Summary: The early church "gathered together to break bread." Why was this activity so critical to them and what can it mean to us?
OPEN: There’s an old saying: “An army marches on… (its stomach).”
What that means is: if an army doesn’t feed its men it’s not going anywhere. Without food the troops eventually can’t march, they can’t maneuver, and they can’t fight.
So one of the logistical problems for armies has always been - where do you get the food to feed your men?
Back in WWII, one of the ways the US tried solving this issue was called “K rations”. They were about 900 calorie meals packed into handy little boxes. (http://www.qmfound.com/Rations_K_Dinner.gif)
There was the Breakfast Unit where you might get canned chopped ham and eggs or veal loaf, biscuits, a dried fruit bar or cereal bar, water purification tablets, cigarettes, chewing gum, instant coffee, and sugar.
Then there was the Dinner Unit: which could have processed ham & cheese, biscuits, malted milk tablets or 5 caramels, sugar, a salt packet, cigarettes, chewing gum, and a powdered beverage
And the Supper Unit often would have canned meat (such as Spam), with an carrot & apple, biscuits; a 2-ounce chocolate bar, a packet of toilet paper tissues; cigarettes; chewing gum, and a bouillon soup cube.
One of our military men recently told me that he once ate one of the K rations… “and they were pretty good” he says (the meal had to be at least 50 years old).
APPLY: An army marches on its stomach.
Food is an indispensible need for soldiers in combat.
And (as you might imagine) God knows that.
One of the images the Bible uses of Christians is that of “soldiers”.
Paul refers to a man named Archippus as a “fellow soldier…” Philemon 1:2
And to another man named Epaphroditus as “… my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier” Philippians 2:25
Then in 2 Timothy 2:3 he tells Christians to “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
We are soldiers of Christ.
A Spiritual army deployed by God to contend with Evil.
Thus in Ephesians 6:11 we’re told to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
So… we are soldiers. And we are at war.
And we need to eat.
What are we going to eat?
Well Jesus has supplied a very special meal for us.
It’s called Communion, or the Lord’s Supper
The early church took this seriously.
Acts 2:42 tells us that one of the when the church first began
“They DEVOTED themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (communion) and to prayer.”
And here in Acts 20:7 we’re told
“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread...”
Every scholar I read says the same thing: when early church spoke about “breaking bread” it was their way of saying they had communion.
And they did it every Sunday for worship.
In fact, a Christian leader from around 150 AD named Justin Martyr wrote that…
"On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in the cities and villages… (and at the close of the meeting they focused on the) bread and wine and thanks for them according to his ability, and the congregation answers, "Amen." Then the consecrated elements are distributed to each one and partaken of, and are carried by the deacons to the houses of the absent."
Every Sunday, the church took communion.
In fact, here in Acts 20 we’re told that the reason they were at church was “break bread”
I mean – Paul was there. He was a very famous evangelist, and I’m sure everybody wanted to hear him… but Paul WAS NOT the reason they had gathered.
They had gathered together to take the Lord’s Supper
Paul was an after dinner treat, if you will, but the main event was communion!
But why was this meal so important?
Why would they make it the MAIN FOCUS for going to church?
Well, there are two reasons I can think of:
1st – when you take communion you’re sitting down with Jesus.
Every time you take Communion, Jesus is there.
This is HIS table.
And Jesus had promised: "… where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20
He is here every time you take communion.
2ndly – the Communion table is where you and I are reminded of our mission.
In I Corinthians 11 Paul tells us “…on the night he was betrayed, (Jesus) took bread, 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.’
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.’