Acts 20:7:
Sunday morning service?



Does Acts 20:7 prove that Christians gathered for a church service to take the communion?

This is but one of eight passages which mention the first day of the week in the New Testament, and is one of those passages used by certain groups and individuals to teach that the early church began the custom of gathering together on the first day of the week while forsaking the gathering of the seventh day Sabbath. Among such groups, we find our friends at bible.ca who have put together an article claiming that this passage proves they had communion upon the first day of the week. We won’t post the entire article here, but will provide you with the link to read for yourself. We will quote them when necessary, but their article is available for proper context. Below will be our analyses of the claims found therein.

We begin with their claim that…




Communion must always be on Sunday


The article spends a good amount of time trying to prove that this was a celebration of communion and that it took place on Sunday. It tries also to prove that communion was always on Sunday and should always be on Sunday. However, when we look at the origin of communion, instituted by Jesus himself, we don’t find him gathered with his disciples on Sunday, but rather on Thursday, the day before the preparation:

Luke 23:52-54
(52) This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
(53) And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
(54) And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

Jesus was crucified on Friday (preparation day), his body was taken down in layed in the tomb before the sun set towards the Sabbath day. On the day before preparation day (on Thursday) Jesus was found instituting the “Lord’s Supper” with his disciples. That same night, after the supper, he was betrayed (John 22:17-53), and the following day he was crucified.

Those at bible.ca go through great pains trying to prove that Acts 20:7 shows that communion was to be performed weekly, and not monthly or yearly. They say it:

“Proves weekly frequency of Lord’s supper on 1st day and refutes the notion of a yearly communion service as practiced by some Sabbatarian churches”

This is a mute point because Christ was concerned with instituting the celebration and not a “day” on which to perform it. There is no instruction in all of scripture indicating it must be kept upon a certain day every week or month. (more on the “weekly” argument below) In fact, we just learned Christ gathered for communion with his disciples on Thursday, not Sunday. After his resurrection, he was seen for at least 40 days or more (Acts 1:3). From the time Jesus gathered for communion on that Thursday to the event which took place in Acts 20:7 is unknown. We read of a whole year that passed since Christ’s ascension in Acts 11:26, yet most of the times we get an “unknown” amount of time in which Paul or the disciples spend in a certain place. Our critics try to say that Paul had the habit of staying only for 7 days with those he visited. They say:

“Paul’s habit was to stay 7 days: Acts 21:4; 28:14; Acts 20:6.”

Yet right there in Acts 20 verses 2-3 we read that Paul stayed in Greece for three months. In Asia he spent 2 years with three months in that year disputing with the Jews (Acts 19:8-10. In Ptolemais he “abode with them one day.” Acts 21:7-8. He left the next day. Other times we are not told how long he stays in a certain place. For example, after spending a year and six months in Justus’ house (Acts 18:7, 11), verse 18 says that Paul “tarried there yet a good while.” After leaving, he sailed to Syria, spent some unspecified time there as well, moved on towards Ephesus, then Caesarea, and finally to Antioch. Verse 23 then says he, “spent some time there.” At Philip’s home he spend another unspecified amount of time (Acts 21:8-10). Paul then spends three months in Greece (Acts 20:3). After Passover which was a whole day’s celebration, we read they waited until the days of unleavened bread were terminated to then sail to Philippi. This feast was a feast of seven days. So in total, before we reach that week where they gathered upon the first day, we have at least 4 years, 10 months and 23 days where we have nothing but silence on their gathering upon Sunday for the communion, nor do we have anything on their celebrating communion on Thursday. The above quote from bible.ca says they gathered frequently on the first day of the week, but we have total silence of a time span of almost 4 years more or less with nothing mentioned on the case. This does not mean we shouldn’t celebrate communion, it just means that to try and prove communion “must” be upon the first day of the week because of Acts 20:7 is quite a stretch, especially since Christ did it on Thursday.

Not only did Jesus take the communion with his disciples on Thursday…




Acts 20:7 actually says they
gathered on Saturday night


Let’s visit Acts 20:7 to see if this is true:

Act 20:7-9
(7) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
(8) And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
(9) And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.


Why do you think Eutychus fell asleep? Was it because Paul’s preaching was to boring? No friends, it’s because it was late in the evening, Saturday night! Notice that verse 8 says that there were “many lights” where they were gathered together, and that Paul preached unto them “until midnight.” This fact shows that they never really gathered upon what we today call Sunday. Since it was late, and we read he was getting ready to depart “on the marrow” it becomes obvious to any bible student that this meeting took place after sunset, Saturday night, which is when the first day of the week really begins.

