Question:

I have two questions that are causing me quite a bit of concern.

  1. We no longer "break the bread". Not just the lead server but nobody "breaks" even the slightest portion of the bread. It's a no break needed setup. We pull back a tab and eat the small wafer contained within.

    A sub concern of this is that I don't know if this bread is matzah. We used to purchase matzah made by a national Jewish baking company that holds high standards for their bread that ensure (in my mind) that their bread would be the same type Jesus would have used in that upper room when he established this memorial.

  2. Another thing introduced with this is that we have made some of the packs available with gluten-free bread. This gluten-free bread is made with soybeans ground up fine and used as flour. I have read online that Jewish worshipers do not accept this alternative bread as a replacement for the Passover bread they have been serving from the time of Moses until now. They use only wheat flour and water mixed and baked. I understand barley flour is acceptable to them if wheat is not available. The Catholic Church has made a similar finding along the lines that soy bread is not really a bread at all and certainly not the bread Jesus used. As a side note, the gluten-free wafers contain no leaven.

I did search your site before writing you and found you using the word "matzah" in the article about people wanting to take communion outside of the assembly. Taking their matzah and grape juice with them as they travel. And I already understand from another article that you don't believe it is necessary for the leader to perform the initial breaking of the bread but observed that it is still broken by the individuals as they partake of the passed pieces.

I believe COVID has done much damage to the church. We even suspended the assembly for several weeks on government orders. Restarted later as "an act of love" to protect the members from physical sickness and death. We substituted an online service that remains an option to this day. (I believe this is an invalid option) Needless to say, our attendance has never recovered and is still down by about 50% from pre-COVID.

Thank you for your time. I hope to find some answers here and depending on what help you give, I will attempt to return us to a scriptural observance. I hope I'm not just clinging to customs as I have practiced before COVID. Customs for custom's sake are no good. Scriptural worship pleasing to God is the only way to go. I am impressed by the way you bring Scripture to support your statements. I am not so good. I'm not so "instant in season and out of season". That is why I fear that I may be following the traditions of men. My weakness is "proving all things." I'm not from Berea, but I try.

Thank you.

Answer:

I touched on this issue in "What do you think about offering wafers with the communion bread."

Also, see "Can salt be used in unleavened bread?"

The bread must be unleavened. It doesn't have to be matzah. My wife makes unleavened bread for the family and puts the juice in some tiny Tupperware "midgets". The pieces of unleavened bread are big enough to break before eating. Even when we travel and they only have the wafers, I will break the wafer before eating it.

I agree that the fear of COVID (not the disease itself) has done damage to the Lord's people. Instead of focusing on what we've lost, we need to focus on rebuilding and growing what we have. Those who are attending, despite the disease, show commitment to the Lord and make a good foundation for the local church. These days, it is more challenging, but I believe God's people will rise to the challenge.

Question:

Thank you so much. Your reply with scripture and reasoning did not disappoint. If those articles already existed I'm sorry I didn't find them on my own. Thank you for linking to them so I didn't have to search again.

You mention that the bread does not have to be matstsâh. But just as we decern that the bread was unleavened, can't we also decern that the bread was matstsâh because they were observing the feast established in Exodus chapter 12?

(long section listing out definitions of unleavened bread and the words for anointed)

It is on these bases:

  1. That the tradition is well maintained and the bread is a very specific item within that usage
  2. The original Hebrew word for that bread he would have been eating actually is matstsâh. That is the basis of my concern.

One more basis for my concern is the tendency for people (in this case my congregation) to drift over time. I fear that this (and the COVID adaptations) creates a departure point (much like the introduction of musical instruments into worship created a departure point.) Would your relative actually have refused to eat the bread if Jesus passed it to her that night? Would you have argued with him that you could substitute something else?

I believe this is a great time to step back and re-examine the basic underlying reasons why we were doing what we have done for so long and not just decided to adjust those practices to address some newly discovered concerns and move on like there is nothing to see here.

