The Bread Which We Break
by Henry Dyer
It is laid upon my heart to say a word, more especially to younger fellow-saints, as to the more exact and precious meaning of this command of breaking of the bread and drinking of the cup; for not only is it a distinct command, but it is filled to the very brim with God's thoughts, and we need to draw out from the very act the meaning that He would impress. God's ordinances in the Church are very simple, and therefore are they also very brief—I refer to the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
On that very account, because as an action it is so very brief, we need to have our thoughts gathered up to the brief moment of the action; otherwise we may think it enough if we obey. It is sweet to obey, it is sweeter far to have the full meaning of the act as we obey; for we not only please by our subjection, but we enjoy communion with the Father's thoughts. Again, I remark, that the very simplicity causes great brevity, and I thank God for Scriptural simplicity, but I tremble over the brevity. I could never baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost—and it is the most solemn action my fingers have ever done, and the words the most solemn my lips have ever uttered, words which we could utter over no angel in heaven,—I could never, I say, perform that action which is registered in heaven and upon earth, without marveling how soon it was over; and I have wondered if any have gone down to the wondrous depths, or risen to the infinite heights of it. And I have prayed that none of us might fail to gel the vastness of precious Christian baptism.
So with the Lord's Supper. We sit in our seats and partake of it, passing it from one to another, and two, three, or four hundred will quickly partake. But, I ask, has each one as he broke that loaf remembered something of all that which it is meant to remind us of? Has each one, as he has drunk of that cup, realized something of all that it is meant to teach? It is soon done. Oh for blessed preparation! Let our first thought as we wake on the morning of the Lord's day be, that at such and such an hour I shall be partaking of the Lord's Supper; lest late rising, and the hasty meal, late arrival, and hasty partaking, do our souls no good, and we do not justice to that brief action. Oh, we need to remember the preciousness of the ordinances of God's house! Of Jehovah's dwelling-place of old it was said, that every whit of it uttered glory, not a cord or a pin but did; and not a whit of this feast but does. Shall I have handled a crumb, or put my lip to the cup, and did it not utter glory? There are depths and a fullness of meaning for us, but we must be taught how to gather them up, by meditation, and by the Spirit's teaching.
God in these fifty or sixty years past, has brought together more children of His to partake of the Supper of the Lord, than even in centuries before; and I thank God that they do so gather, it is Scriptural. "On the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread." But the oftener we partake, the more need to have its meaning deepened and graven within us. It is a saying with the world that "familiarity breeds contempt." Alas, if the state of our soul be such that it does not get much wisdom from the action, for, if so, it will not get much from the teaching.
Now, therefore, I want to point out one or two simple things, and first, as respects the bread. Please, dear youthful fellow-saints, please to remember that the bread which thus we break, has two very distinct and different meanings. It has first, which we well know, the meaning of our once broken Lord Himself. "We cannot look at a fragment upon the table and not have many a thought come up about Him.
Secondly, it teaches us that we, in God's sight, are one family—one loaf. I turn to two Scriptures for these two different meanings. The first is in 1 Cor. xi., we read from verse 23, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you; that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed,"— and that act of betraying brought Him to be the broken One upon the tree,—"took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is My body,"—that is, an emblem of what My body will soon be; it is about to be the broken thing,—"this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me." This and many other passages supply the first meaning, namely, that this loaf portrays in vivid figure the broken One, broken for you; to bring to your mind whenever the time comes for you to partake in this particular action, "Oh Lord Jesus, Thou was broken for me, my sins broke Thee upon the cross 1800 years ago!" Dear friends, the thought indeed is deep. It brings in the infinite knowledge of God, who knew all my sins, and put them all upon His Son, and omitted not one upon the solemn cross; sins, not of my unregeneracy only, but the darker and blacker sins since I have been a saint. And the sins of me as a believer, are infinitely more guilty than the sins which could have sent me to hell, because they are sins against love I knew not then. And all were laid upon Him. Oh to gather up the blessed remembrance time after time, as we again and again break the bread. And the breaking means every time more to you. Have not you, since last you broke it, discovered more of your wanderings and your sins? Have you had a very careless week? If not, have you indulged in half-hours of idleness? Have you spoken an idle word? Jesus died upon the cross for that. Remember, it is not a whole life-time of a sinner's sins which dooms him, but one single sin. Thus the loaf to me to-day, means more than it did last Lord's Day. Have I got more acquainted with it? Only as I have grown in self-knowledge, have I learned how much more it cost Him than last week I knew. Therefore, let me break it with more solemn remembrance.
It does not mean the same to everyone, but to each one what he discovers it to be. Oh, may our discovery of it greatly increase, and that shall only be by the increasing knowledge of what He bore upon the cross for me! Have we come here to-day with unexercised souls without having had communion with Him over His love to us? Then, sure I am that it has only been an outward action and without meaning. The augmenting of the sin is not in fact, but in your acquaintance with it. Oh may you every week learn something of how much you owe, that every week may deepen the reality as you partake of that bread! There is the same abundance on the table for all, but the meal is according to the appetite. "Didst Thou die upon the cross for every shortcoming of mine in the week gone by? Then Lord Jesus, I know Thee better, and I love Thee more!"
