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Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 11:23-24


The Bread Broken

1 Corinthians 11:23-24

We are examining Paul’s directives on worship to the Corinthian Church, and in our last study, we examined the text of verse 23, and we seen that Paul was already beginning to correct the attitudes of the Corinthian church to the Lord’s Supper, and to attempt to remove the abuses which existed there. We basically noticed two important facts in our last study:-

Firstly, that Paul contrasts the fleshly, carnal, greedy worship of the church at Corinth, with the revealed Word of God. We drew the conclusion, that Paul wanted the church to conform to God’s Word in its patterns of worship, that anything which intruded into the church’s worship which was not endorsed by God in His revealed word was man made, and therefore not glorifying to God and thus unacceptable to God. It is in effect, a betrayal of the Lord!

Secondly, we noticed that Paul moves immediately from this contrast, to remind the Corinthians of what he called, ‘the night of betrayal.’ This is significant, and is placed in this context for a purpose. We noticed that the act of betrayal fell into three stages, and progressed from the Jewish Courts, to the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. We applied this to the situation today, where the institutions of the modern church can betray the Lord; even around His own Table He can be betrayed, and even in the place of prayer. We asked ourselves whether we are guilty of betrayal, by anything in our own lives that is dishonouring to Him, or contrary to His Word.

Now Paul takes his teaching on the Lord’s Supper a step further, and he begins to remind the Corinthians of the events that instituted the Supper in the first place. That immediately raises an issue of immense doctrinal importance, and it is that issue which we must examine in this study. But let us proceed with our examination of the text. We have here:-


A Spectacular Illustration!

Jesus took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it

Now the context of this act of the Lord is set at the Passover feast. Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. The meal was in progress, and at some point while they were already at the table, Jesus did something that was utterly unexpected and very dramatic indeed. He lifted a piece of bread from of the table, and He used it as a dramatic illustration of how He would be physically broken for sinners! We see here:-

The message of the bread! Bread is so important! For the Jews it was more than important, it was life itself! It was a religious symbol, for it reminded them of the time when they had wandered in the wilderness, when the Lord Himself had sustained them by providing them with manna, bread from heaven. It spoke of God’s gracious provision. John 6:31-33. Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

But bread was also the staff of life! Bread was certainly of immense importance to those who lived in Jesus’ time, for they would have had very little else to eat except bread, and perhaps a little cheese. Bread kept them alive!

A mobile telephone network changed its name, and in doing so developed and used a brilliant marketing strategy. They wanted to show that their mobile phones were just about the most important possession a person could have, in fact you simply could not survive without your mobile phone. So they renamed their entire company O2, implying that your mobile phone was second only to oxygen in importance to the individual who had one! What a great illustration! Jesus taught exactly like this. For His disciples, he used bread – something without which they would never survive, and He said, Luke 4:4 It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. John 6:48 I am that bread of life. John 6:58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. When Jesus lifted that bread at Passover it spoke volumes to those disciples!

Now notice carefully the actions of our Lord. He blessed the bread! Matthew records, Jesus took bread, and blessed it. Now some people have interpreted this as being some form of mystical prayer of invocation. It is not. Paul clarifies the meaning. He gave thanks. What was He giving thanks for? For God’s provision in the past? For what was about to transpire? For the plan of salvation? If so, then we can see in this prayer of thanksgiving an illustration of the intercessory ministry of the Lord, for His body was surely going to be broken, but for US, and for OUR sin. He was giving thanks that God was going to use His death on the Cross, the breaking of His body, as the means of our salvation! What wonderful grace, what powerful determination, what selfless dedication! Luke 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem

And He broke it. Again the symbolism is powerful, and He drives it home with His words, ‘this is my body, which is broken for you. Isaiah, in chapter 52:13-15, speaking many years before Jesus, had prophesied as to what would be the lot of the Messiah, the servant of God when he said, Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.


A Specific Instruction!

Take, eat. Notice the forcefulness of the language! We are to take this bread, and we are to eat it! Note the way this is phrased. It is not just an option it is an imperative! Jesus does not say, you may well eat this, if it pleases you, or if you feel like it! It is absolutely essential that the believer participates frequently in this remembrance feast. The bread is to be distributed! It is not enough for the ‘celebrant’ to eat the bread, or for the bread to be restricted to a select few. We are all, (believers) to eat! If there is no distribution, there cannot be any communion! Remember what Paul taught in chapter 10 about identification with the Lord, and with each other at Communion. 1 Cor. 10:16-17 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. As we break bread, we unite with each other and with Christ!

We might properly call the two sacraments, of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, ORDINANCES of the Church. There are two types of ordinances. Creation Ordinances, Work, the Sabbath and the Family, which are given to the whole of mankind, for their benefit and for their well being. New Testament ordinances, which are commanded by Christ, for His Church only, baptism and Communion.