My concern is for the church. I have been asking for a study (here locally) for weeks now. I have considered starting my own congregation if these issues rise to the level of properly observing the Lord's Supper.

  1. I don't know if I would be up to that task.
  2. It may, (probably would) cause a division within an existing congregation. (This is only good if the cause is just and necessary).

I'm sure you would agree that at some point proper observation of the Lord's Supper could rise to that level of concern and action. But if I am wrong, if these issues do not rise to that level, what would I have done? On the other hand, if I am right but do nothing, what have I ignored?

I appreciate your discussion. It is good to ask others for their understanding of the Scriptures. I will continue asking both for a study here within my local congregation and asking others whom I regard as well qualified in the Scriptures, for their advice on this and any other questions that I have trouble resolving for myself. It would be good for my soul my wife's soul, and for the church, in general, to make certain we each, and all together, are observing the Lord's Supper correctly.

Thank you again. May God bless your work.

If you have any other comments or advice after reading this, I would appreciate it.

Answer:

The Hebrew word matstsah means "bread without leavening." No recipe for this bread was given in the Scriptures. Matzah bread meets the requirement for unleavened bread, but it is a flaw to restrict what God said when other breads equally meet the definition of unleavened bread.

This is what Jesus scolded the Jews of his day for doing. They had added all sorts of rules and traditions on top of what God had recorded in the Bible. "Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread'" (Matthew 15:1-2). Washing hands before meals is not wrong. But it is wrong to say this tradition was required because God never gave this rule. Jesus' response to the Pharisees was to quote Isaiah: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Matthew 15:8-9).

The problem is that it is wrong to add or subtract from God's teachings (Deuteronomy 12:32). Since God said "unleavened bread" and did not state any recipe for that bread, then any unleavened bread meets the command. Restricting it to one type of unleavened bread is subtracting from what God allowed. Worse, you are arguing for this based on men's traditions and not from God's teachings. This is certainly not a reason for splitting a congregation.

Question:

Thank you again. I respect your Bible knowledge, which is much deeper than mine. You have hit upon the very thing that I want to avoid (tradition over Scripture). My understanding must be flawed and I really need to read, pray and understand this more.

I feel so stupid when I overreact to some small point. I miss the mark in many ways. Especially when I experience strict teachings on one subject and then experience all this wiggle room on another. Perhaps, (certainly) I need to pray more when I study. This is part of what I meant when I said "I don't know if I would be up to the task". I grew up in what some would call a very conservative congregation. Sometimes I felt like (by my reading and understanding of Scripture) fences were being placed beyond what the scriptures actually taught. I think that experience leans me toward observing things that were not really absolute. You know, like God saying not to eat of the tree but Eve telling Satan she couldn't even touch it lest you die.

You are correct that the Jews constructed what I might regard as "safety's" around God's commands and extrapolated more than God ever intended from all kinds of things.

But then they also at other times disregarded requirements, like Nadab and Abihu or Uzzah. I have a lot of trouble decerning absolutely critical things apart from the safety nets. Also "safety nets" are no good at all, even detrimental, if misapplied.

I know loving God is the greatest commandment and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Christ himself put these two as foremost and did not let one be separated from the other when he taught that. I also know that loving God means keeping His commandments.

Here is a tripping point for me on this very topic of the Lord's supper. As part of the restoration movement, it was stressed to imitate the first-century church in every way. Many of the things we practice today are based on this principle. We meet on the first day of the week because they did. We immerse because they did, we sing without instruments because they did. We know they did these things because they are recorded in God's word (sometimes as absolutes sometimes by inference) and handed down to us. But some things elude me, as in this case. We trust that the bread was unleavened because it was during the week of the unleavened bread. But we cannot conclude it was matzah because that is what the jews always used. They know what it is that they have been using ever since the night of the last plague of Egypt. They gather together in family groups and pass the practice from generation to generation. Parents to children every year at Passover. (and the jews do have a formula. Wheat flour and water). anyway, I would guess that's how so many congregations of the church today came to use the Jewish matzah as the bread of the Lord's supper. Following that would be as "safe" as you could get.

