Breaking of the Bread: Temporary Arrangements While Travelling
or during Conferences, Camps, etc. – Is It Scriptural?
By Rajan Thomas, Bahrain
It is noteworthy that the Breaking of the Bread (Lord’s Supper) was observed only in a local Assembly gathering. Luke records, “they continued in . . . breaking of the bread . . .” (Acts. 2: 42) meaning that this was observed by the Local Assembly at Jerusalem. Paul wrote “When you come together” (1 Corinthians 11:20), to the Corinthian Assembly to whom the epistle was addressed. “Disciples came together to break bread” (Acts. 20:7), refers to the Assembly of Believers at Troas, and the Missionary team joined with them. It is clear that a local assembly is comprised of “all saints in Christ Jesus . . . with the Bishops and Deacons” (Philippians 1:1).
“Breaking of bread” meeting must be observed by the local assemblies comprised of redeemed saints. Lord’s Supper must be observed with great spiritual gravity and self- examination (1 Corinthians 11:28). Partaking of the Lord’s Supper can be denied on the ground of purity both in life and doctrine (1 Corinthians 5:13; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, etc.).
Recently a question arose whether it is scriptural for a group of Believers amidst their travel to observe Lord’s Supper, on the Lord’s Day anywhere.
Breaking of the Bread: Lessons from the New Testament
Holy Spirit lays the principle when He records the example of Apostle Paul as the pattern to be followed by the saints. Paul arranged and adjusted his travel in such a way that on the Lord’s Day he joined a local assembly (Acts. 20:6, 7). The Pauline missionary team “abode seven days” (v. 6). Why? Certainly to take part in the Lord’s Supper, in fellowship with the local Assembly at Troas (v. 7).
The missionary team repeated the same pattern and “tarried seven days” in Tyre when they found that disciples (of course, the local Assembly) were there (Acts. 21: 4). And again during their voyage to Rome when they reached Puteoli and found the ‘brethren’ (local Assembly), they desired to tarry with them seven days (Acts. 28:14). They “tarried seven days.” Why? It could be well inferred that it was to join with those local Assemblies to participate in Lord’s Supper as at Troas (Acts. 20:6-7).Breaking of the Bread: Temporary Arrangements While Travelling or during Conferences, Camps, etc. – Is It Scriptural? Via NewsAndViewsForYou Click To Tweet
Paul who traveled with several believers could have observed the Lord’s Supper anywhere during their long journeys, especially during ship voyage to Rome which took several weeks or months. The Spirit of God does not record that they kept the Lord’s Supper though they were several in the company. Instead, we see that while traveling they found out disciples (local Assembly) during halts and joined with them to break bread. It can be inferred from Acts. 21:4 “finding disciples” that they “found out disciples,” not a casual discovery but as object of search. God has placed local assemblies in each area as a testimony (Revelation 1:20). Believers should ‘find out assemblies’ (in today’s world this can be done much before one travels) and in case no local assembly exists in a town or village where one would halt during travel, it is better to spend time in self-meditation and prayer and ‘be in Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ as John did at Patmos though while alone (Revelation 1:10)
For the sake of argument, it can be asked: “why should not the Lord’s Supper be set up wherever a group of Believers are gathered together as the Lord’s presence will be there, based on Matthew 18: 20?” The presence of our Lord is with His people at all times (Matthew 28:20). The presence of the Holy Spirit abides and dwells with us and in us (John 14:16,17). Certainly, the Lord has promised His presence where two or three are gathered together, however, the context of the Lord’s statement in Matthew 18:20 is with reference to a ‘local assembly gathering.’ We do not see any command or practice in the New Testament that whenever two or three gathered, the Lord’s Supper was observed. Two or more believers could join together for prayer, bible study, fellowship or even family prayer. But “When you come together” (1 Corinthians 11:20), means the Local Assembly gathered together, not just any group or section of believers. Moreover, when the Local Assembly gathered together for Apostolic Doctrines, Prayer or Fellowship (which could be on any day), they did not keep the Lord’s Supper but kept it only on the first day of the week (Lord’s Day) as seen in Acts. 20:7. It is notable that when Paul abode seven days at Troas, the Assembly there must have gathered on other days for other aforementioned activities, but the breaking of the bread was kept only on the Lord’s Day.
Breaking of the Bread: Lessons from the Old Testament
Breaking of the bread is a memorial service of the ‘once forever sacrifice’ of Christ (Heb. 7:27; 9:12). All Old Testament sacrifices were shadows of the great sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross of Calvary. It was clearly commanded in Leviticus 17:1-3 that any sacrifice made outside the tabernacle was considered to be ‘bloodshed’ and the violators deserve to be “cut off from among people” (v. 4.). It was commanded to conduct sacrifices only at the tabernacle (v. 4). These commandments were given, to refrain people from offering sacrifices at high places that would ultimately lead to idol worship (1 Kings 3:2). These commandments were reiterated when the temple was constructed by Solomon as a permanent place of worship (House of God). Thus, all sacrifices were commanded to be offered at the temple which was the House of God for Israel. They were specifically warned that “they offer not burnt offerings at every place thou seest” (Deut. 12:13)
As the Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the ‘once and forever sacrifice’ of our Lord, it must be observed in a local Assembly which is the ‘House of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15) and not in ‘every place thou seest.’
Passover and Lord’s Supper
The institution of the Lord’s Supper by the Lord was preceded by the final Passover. He did not leave the choice with the disciples to find any place they preferred to eat the Passover but ordered to locate the ‘Guest Chamber’ of His choice (Mark 14:12-15). There He ate the Passover first and then instituted the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper has a shadow of the Passover when we gather together to remember “Christ our Passover . . . sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). The commandments concerning where the Passover should be sacrificed is mentioned in Deuteronomy 16. Note verses 2, 5, 6, etc. where it is mentioned “in the place which the Lord shall choose” (v. 2), “not sacrifice the Passover within any Gates ( v. 5) and in verse 6 it was clearly commanded “at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place His name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover . . .” In the New Testament, where did God choose to place His name? Only in His Church which is the “house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). It is only the local Assemblies which God has placed as the ‘candlesticks’ of testimony and glory (Rev. 1:20) where the saints gather together and remember ‘Christ our Passover . . . sacrificed for us ( 1 Cor. 5:7).
Thus, it is very clear that it is unscriptural to observe the Lord’s Supper other than in the gathering of a Local Assembly i.e. at any temporary gatherings, be it during believers travel together or in camps or Conferences without involving the local Assembly. It is simple and amiable that those who travel individually or in a company endeavor to find out a Local Assembly and join with them in the Lord’s Supper.