Now suppose I partook of it alone, and in my chamber; then it would be but my individual apprehension of what He did for me. But if I partake with others, there is not only the individual remembrance, but the collective thought, "Didst Thou bear the sins of all these who are here?"
" Oh Christ! what burdens bowed Thy head;
Our load was laid on Thee."
Why friends, it seems a more solemn thing to break bread with twenty than with ten, and with a hundred than with twenty; it ought to be to my waiting soul. And as the assembly grows, there will be no puffing up, but a going down, as we see how much Christ has done; and we shall be much lower down in the sense of the mighty depths of His love the greater the assembly is. What did each of the many hands mean as they broke the loaf? Each said, "Lord Jesus, I broke Thee at the cross;" and all are drawn together, for all said the same. But it needs watchfulness really to say it.
"Thus while His cross my sins displays,
In all their blackest hue.
—and blackest are the sins of our regeneracy,—
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now gets filled;
That I should such a life destroy,”
—and that is what the action meant, by my sins I killed Him, "He loved me and gave Himself for me," goes from lip to lip,
"Yet live by Him I killed."
Oh! friends, is it not enough to make us self-abhorred as we joy and rejoice in Him?
Now turn a moment to the other meaning. In chapter x. of this same epistle to the Corinthians, we read, verse 14: "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." He was writing to the saints, the community of the children of God in Corinth, and is referring to the ordinary meal-tables of the general community there, that they should not get snared into companionship with idols. "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion"—that is, fellowship together—"of the blood of Christ?" The word "supper" is not used, but it is the fellowship in which we are by coming under the precious blood. It speaks further back of "Christ our passover, sacrificed for us; "therefore it puts the cup first, because fellowship begins with the blood. The household was formed by coming through the blood-stained door; the fellowship is formed by means of faith in the precious blood of Christ. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" But what body is meant? Read verse 17: "For we being many are one bread and one body." Hence it is not Jesus, but the body of the mystical Christ—the Church. "We being many are one loaf and one body." Now, mark the use which the apostle makes of the loaf here. He makes it the emblem of the unity of the partakers. When that same flour passed through the kneading trough and the oven, it became a united thing. We were all separated one from another, but have now confessed that we have died in Him, and that we are one with Him, and one in Him; and as it took force to break that loaf, it should take force indeed to break this fellowship. Are we to go hence, then, and forget one another? Far from it. We are to behave as members one of another. Why? Did not I break bread with you, and thus confess that we are one? You and I said each, "Jesus died for me;" and are we not to care one for another? We may go away to our different homes, and to our varied occupations; but, wherever we are, let us remember that we are one with fellow-saints, and remember that we confessed our union when we broke bread.
Hence all the business of caring for, admonishing, and instructing one another. "I care for every limb of my natural body, shall I then let you go off into idolatry, and not care for you?'' says the apostle. The death of Jesus upon the tree was to make us one—"members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ! For we being many are one loaf and one body; for we are all partakers of that one loaf." Ah! but if the first meaning of the loaf does not get deep down into my soul, I shall not be ready to accept the responsibilities and duties of our membership one with another. When Paul said, "He loved the Church and gave Himself for it," he exhorted all the elders to "take heed to all the flock," and to "feed the Church of God." Let us see to it that we are at this business of pastors and teachers; and that is not all, but "all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility." But if the breaking of the bread be the mere passing action, and we forget the deep meanings God would teach us in it, it is pretty sure that we shall not care much for the body of Christ during the week. One thing that alarms me in God's Church is, that if I went astray in my soul, there is hardly any one that asks me about my soul. We converse upon many and necessary topics, but how seldom am I asked the question, "Dear friend, how is it with your soul?" And why is it? Because there is too little the recollection that each one is taught by the precious death upon the tree—that Jesus died, not only to save you from hell, but that "you might be a fruitful garden upon the earth".
Aaron would have missed a loaf from that table of shewbread had there been less than twelve; and he would have missed the frankincense had it not been upon the top (Lev. xxiv. 7)---the beauty of the Lord upon every one of the twelve. Is the frankincense of "heaven and of God upon your daily life, my brother? In the counting-house or in the warehouse, upon the railway, or in the family life at the meal-table? Ah! if the meal-tables of the saints were filled with what the Lord's table teaches, every meal would have the preciousness of the table of the Lord in it. If I sit at the breakfast-table or the dinner-table with you, shall I forget that we bowed together in worship, and together broke the bread, and talk folly with you across the table to-morrow? And the top of the week is cut off from the rest. We are one loaf, and the Lord keep us from leaven. The Israelite was to search leaven from his four-walled house, and you and I are to search leaven from our conversation during our daily life, and at our, daily meals; and, then, happy when the Lord comes to take us to dwell with Him, above, forever, be it what day it may.