What is the proper order for the breaking of bread meeting?
From 1 Corinthians 14:40 we know that godly order should characterize the Breaking of Bread. We are confident that the Word of God is a complete guide, and so we expect it to afford a pattern for this important and cherished gathering.
1 Corinthians 14 deals with speaking in tongues, but in doing so describes features of an assembly meeting. Paul equates “bless” with “giving of thanks” in verse 16, linking this gathering with what he describes in chapter 10:16, giving thanks for the cup and the bread. Thus, the gathering described in chapter 14 at least includes the Breaking of Bread. Prayer, blessing, giving thanks, and singing are part of that gathering (14:15-17). Verse 26 indicates that all were ready to participate and that a number did contribute.
Although 1 Corinthians 10, in keeping with the context, gives the moral order of blessing the cup (fellowship with God) and breaking the bread (fellowship with the assembly’s believers) (v 16), the chronological, historical order is in 11:23-29: breaking bread, then taking the cup.
Acts 20 records a gathering specifically for the breaking of bread. Verses 7-12 show that Paul concluded the assembly’s meeting to break bread by ministering to them from the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 teaches that material giving accompanied their gathering on the first day of the week.
Because God is a God of order, we conclude then that the believers gathered to break bread and, before doing so, their united songs and prayers of thanksgiving were consistent with the purpose of their gathering, to remember the Lord. Any opening of the Scriptures was likewise directed to this purpose. They then united in thanksgiving for the bread and all shared in the loaf. Following this, they united in blessing God for the cup and partook of it. At some point, after the believers carried out the intended purpose of breaking bread, they gathered together their material offering. Reading and teaching from the Word of God would appropriately conclude this meeting. Such ministry extended, was consistent with, or grew from the worship and devotion expressed in the breaking of bread.
When does the worship end at the Breaking of Bread?
Believers who worship by the Spirit of God (Phi 3:3) will come to the Breaking of Bread with overflowing hearts (Psalm 45:1). Their worship begins before they come, but their united worship begins as the meeting opens. How could an assembly remember the Lord (1Co 11:24, 25) without worshiping? The united worship ends with a closing prayer, but the fragrance of worship lingers in spiritual hearts long after the gathering is dispersed. Any prayer or singing following the actual breaking of bread will continue the worship. Since the believers have already “declared the Lord’s death” (1Cor 11:26), it is likely that the Spirit would lead the worship to emphasize the Lord’s resurrection and glory. Spirit-led ministry at the close of the meeting would hardly quench the spirit of worship in the gathering.
And there is ample reason why worship should be integral to all our gatherings. Worship will be our eternal occupation.
Is taking the bread and the cup an addendum to the Breaking of Bread?
The reason for this question is likely because sometimes taking the bread and cup may appear to be rushed, a necessary ritual before a hurried conclusion to the meeting. As with the assembly in Troas on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6, 7), our stated objective in our primary meeting on Lord’s Day is to break bread. Our singing, thanksgiving, and Scripture readings are subservient to this purpose. “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1Co 11:24, 25) specifically refers to taking the bread and drinking the cup. An unlearned believer (14:16, 23, 24) may enter into the hymns and prayers of worship, but can remember the Lord only when he is in assembly fellowship and partakes of the two emblems, the bread and cup. Remembering the Lord in the breaking of bread is the high point of the gathering. All that precedes it leads up to it; all that follows flows from it.
How is our priesthood related to the Breaking of Bread?
Old Testament priests offered for themselves (Hebrews 9:27), but primarily their work was mediatory. They functioned on behalf of others. When New Testament priests offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), they express what they have personally enjoyed of Christ, but they are offering worship to God on behalf of other believers. The worship of both sisters and brothers in Christ ascends to God in each expression of praise, for all are holy priests. The males lead in praise, as taught in 1 Corinthians 14:34, while the sisters are silent. All join in saying “Amen” to the words of thanksgiving (v 16), because those words have expressed their thanksgiving.
Younger brothers in Christ help the gathering as they express their heartfelt appreciation of the Lord. Understanding their role as priests may increase the value of their contributions. Each is not merely adding his voice to the praise, but is expressing his appreciation as part of the assembly’s worship.