Jesus Christ, if you have never honestly surrendered your life to Him, why not do it right now? Right now, you say, "Lord, I trust You, I give You my life, and I receive Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. I want to know Him, I want to be cleansed by Him." You just do that. And if there is issues in your life that need to deal with, deal with them, and then take it. But if we are forgiven sinners, which we are, some people are opposed to that term sinner, such a bad word, hey, I embrace it. I am a forgiven sinner. Am I am joined my anybody else, anybody else out there a forgiven sinner?
Okay, so if you are a forgiven sinner, you know what that means? It means that you and I should become forgiving sinners. I had been forgiven by God like a huge debt. Yeah, but that person like hurt me. Okay, so just think of the Cross for a minute, and look up at Jesus dying for you and go, but that person hurt me. If you have been a forgiven sinner, now be a forgiving sinner, and part of the whole follow up to the last week's fellowship and messy people being around us, extend that forgiveness. I want to close with this before we take these elements. This sums it up best.
The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. The bar is an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality. But it is an accepting and inclusive fellowship, it is unshakable. You can go into a bar and tell people secrets, and they usually don't tell others, or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put it into the human heart the desire to know and be known to love and be loved. And so many people will seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His church to be unshakable.
A fellowship where people can come in and say, I am sunk, I am beat, I have had it, alcoholic synonymous has this quality that our churches too often miss it. Let's not miss that. Having been forgiven, we forgive, having been accepted, we accept. It doesn't mean we turn a blind eye. It doesn't mean we compromise any of the truth, any of the doctrine, any of the holiness, any of the principles, but we are willing to walk with people as they are brought to the Cross and we bring them through to wholeness.
Let's pray together as the communion board comes.
Our Father in Heaven, You have made a way whereby every feeling fraud, sinful person can be made right with You, it's called the new covenant, it's brand new, it's a whole new deal, it's the best deal, it's the holy arrangement. Whereas the old was ratified by the blood of an animal, the new is ratified by the Blood of Your Son. Whereas the old was a sacrifice that never ended, it was continual day by day, week by week year by year, this is a sacrifice once and for all, and we look back remembering. And we look to our present, rejoicing in the new covenant, and we look to the future knowing that that same Jesus is going to come again and make everything on this earth righteous. We look forward to that, until then we submit ourselves to your ruler-ship, and look forward to Your Kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen!
Thank you for listening to this service from Calvary of Albuquerque. If you would like more information about what you have heard in this message, or about Calvary of Albuquerque, please visit our website at www.calvaryabq.org/. If you have made a decision to follow Christ or would like someone to pray for you, please leave a message with our prayer watch line at (505) 344-3658. Thank you and God bless!