I see that "breaking bread" can mean just eating it, but as it is pictured Jesus blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. It sounds to me like breaking it as in breaking off a piece for himself to consume and passing it so they could do likewise. It could have said he gave them slices but it doesn't. It could have indicated multiple breads on a plate that got passed but it doesn't. The bread is singular (as his body also is singular). And they each broke it and ate it (ate it also = broke it) as it was passed among them. How do I know!

As you can see I am really "not up to it". Your advice is golden. I will not start another congregation over this issue. But I hope that with prayer and study I will come to better divide the word. I have relied too much on just following what was being done without preparing for the day when I would be called on to be the one who understood the Word and ensured that the worship of God was passed correctly to the next generation. But now, this year, so many things are changing in our congregation. I fear that they are leaving the path as I have known it. Just as other congregations have done before them. I don't want to base my worship on tradition but I also don't want to sit quietly by and watch a good congregation drift away and be left with friends who become lost and have no good place for my wife and me to attend in fellowship and participate in the worship.

Please understand how much I value the things you teach from La Vista. I believe them to align with the Word and also with what I had been taught so far in my life. So I trust and value your advice. You are not attached to the changes being implemented here and so trapped into defending them. You offer a truly unbiased viewpoint. Or should I say a viewpoint biased only by the Word? Just teaching the Word as you understand it.

Thank you from my heart to yours.
A struggling brother in Christ,

Answer:

Whenever a command is given, it sets a boundary up of what is allowed, but at the same time, it doesn't eliminate the flexibility to fulfill the command within the boundary. For example, the command to sing in Ephesians 5:19 eliminates music that is not singing but there is still flexibility to sing Gregorian chants or four-part harmonies. It isn't proper to argue that certain music styles were used in the first-century so therefore only those styles can be used in worship today.

I remember visiting a small congregation in England when I was a young man. The bread was like what I would call a biscuit in the United States. I asked how it was made and concluded it was unleavened bread, just done differently from what I was used to. It startled me at first, but I realized that I was using my expectations and not what God said. Nothing said that unleavened bread had to be flat.

Eve's mistake was that she altered the boundaries of God's command by saying you could not even touch the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By making God's command more restrictive than God made it, it gave Satan room to plant seeds of doubt in Eve's mind. Nothing happened when Eve eventually touched the fruit, so then she would wonder whether eating was really wrong.

I think the mistake you are making is putting emphasis on doing everything as the first-century church did. For example, are you going to change your clothing style because of how the church in the first-century church viewed modesty? Does that mean men need to wear tunics and robes? Then there is the problem that the church was filled with people and people sin (as the churches in Asia illustrate in Revelations 2-3); yet, we are not to imitate their sins. Paul put it this way, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). We establish first that Paul is following Christ's commands and then we see the things that Paul did as examples of how to follow Christ's commands.

Some of the early churches had thousands of members (Acts 2:41), so I'm confident that when they took the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42) they were not able to use just one loaf. It is the fact that brethren everywhere are all remembering Christ's death with elements established by Christ that is important. "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17). Even though we are in different places, we are still one body. Even though there are different loaves being used, we are still sharing one bread.

The breaking of the bread has meaning, reminding us of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. "And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me'" (I Corinthians 11:24 NKJV). It should be noted that some manuscripts don't have "broken" in the text. This is why I personally break the bread I have if it is not broken before. I do it emphasize the symbolism for myself. Of course, biting the bread breaks it too, so it is still broken by those who partake.

I'm glad you are looking to keep your brethren from drifting. Just remember that when you are going down the river, there are two directions a person can get off course. "Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil" (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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