The Breaking of Bread in Acts 20:7-11

In meeting the argument that Acts 20:7-11 proves that Christians observed Sunday as a sacred day in apostolic times, a few of our ministers have denied, sometimes even in print, that Paul and the believers at Troas partook of the Communion, or Lord's Supper, on that occasion. However sincere they may have been in using this counter argument, it is a mistaken one in so far as Seventh-day Adventist teaching is concerned. Hence we deem it fitting to caution our workers that such a position is not only untenable, but it may also result in embarrassment both to him who uses it and to the cause that he represents.

Editor of the "Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White"

IN MEETING the argument that Acts 20:7-11 proves that Christians observed Sunday as a sacred day in apostolic times, a few of our ministers have denied, sometimes even in print, that Paul and the believers at Troas partook of the Communion, or Lord's Supper, on that occasion. However sincere they may have been in using this counter argument, it is a mistaken one in so far as Seventh-day Adventist teaching is concerned. Hence we deem it fitting to caution our workers that such a position is not only untenable, but it may also result in embarrassment both to him who uses it and to the cause that he represents.

For many years standard Seventh-day Ad­ventist teaching has been that Paul and the believers at Troas did partake of the Com­munion on the occasion referred to in Acts 20:7-11. For example, the book Sketches From the Life of Paul, penned by Ellen G. White and printed by our publishing houses in 1883, says on page 197:

"They partook of the communion, and then Paul continued his discourse till the dawn of day."

In The Acts of the Apostles, written by the same author and issued by our press in 1911, we are told on page 391:

"They partook of the communion, and then Paul 'talked a long while, even till break of day.' "

The expressions "to break bread" (verse 7), and "had broken bread, and eaten" (verse 11), need not be limited by inter­pretation to mean nothing more than a par­taking of a common meal. It is true that in Luke 24:30, 35, the expressions "took bread, and blessed it, and brake," and the "breaking of bread," do refer to a partak­ing of a "simple evening meal" (The Desire of Ages, p. 800), or "simple fare" (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 213). Such possibly may be the case in Acts 2:42 and 46. On the other hand, such expressions as "took bread," and "brake it," and "eat this bread," and "eat of that bread," in 1 Co­rinthians 11:23, 24, 26-28, refer to eating "the Lord's supper" (verse 20). In Acts 20: 7-11 we have an account of a religious serv­ice, in which "Paul preached unto them" (verse 7), which indicates that this was not a gathering merely for a common meal.

However, in conceding to our opponents that Paul and the believers at Troas did partake of the Communion on that first day of the week mentioned in Acts 20:7-11, we neither give them advantage nor weaken our defense. The Holy Scriptures do not limit partaking of the Communion, or Lord's Supper, to one particular day of the week. They certainly do not mention any instance in which it was held on the Sab­bath, the seventh day of the week.

If any New Testament example should be construed as a law or legal precedent in­dicating the day of the week on which Christians should partake of the Commun­ion, it certainly would be one set by Christ and all of His twelve disciples when He in­stituted the Lord's Supper and all of them partook of it together. The vast majority of Christians today agree that Christ and all the apostles partook of the Communion on the night before His crucifixion, which was a Thursday night according to modern reckoning of time (but Friday night accord­ing to the reckoning of people in Bible times). Nevertheless, the sticklers for a particular day of the week in eating the Lord's Supper never cite the example by Christ and all of His apostles as proof that Thurs­day of every week must be kept holy.

What are we to gather from all this? It is that we have one instance on record in which the Lord's Supper was held on a Thursday and we have another in which it was held on a Sunday; all of which shows that partaking of the Communion was not limited either by law or by example to any particular day of the week.

Moreover, if the example of Christ and His apostles, and that of Paul and the be­lievers at Troas, are to be construed as a divine law indicating the particular time when the Lord's Supper should be eaten, then Christians must eat it only at night, and never in daytime, for in both instances the early believers partook of the Commun­ion at night.

When Christ instituted the Lord's Supper, He said to His apostles: "This do in re­membrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Paul, in his comment, quotes the Lord as saying: "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in re­membrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:25). But in saying this, the Lord did not say when, or on what particular day of the week, it should be done. And the apostle says: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (verse 26). Thus neither Christ nor the apostles have commanded that the Lord's Supper should be held on any par­ticular day of the week. It may be eaten as often as it is desired and at any time deemed fitting for doing so.

Therefore, in the light of this, the con­clusion that Sunday is a holy day and that it must ever be observed as such, because Paul and the believers at Troas partook of the Lord's Supper during his farewell reli­gious services on a Sunday night (accord­ing to the reckoning of time in the days of the apostles), is unwarrantable. In report­ing that meeting, Luke simply refers to the time as "the first day of the week," which he calls neither Sabbath nor Lord's day, refers to it neither as sacred nor as blessed, and concerning which he neither records nor refers to any commandment for its observ­ance.

 

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Editor of the "Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White"

April 1962

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