A Strange Identification!

this is my body, which is broken for you

Now this is the area of great controversy. There are those who will argue for a doctrine known as, ‘the real presence.’ They would most be of the Catholic persuasion. (Roman Catholics, Anglo Catholics, Orthodox etc) We might call these people SACRAMENTARIANS. Now notice:-

  1. The Teachings of Sacramentalism. They will teach their people that when the priest stands at the altar and prays a certain prayer, the bread (and the wine) become the actual body and blood of the Lord Jesus. The doctrine is known as ‘transubstantiation.’ What happens then of course, is that the bread and wine are then held to be of the substance of God. They can be worshipped, they are stored in a device known as a ‘tabernacle’ (Reference to OT dwelling place of God), they are placed in a monstrance and carried about in processions, and they are worshipped as God. Eventually, they are placed on the altar again, and the ‘flesh and blood’ of Christ are sacrificed again. Jesus has to die again at the hands of the priest. You may ask, is all this really and truly believed, for it seems so incredible that a rational person would believe such a thing! It is!
  2. The Appearance of the Elements. Some people will object to this belief by simple observation. They will say that there is no apparent change in the appearance of these elements. The bread still looks like bread! But the saramentarians will tell you that there is a difference between the appearance and the accidence of the elements. Basically their argument is, the bread and wine have now changed, they are real flesh and blood, and the fact that they still look like bread and wine is just accidental!
  3. 3. The Biblical Truth. We find the Biblical doctrine well expressed for us in our historic Protestant Confessions. The Savoy Declaration states, “The doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called Transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

So what DID Jesus mean by ‘This is my body?’ It was simply what we understand these sacraments to be. They are visual aids, signs that point to something.

* When Jesus spoke, He was still in His physical human body. His disciples were in His physical presence, they knew that the bread was not actual flesh, and that the wine was not actual literal blood, but that they were REPRESENTATIONS of flesh and blood. They were dramatic illustrations, to be continually observed and enacted to help us to remember that the body of Jesus was broken and wounded for sinners, and His blood poured out for the remission of our sin. There are other texts where Christ is described as some inanimate item. Look at John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 1 Cor. 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. Now we never assume that Christ is a literal light, a literal door or a literal rock. Why then would anyone want to suggest that He was teaching us that consecrated bread become His actual flesh?

* The CUP is not transubstantiated! Notice the wording of the following verse. This CUP is the New Testament Now to be consistent, the sacramentalists would have to argue that it is not the wine that is transubstantiated, but the CUP! Of course, they never do!

* But is Christ not present as we commune together? Yes He is, but we cannot simply absorb Him or take Him by eating the bread! Christ is present by faith! Let me quote Charles Hodge  (Hodge, Charles, 1st Corinthians, Geneva Commentary, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1959 Pg 226) the 19th century Princeton theologian, The Reformed Churches teach that the bread is called the Body of Christ in the same sense as the cup is called the New Covenant. He who in faith receives the cup, receives the Covenant of which the cup is the pledge, and he who receives in faith the bread receives the benefits of Christs body as broken for sin. The one is the symbol and pledge of the other.


A Sure Insight!

this do in remembrance of me

Here we see for certain, exactly what Jesus meant. This is the conclusive proof. We are to attend at the Lord’s Supper, so that we may be directed to the Cross, so that we may remember Him! The Lord’s Supper points us to Christ, and to His great sacrifice for us! Luke 24:35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

Their hair is grey, their shoulders are slumped and they walk with the shuffle of the aged. Their ship, a rusty antique, wallowed through the Atlantic, battered by a winter storm. For the elderly crew of LST-325, a creaking World War II troop ship that had been taken out of service in 1946, it was the last chance to recapture their youth–and to preserve their exploits for future generations. Ironically, the U.S. Coast Guard deemed the voyage from Greece to Mobile, Alabama unsafe. The same daring that lead these men to ignore deadly enemy fire lead them to ignore the Coast Guard warnings. The ship, now safe at harbour in Alabama, will be the first memorial to the heroism of the Amphibious land craft crews.

The crew of WWII battled ancient equipment, 110-degree heat, cockroaches, governmental regulations and the death of a crewmember to secure the old vessel and make it seaworthy. “They tried to stop us at times, but we knew that we could do it.” LST-325 will serve as a double-memorial to the men who served bravely under fire during the war, and then fought once again to reclaim her from the scrap heap. (Newsweek, January 22, 2001, p. 12, )

Great acts of bravery and deliverance cry out for a perpetual reminder for future generations. There was no greater deliverance than that of Calvary’s Cross-! We must remember! We must never forget! God in His great mercy for us, has seen us in our sinfulness and our human frailty. He knows that we are prone to forget, and so He has given us the Lord’s Supper, so that our minds will never stray too far from the Cross, and it is more than just a casual remembrance. The Lord’s Supper will enable the believer to actively stir up His memory and to direct that focused mind toward the Lord. This is the purpose of the Communion Service. It is a great stirring up of the memory and mind, so that we may properly thank the Lord and be motivated for service!

From → Sermon Notes

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