When God instituted the days of the week, he named each day by their proper number after the speaking the phrase, “and it was evening and it was morning…” -Genesis 1. In other words, the days begin at evening, which is at sun set (Mark 1:32), and end in the morning hours. The Jewish nation was instructed by God to observe their sabbaths feast days, along with God’s seventh day Sabbath, from “evening to evening.” –Leviticus 23:32. So when the people gathered together upon the first day of the week in Acts 20:7, this was actually after sun set on Saturday evening, namely, Saturday night.

Since this is true, then that means that everything their trying to prove in this article, like that communion must be every first day of the week and that Christians should gather to break bread every first day of the week, would have to take place on Saturday night… a custom they themselves fail at doing. Yet they need not worry too much about this fact, because…



The context of Acts 20:7 does not support
a weekly communion anyway.


The reason for this gathering that took place upon the first day of the week was not for the purpose of celebrating communion, nor to have a worship service. The reason is made crystal clear in verse 7:

Act 20:7
(7) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. [ESV]

The word “intending” or “ready” as found in the KJV in verse 7 is translated from the greek word “mello”. The following is Strong’s greek definition of this word:

A strengthened form of G3199 (through the idea of expectation); to intend, that is, be about to be, do, or suffer something (of persons or things, especially events; in the sense of purpose, duty, necessity, probability, possibility, or hesitation)

The greek word of which this one is the strengthened form is “melo” which means:

A primary verb; to be of interest to, that is, to concern (only third person singular present indicative used impersonally it matters): - (take) care.

When we consider what this word means, we learn that the reason for gathering with the disciples on that first day was because he was “ready to depart on the marrow.” For this “reason” or “intent” or “purpose” did they gather… not to have a worship service as our critics suggest, but to hear Paul’s farewell speech and to give their goodbyes as he was leaving soon after. Because they decided to have a meal while he spoke does not give anyone a reason to assume this was a worship service or a communion service, because the disciples broke bread on a daily basis, from “house to house.” –Acts 2:46.

In regards to Acts 2:46, our critics contend that the breaking of bread that took place here was not the same as the breaking of bread in Acts 20:7 because they had “meals” in Acts 2:46 while in Acts 20:7 they only eat bread. Here is how they put it:

“In Acts 2:46 it is not the Lord’s supper but a common meal. Notice they were individually having people over to the their houses for foot AFTER they had all gathered together in the temple. The Greek word for MEALS means common food and is NEVER used of the Lord’s supper.”

In light of what they just said, let us now consider two points:

-The meal they ate in Acts 2:46 was the bread

Verse 46 says they specifically broke, not just any food, but “bread.” The same greek word translated “bread” here is the same one used in Acts 20:7. The word “meats” which in the greek means “foods, nourishment,” is a word used for foods in general, unless the food is specifically mentioned. We are not told that this greek word is in plural form, therefore the “nourishment” was the “bread” already mentioned prior. It’s as if I say, “Earlier I ate a few rolls of bread, and man did I enjoyed that meal!” Am I implying that because I said “meal” that I ate more then just bread? No, I specifically said I ate “a few rolls of bread.” To imply I ate more then bread when I specifically said I ate “bread” is to step out of context and put words in my mouth. This is the case with Acts 2:46.

-No proof Acts 20:7 was not in a home

It’s true that Acts 2:46 says they gathered for meals at homes after they left the temple, but then again Acts 20:7 also says they gathered in a room at a home. So what’s their point? Notice the words “upper chamber” in verse 8. The following is the English definition of this word chamber by Webster:

Chamber:

1. An apartment in an upper story, or in a story above the lower floor of a dwelling house; often used as a lodging room.

2. Any retired room; any private apartment which a person occupies; as, he called on the judge at his chamber.

Joseph entered into his chamber and wept. Gen 43.

The following is Smith’s Commentary on the word chamber:

Chamber. Gen_43:30; 2Sa_18:33; Psa_19:5; Dan_6:10. The word chamber, in these passages, has much the same significance as with us, meaning the private rooms of the house -- the guest chamber, as with us, meaning a room set apart for the accommodation of the visiting friend. Mar_14:14-15; Luk_22:12. The upper chamber was used, more particularly, for the lodgment of strangers. Act_9:37.

Here is Thayer’s Greek Definition for chamber:

Thayer Definition: huperōon

1) the highest part of the house, the upper rooms or story where the women resided
2) a room in the upper part of a house, sometimes built upon the flat roof of the house, whither Orientals were wont to retire in order to sup, meditate, pray.

So as they gathered together and broke bread “in homes” in Acts 2:46, they also broke bread while gathering together at a “home” in Acts 20:7. Where not saying the early Christians did not gather for communion in their churches; where saying that in this case in Acts 20:7 they were gathered in a home, and it was not for communion.

