In our series we are looking at what these disciples of Jesus immediately did once they heard Peter’s message, repented and were baptized. We noticed in the last lesson that we see these 3000 people immediately devoting themselves to spiritual things. They are changing their life focus away from whatever was important to them in the past. Now they are devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of bread, to fellowship, and to prayers.
I want us to think about the word “devoted.” Think about what is implied when you say that you are devoted. We will say that a person is devoted to their spouse. What does that mean? We mean that the person pays careful attention to that person. They do not neglect their spouse but shows their spouse to be the priority. Some people are devoted to sports teams. If we said that about a person we would mean that they live and breathe their sports team. It is a priority in their life. If you are devoted to a tv show then that means you never miss an episode. What I want us to see is that being devoted to something is a very strong word. To be devoted to something means that you pay careful attention to it, you are constantly involved in it, and intentionally engaged in it.
Notice that Acts 2:42 says that these Christians devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. There are two ways that the phrase “breaking bread” is used in the scriptures. Sometimes the phrase refers to eating common meals together and sometimes the phrase refers to partaking in the Lord’s Supper together. The context has to tell us which one is being referred to. So we need to ask what sounds more likely: that Christians devoted themselves to eating meals or devoted themselves to the Lord’s Supper. Because the context refers to these Christians devoting themselves to the word of God, prayers, and fellowship, it is more fitting to consider that they devoted themselves to the Lord’s Supper. Why is the Lord’s Supper important? Why would these Christians devote themselves to this activity? There are a number of reasons given in the scriptures for the importance of the Lord’s Supper and why this activity is significant for us to do together.
The apostle Paul, when he recounts the teaching of Jesus regarding the institution of the Lord’s Supper, declares that Jesus said twice to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24,25). Think about the various commands that the Lord gave to us. Which of them did Jesus say to do as a way to remember him? The Lord’s Supper finds in significance in the fact that of all the things we do for Jesus, this is the one thing that Jesus said to do to remember him. This act is what Jesus said to do to remember him.
It says a lot that Jesus had to tell us to remember him. We have a problem with remembering. We really do have short memories. That is why as a country we have to go about making memorials so that we will stop and remember. We have made memorials in Washington, DC for the wars we engaged in as a country so that we would not forget. But think about how time and distance cause us to no longer care about significant events in world history. Pearl Harbor was a day that would live in infamy. Yet that day no longer matters much to our country or to the world. Even 9/11/2001 no longer carries the pain, weight, and significance that it did in past years. It shows how easy it is to forget. It is really easy to forget things that are commemorated on an annual basis. We are simply a forgetful people and our Lord knew this.
So Jesus wanted us to be devoted to the Lord’s Supper so that we would remember him. The most important event in world history is the arrival, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is nothing more important that has ever happened. It is an event that must not be forgotten. It is an event that cannot be quickly passed by. Jesus said to take the bread and take the cup to remember him. The Lord’s Supper can never turn into something that we just do as an act of worship or something that we need to hurry to complete. This is the one thing Jesus said to do to remember him. The only reason for its institution was so that we would stop and focus on Jesus and what he did for us.
The Lord’s Supper is an act that is to unify us together as God’s family and intimately join us to Christ. In fact, there is another name that is often given to the Lord’s Supper: communion. You see the word “union” in the word “communion.” There is union that is occurring when we take the Lord’s Supper.
First, let’s talk about the union we are to have with each other when we take the Lord’s Supper. When you read Paul’s directions for the Lord’s Supper to the Corinthians, Paul repeatedly notes that this is not an individual act, but something that we do together as God’s people (1 Corinthians 11:17, 20, 33). Three times Paul notes that this is something we do together. In fact, Paul tells these Christians to wait for each other to partake (11:21, 33). If the Lord’s Supper is something we do as individuals and do alone, then why do we come together for it and why do we wait for each other? I am stunned how often people teach that the Lord’s Supper is something you do by yourself. The Lord’s Supper is not something that you do at home. The Lord’s Supper is not something that you do by yourself. The Lord’s Supper is an act that is done together because it is a communion action. Listen to how Paul pictures this.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 ESV)
Do you hear how we are together in the Lord’s Supper? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body. How are we one body? We all partake of the one bread. Our sharing in the Lord’s Supper shows we are one body who is joined together in Christ. As we eat and drink together, we are saying that we are one. This makes sense of the text in Acts 2:42. The 3000 did not devote themselves to the Lord’s Supper in isolation. They are gathering for this.
Second, we need to see the union that is happening with Christ when we take the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 we see that the cup and the bread are a participation in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. We are participating with Jesus when we eat. So when we eat and drink, we are signifying our togetherness with each other as the people of God. Also, when we eat and drink, we are signifying our connection and sharing with Jesus. Jesus said this himself to his disciples when he instituted the Lord’s Supper.
I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29 ESV)
Notice that Jesus said that he would drink this cup again with his disciples in the Father’s kingdom. Paul said that we are partaking with Jesus. We are sharing with Jesus when we take the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps we can get no closer to Jesus than in the moments when we partake. This is one of the reasons we allow time as we eat and drink to reflect and meditate. It is our time together to draw close to Jesus who is with us as we remember him.
Another reason the Lord’s Supper is important is because we are proclaiming the Lord’s death when we partake. Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV). Paul says that when you eat and drink, you are making a statement. You are becoming a preacher in that moment, declaring the death of Jesus until he comes back. We are saying two things. We are saying that he died for us and he is coming back for us. We are remembering and declaring the sacrifice of Jesus. We partake together because we are saying to each other, “Jesus died for you and Jesus died for me.” “Jesus gave himself for you and he gave himself for me.” Not only are we hearing these words as we eat the bread and take the cup, but we are also hearing these words, “Jesus is coming back.”
Finally, the Lord’s Supper is important because it our opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror. Listen to what else the apostle Paul said regarding the Lord’s Supper.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:27–28 ESV)
The apostle Paul warns against eat and drinking in an unworthy manner. Paul’s point is not that we have to be worthy. That is not what Paul said and it is impossible for us to ever be worthy of the sacrifice that was made for us. Rather, the Corinthians were partaking in a flippant way. There were divisions among them (11:18). Think about how stunning this is. The Lord’s Supper was to bring them together as God’s family. But they were fighting over the Lord’s Supper. They were divided over the Lord’s Supper. I would proclaim great caution to anyone who would cause a problem or make a division regarding the Lord’s Supper because its purpose and meaning is against having division. Paul condemns for them for the divisions they had over it. Further, they treated the Lord’s Supper like a common meal (11:20-22). They did not wait for each other, missing the communion aspect of the Supper (11:21, 33). They were to come to the Lord’s Supper with the respect that it deserves as well as with the care for each other in this communion that the action demands.
We should be engaging our hearts and minds as we eat and drink. We are remembering Jesus because Jesus said that he should not be forgotten. Remember that what he did has changed the world and has changed your life. We engage our minds as we realize we are joining ourselves together as God’s family when we partake. Not only this, we are drawing close to Jesus who communes with us as we eat and drink. We are telling each other that Jesus died for you and we are telling each other that Jesus is coming back. So consider your heart and bring your mind to this meal and remember all that Jesus has done for you.