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Church Meetings in Acts – Acts 20:7

Posted by on Mar 10, 2010 in gathering, scripture | Comments Off

The next instance of “gathering language” in Acts occurs in Acts 20:7 –

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. (Acts 20:7 ESV)

The “gathering language” in Acts 20:7 is found in the Greek verb συνάγω (sunagō) which generally means “I gather” or “I bring together.” The ESV translated the verb (in participle form this time) as “when we were gathered” in this verse. Again, the verb is passive. Since an “agent” (a person actually doing the gathering) is not specified, God would be the assumed agent.

This occurs when Paul is on the way back to Antioch then Jerusalem after what is typically called his third missionary journey. On the way, Paul (and possibly Luke since this is one of the “we” passages) met their other traveling companions in Troas (Acts 20:4-5).

One observation that is often made about this verse is that the church in Troas was meeting together on Sunday (the first day of the week). This is the first and only instance in Scripture of the church gathering together on Sunday, unless you count the passage in Acts 2:41-47 which indicated that the church met together daily. This is not a novel observation, and most churches today follow this example.

However, the next point is often missed. The church in Troas assembled for the purpose of eating together. “Break bread” is a euphemism or idiom for sharing a meal. See Acts 27:35 for a good indication that “break bread” does not signify a special religious meal or “the Lord’s Supper”. This meal was the Lord’s Supper because it was eaten together by believers, not because it was a different kind of meal with special “elements.”

The thing is, the church in Troas got together specifically for this meal. They planned to eat together. Eating together was the specific activity that brought them together.

Notice that Paul also spoke to them as part of this meal. Once again, though, we must look close to see how Paul spoke to them. The verb translated “talked” in the ESV is the same verb that was translated “reasoning” in Acts 19:9. Once again, in the context of the church meeting together, and even with Paul present and perhaps leading, the “talk” was more of a discussion or dialogue than a one way speech. This same verb is repeated in Acts 20:9.

So, when we read this passage, we shouldn’t read it that Paul gave a lecture that lasted until daybreak. Instead, Paul led them in discussing various things and their discussion/dialogue continued until morning.

It even looks like they ate and discussed at the same time, with both starting late in the evening (Acts 20:7) and both continuing until the next morning (Acts 20:11). We can’t (and shouldn’t) separate the “discussion” from the relational aspect of eating together.


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