I suppose there is no way for me to know, but in my travelling about this past year, I was approached with questions about the bread that is “to us the body of Christ” when eating the Lord’s Supper, more than all the previous years put together. More than that, I have received correspondence requesting that I clarify some things about the bread. With this renewed interest it occurs to me that there may be others that would like an outside point of view. With that in mind, and allow me please, to present an idea or two respecting the bread as seen on the Lord’s Table each Lord’s Day.
AS TO THE NUMBER OF LOAVES
Taking the New Testament in hand we read, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and break it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.” (Mt. 26:26). It is clear from this simple reading that there was one loaf under consideration. Each person broke and ate of the same loaf. When the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians he declared “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (I Cor. 10:16-17). In the American Standard (1901), the translators supplied in the margin for bread the word “loaf” to aid readers in understanding the bread was but one piece.
Alexander Campbell wrote as a comment of Acts 20:7 “Artos occurs ninety times in the N. T. In common version it is always translated loaves in the plural number; but in the singular number, one case excepted, always bread. In the case excepted there was a sort of necessity for translating it loaf, because a whole ship’s company had but one loaf. In that case to have translated it one bread, would have been wholly inapposite. Such laxity is peculiarly faulty, or in a case, where Paul argues the unity of the church from the fact that in its assemblies they had but “one loaf,” of which they all partook. In this case the argument makes loaf, and not bread, indispensable.” (Commentary on ACTS OF THE APOSTLES Page 134). Campbell’s argument is ill refutable by any logician of note.
Furthermore, seeking information from the Old Testament makes by inference the use of one loaf on the table a necessity. When Moses according to the commandment of God prepared the Table of Shewbread it is stated, “And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof; two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire before the Lord. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.” (Lev. 24:5-8). There was one cake (loaf) for each of the tribes among the Israelites. Today there is no divisions among the people of God as there is but ONE BODY therefore as noted earlier Paul argued from this fact that there is to be but one loaf upon the table of the Lord. Remember these things were written for our admonition and LEARNING (Rom. 15:4). Shall we allow this to slip without learning? One Table, One People gathered around that One Table, One Savior who gave His One Body in sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and One Loaf to signify His body in remembrance for the disciples of the Lord in this age of the world.
THE BREAD ITSELF
When Jesus gave us the pattern for the supper that would be eaten in His remembrance as long as the world stands, we are told, “Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” (Mt. 26:17). Leaven is spoken of in scripture as impurity pointing out sin in the individual and in a congregation. Jesus establishing the pattern for us to follow in eating the Lord’s Supper did so while gathered with His disciples to eat the Passover, a time among the Jews when all leaven was removed from their houses and especially the place where the Passover was kept. Thus Jesus selected an item to remind us of His sacrificial body that was without leaven—unleavened. The scripture informs us that Jesus “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22). Unleavened bread with no admixtures is the item placed on the table, as we give thanks, break and eat in remembrance of the Lord. Who is there that cannot understand that? Nothing less—nothing more—nothing else fulfills the wish of the Savior.
UNLEAVENED BREAD OR UNLEAVENED BREAD WITH…
Some believe that other substances can be added to unleavened bread on the Lord’s Table. Others even contend that other substances must be put into the bread. Some years ago discussing this with a fellow preacher he said, “There are twenty-seven things that could be added and it would still be unleavened bread.” I was so struck by that statement that I failed to ask him what they were. Before another opportunity came he died, leaving me to wonder what he had in mind to this day. Another fellow preacher said, “without oil being added to flour and water you have wall paper paste.” Well, once the flour and water mixture is baked, I would like to see it used as wallpaper paste. Wishful thinking is the father of corrupt practice.
When Aaron and his sons came near unto the tabernacle to minister in the holy place we are told, “And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them.” (Ex. 29:2). Of course we do not approach God through the tabernacle as they did in that time with these three things made of unleavened bread, however, we can learn something about bread and about oil. We have three things here.
- Unleavened bread.
