Bread

As the staff of life, the most universal and the most complete article of human food, bread at once becomes the symbol of God's supply for human needs. Thus, and by such a line of reasoning, bread has been considered a sacred element, and is especially so regarded by the Egyptians. In the Jewish economy bread sustained a typical significance while to the Christian it is symbolic. These general divisions of the subject may well be observed more specifically.

1. The Staff of Life. Bread is the term used by the Bible to indicate physical nourishment in general. As early in human history as Genesis 3:19 it is recorded that God said to Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." The word bread occurs twenty-five times in Genesis and over a hundred times in the Pentateuch. Manna was termed bread—that which God rained from heaven for Israel (Ex. 16:4). For the most part, it would seem that bread was, in olden times, often the only item of food. Because of these facts nothing could serve better than bread as a symbol of God's care.

2. The Typical Significance. In this feature of the doctrine the more important particular is the wave loaves, which during the Feast of Pentecost were waved before Jehovah (cf. Lev. 23:17-20). The antitype is the Church as seen by God ever since she began to be on the Day of Pentecost. The feast which immediately preceded Pentecost in Israel's calendar was that of First-Fruits, which anticipated Christ in resurrection. He became indeed the First-Fruits of them that slept (1 Cor. 15:20). It is deeply impressive and suggestive respecting God's perfect order that the Feast of Pentecost was measured off to occur just fifty days after the Feast of First-Fruits. This careful measurement is indicated by the words in Acts 2:1, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come." On this succession of feasts and the meaning of the wave loaves, Dr. C. I. Scofield writes in his notes bearing upon Leviticus 23:16-17: "The feast of Pentecost, vs. 15-22. The anti-type is the descent of the Holy Spirit to form the church. For this reason leaven is present, because there is evil in the church (Matt. 13:33; Acts 5:1, 10; 15:1). Observe, it is now loaves; not a sheaf of separate growths loosely bound together, but a real union of particles making one homogeneous body. The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost united the separate disciples into one organism (1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 12:12, 13, 20). The wave-loaves were offered fifty days after the wave-sheaf. This is precisely the period between the resurrection of Christ and the formation of the church at Pentecost by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13). ... With the wave-sheaf no leaven was offered, for there was no evil in Christ; but the wave loaves, typifying the church, are 'baken with leaven,' for in the church there is still evil" (ScofieldReference Bible, pp. 156-57).

3. The Symbolic Meaning. Having declared Himself to be the Bread which came down from heaven (cf. John 6:41), and having asserted that His flesh must be eaten and His blood must be drunk, and that the eating and drinking is needful if eternal life were to be received (John 6:48-58), Christ points out: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Apart from the explanation on Christ's part that He is referring to spiritual rather than physical realities, there is little left to do other than to join the many who then said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60). However, in the context Christ has as definitely declared that this same gift of eternal life is conditioned with respect to its reception upon believing on Him (John 6:47), and, again, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). Likewise, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). It therefore follows that the demand for His flesh to be eaten and His blood to be drunk is an intensified and realistic figure pointing to the most actual reception of Christ as Savior. This figure of speech or intensification of truth becomes at once a correction of the error so prevalent, namely, that to believe upon Christ means no more than an acknowledgment of the historical fact of Christ including the worthy purpose of His life and death. That such credence is insufficient must ever be urged. It is only as there is Spirit-wrought vision and understanding and as the individual becomes committed to Him as a living Savior that saving faith can be exercised. There comes to be a repose in saving faith; for it is one thing to believe that Christ represents all He claimed to be, but quite another thing to depend upon Him with complete abandonment for a personal salvation. One thus committed to Christ can say with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Such a testimony becomes clear evidence of the kind of confidence which rests in Christ alone. As food and drink are taken into one's very being and assimilated, in like manner Christ must be received and assimilated.

It is not accounted strange, therefore, when Christ chooses bread for the symbol of His flesh as if something to be eaten and wine—"the blood of grapes"—for the symbol of His blood. It is in Jacob's prophecy of Judah and his future with its foreshadowing of Christ that this remarkable passage respecting "the blood of grapes" occurs. The passage reads: "Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes" (Gen. 49:11).

Equally significant is the incident that occurred when Melchizedek met Abraham and "brought forth bread and wine" (Gen. 14:18)—symbols certainly of a completed redemption. What this meant to Abraham is not wholly revealed; however of Abraham Jesus Christ said, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). Just how much and specifically what Christ included in the words "my day" remains unknown. It is likely, however, in view of the fact of Abraham's being the sole example of the outworking of grace as this has been set forth in the New Testament, that Abraham, as one "born out of due time," saw the finished work of Christ and was saved in the same measure in which all are saved who now enter into the value of His finished work. The reception of the elements, bread and wine, not only speaks of redemption but also of a constant appropriation of Christ as the branch draws upon the vine. The breaking of bread furthermore is a testimony directly to Christ respecting this vital dependence upon Him.

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