Question: "What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the breaking of bread?"
Answer: The Bible uses the expression “breaking of bread” in different ways. First, Acts 2:42-46 describes the early church breaking bread as part of their fellowship: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." The early Christians came together regularly for common meals, which included the breaking of bread. Acts 2:44 refers to them having “everything in common,” and this no doubt included sharing meals together, each one receiving from the others what they needed. Verse 46 describes them breaking bread in their homes.
Another type of breaking of bread is that observed at the Lord’s Supper or Christian communion. During the Last Supper, described in 1 Corinthians 11:23-39, Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” The breaking of bread at that first communion table has been re-enacted down through the centuries as a way of remembering that first celebration of both His sacrifice on the cross and the institution of the New Covenant in His blood (v. 25). Henceforth, each celebration of the Lord’s Supper includes the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup of the fruit of the vine.
Another significance of the broken bread is the symbolism of Christ, the Bread of Life, being broken on the cross for our sin. At the first communion in the upper room, Jesus describes the breaking of the bread in these terms: “This is my body, broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Although not a bone of Jesus’ body was broken on the cross (John 19:31-33, 36; Psalm 34:20), His skin and flesh were torn and broken by blows with rods and fists, by whippings and scourgings, by thorns, nails, and spears. His body and soul were divided from each other by death, and by that brokenness, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). As His people, we participate in His sufferings and brokenness, being broken by sin as He was broken by the punishment He willingly received for our redemption. “And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).
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