Lovely Cascade mountains.
Friday, 8 September 2023
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. Acts 20:7
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
In the previous verse, it noted that Paul and Luke (indicated by the word “we”) joined the others at Troas, where they then stayed seven days. With that noted, Luke continues, saying, “Now on the first day of the week.”
The Greek reads, “In now the one of the sabbaths.” The cardinal numeral here is used for the ordinal. The word “sabbaths” is plural. This plural is used for the singular in imitation of the Hebrew form. The noun, sabbaths, is used after numerals in the signification of a week. In other words, the Sabbath is the last day of the week. The next day begins a new week which is day one of the week. Thus, the day is Sunday, even if it started on Saturday night.
This verse, along with 1 Corinthians 16:2, shows with certainty that the Lord’s Day (Sunda) was already being observed at this early time in church history –
“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
Of this day, Luke next records, “when the disciples came together to break bread.” The words are more precisely translated, “the disciples having been gathered together to break bread.” Like in Corinth, the people have gathered as an assembly. In Troas, this included 1) being on the first day, just as in Corinth, 2) gathering together, 3) breaking bread after that (see verse 11), 4) a sermon, and 5) long hours of contemplating God’s word.
This may have been Saturday night, which is the beginning of the first day of the week when reckoning by Jewish days. The breaking of bread is in accord with Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 11. It is the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This would have been done along with a greater meal, an Agape or love feast, which is a regular meal along with fellowship. Next, Luke records, “Paul, ready to depart the next day.”
If this is Saturday night, meaning the beginning of the first day of the week, then Paul would depart on a Sunday. If this gathering began during the day on Sunday, then Paul would depart on a Monday. The reason for the confusion rests in the fact that the Jewish days begin in the evening at sundown. Thus, without knowing what time they gathered, it is unwise to be dogmatic.
At this meeting, Paul “spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” The word translated as “spoke” is dialegomai. HELPS Word Studies says it signifies “through, from one side across to the other,” It contains the idea of “exercising ‘dialectical reasoning.’” Further, it notes, “This is the process of giving and receiving information with someone to reach deeper understanding – a ‘going back-and-forth’ of thoughts and ideas so people can better know the Lord (His word, will).” One can see that this is where our word “dialogue” comes from.
In other words, people were asking questions, and Paul was answering them. At times, Paul may have pulled out his parchments, referring to them to find the answer to a particular question.
The word translated as “continued” is found only here in Scripture, parateinó. It means to prolong. Paul obviously had a lot to say, and the people would then continue to question him as well. As a historical note, the Pulpit Commentary says –
“Justin Martyr, in his second Apology to Antoninus Plus (or Marcus Aurelius), of the Church assemblies in his day, not a hundred years after this time, is in exact agreement with it: – ‘On the day which is called Sunday, all (Christians) who dwell either in town or country come together to one place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read for a certain time, and then the president of the meeting, when the reader has stopped, makes a discourse, in which he instructs and exhorts the people to the imitation of the good deeds of which they have just heard. We then all rise up together, and address prayers (to God); and, when our prayers are ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president, to the best of his ability, offers up both prayers and thanksgivings, and the people assent, saying “Amen.” And then the distribution of the bread and wine, over which the thanksgivings have been offered, is made to all present, and all partake of it.’ He adds that the elements are carried to the absent by the deacons, and that collections are made for poor widows, and orphans, and sick, and prisoners.”
Life application: Regardless of whether these believers gathered on Saturday night after the Sabbath or at some point during the day on Sunday, the church was gathered on Sunday. The reason that the Sabbath is mentioned at all by Luke, as a means of counting the days, would be because Paul would have observed the Sabbath in order to not be an offense to Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Luke, knowing this, is explaining things from the perspective of Paul’s conduct. However, Paul’s instruction to the church, not his personal habits, is what direct doctrine. Just because Paul may or may not have observed a Sabbath, that has no bearing on what he taught. Also, the words that he was set to travel the next day show that there were no restrictions concerning Sabbath observance transferred to the new day of worship, meaning Sunday.
Those who impose Sabbath standards for Saturday worship, or who move those Sabbath standards to Sundays, are not working in accord with our freedom in Christ, which Paul writes about in Romans 14:5, Galatians 4:10, or Colossians 2:16. The Sabbath belonged to the Jewish people alone. It was never transferred to the church, even if Jews in the church continue to conduct their weeks in accord with the Jewish weekly calendar.
Those who have come to Christ have entered the rest that the Sabbath only anticipated (Hebrews 4:3). Exercise your freedom in Christ and do not be led down a path of false piety, nor to the observance of things that were mere shadows of the substance that has come in Jesus.
Heavenly Father, we are grateful to you for the full, finished, final, and forever work of Jesus Christ. Now, and in Him, we have the freedom to worship You in spirit and in truth. May we hold fast to Him and cling to You through His completion of all things necessary to restore us to Your presence. Thank You, O God, for Jesus our Lord. Amen.