Yesterday I listened to a sermon that was a neat little introduction to the book of Revelation. I enjoyed the talk that actually pertained to the actual book, what I didn’t enjoy was a side-comment that was made about Acts 20:7. The speaker talked about the importance of keeping in mind what the words of Revelation meant to the first century Christians, which is a very important thing to do I believe; but for some reason the speaker felt the need to mention the Lord’s Supper and the “exact day” upon which the first century Christians observed it. He stated, in a round about and direct way, that when someone (a church/congregation) thinks that they are partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the same day and in the same way that the early church did because they use Acts 20:7 for their justification they simply don’t understand what Acts 20:7 is saying. He said, for one, the meal was actually eaten on Monday because Paul preached so long, and for two, the first day can mean a different day to different cultures. Huh??? The same man who talked so much about viewing Revelation through the eyes and ears of the first century church disregarded his own sound advice for the book of Acts.
The scripture says, “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 – NKJV) For one, for what exact purpose did Luke say the disciples came together? To break bread, right? That’s too plain to deny. Now, which day of the week did they come together to break bread? The first day. But what did Luke mean by the first day? Did the he mean Saturday (the Sabbath), did he mean Sunday, did he mean Monday? Well, all we have to do is let Luke answer that question. In Luke 24:1, the Bible says, “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” What day of the week (by the name we know on our calendar I mean) was Luke talking about when he said the first day of the week? Was it the Sabbath? Nope. Luke 23:56 says, “…And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” The Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) was the day before this first day of week, which is Sunday. Luke, without a doubt, meant the same first day of the week in Acts 20:7 that he meant in Luke 24:1 – the disciples came together to break bread on the first day of the week…a day that we can be sure of.
Now, did the disciples eat the Lord’s Supper on Monday? Let’s pretend only for a second or two that they did. Why would they have observed it on Monday instead of Sunday? It would have been because Paul got a little “long-winded” with his “long-preaching” (KJV). The intended day for breaking bread was not Monday – it was the first day! Listen again, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread….” How can anyone do anything but intentionally miss that? And who says it was the Lord’s Supper that was eaten on Monday? Why isn’t it possible that Paul had stirred up a big appetite after preaching for so long? Acts 20:11 says, “Now when [Paul] had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, [Paul] departed.” Acts 20:7 says the disciples broke bread, but Acts 20:11 says Paul broke bread. Does someone find it that hard to believe that the disciples’ whole purpose for coming together on the first day of the week and breaking bread was not for the same purpose that Paul broke bread after preaching for several hours? The first breaking of bread was for spiritual nourishment, the second was for physical nourishment. Why isn’t possible that the church broke bread, then Paul began to preach? Sounds scriptural, not to mention logical to me.
The church, from the beginning, had a habit of, “…[continuing] steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) These are spiritual matters, and of these matters there was the breaking of bread which is a clear reference of the Lord’s Supper, and not a common meal. This is the breaking of bread that the church had in mind when they met on the first day of week in Acts 20:7, and there is no indication to think otherwise.
Much more could be said, but I believe the objections raised by the speaker have been sufficiently answered. The first century church recognized that the first day of the week meant Sunday, and we can be sure of this by looking at the same author of Acts‘ meaning of “the first day of the week” in the gospel according to Luke. We know that the first century church recognized the importance of partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and the only indication of the day of the week that the church observed the Lord’s Supper that we have in all of the New Testament books from the first century is that the church came together on the first day of the week to do that very thing during the first century. If keeping things in first century context is a good idea for Revelation (and it is), then it should be a good idea to keep that goal in mind with the rest of the first century books of the Bible. When we do that, then we can know the blessing of breaking first century bread.