“And on the first day of the week...”
By Jon W. Quinn
Paul was accompanied by Sopater of
Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy,
Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia when he set sail from Philippi and came to
Troas where he met up with Luke and his companions. The travelers delayed
their travels and remained at Troas for seven days, waiting until the first
day of the following week so they could assemble with the church there on the
Lord's Day to worship together (Acts 20:1-7).
There are several remarkable things that could be said about this. First, we
see from the context that Luke, the writer of Acts, was present at Troas and
was recording the event first hand, as he did with many of the events recorded
in the Book of Acts.
Second, we see a listing of the traveling companions by name and the places
they were from. These were people that anyone living at that time could speak
to and ask about the events Luke records. These are real people and real
Another point is that it was the church's practice to assemble together on the
first day of the week to worship. This is Sunday. The church did not assemble
on the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, though disciples would often go
to the synagogues on that day to teach the gospel. If the church had assembled
on Saturday, then Paul would not have waited until the first day of the week
for them to assemble.
Consider this Sunday assembly of the church of Christ at Troas: "And on the
first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul
began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his
message until midnight. And there many lamps in the upper room where we were
gathered together." (Acts 20:7,8).
"Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he
prolonged his message until midnight." (Acts 20:7c). It would certainly have
been a notable day for the church at Troas to remember. Paul had the
confidence of a gladiator, the conviction of a zealot and a love for truth and
right that knew no limits. Even as he proclaimed the word on that evening,
there were plots unfolding by his enemies to murder him (Acts 20:3).
"And on the first day of the week... and he prolonged his message until
midnight." (Acts 20:7a,c). Some suggest that this is Saturday evening instead
of Sunday evening. They say that as the Jews reckoned time, the first day of
the week would begin on Saturday evening at 6:00 PM. The Romans reckoned time
as we do, from midnight to midnight. However, Troas was a Gentile city. Luke
was a Gentile writer, and he writes to "Theophilus," which is a Gentile
(Greek) name. In any case, the Bible says it is on the "first day of the
week", not "the seventh day of the week". No matter how you cut it, this is an
assembly on the "Lord's Day" (The "Lord's Day" is the way early Christians
referred to Sunday; cf. Revelation 1:10. This was the day Jesus arose from the
grave as well as the day upon which the church began).
The Breaking of Bread
"...when we were gathered together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7b). The
purpose of the first day of the week assembly was "to break bread." We usually
think of this being done in the morning, but there would have been good reason
for an evening assembly in the first century. Many of the disciples would have
been servants who would be required to finish their day's chores before being
granted permission to deal with their own business.
The term "break bread" by itself could mean either to have a common meal, or
could refer to the partaking of the Lord's Supper. We must consider the
context to see which is being referred to here. The context shows that this
was something that was only done on the first day of the week (whereas a
common meal would occur every day). The Scriptures use the same term "breaking
of bread" in a purely spiritual context also in Acts 2:42 (along with
"apostles' teaching", "fellowship" and "prayer").
Also remember that Paul and his companions had delayed their journey about a
week so they could meet with this gathering (vs. 6). This means we are talking
about a once a week occurrence. It also means that the time of this "breaking
of bread" would not be moved up a few days for convenience sake. It would have
to be on the "Lord's Day." Even as noted Presbyterian scholar Albert Barnes
noted, "It is probable that the apostles and early Christians celebrated the
Lord's Supper every Lord's Day." (Barnes Notes on the New Testament; Acts
"...Paul began talking to them, and prolonged his message..." (Acts 20:7b).
The word translated "talking" here is sometimes rendered "reasoned" (Acts
17:2). The gospel, or the word of the cross was foolishness to those who were
perishing, but to those who were being saved it was "the power of God." (I
Corinthians 1:18). Paul describes his message this way: "...which things we
speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but those taught by the Spirit,
combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." (I Corinthians 2:13). The
assembly was orderly (I Corinthians 14:33, 40) so that learning could take
place and the brethren could be encouraged to "love and good deeds." (Hebrews
"And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together."
(Acts 20:8). The church at Troas was using an "upper room" in which to
assemble. This was probably a good sized room larger than those on lower
floors which would be partitioned by more walls. This upper room is actually
on the third story (vs. 9). Luke also mentions that there were many lamps in
the room. There is no indication here or anywhere else in the New Testament
that these lamps were used for any other reason than simply to provide light.
Such an incidental description reminds us that we are reading an eyewitness
account. It shows that some preparation had been made ahead of time to make
this place as conducive as possible for worship. Perhaps the lamps remained
all the time and the upper room was a regular place of worship.
From The Bradley Banner 11/16/2014
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway