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LET'S HAVE AN AGAPE MEAL!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, October 2, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body" (Mark 14:22).


Now turn to I Corinthians 11:25. Let's read it aloud,

"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"
     (I Corinthians 11:25).

You may be seated.

Both of these verses show that the Lord's Supper was given by Christ at the end of a meal - the passover meal. "And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave it to them" (Mark 14:22). "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood" (I Corinthians 11:25). This was the first "love feast" or "agape meal." And it was instituted by our Lord Himself. Note that He did not just give them the bread and the cup. Oh, no! He gave the bread and the cup to them at the end of an agape banquet. And the early churches in the first century and the first part of the second century continued to celebrate the Lord's Supper at the end of a meal - following the pattern our Lord established at the Last Supper, the night before He was crucified.

Dr. Louis Berkhof said, "At first the Lord's Supper was accompanied with a common meal, for which the people brought the necessary ingredients" (Louis Berkhof, Ph.D., The History of Christian Doctrines, Baker Book House, 1975 reprint, p. 251). The famous Christian historian Dr. Philip Schaff said,

In the apostolic period the [Lord's Supper] was celebrated daily in connection with a simple meal of brotherly love (agape), in which the Christians, in communion with their common Redeemer, forgot all distinctions of rank, wealth, and culture, and felt themselves to be members of one family of God [in a] childlike exhibition of brotherly unity… (Philip Schaff, Ph.D., History of the Christian Church, volume I, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975 reprint, p. 473).

As I said, the agape meal, followed by the Lord's Supper, had its roots in the Last Supper, at the end of the passover meal, the night before Christ was arrested and crucified. The practice of having a common meal for everyone, before those who were baptized partook of the Lord's Supper, was continued by the early churches in the Book of Acts. Please turn to Acts 2:42. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).

Now read verses 46 and 47 aloud.

"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat [food] with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-47).

You may be seated. The Applied New Testament Commentary gives these remarks on those two verses,

Those first believers did everything together…they celebrated the Lord's Supper together, one time in one home, another time in another home. Together with the Lord's Supper, they also ate a common meal (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 465).

While it is probable that all who were interested came together for the common meal, only those who were baptized members of the local church at Jerusalem partook of the Lord's Supper at the end of the meal (see Acts 2:41-42). That is the sense I get by reading Acts 2:41-47.

Twenty-six years after the events in Acts 2, the church at Corinth was still having a common meal before the Lord's Supper was celebrated (I Corinthians 11:17-34). The Apostle Paul does not condemn the practice itself in this passage. Instead he corrects the abuse of it.

Now turn with me to Acts 20:7. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight" (Acts 20:7).

You may be seated. There are three interesting features in this verse. First, the verse shows us that the Christians met on the "first day" of the week on the Roman calendar, which is Sunday. They met on Sunday rather than on Saturday, on the Sabbath. They met on Sunday because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead - thus instituting the new covenant. Second, Paul preached to them "until midnight." That is commented on because, even for that day, it was an unusually long sermon. But, third, the verse says, "the disciples came together to break bread." This same phrase is used again in verse eleven. Look at it.

"When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed" (Acts 20:11).

This verse shows that they ate a meal in connection with the Lord's Supper. It also shows that they "talked a long while." Admittedly, they talked longer than usual, just as Paul preached longer than usual that evening - because he was about to leave the city of Troas. And yet, this passage gives us a glimpse of what happened in less lengthy form in those early churches:


(1) They met on Sunday, the first day of the week.

(2) They met on Sunday nights.

(3) They had preaching in these meetings (notice that there is no mention of a "worship" service, though they undoubtedly sang a hymn or two (cf. Matthew 26:30).

(4) They ate a meal in connection with the Lord's Supper.

(5) They spent time talking with each other.


These were the essential ingredients of a church service in the first century. Personally, I do not believe that we need to take the Lord's Supper every Sunday, although some Baptist churches do that. To me, once a month or so is often enough. And yet I think, if we use our God-given imaginations, and let our minds be transported back to those early churches, we can learn something very valuable for our time.

Young people are very lonely as a rule today. Society is fragmented and, even in the best homes, there is often a lack of community. If we go back to some of the practices of those early churches, we can give young people what they need most of all - a loving, warm and friendly place, where they can have Christian friends and a Christian community. That's the reason we say, "Why be lonely? Come home - to church!" "Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!"

I believe we need to have meals after our services, like the old-time Baptists did when they had "dinner on the grounds" (of the church) - like the early Christians did on Sunday! Let's do it! Let's continue to have at least one meal at church together on Sunday! Let's continue to have services every Sunday night! Let's have old-fashioned gospel preaching in every service! At least once a month, let's have dinner again on Sunday night, followed by the Lord's Supper! Let's make our church the friendliest place in Los Angeles - so the people who hear about us will say, "I may not agree with those Baptists, but they really know how to love each other!" That's the way to attract young people! That's the way to build up a church in this burned out old city!

"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

I wrote a little song last week. It's the last one on your song sheet. Pick up the sheet. Turn to the last song. Hold that song sheet up high, so we can hear your voice! Let's sing it!

Come home to Jesus, the table is spread;
Come home to dinner and let us break bread.
Jesus is with us, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!

The fellowship's sweet and your friends will be here;
We'll sit at the table, our hearts filled with cheer.
Jesus is with us, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!

The big city people just don't seem to care;
They've little to offer and no love to spare.
But come home to Jesus and you'll be aware,
There's food on the table and friendship to share!

Come home to Jesus, the table is spread;
Come home to dinner and you will be fed.
Your friends will be waiting, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!

Chorus:

Come home to the church and eat, Gather for fellowship sweet;
It'll be quite a treat, When we sit down to eat!
   ("Come Home to Dinner" by Dr. Robert L. Hymers,
         to the tune of "On the Wings of a Snow White Dove").

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 20:7-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Come and Dine" (by Charles B. Widmeyer, 1884-1974).


THE OUTLINE OF

LET'S HAVE AN AGAPE MEAL!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body" (Mark 14:22).

(I Corinthians 11:25; Acts 2:42, 46-47;
cf. I Corinthians 11:17-34; Acts 20:7, 11;
cf. Matthew 26:30; Acts 2:47)