Breaking of Bread
We believe that we should be continually devoting ourselves “to the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). This means regularly remembering Christ as He has requested with bread and wine. Scripture records: “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” (Luke 22:19-20).
We believe the Lord used bread and wine as symbols to help us to call to mind His person and work. The bread reminds us of Christ s body broken for us on the cross. The wine reminds us of His blood poured out for our sins (Matthew 26:28). We are to proclaim the Lord’s death in this manner “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Scriptures call this memorial feast “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) or “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). In partaking of the bread and wine, a person is expressing personal faith in Christ as Savior (1 Corinthians 10:16). We partake of the one loaf together as an expression of our unity in Christ. Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
We apply these doctrines as follows
Remembering the Lord
Instituted by the Lord Himself, we consider the Lord’s Supper to be the primary meeting of the church. Our goal is to remember Him and what He has done for us (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:26). A time to exalt our risen Savior, the experience can also be bittersweet, as we rejoice in the benefits of our salvation and call to mind the price it cost Him.
As the early Christians, we normally meet on “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7), the day of His resurrection, the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). We seek to remember Him weekly. We recognize, however, that circumstances may prevent some local churches from enjoying this privilege each week or on the Lord’s Day.
The Scriptures teach that our worship should be Spirit led (John 4:23; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 2:18). For this reason, rather than following a preplanned liturgy, we should seek to make room for a degree of spontaneity. It is best to allow the Holy Spirit to preside over the meeting, rather than one of the elders. Care should be taken not to quench the Spirit through rigidity, formalism, and tradition (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This does not mean that every aspect of the meeting needs to be left to the personal leading of the participants.
The Scriptures instruct us that the meetings of the church are to be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, though we desire that our worship be spontaneous, there is also an order to our observance of the Lord’s Supper. The breaking of bread, as many of us observe it, typically lasts about one hour. All are asked to arrive early, quietly take their seat, and spend the time until the meeting begins considering the Lord and His saving work. At the appropriate time, one of the brothers will open the meeting with a prayer, hymn, or insight from the Word. The other brothers are then free to do the same. As the Spirit directs, a theme of worship generally becomes apparent. All publicly participating should be sensitive to the Spirit s leading and be brief so as to allow opportunity for others (1 Corinthians 14:29-33). After a time, one of the brothers gives thanks for the bread. Breaking it, we then pass it among the believers to partake. In like manner, someone will give thanks for the wine and it will be distributed. The meeting normally concludes with the taking of an offering to be used for the work of the Lord conducted through the assembly and the missionaries that it supports.
Others observe the Lord’s Supper using different formats. The important thing is that we remember Christ as He requested under the guidance of the Spirit.
Some local churches have found it helpful to use individual cups rather than a single cup, grape juice instead of wine, or bread that is readily available rather than unleavened bread as is used at the Jewish Passover. Changes such as these may result in a loss of some symbolism, but if found needful are not a substantial hindrance to remembering the Lord as He requested.
Participation at the Lord’s Supper
We welcome to the Lord’s table those who know the Lord Jesus and are walking in fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 10:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; see also Reception). We counsel the person who has doubts about his relationship with the Lord or his spiritual condition to refrain from participation until the matter is resolved (1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Matthew 5:23,24). Unbelievers seeking God are welcome to attend and observe, but are asked not to partake of the bread and wine (1 Corinthians 14:16-25). Some have come to faith in this way.
As priests unto God, every believer, audibly or silently as is appropriate, should actively participate at the breaking of bread. Together we are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:10). We are to “offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Before remembering the Lord, each Christian is responsible to examine himself (1 Corinthians 11:26-34). If there is sin in his life, he should confess and forsake it (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). If a brother has an offense against him, he should first go and be reconciled to him (Matthew 5:23,24). If there is division in a church, the Christians should resolve it before witnessing to their unity by partaking of the one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17). At the same time, Christians who have a clear conscience before God or who have taken the necessary corrective steps to deal with past sins should partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28; Romans 5:1,2).
Every true Christian shares in Christ the same exalted position before God and is part of a holy and royal priesthood (Galatians 3:26-28; 1 Peter 2:5,9). The Lord Jesus has made us “priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). As such we each have direct access through the Son in the Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Though in the Old Testament the Jew had a priestly tribe, we find no clerical class or distinction made between clergy and laity in the New Testament church. For this reason, we should not use titles, religious garb, or seating arrangements to distinguish some believers from the rest (Matthew 23:5-12; James 2:1-3).
The meetings of the early church were open to the participation of various members, sharing according to their gift and calling (1 Corinthians 14:26). The Scriptures, however, limit the role of publicly addressing the assembly to the men (1 Corinthians 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:8-15). The reason for this is God’s purpose in creation for man and woman. God created Adam first, then Eve from Adam to be his spouse and helpmate (Genesis 2:18-25; 1 Corinthians 11:8,9). God created both man and woman in His image (Genesis 1:27). Man, however, is the glory of God, while “woman is the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7). As a further testimony of their acceptance of God’s creative order, Scripture instructs Christian men to uncover their heads and Christian women to cover their heads while praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
Music is an important part of Christian worship. Singing without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella) has a unique beauty and place in lifting our hearts up to the Lord. A variety of instruments properly used can also enhance Christian worship (Psalm 150:1-6; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 25:6). Christians should appreciate their rich heritage in the great hymns of the faith passed down from previous generations. They should also welcome quality Christian music composed by their current generation. Scripture instructs, Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1). Christian song should have the glory of God as its goal, not the entertainment of the congregation. Its theme and focus should be similar to that of the many sacred songs or psalms recorded in Scripture. Lyrics should be biblically sound. Given their poetical and emotive nature, however, we cannot measure lyrics by the same standard of precision that we would require of a doctrinal statement.