ACTS 20:7 AND THE LORD’S SUPPER
“And 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). This apostolic example sets forth the biblical precedent for observing the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, every first day of the week, and only on the first day of the week, but there are those who question this conclusion.
There are those who say that we cannot know if the reference to “break bread” in this text is a reference to the Lord’s Supper or to an ordinary meal. It is acknowledged that the expression is used in both senses in the New Testament. That the Lord’s Supper is under consideration is without doubt in I Corinthians 11:23-26, and probably in Acts 2:42. That an ordinary meal is under consideration is true of Acts 2:46 and, in the judgment of many, of Acts 20:11.
In the context of Acts 20:7, Paul and his companions had arrived in Troas where they remained for seven days (Acts 20:6). Yet, Paul “was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). If the reference to breaking bread in Acts 20:7 is to a mere common meal and not the Lord’s Supper, then why did Paul wait seven days—a full week—to meet with the disciples in Troas on the first day of the week to have an ordinary meal with them? He could have met with them any day before the first day of the week for a meal, spoken to them, and then been on his way to Jerusalem.
On the other hand, if Acts 20:7 is a reference to the Lord’s Supper that can be observed any day of the week, why did Paul wait seven days until the first day of the week to meet with the disciples at Troas and “break bread” with them? Why did he not call them together on a Wednesday night or a Thursday night, speak to them, observe the Lord’s Supper with them, and go on his way? Why wait seven days until the first day of the week to meet with the disciples and “break bread”?
The entire context of Acts 20:7 indicates that this was the Lord’s Supper being observed on the first day of the week. Paul commanded the church at Corinth (as he had the churches of Galatia) to “lay by in store on the first day of the week” (I Corinthians 16:1-2, KJV). Why “lay by in store on the first day of the week”? Because that is when the church would be assembled for the observance of the Lord’s Supper! (Interestingly, most churches take a monetary contribution on the first day of every week, yet many of them are surprisingly indifferent about the observance of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week!)
Warren W. Wiersbe, a Baptist scholar, preacher, and writer said: “The ‘breaking of bread’ in Acts 20:7 refers to the Lord’s Supper, whereas in Acts 20:11 it describes a regular meal.” He goes on to observe: “It is likely that the church [in New Testament times, hf] observed the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day when they met for fellowship and worship” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, Victor Books [1989 by SP Publications, Inc.], p. 484).
Of the meeting of the disciples in Troas, prominent denominational scholar and New Testament Professor, Richard N. Longenecker, wrote: “The mention of their meeting ‘on the first day of the week’ is the earliest unambiguous evidence we have for Christians gathering together for worship on that day (cf. John 20:19,26; I Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10)…They met, Luke tells us, ‘to break bread,’ which after Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:17-34 must surely mean ‘to celebrate the Lord’s Supper’ (cf. comments on Acts 2:42).” Following the record of the restoration of Eutychus to life (Acts 20:8-10), Longenecker continues: “Then they returned to their third-story room where they had a midnight snack (here the compound ‘broke bread and ate,’ signifies an ordinary meal, not the Lord’s Supper) and Paul talked on till dawn” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9, , The Zondervan Corporation, p. 509).
Bible scholar Rex A. Turner, Sr. wrote: “The case of the disciples’ breaking bread on the first day of the week at Troas, Acts 20:7, is more than a mere example, as the circumstances connected with that gathering will necessarily indicate. The apostle Paul and his companions, though in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, tarried seven days, Acts 20:6, in order to assemble with the disciples in Troas. The necessary inference here is that Paul was cognizant of a custom among disciples, at least among the disciples at Troas, of their coming together on the, or each, first day of the week for the explicit purpose to break bread, or to eat the Lord’s Supper. Those disciples at Troas did come together on the – the definite article ‘the’ is in the Greek text – first day of the week, and the object of their coming together was to break bread, not to hear Paul preach. The Jews were commanded to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8). [Every week had a Sabbath day and the Jews were expected to keep every Sabbath holy. Every week has a first day and the Lord’s Supper is to be eaten every first day, hf.] The first day of the week is the day upon which Christ arose from the dead. It is his resurrection day, the greatest and most momentous day in all of the annals of history! When the significance of the first day of the week is associated with the object and purpose of the assembly of the saints at Troas, including the circumstances and inferences that attended that assembly, the necessary and inescapable conclusion is that disciples must meet on, and only on, the first day of the week to break bread” (Sermons and Addresses on the Fundamentals of the Faith, Published by Rex A. Turner , pp. 76-77).
In his study of the writings of second century Christians (those living nearest the time of the apostles and the church of New Testament times), New Testament scholar, Everett Ferguson noted: “The Lord’s Supper was celebrated only on Sunday as far as our second-century sources go.” He further observed: “The Lord’s Supper was a constant feature of the Sunday service. There is no second-century evidence for the celebration of a daily eucharist” (Early Christians Speak, ACU Press, Third Edition , p. 84, 94).
Conclusion: The Lord’s Supper is to be observed every first day of the week (the Lord’s Day, Revelation 1:10) and only on that day! It is the Lord’s Supper, not our supper! It is not a religious “toy” to be used to “top off” or give “a special touch” to weddings, funerals, or anything else of our earthly imaginations, manipulations, and human wisdom! It is the sacred Supper of our Lord, to be faithfully and reverently observed by the saints of God on the Lord’s Day!
November 20, 2018