Paul, in the eleventh chapter of the first letter to the church at Corinth, wrote:
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 took bread: And when
he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take,
eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this
do in remembrance of me. After the same manner
also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying,
This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do
ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this
cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
I Corinthians 11:23-26 (KJV).
The phrase "which is broken for you" in verse 24 is not in the Greek manuscripts that are accepted generally as more reliable. It is not in the Revised Standard Version and at least some later translations. The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 19, p. 365 states:
Some manuscripts have "given" and one (D) a milder word for "broken" as though to avoid any contradiction of John xix 36, where, however, the word is "shall not be crushed."
And, in John 19:36:
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
The purpose of this article is to show that the phrase "which is
broken for you" is not contradictory and that it could have been added
by someone that saw a way to harmonize other scriptures that could
be mistaken as being at odds.
In order for us to more fully understand the symbolism of the word bread, we must keep in mind that the Greek word artos, translated bread in the passages quoted here, literally means loaf. As for the idea that the phrase is contradictory, in all three accounts of the Lord's Supper in the gospels, Jesus referred to the loaf as representing his body after he had broken it. For example:
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it,
and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which
is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Therefore, in I Corinthians 11:24, the phrase "broken for you" merely
emphasizes a matter of record, so it doesn't contradict anything. Also,
we should note that the Lord took a loaf (not loaves) and broke it.
Another reason for not questioning the implications of the phrase in I Corinthians 11:24 is that, in the New Testament, the Greek word klao is used only in reference to breaking food into pieces for convenience in eating. We eat the symbolic bread when partaking of the Lord's Supper, but we also feed on God's word which was "made flesh" in the person of Jesus. And, when the speakers of a church prepare sermons and other lectures for consumption by the congregation, they break spiritual bread by proclaiming the word of God.
The loaf is a metaphor for the church. Paul uses several metaphors for the church because each one illustrates a particular aspect of the church as an institution. He uses metaphors for the obvious reason: they give us a mental image that makes an attribute easier to comprehend and remember. Metaphors and other symbols also can cause severe misunderstanding for someone that tries to impose them completely on the subject or process that they are used to represent. So, we first must determine exactly what is meant by the word church; otherwise we could read more into the metaphor than is intended.
A Church Is An Assembly
The Greek word ekkleesia that usually is translated "church" in the New Testament literally means "a called out assembly" or just "assembly". In three verses it is translated "assembly" and definitely does not refer to a church. The following verses concern a mob of pagans in Ephesus and the statement in verse 39 was by the town clerk:
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for
the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not
wherefore they were come together.
But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
So, the Greek word that is translated "church" in all but these three verses
doesn't necessarily mean anything more than an assembly unless the context
indicates that it refers to a certain type of assembly as an institution.
To put the matter concisely, the word church means an assembly or the church
as an institution. Of course, a church doesn't exist only when its members
gather for a meeting any more than the U. S. Congress exists only when it is
in session. A church in this age consists of people that have become members
of an assembly by scriptural baptism or by other ways that the assembly accepts
new members that have been baptized according to scripture. And, the
assembly does not include members that have died or have been excluded from
One Loaf And One Body
Three related verses that we might see as containing contradictory statements are:
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for
we are all partakers of that one bread.
I Corinthians 10:17.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:13.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
I Corinthians 12:27.
Since Paul was not a member of the church at Corinth, the first two
verses indicate that all members of God's churches constitute one body;
the third refers to the members of the church at Corinth as a body of
Christ. Note that the proper translation of the body in verse 12:27
is a body. Moreover, the first also says that they all were one bread
(loaf), extending the symbolism of the loaf to the church as an
institution. That verse also gives a reason why the metaphors "bread"
and "body" apply: we all eat of the same bread. But, eating the same
bread does not makes us all members of the same assembly.
However the phrase "is broken for you" became included in I Corinthians 11:24, it should remind us that God's churches are symbolized by the pieces of the loaf.
continued at top of next column
The Baptism Of The Church
I Corinthians 12:13 states (translation corrected) that "all members of God's churches were baptized in one spirit into one body". That baptism was prophesied by John:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance:
but he that cometh after me is mightier than I,
whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am no t worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
At the time the Lord instituted the Lord's
Supper, his body (the church) was not broken. But, it did become
fragmented into more than one assembly when he organized a church of
gentiles in the house of Cornelius. Since then, churches have been
established in many areas far from Judaea for our convenience. As Jesus
told the Samaritan woman at the well, we do not now go to Jerusalem
to worship, but worship in spirit and in truth. In the resurrection,
though, all of God's churches again will be one assembly at the marriage
supper of the Lamb.
