How often did the early Church meet for the breaking of the bread?
The early Church had weekly communion and later some churches changed this. This letter explains how and why this happened. In the early Church they met for the breaking of the bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). In later centuries another tradition began to take place, and that was the removal of communion from the Sunday worship service, thus breaking with the early Biblical tradition.
Fr. Stephen Barham, who was once an Assembly of God minister and now a Catholic priest, explains the history behind this new tradition: There was a Church born in the 1840’s in America by a Presbyterian minister. The Presbyterian minister studied and found out that the reason they didn’t have communion every Sunday was because the city officials in Geneva forbade John Calvin to have communion every Sunday. And John Calvin said; 'herein have we departed from the New Testament.' The New Testament Church only met for communion. When I was Assembly‘s of God, we had communion once a month. And I never thought about it; why didn’t we have it every Sunday? Where did we get the idea once a month? And somebody said well if we had it every Sunday it would get common. Hey, it had nothing to do with the Bible. I thought I was in a Bible church and yet I realized I was doing something, what, that the Bible never heard of, and that was having a church service without communion.
- DAILY COMMUNION SERVICE: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46).
- BREAKING BREAD EVERY WEEK ON THE FIRST DAY: On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread (Acts 20:7).
- COLLECTION EVERY WEEK ON THE FIRST DAY: On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever he can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come (1 Cor 16:2).
I find it interesting that the early Church had a weekly collection and a weekly communion service and today there are churches that still take a weekly collection, but have given up the Biblical practice of a weekly communion service? It seems there is a great emphasis on the collection and less emphasis on the breaking of the bread in some churches! Of course there are many groups such as Catholic, Anglican, some Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox who keep with this Biblical pattern of a weekly communion service.
Many of your newer churches that call themselves Bible believing do not have a weekly breaking of the bread, for the same reason that Fr Barham has given. They are trying to build their churches on a Biblical model, and I commend them for attempting to do this, but if they don’t have a weekly breaking of the bread they are not, in this instance, following the Biblical model.
- Watson, a detractor of the Mass had this to say: Therefore, how impious are the Papists. They offer him up daily in the mass, as if Christ’s sacrifice on the cross were imperfect. This is a blasphemy against Christ’s priestly office. What Watson doesn't seem to realize is that along with a weekly breaking of the bread they also had a daily communion service. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes (Acts 2:46).
We know Jesus can offer Himself. How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences, from dead works to worship the loving God (Heb 9:14). And so Jesus offered Himself, but can we offer Jesus in the breaking of the bread, or is this blasphemy as Watson alleges.
He believes that we can’t offer Jesus often in Mass and even suggests that if we do so, we are admitting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was imperfect and a blasphemy against Christ’s priestly service? Is Watson correct? Is the offering of Jesus, in the breaking of the bread, blasphemy against Christ’s priestly office? What does the Bible say about this, if anything?
- In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as OFTEN as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes' (1 Cor 11:25-26).
In reference to the question, can we offer Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the Lord Jesus and Paul said, DO THIS. Jesus did not say that offering Jesus in the breaking of the bread takes away from His cross and He did not say that offering Jesus is blasphemy against Christ. He also said as OFTEN as you drink it How often; we already covered that they broke bread and drank the wine daily and weekly. If you wish to hear the sound of silence ask an Evangelical how often they break bread.
Another detractor of the Catholic faith, Alfonso Perez calls the reenactment of the Last Supper (Mass), a “SYMBOLIC REMEMBRANCE.” We do continue to reenact the Last Supper in every Mass; however, when he calls it a symbolic remembrance this is coming from his tradition. Nowhere does it say that this remembrance is symbolic or insufficient in the Bible. This is coming from his man-made tradition not from the Bible.
What Alphonse calls "symbolic remembrance," Jesus calls true food and true drink; "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (Jn 6:55). As for me I will not follow a tradition that is at odds with the words of Jesus; I must follow Jesus.
Some people insist that a Church service should be on Saturday; however, in honor of the Resurrection of Jesus, most churches Protestant and Catholic observe the Lords Day on Sunday. The Apostle Paul discusses this issue and his point is whatever day we observe we, "observe it for the Lord." "(For) one person considers one day more important than another, while another person considers all days alike. Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the Lord. Also whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while whoever abstains, abstains for the Lord and gives thanks to God" (Rom 14:5-6). Almost all Christian Churches observe the day on Sunday, with the exception of the 7th day groups such as Jehovah Witness, 7th Day Adventist and 7th day Baptist.
We can conclude by saying that the followers of Jesus met on the first day of the week. And they took a collection every Sunday (the first day of the week). They also broke bread on the first day of the week. Churches that don’t do this are not following the Biblical model. Jesus did His part and He was the first to offer, the breaking of the bread. And now it is time for us to do our part and this is why we are commanded to DO THIS in regards to, the breaking of the bread.
ROBERT SCHONEMAN: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts2:42). It could be said that the Eucharist drew me into the Catholic Church. When I became a Christian, I felt it was important to partake of the Lord's Supper, but was disappointed that the Baptist and non-denominational churches I attended only had a communion service every few months. Imagine my surprise when I attended a weekday Mass and learned that the Catholic Church had Communion daily! And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers Acts2:42.