The First Day of the Week

Sabbath Study, Part 32

In the last two posts, we looked at several instances where Paul and other Christians sought evangelistic opportunities on the Jewish Sabbath. Acts 20 records a different kind of gathering: Paul and other Christians come together and break bread on a Sunday.

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)

First day of the week.
This phrase can be literally translated, “one of the Sabbaths,” leading some to believe that the Sabbath is still on Saturday and not Sunday. A helpful article by William D. Mounce (author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and general editor for Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words) helps us see otherwise: “Words are rarely simple; they are usually nuanced and sometimes idiomatic. The fact that every modern translation goes with ‘first day of the week’ [in Acts 20:7] shows that here is an idiom at work, and no theological doctrines should be drawn from this usage (other than the fact that the early church saw no conflict in worshiping on the first day of the week and not the last…).”

Some believe that this practice of meeting corporately on Sunday shows that the Sabbath is no longer in effect. But I would ask: what, then, is the reason for treating one day in seven as special/sacred? The early church’s emphasis may have switched from Saturday to Sunday, but how does that make the foundational principle of the Sabbath null and void? If our Sunday celebration is not a Sabbath rest, what exactly is it?

Came together to break bread.
It is probable that the disciples observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. Whatever the case, the atmosphere described here—one of fellowship between believers—stands in stark contrast with the visits Paul made to various synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath. The purpose of those Saturday pursuits was blatantly evangelistic, whereas the purpose of this Sunday meeting was corporate worship.

Continued his message until midnight.
The Jews observed the Sabbath from sunset to sunset. Here, Paul began a message that continued well past sunset on Sunday. Because he was about to depart and (possibly) never see this group of people again, he may have wanted to extend the length of this last meeting. Whether that is the case or not, it seems that the New Testament Christians may not have been as stringent on the starting and stopping times of the Christian Sabbath observance.


Anonymous said…
Act 2:42,46 "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers." "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart."
Just some more scriptures to show what the breaking of bread meant.
If you look more closely at Acts 20and ask what is the purpose of this event? I believe the major event here is missed. A man fell out of a 3rd story window and "was taken up dead"! He must have busted his body up pretty good don't you think? It says Paul "fell on him , and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." I believe that this was done to prove that Paul had the same power that Christ had given to the Apostles just before he was taken up to heaven. Later in Acts 28 we see Paul bit by a deadly viper and it did not harm him. That was another of the signs that Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18 would follow those who believe in Jesus.
2 Cor 12:11-12 states that the signs of an Apostle were accomplished among them through Paul. Since he was not one of the original Apostles some considered him a lesser Apostle.

I believe God also purposely mentions the timeline here knowing the end from the beginning, that this scripture would be used in the future by false ministers. Paul gathered the overseers, the elders of the church in Acts 20:17 and in vs. 28-31 He warns them that "savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock." "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves."
Don't be fooled by by these so called wise men who have misused scriptures. They have failed to rightly divide God's word. Acts 20 does not pertain in any manner to a change in God's Sabbath day. Steven
Steven said…
Why is my other comment not showing? Is there a problem with it? I've posted it twice. If you are removing it please let me know why.