- Unleavened bread tempered (mingled) with oil.
- Unleavened bread anointed (spread over) with oil.
Unleavened bread is one thing, unleavened bread mingled with oil is another thing and unleavened bread with oil spread over it is still another thing. These priests understood and were able to recognize the difference in these three things. If they could not then they were unable to obey the instruction given to them. Therefore, unleavened bread is not unleavened bread mingled with oil. Unleavened bread is not unleavened bread with oil spread upon it before or after baking (as one might put oil in the pan where the bread was to be baked). Unleavened bread tempered with oil is different from unleavened bread and is not the same as unleavened bread with oil upon it. Unleavened bread anointed with oil is not the same as unleavened bread. Unleavened bread with oil spread upon it is not the same as unleavened bread with oil mingled in it. Each of these is different from—not the same as the other two.
THE QUESTION BEFORE US
The question is not whether the bread becomes leavened bread with the addition of oil (or perhaps some other added element), rather, it is what did Jesus use when He established the Lord’s Supper instructing the disciples and us to “take, eat…” They were eating the Passover which meant that they were to eat it with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8). Are we at liberty to add an element declaring in practice that it makes no difference? Think about this.
- When God told Noah to “make thee an ark of gopher wood” did that not exclude all other wood? The inclusion was also in greater force (excluded) more than it included. When inspiration tells us that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the days of unleavened bread, without a statement, indication or inference that another element was added who are we to say another element is acceptable?
- When Naaman the leper was told to dip seven times in Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy he was enraged, saying, “I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Again, asking, Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be made clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” What we think can be done and what we are told in scripture is often not the same. We cannot make up our mind and close our heart to what is revealed unto us.
SOME ADVICE FOR ALL
Wherever and in whatever we might have some confusion the best thing that can be done is to consult the Word of God and follow it as closely as we can? The children of Israel came to various crossroads where decisions had to be made one of which is called to their attention by the illustrious prophet Jeremiah. His advice looms heavy today as we come to a place where a choice must be made. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” (Jer. 6:16). It has always been and if history is to repeat itself, it shall always be that people seeking the Lord will walk in the admonition of His word, while there shall be others that will openly defy Him. It is not pleasant to disagree with disagreeable brethren in Christ; however, at times it is impossible to avoid. It boils down to this: is it to be unleavened bread or unleavened bread mingled with oil, or unleavened bread with oil applied?
The desire of the Psalmist David comes to mind; a desire that should find itself on the lips of all our prayers, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Ps. 19:13). Our intentions may be the very best, our efforts may be from a heart wishing to please the Lord, however, that does not make wrong right, nor does it stifle the judgment of the Lord. Line upon line, precept upon precept is the better way to walk following the Lord’s way—the way He has appointed us.
Inquires have been made about a recipe for preparing the bread, In some congregations one sister attends to the task, in others there are more than one and the making of the bread is passed about. In either case this is something that should not be done without forethought. If one has never made the loaf then practice should be done. Following is a recipe I received (upon request) from Jimmie Smith prepared by his wife Cindy. You may contact Jimmie at 5100 Rail Rd, Harrison, AR 75416. After that is my wife Bea’s recipe.
Cindy Smith: take 2/3 cup of plain flour. Mix in enough water and stir until mixed. Roll into a ball. Place the ball on 1/3 cup of flour on wax paper. Flatten and roll into a 1/4” (thick) loaf. Shape with a 6” Tupperware bowl. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place loaf in preheated oven for one hour. Remove loaf and let cool. Place in zip lock bag.
Obta (Bea) Owens: Preheat over to 325 degrees. Mix well 1 cup of plain sifted flour with 1/3
cup plus 4T water. Place on parchment paper or wax paper with 2T plain flour. Knead until
floured well. Flatten and roll in circle or pat down until about 1/4” thick. Place loaf on small non-
stick cookie sheet or cake pan. I use non-stick foil on pan. Place into preheated oven and bake for
Barney Owens 1901