Understanding Acts 20:7 in Light of Biblical Truth
There are so many Biblical truths conveyed in these few verses. The understanding truly conveyed is profoundly revealing.
The very first part of the phrase “upon the first day of the week;” is actually: “in the first (day) after the Sabbath” in the Greek. This very first part of the sentence references the Sabbath!
In fact, in Biblical parlance, first century Christians were so Sabbath-centric that all of the days of the week were indicated by and from the Sabbath! The first day of the week was “the first (day) after the Sabbath.” The second day of the week was “the second (day) after the Sabbath” and so forth. The sixth day of the week was “the sixth (day) after the Sabbath.”
Even in the Greek texts written to Greek (Gentile) readers, this was the way that the Disciples referred to days of the week.
So, “when the disciples came together to break bread” this was the “first day after the Sabbath.”
Could the Sabbath be “done away,” when it was used to refer to each and every day of the week — and when Paul taught in the Synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts 18:4)?
Those who properly keep the Sabbath, who remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, know that the sixth day of the week is a preparation day. Food, meals, are prepared and cooked in advance, before sundown, on the sixth day—so that what is needed for the Sabbath is fully prepared and ready!
There was no need to do any heavy lifting, kneading, cooking or baking on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath is truly a day of rest when meals are fully prepared; a blessing to allow focus on God to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) — a day that is sanctified and set apart—without the distractions of common (work) activities or the business of a common day.
Likewise, those who keep the Sabbath know that the prepared food only goes so far—and that it is not until after sundown, at the end of the Sabbath, that one may prepare new meals.
We should remember, that in God’s calendar—days begin, and end—at sundown. In this altered artificial world, it is easy to forget how God created and has ordained things to be . . . i.e. the way they really are (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:1-3).
It was typical to prepare new bread for baking, and fresh meat for cooking, after sundown. And the term “break bread” meant exactly that. The common term for eating a meal!
What they did, was what was and is commonly done—they came together “to break bread”—to eat a freshly cooked meal!
But the Scripture then says that “Paul preached unto them . . . and continued his speech until midnight.” What about that!?
The word “preached” is actually from the word to “converse, discourse, discuss, argue” – from the Greek word “dialegomai,” which is where we get our word “dialogue” from.
This was “dialogue.” It was communication, discussion, a two-way discourse; not preaching a sermon—but full interactive communication, as naturally happens during a meal and during meaningful fellowship.
It is equally important to note that this was what is now called “Saturday night,” and was not a Sunday service. This was a meal—an opportunity for further fellowship and communication about the Gospel, and with urgent continued discussion.
Why would Paul be so intent on making the most of this time with the disciples in Troas? Paul only had one week with the brethren (Acts 20:6). This is not really a lot of time, when one considers that Paul was building a foundation for the Church (1 Cor. 3:10). It was vital that they learn, develop maturity, become fully aware of the adversary’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11-12).
Notice Acts 20:13 – “And we went before to ship”. The other disciples had now left Paul. They had gone to set sail for Assos.
Why? They needed the ship for future travel, and Paul had instructed them to pick him up there, in Assos—for he had made up his mind to go on foot!
In a moment we will see the logic of Paul’s decision. But let’s notice what happens next:
“And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 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. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.” (Acts 20:8-10).
Let’s realize the magnitude of what just happened here. They were talking until midnight, and a young man – a boy – Eutychus, fell asleep and fell out of a window sill. It was a very long drop. The boy was “taken up dead.” But Paul “fell on him”—which means to rush or press upon him, and he “embraced him”—which means “to embrace completely.”
Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, this boy was restored to life through the action (and no doubt instant internal prayer) of the Apostle Paul. God would not let an incident like this destroy the life-giving message that Paul was so urgently working to impart to the brethren in Troas! (Compare Paul’s actions with 1 Kings 17:21-22)
God was, and is, indeed merciful and miraculous—restoring this boy to full life and vitality! “And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:12).
And then what happens? Paul went up again, and began eating food again, and “talked a long while, even ‘till break of day,” and then “so he departed” (Acts 20:11).
So, Paul conversed all night with the brethren in Troas. He and they gave a night’s sleep in order to have and hear the Word of God and the Truth of the Gospel expounded to them.
(For those who have been called to the Truth, and who understand the amazing beauty and perfection of God’s holy plan and purpose, there is no mystery here. Many have conversed late into or through the night—in order to share, hear and rejoice in the Gospel message. Indeed may we be able to keep this aspect of our first love vibrant throughout all our lives!)
But then let’s think about this further for a moment. What happened at sunrise on what we call Sunday morning? Paul began the arduous journey of walking twenty-six miles cross-country, to Assos—where the other disciples would pick him up to continue their journey. Paul worked on Sunday! (Those who’ve done twenty-six miles, know it is hours of exercise.)
“And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene” (Acts 20:14).
Please note the inset below, to see and understand exactly what Paul did, for the brethren at Troas—to maximize his time and communication with them, and to not delay other journeys:
Paul’s Journey, On Foot, From Troas to Assos: