By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight” (Acts 20:6-7, NIV).
Common Argument: Some have said that this verse indicates Paul transitioned away from the seventh-day Sabbath to the first day of the week.
Think it Through: These verses do not say or imply that Paul intended for this practice to occur every week. If Christians gather together on any other day of the week it does not automatically negate the Sabbath rest and its assembly. This one-time gathering happened because he was leaving the next day.
Short Answer: Paul met once on the first day of the week in Acts 20:7 because he was leaving the next day.
Longer Answer: Paul’s example and some details in the text give us more understanding. First, let us start with the example of Paul. In the book of Acts, we learn that the Apostle Paul keeping the Sabbath with both Jews and Greeks (all verses NIV)
Acts 13:14 “But they, passing on from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia. They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.”
Acts 14:1 “1 In Iconium, they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.”
Acts 16:12 “12 and from there to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the foremost of the district, a Roman colony. We were staying some days in this city. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.”
Acts 17:1-2 “1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures”
Acts 18:1-4 “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”
Before we arrive at Acts 20, we have an established pattern by Paul. He met with others on the Sabbath and taught both Greeks and Jewish people.
It is important to remember that the Sabbath is from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. At certain times of the year, sunset can be earlier or later. Those of us who honor the Sabbath know that after service is over we typically sit around and fellowship. We pray with each other and talk about the Word of God. This often will go on until after sunset. Potluck meals are often involved.
This is the case with Acts 20:7. After sunset on Saturday, the Sabbath ended and they held a fellowship meal. Why did Paul continue with service? The verse tells us plainly, “….because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight…” Paul had an urgent message for the brethren. Too often we use our Greek/Roman mindset to understand the Bible. Days do not end or begin at midnight. They end/begin at sunset. After Sabbath ended, they had a meal, and he resumed until midnight to finish sharing his final instructions with the brethren.
Also, look at the verse prior to this one. In Acts 20:6, the Bible mentions that Paul celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Philippi. The Feast of Unleavened Bread has two annual Sabbaths in it (See Leviticus 23:4-9)! Paul wanted to make sure he kept this feast before he left Philippi. His example shows that he continued to obey the weekly and annual Sabbaths even with Gentiles.
Acts 20:7 is the only first-day meeting specifically mentioned in the entire book of Acts. We don’t find it repeated before or after this verse. There is clearly no relationship between this verse and recurring Sunday gatherings. To come to any other conclusions, one has to read information into the text or extrapolate conclusions that aren’t implied rather than just reading what it plainly says.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
President of the BSA www.biblesabbath.org