Are You Growing in Grace? - page 3


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From the Summer 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Are You Growing in Grace?

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director, Washington Area Fellows Program

 
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  Devoting ourselves to fellowship/koinonia is far more than casual conversation over coffee and donuts between church services. It begins with developing authentic relationships with other believers in our church or circle of friends. This requires a willingness to open our lives to them and to become involved in their lives as well. Intentionality and time are necessary for such relationships to grow deep and strong, and this requires a commitment. As in the early church, the best way to develop koinonia is through small groups that meet in homes. In today’s busy culture, some people are finding groups of three or four of the same sex to be easiest—to attend consistently and to share at greater depth.
  A good action step? Ask God to lead you to a few people with whom you can develop close and lasting Christ-centered friendships; make a list of whoever comes to mind and explore the possibilities with them. Needless to say, you must make a definite commitment of time to develop such relationships. The rewards of these friendships far exceed the time and effort required, for we learn how to love and serve others and allow them to love and serve us, and in the process we discover that God meets us and ministers to us through one another.

The Breaking of Bread

  The breaking of bread is the third means of grace in this verse. The basic meaning of the phrase is to eat a meal. For Jews (who made up the earliest church) a meal began with breaking a loaf of bread and giving thanks. But in this context, the phrase means more. It appears to be a reference to Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, which was originally part of a larger meal shared when the early church assembled each week (Acts 20:7). The breaking of bread was a highlight in the worship life of the believing community, a time of unity in celebrating the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus and His impending return. At some point, the Communion was separated from the community meal and became part of the Sunday worship liturgy.
  Today there is a range of understanding and practice regarding the Lord’s Supper. Roman Catholics celebrate it weekly or even daily; Anglicans and various Protestant denominations range from weekly to quarterly. It seems the earliest Christians celebrated it as part of their weekly gathering for worship. Opinions vary about whether the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ (Roman Catholics) or remind us of Christ’s death and resurrection (Baptists and many other Protestants). Whatever the exact significance, Paul’s sober warning to the Corinthian church indicates that God takes Communion seriously indeed, and so should we. It is far more than consuming a bit of bread and wine. In Corinth, failure to participate in the Lord’s Supper with the proper attitude of heart and mind brought God’s judgment on the offending parties (1 Cor.11:17–34). For this reason, Protestants and Catholics have long encouraged people to prepare their hearts before receiving Communion.
  Preparation of heart, which is best done before the Communion service, involves looking back in sober remembrance and sustained reflection on the sacrificial love of Jesus for us, demonstrated through His atoning death. It also involves looking back over our lives in light of this and asking God to search our hearts and show us any unconfessed or unrepented sins or broken relationships that we need to reconcile. Over the centuries, both Protestants and Catholics have testified to having intimate encounters with Christ in the Lord’s Supper, and we should be open to this. Those who receive the Lord’s Supper rightly and regularly find it a means of deepening their love and gratitude to Jesus for His amazing grace and love.

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