This chapter is full of detail detail detail of the journey Paul took on his way back to Jerusalem. Why does the Lord include things like this in the Scripture? First of all, passages like this provide internal evidence that this letter was written by someone who journeyed with Paul at the time the journey was taken. It is a chapter that reads as if it was written from the pages of a diary, all the minutia included. No one writing 100 or 200 years later, as the liberal theologians like to claim the New Testament Scriptures were written, would think to include stuff like this. There is no idle word in Scripture! All of it serves a purpose, even if that purpose is to refute the pin headed theories the theologians would bring against its authenticity and authority millennia later!
“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.” Act 20:7
This passage is used to show that Paul ordained Sunday assembly and worship and discarded the Sabbaths of the Jews as he had discarded meeting in the synagogues. So we ought to look at it. First of all, “day” is italicized in your Bibles. That means that word is not in the Greek. The Greek, then, reads, “On the first of the week.” But does it? The phrase is mia ton sabbaton. Sabbaton is not the Greek word for week, but for Sabbaths! (There is a perfectly good word in Greek to mean “week,” and sabbaton is not it).
So the phrase reads, “On the first of the Sabbaths.” What does that mean? Well, in verse 6 Luke tells us that this meeting took place after the end of the Week of Unleavened Bread. In the Torah, Israel was commanded to count seven Sabbaths from the Sabbath that occurs in the week of Unleavened Bread, to Shavuot, or Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks (Lev 23:15). This is why it is called the Feast of Weeks; it takes place seven weeks after Unleavened Bread (or on the 50th day, 7×7+1, Pentecost in Greek). So in the Biblical calendar year, there are seven special Sabbaths which are numbered in accord with the command: the first of the Sabbaths, the second of the Sabbaths, the third of the Sabbaths, and so on until we have reached the seventh and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost!
So it should read: “Now on the first of the Sabbaths, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”
There is another clue that this assembly and fellowship occurred on Sabbath and not on Sunday. The believers did not gather on Sunday morning, and listen as Paul preached till midnight. I believe this meeting described the closing of the Sabbath assembly, called the havdalah. Most families welcomed Sabbath on sundown Friday evening with a special Sabbath meal in their homes. Then they met in the synagogue during the day on Sabbath, Saturday, to hear the reading of the Law and the Prophets. Then at the close of the Sabbath, sundown Saturday, they assembled together again for a meal and fellowship in homes, in a service called the havdalah. Paul began preaching, and his message went long until midnight.
Not only does this passage show that the believers at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey were still meeting on Sabbath for worship according to the Law of Moses, but Paul and the believers also celebrated the Feasts of the Lord (Lev 23). Unleavened Bread and Pentecost (Weeks) are specifically mentioned, but we have seen other places in Acts where a feast day is mentioned without necessarily knowing which one it was.
There is a lot more in this chapter: the word of His grace, and it is more blessed to give than to receive. We Americans tend to think that it is more blessed to receive, don’t we? We do not shout and praise God nearly as loudly when we give an offering as we do when we receive a blessing, LOL. But if we believed that saying of Jesus, we would. 🙂
Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? It is not because we give to get. Giving in order to get something in return, as you often hear taught, is a perversion of the Biblical principle, I believe. Giving in order to get is a form of coveteousness (Exo 20:17). It is also manipulation, which is witchcraft (1 Sam 15:23). So what is the Biblical principle?
We can afford to be generous with all that God has given us, because we are walking in the blessing of Abraham, in which God is our exceeding great reward (Gen 14:21-15:1). Not material things which are subject to moth, rust, and thieves (Mat 6:19-20). God has an abundance of those things, and He is able to provide out of His great store what we need. But He is our exceeding great reward: God, YHVH, Creator of heaven and earth, King of the universe. He is the blessing. 🙂