Just as all the pieces of a broken loaf share the nutritional characteristics the loaf had when it was whole, all of God's churches have the same organization and each is to be a pillar and ground of the truth. Given our weaknesses of will and the needs of mortal bodies, we need an imposed structure in order to function as God's assemblies and to provide our assemblies the spiritual sustenance of God's word: the bread of spiritual life. The first church began with Jesus as its pastor; and, Peter, James and John performed the same duties that were performed later by men referred to as deacons. Further, Jesus and all of the twelve had been baptized by John the Baptizer. Now there are many bodies of Christ that are made up of baptized believers and have the same offices.
A Church As A Lump Of Dough
In chapter 5 of I Corinthians, Paul uses the symbolism of unleavened dough to describe an attribute that all of God's churches are to have. After instructing the church at Corinth to withdraw fellowship from a member that was living openly in a sexual relationship with his stepmother, Paul wrote these words:
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may
be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old
leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and
wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of
sincerity and truth.
I Corinthians 5:7,8.
In verse 7, the church is referred to as a lump of dough from which the members, as a body, can remove the leaven that is there due to the "life style" of one member. Consider a verse that includes a short list of examples of such habitual behavior:
But now I have written unto you not to keep
company, if any man that is called a brother
be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater,
or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner;
with such an one no not to eat.
I Corinthians 5:11.
Paul is speaking of members that engage in sinful behavior as a way of life and We cannot conclude from this passage that a church is to expel any member that doesn't live in a constant state of sinless perfection. We have to keep in mind the warning in I John 1:8:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
In chapter 5, the church at Corinth is pictured as a lump of
dough which is at a stage in the production of bread; and, we can infer
from the analogy that all churches are in some stage of development and
have flaws that are to be dealt with. In chapter 10, the church as an
institution is spoken of as a loaf of unleavened bread in its sinless
perfection as it stands with God.
Someone that believes in the "Universal Church" doctrine might argue that the reference to the church at Corinth as a lump of dough containing leaven is proof that a local assembly should not be thought of as a fragment of a loaf of unleavened bread; especially a loaf that Jesus said was his body. Yet, after Paul has written several chapters criticizing the Corinthians for their practices as a church, in chapter 12 he tells them that they are a body of Christ. Are we to have more respect for a loaf that is a figure than for that which the figure represents?
A Church As God's Husbandry
As for the idea that there is a Universal Church in this age, consider:
So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints and
members of the household of God, built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ
Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the
whole structure is joined together and grows into
a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are
built into it for a dwelling place of God in the
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
I Corinthians 3:6-9.
According to The Expositor's Greek Testament, the phrase "whole structure"
is a mistranslation of the Greek phrase "every several building"
(pasa, every; he, the;
oikodome, building). Also, Paul states that the
Corinthians are God's building; not part thereof. Add to these the
greetings of Paul in his letters to the churches at Corinth, Galatia and
Thessalonica as the church or the churches and we should see that the
church is universal only in two senses: as an institution and, prospectively,
as the bride of Christ at a future time.
A church functions as a body of Christ to carry out the Lord's work in this age. The existence of a mystical, invisible church (assembly) implies that individuals can do the work of the church as free-lancers, without regard to Paul's admonishing that the members of the body are to act in concert and with proper regard for each other. In fact, the reasons given for using the metaphors body and bread would not be suitable for a reference to an ethereal "assembly" that exists only in someone's imagination.
If we concentrate on the first letter to the church at Corinth as an example of how the members of a church should not conduct themselves both in and out of the assembly, we can learn some very practical lessons. But, if we concentrate on comments that picture one of God's churches as it should be and as it stands with God, we will see truths that are spiritually edifying.
I Corinthians is the only book in the Bible that declares one of God's churches to be a body of Christ and implies that it is a fragment of a loaf of unleavened bread that was broken for us. It also cinches the truth that each of God's churches is a spiritual building whose members are to be edified in grace, not added to for a show of numbers.
The saved members of God's churches will comprise that future assembly called the marriage supper of the Lamb. God the Son will be in our midst and we will feed, with complete understanding, on the bread of life as presented by the Word that was made flesh for our sakes.