Yet this gathering together and the breaking of bread in Acts 20:7 did not take place twice, rather…



These Christians broke bread for only one Sunday



Our critics try desperately to prove that Paul broke bread with the disciples for two Sundays. With this idea, they claim communion was performed on a weekly basis. Here’s what they say:

“Paul’s habit was to stay 7 days: Acts 21:4; 28:14; Acts 20:6. This meant Paul arrived and left on the first day of the week. This means he was with the disciples for two Sundays but only one Sabbath.”

Okay. But with this he concludes:

“In this way Paul stretched his time with the disciples to maximize the number of worship services together.”

Where did they get the idea that they had “two” worship services? This idea is absent from the text. Just because Paul spent a whole week with them, which included two Sundays and a Sabbath, does not mean they had a worship service on those two Sundays. Let’s read the texts together:

Act 20:6-7
(6) And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
(7) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Notice that the “first day of the week” mentioned in verse 7 can “not” be the first Sunday of that week, because it says he was ready to depart in on the marrow! This means that the gathering took place on the last Sunday of this week, and the text makes it obvious why, because he was getting ready to leave and they wanted to spend their last moments with him. The idea that they gathered together upon the first Sunday, or that they had a worship service on the first Sunday, or even that they had communion on the first Sunday, is completely absent from these texts. It is more likely that Paul spent his first Sunday resting from the long commute of FIVE DAYS from Philippi to Troas (verse 6) rather then having a church service.

Upon that Sunday, we read nothing about:

(1) breaking bread
(2) worship services

Why do our critics find it necessary to add to scripture?

The only thing our critics can produce to entertain this idea is to say that it was Paul’s habit to stay where he traveled to for seven days. As has been shown above, Paul has stayed in places for up to three months, or one year, or even one day. Where the bible is silent, we must also keep silent. The idea that this was his habit is but a stretch of scripture, and not an honest consideration of other texts which prove differently.

Our critics then present their audience with this strange idea that...




Eating a common meal is forbidden
for New Testament Christian assemblies.


At one point they said:

“God has never authorized Christians to eat anything else but the Lord's Supper in such an assembly.”

Where is such an idea in scripture? We found and learned earlier that what took place in Acts 2:46 was a “common meal” at the homes of others. They had to have been gathered together in order to have this meal. A common meal at an assembly is not forbidden anywhere in scripture, neither in 1 Corinthians 11.

The greek word “heresies” in 1 Corinthians 11:19 gives us the idea of something not in order, wrong, false, wrong choices, or disunion. In fact, disunion is one of the words used by Strong’s Definition to describe this word.

The Corinthians were being in “disunion” when they gathered together for the Lord’s Supper:

“For in eating everyone taketh for before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.” –Verse 21.

The problem they were having is that they did not know how to eat the Lord’s supper. They thought it was to have a meal and have their fill, not understanding that this ceremony is not to satisfy the hunger for literal food, but to satisfy the hunger for spiritual food, for in so partaking of this ceremony, “ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” –verse 26. That’s why he said, “if any man hunger, let him eat at home.” In other words, eat at home before you get together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, because the Lord’s Supper is not merely to eat and have your fill, it is to celebrate the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

These passages do not forbid the eating of meals at assemblies. They rather forbids the eating of the Lord’s Supper for the wrong reason, like to satisfy our hungers. That’s why Paul at one point said…

1 Corinthians 11:27-29
(27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
(28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
(29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Why do you think he said “let a man examine himself” before he partakes of the Lord’s Supper? Because he could not do this for the wrong reasons, for it is a sacred ceremony instituted by Jesus Christ himself.

Clearly the early Christians did not find it wrong to gather together for meals according to Acts 2:46. We are not sure how our critics grabbed such an idea from these texts. In fact, where not sure of a couple of things the critics say in this article. For at another point…



They seem to contradict their own actions



Just read the reasoning behind the phrase “next day” towards the end of their article. Notice that with everything they are saying, they are actually being “for us” and not against us. While trying to explain what “next day” means, they wound up admitting that:

“The truth is that Acts 20:7 is a Saturday night meeting that carries over to early Sunday morning, all of which was the first day of the week in Jewish time keeping.”

Well… yeah! That’s correct, the meeting did take place on a Saturday night. But rather then it being carried over “to early Sunday morning” his speech ended at “midnight” and he departed on “the marrow” which translates to “tomorrow.” By saying “early Sunday Morning” they are trying to imply that the meeting and sermon lasted until 9 am the next day. But we read it ended at midnight, and Paul departed the next day, “on the marrow.”

Since therefore the meeting took place on a Saturday night, and they insist this is an example of early christian assemblies and communion services, why don’t they do their services on Saturday nights instead of Sunday mornings at 11 AM as their website shows that they do (click HERE, scroll to the bottom)?


For futher study, see:

1: Revelation 1:10: Is Sunday the Lord's Day?
2:1 Corinthians 16: Sunday church collection?
3: Colossions 2:16: The Sabbath a shadow?